One of downtowns movers and shapers says goodbye

July 16, 2012
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Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority Executive Director Jay Fowler oversaw his last official meeting last week. Fowler announced late last year that he would retire from the post he has held for more than nine years.

His final day on the job is Aug. 3. Kristopher Larson officially moves into the executive director’s chair Aug. 1.

But Fowler had been directly involved with the DDA for much longer than his stint as executive director.

As a city planner, he began working on downtown issues in the mid-1990s and was largely responsible for the key downtown zoning ordinance the city adopted a decade ago.

“I can’t think of anyone whose work has been more important in shaping downtown. It’s got your stamp all over it,” said Mayor George Heartwell to Fowler last week.

“I’ve known Jay for a long time, and two words come to mind: “Good man,’” said DDA board member Joseph Tomaselli.

“The thing I’ve appreciated most about Jay is his values,” added DDA Vice Chairwoman Kayem Dunn.

Before the meeting ended last week, the usually reserved Fowler broke the board up with the following remark: “For the first time in my life, I’m being described as ‘outgoing.’”

Lose one, gain one
While the DDA said a fond goodbye to Fowler, the board also gave a warm welcome to Mary Tuuk, its newest member. Tuuk replaced John Bultema as president of Fifth Third Bank of West Michigan when he was kicked upstairs last year. Now she also has replaced Bultema on the board.

Tuuk arrived here from the bank’s headquarters in Cincinnati where she was a risk management expert, but she grew up on the southeast side of GR. “The work that is done here is of high interest to me,” said Tuuk.

Bultema introduced Tuuk to the board last week, and Dunn had some kind words for him, too. “John, I appreciated the thoughtful consideration you showed while you were on the board. You have been such a wonderful member of this board.”

Flying high
Not to be outdone by the DDA, Kent County Commissioners appointed David Slikkers last week to a three-year term on the Gerald R. Ford International Airport Board. Slikkers lives in Holland and heads S2 Yachts and Energetx Companies. The latter firm has been projected to become the largest Tier 1 wind-industry supplier in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder gave Energetx the state’s first “Reinvesting Michigan” award, and President Barack Obama mentioned the company last January in his State-of-the-Union address.

Commissioners made the appointment because they agreed to increase the airport board’s membership last November by one to seven members.

“We interviewed four highly qualified candidates,” said Commissioner Dan Koorndyk. Commissioners Shana Shroll, Carol Hennessy, Ted Vonk and Michael Wawee joined Koorndyk on the search committee that chose Slikkers.

Slikkers was chosen three days after new airport director Brian Ryks began his first tour of duty.

The real MCOYs
What’s in a name? Not the word “the,” that’s for sure. Seems that our friends at the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan knocked legal heads with another group that claimed to have trademarked the acronym “COTY” — which is what ASAM called its annual Contractor of the Year awards — and ASAM was “asked” to stop it.

No problem. Now, we’ve got the real MCOYs instead (Michigan Contractor of the Year). The MCOY awards give ASAM membership throughout the state an opportunity to nominate and recognize general contractors or construction managers who exhibit best practices, professionalism and collaboration with Michigan’s subcontracting community.

Seven companies were nominated last year, with the top honor going to Owen-Ames-Kimball.

As far as the acronym controversy goes, ASAM board president Jeff Vander Laan gave it the equivalent of a verbal shrug.

“We are excited to expand the awards with a new, more inclusive name,” he said. “This is an opportunity to bring Michigan’s construction community together for recognition and celebration.”

ASAM members can nominate candidates through July 27 at asamichigan.net. Voting criteria includes bid ethics, work environment, culture and collaboration.

Loan bone
President Obama signed into law last week a bill that kept student loan interest rates from doubling this year. The bill came after a groundswell of support for the freeze from campuses around the country.

Grand Valley State University’s student body president, Jack Iott, joined more than 275 student leaders representing 3.7 million students from all 50 states who called on Congress to prevent a scheduled increase in the interest rates on the subsidized Stafford student loan, which is used by 7.5 million students in the country.

“It is important to our students at GVSU and around the country that our government prevent loan rates from doubling, and continue to invest in the young minds of our country," Iott said.

"Student loans are a great investment this country makes. Allowing our students to gain their degrees and keep loan debt reasonable will benefit our universities, colleges, professions and societies. Grand Valley makes students their first priority, giving them an exceptional education while keeping focus on making the cost reasonable. The recent Congressional vote, preventing student loan rates from doubling, will allow Grand Valley to continue on their mission of helping shape their students into successful professionals and community members.”

The deal comes just as many students are receiving their financial aid award letters.

“This is a big win for students and families who need to make real plans for school year finances right now,” said Andy MacCracken, associate director of the National Campus Leadership Council.

The letter was organized by student body presidents on the National Campus Leadership Council.

Food — and drink
The Grandwich competition has a new partner, and Restaurant Week 2012 has a new pump primer.

“Grand Cocktail 2012,” a competition between 18 participating Restaurant Week eateries, will name the best cocktail made with Bacardi Oakheart Rum and/or Grey Goose Cherry Noir. The public can vote on the concoctions at restaurantweekgr.com from Aug. 1-22. This year’s Restaurant Week is Aug. 15-25.

Doug Small, president of Experience Grand Rapids, said the competition is all in good fun and he hopes it will draw more attention to the 10-day culinary tour.

“We love this new timeframe for Restaurant Week and have had enthusiastic support, as well, from participating restaurants,” he said.

“August is the season for the freshest farm produce, fruits and meats raised and grown locally. Restaurateurs are excited about the opportunity to offer these fresh products from area farms on their Restaurant Week menus. All of this makes for a lively, fun event where we have the chance to profile Grand Rapids’ wonderful culinary talent and the vitality of summer in our cool local neighborhoods, suburbs and in downtown.”

One dollar from each meal sold during Restaurant Week is donated to the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education at Grand Rapids Community College.

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