Meijer ducks a fruity question

May 15, 2012
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Meijer stores sell a lot of great, fresh produce year round, year after year. Much comes from Central and South America, as well as many U.S. states including Michigan. Meijer was honored last week by the West Michigan World Trade Association as 2012 World Trader of the Year — specifically because the privately held chain, with almost 200 stores in five states, imports food and goods from 30 countries on five continents.

But food — particularly fresh fruit such as apples — can be stored for many months in controlled-atmosphere cold storage facilities all over the world, as reported in the Jan. 4, 2009, Business Journal. So the question is: Will the frost-damaged fruit crop in West Michigan this year have any significant impact on Meijer?

We asked the Meijer PR man to put us in touch with somebody there who could “talk about the impact of the Michigan frost damage to fruit crops on Meijer’s produce buying in West Michigan this year.”

“We would defer to the growers as they are all affected differently based on the type of produce they are farming,” replied Frank J. Guglielmi, director of Meijer public relations, in an e-mail.

West Michigan cleans up

Eight manufacturing executives across the state received Manufacturer of the Year awards last week from the Michigan Manufacturers Association — and four of them are in West Michigan.

Steven Moreland, president of Automatic Spring Products Corp. in Grand Haven, and Mark Fazakerley and John Workman of Eagle Alloy Inc. near Muskegon, were named finalists in the large tier category (200 employees or more). John McIntyre, president/CEO of both Anderson Global and Anderson Express in Muskegon, was among the small tier finalists.

Moreland was honored for “outstanding achievements in continuous improvement, lean implementation and successful strategic planning efforts, which helped the company to rise above the challenge of having three of their top five customers file for bankruptcy — two immediately following the completion of construction of a new 53,000-square-foot facility.”

Fazakerley and Workman were jointly honored “for their entrepreneurial vision and ability to find innovative solutions for the never-ending challenges faced as manufacturers, specifically as the owners of multiple businesses: three foundries and a machine shop.” The two are co-owners of Eagle Group, with Fazakerley serving as president and Workman as vice president.

MMA recognized McIntyre for having put together a group to buy a financially strapped business “in an old plant with a dwindling U.S. customer base, an aging work force and a challenging union environment.” He negotiated the firm’s first concessionary labor agreement and invested in automation of skilled-trade work, “creating a culture built on knowledge workers, with the machines doing the work.” The two tooling firms have gone from two major customers in two markets to more than 20 customers in a growing market, and from 45 employees to more than 140, with sales of more than $30 million. The two companies are also net exporters.

The MMA awards program, in its 30th year, also recognized Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Chrysler Group LLC in Auburn Hills, as the Large Tier Michigan Manufacturer of the Year. Al and Beth Thieme of Amigo Mobility International near Saginaw picked up the Small Tier Michigan Manufacturer of the Year. He is the chairman/founder, and she serves as CEO.

The MMA event, held in Lansing, featured an address by Gov. Rick Snyder.

State land for lease

The DNR auction last week of state land for potential oil and gas wells featured a little excitement — but none involving high-rolling oil tycoons.

There were protestors who objected to the leasing of state lands near Gun Lake and Yankee Springs in Barry County, and one individual was arrested “for disturbing a public meeting — a misdemeanor,” said DNR public information officer Ed Golder.

As reported in the May 7 Business Journal, some environmentalists fear fracking technology will be used in well drilling in Barry County, polluting the ground water. Representatives of the DNR maintain, however, the geologic formations there do not lend themselves to hydraulic fracturing, and even if they did, the state does not allow any drilling procedures that can harm the environment.

All of the Barry County parcels were also non-development leases, meaning no drilling rigs are allowed on the surface, so any drilling has to be the more expensive directional drilling from adjacent private lands — if any landowners are willing to allow it.

Despite the non-development aspect, Golder, an editor at The Grand Rapids Press until several months ago, said all of the 23,419 acres in Barry County were leased, for a total of $1,573,833 in immediate bonus payments to the state.

A DNR oil/gas lease auction is held every May and October, and this latest one featured 108,165 acres in 23 counties, with 91,225 acres leased by the end of the day. The successful bidders paid a total of $4,125,448 to the state at the conclusion of the auction.

Golder said $4 million-plus in bonus payments is about average for the lease auctions over the last 10 years. Two years ago, however, the May auction generated an unheard of $178 million in bonus payments. That bidding frenzy was sparked by some exploratory drilling in the northern Lower Peninsula seemed to suggest that a gas well bonanza was at hand. Since then, the natural gas price has tanked, with no one apparently contemplating gas well exploration now, but oil prices are through the roof. There is industry talk of an oil boom in the southernmost Michigan counties.

“There was a lot of speculation at the time,” said Golder, regarding the May 2010 auction. “That wasn’t the case this time.”

The lease bonus payments to the DNR are used to fund fish and wildlife habitat, the state’s Natural Resources Trust Fund for buying lands for public use, and for care and maintenance of state and local parks in Michigan.

Right man for the job

The Gerald R. Ford International Airport Board has landed their man. The board has hired Brian Ryks to be the new GFIA executive director, replacing longtime airport chief James Koslosky who retired from the post after 21 years at the helm. Ryks will move into the director’s chair this summer.

“He was a standout candidate with more than 20 years of industry experience, strong communication skills and an impressive background managing complex projects similar to those at our airport,” said Joseph Tomaselli, chairman of the airport board. “Thanks to the dedicated leadership of our former director, James Koslosky, Ford Airport is well-positioned to move to the next level. We’re confident we selected the right person for the job.”

Ryks comes here from Duluth, Minn., where he served as executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority for a dozen years. He also has held managerial positions at Denver International Airport and at regional airports in Minnesota and South Dakota.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity,” said Ryks, “and I look forward to building on the successful work Ford Airport has undertaken in the past few years.”

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