Economic Development, Government, and Human Resources

DDA re-elects leadership and welcomes new member

Audit gives board a clean fiscal mark, and DDA is close to refunding a 10-year-old bond.

January 11, 2013
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Members of the Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority selected Brian Harris and Kayem Dunn to repeat their roles for another year as board chairman and vice chairwoman, respectively, and then they welcomed Richard Winn to the decision table on Wednesday.

This will be Harris’ and Dunn’s second consecutive year in those posts. Dunn chaired the city agency for several years before voluntarily moving out of the position a year ago.

Winn joins the DDA as president of the Amway Hotel Corp., which owns and operates the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, JW Marriott and Courtyard Grand Rapids Downtown. All three are downtown. Winn replaces his former boss and longtime colleague, Joseph Tomaselli, on the board.

“I have a keen interest in downtown and I’m delighted to be here,” said Winn.

Tomaselli retired as Amway Hotel Corp. president at the end of last year and returned to his hometown of St. Louis. Before Tomaselli left his post, Winn was the group’s vice president and managing director. Winn has lived in the city for the past 15 years and served on the Green Grand Rapids Committee. He has chaired the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association and currently is the organization’s director.

“I was very pleased that Rick said yes when I inquired about him joining the DDA,” said Mayor George Heartwell, who appointed Winn to the board. City commissioners confirmed the appointment last week.

The DDA received a clean bill of fiscal health last week from BDO USA, the local accounting firm that audited the board’s year-end finances. The audit didn’t find any significant issues with the DDA’s finances or accounting principles.

“You don’t want any qualifiers with an audit. We’ve done pretty well,” said Jana Wallace, DDA treasurer, of the firm’s overall findings.

The audit did report that the board’s net assets fell by 16 percent in 2012, from nearly $19 million in 2011 to almost $16 million last year. Liabilities also fell from $51.8 million in 2011 to $51.1 million in 2012, for a drop of 1.3 percent.

Total revenues to the DDA during the last fiscal year reached $10.1 million, with $9.6 million of that total coming from property taxes. The 2012 total revenue figure was down by 12.6 percent from 2011 when it stood at $11.6 million. Total expenses for both years were nearly identical at $13.1 million. The DDA fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30.

Wallace said the board will likely refund a $5 million bond the DDA sold in 2003 to help finance the construction of DeVos Place, the city’s convention center. The board pledged $10 million to the $210 million project and fulfilled half of its pledge in cash and went to the bond market for the remaining half.

DDA counsel Dick Wendt said refunding could save the agency about $450,000 over the remaining term of the bond, which would average roughly $45,000 in annual savings. Wendt told the board, “You’ve been meeting those payment obligations for the past 10 years.”

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