Commercial alliance is ready to fly solo

April 9, 2012
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The Commercial Alliance of Realtors is looking for a new place to call home.

CAR is currently parked at 660 Kenmoor SE in Grand Rapids Township, where it leases space from the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors. GRAR served as a springboard for the agency when it developed a multiple listing service for its commercial members in 1992.

Ten years later, CAR became an unincorporated division of GRAR. Now, another decade later, CAR is going out on its own.

“The steps taken recently are finalizing our independence. The changes we are making are not really earth shattering,” said Shari Veldman, CAR executive director. “We still have a good relationship with GRAR.”

Veldman is right, in that the organization has been heading in this direction for a while. The National Association of Realtors approved CAR’s application to become a recognized commercial overlay board, as it’s known in the industry, in 2006. Two years later, CAR earned its commercial accreditation from NAR. Today, it covers an eight-county region in West Michigan.

GRAR reportedly asked CAR to move. CAR President Mary Anne Wisinski-Rosely said a task force has been created to find a suitable place for the office. An RFP will be sent to all of the organization’s members that will detail the agency’s requirements for space.

Because so many commercial real estate firms are located in and near downtown Grand Rapids, CAR is considering moving there. “There are so many interesting things going on downtown, and we’d like to be a part of it,” said Veldman.

In the meantime, CAR has hired Fusion Business Services to handle its accounting, billing and payment-collection work, including collecting subscription fees for the listing service. CAR will manage the membership data and the organization’s information on the NAR database. CAR had a services agreement with GRAR, but the agency’s directors recently decided to terminate that contract.

“The CAR board of directors believes that these costs can be significantly reduced with a change in vendor,” wrote Wisinski-Rosely in a letter to members last week. “Rest assured that this decision was carefully thought out and researched.”

Apple of its eye

If experience is the best teacher, then the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center deserves an apple.

SBTDC, located at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business, helped nearly 500 “growth” companies last year with financial analysis, determining new markets for business development and exploring opportunities for change.

So when the eighth annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business awards ceremony takes place in Lansing May 3, SBTDC officials might have expected to see a few familiar faces among the “50 Companies to Watch” recipients.

Instead, they will see more than a few, as two-thirds of the winners have a connection to the SBTDC.

“We are thrilled that our clients are being recognized for their success,” said Carol Lopucki, state director of the Michigan SBTDC. “The center placed an emphasis on Michigan’s second stage companies several years ago when we formed the Growth Group Team and enhanced our tools to assist these companies.”

One such example is WaterSolve LLC, a 13-year-old Grand Rapids company that is a full-service provider of water treatment products for municipal and industrial clients. The firm began working with the SBTDC in March 2011 and attributes its improved business and increased sales figures to working with the center.

“WaterSolve has experienced tremendous growth since working with the SBTDC,” said President Gregg Lebster. “They provided the experience and tools we needed as a second state company to increase our sales and hire more people.”

Spartan scores

Spartan Stores Inc. is featured in the most recent Fortune magazine as one of the “World’s Most Admired Companies.”

The West Michigan-based regional grocery distributor and retailer earned the nod in the Wholesale: Food and Grocery category. It was the only Michigan winner in the category and one of only eight businesses statewide to earn recognition in the Fortune lists.

“We are extremely pleased to be recognized as one of the ‘World’s Most Admired Companies.’ This achievement reflects the tremendous dedication and efforts of our associates as we strive to provide the consumer with consistent value and a quality shopping experience at our retail stores, as well as provide our distribution customers a differentiated go-to-market strategy and value-added partnership,” said Dennis Eidson, Spartan’s president and CEO.

Spartan owns and operates several D&W Fresh Market and Family Fare stores in western and southwestern Michigan. No word on what role the YES! Card played in the decision, although we can see another TV ad in the offing featuring Spartan brass jumping for joy.

Padnos passing

The Grand Valley State University community is mourning the death of Stuart Padnos, an entrepreneur, businessman and generous donor to the university. Mr. Padnos, who was the senior vice president at Louis Padnos Iron and Metal Co., died Tuesday. He was 90.

In 1999, in memory of his late wife and her adventurous, open-minded spirit, Mr. Padnos established the Barbara H. Padnos International Scholarship for GVSU students. The endowed scholarship provides study abroad stipends for an extended time period to enable students to have an in-depth experience in another country. “Being able to travel opens up one more venue for students,” he said. “It’s extremely important for a school like Grand Valley to have an extensive study abroad program. Many students are from West Michigan, and some of these kids have not had a chance to travel.”

GVSU President Thomas J. Haas said: “Stuart Padnos helped enrich the lives of Grand Valley students for generations and his legacy lives on, especially in our study abroad and fine arts programs, which help our students gain a broader perspective and help prepare them for life after graduation. He will be missed by the entire Grand Valley community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Padnos family.”

In 2005, Mr. Padnos established the Stuart and Barbara Padnos Chair in Art and Design to promote the teaching of art at Grand Valley. The endowment allowed Grand Valley to recruit an art and design professor to raise the level of the program. In appreciation of this generosity, the exhibition space in the Calder Art Center was named for Stuart and Barbara Padnos. He also donated his sculpture of a life-size marching band, which graces the Allendale campus.

Arend D. Lubbers, president emeritus of Grand Valley, said: “Stuart Padnos was a close friend of mine. We shared many of the same interests and I have always been grateful for his interest in Grand Valley and his support for the arts and for study abroad. He significantly advanced the university in both of those fields. One of the most interesting negotiations I had with Stuart was persuading him to give the band sculpture to the university. It is a landmark on our campus and a testimony to his many talents and good humor.”

Raising a stink

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is using the state Invasive Species Act to expand its jurisdiction beyond hunting and fishing to farming operations, according to the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, an organization that defends the rights and broadens the freedoms of family farms and protects consumer access to raw milk and nutrient-dense foods.

The DNR’s Invasive Species Order, which went into effect April 1, prohibits certain pigs that the agency deems "feral." But the way it is enforcing the rule makes even domesticated pigs under human husbandry suspect, according to FCLDF. Farmers, ranchers and game preserves with successful small businesses are now threatened with economic and criminal sanctions, based on the physical characteristics of their swine, according to the group.

What to do? Sooey. Oops, we meant sue.

Attorney Joseph O'Leary is suing the DNR on behalf of four of the aggrieved business owners.

"Wildlife is owned by the state; it is the role of the DNR to regulate and control state property,” said O’Leary (no relation to the cow owner in Chicago).

“Livestock on farms is privately owned and properly belongs in the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture. When a governmental agency blurs these lines, people had better wake up and take notice because, at that point, we are all in a lot of trouble."

Implementation of the ISO not only takes private property without compensation; it also denies farmers of fundamental private property rights and the right to make a living, he said. It will reduce or eliminate customer access to heritage breed pork, a product that has become increasingly popular with health-conscious consumers and restaurants across the state.

FCLDF claims the ISO allows DNR to seize and destroy pigs raised by Michigan farmers; Michigan DNR has publicly stated it will not compensate farmers whose pigs are destroyed. Possession of prohibited swine after April 1 is a felony with penalties of up to two years in jail and $20,000 in fines.

"The DNR has strayed into the unfamiliar territory of agriculture regulation. Given the nebulous and open-ended description by which pigs are targeted, farmers fear for their futures," said Pete Kennedy, president of FCLDF.

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