Street Talk

Street Talk: East meets West, except when it doesn’t

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October 18, 2013
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Business leaders from West Michigan have long attempted to cross I-96 to extend a hand of partnership to brethren at major corporations since the late 1990s, when former ambassador Peter Secchia helped arrange for executive-to-executive meetings with Dick DeVos, Steelcase (former) Chairman Jim Hackett and Fred, Hank and/or Doug Meijer.

Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce mirrored such moves and also attempted to create a relationship with the Detroit Regional Chamber, but even the West Michigan Policy Conference drew only passing interest from Detroit’s top business leaders. Only Business Leaders for Michigan was able to enforce 100 percent attendance from east and west and hooked the regional executives together with major tax and legislative issues … and setting an agenda for Gov. Rick Snyder’s “reinventing Michigan” campaign.

Several nonprofit groups have worked that vein, especially in the last year as Detroit’s bankruptcy loomed, causing major impact on such organizations as the Detroit Institute of Arts. Two groups devoted to a mission of merging women leaders also are seeing little result for much effort. The Michigan Women’s Foundation bravely asserted new recognition programs that made specific recognition of women on both sides of the state, all at one gala, an event that would alternate location between Michigan’s two largest cities. Not surprisingly, many cultural differences became obvious in the making, the least of which was that women in east Michigan preferred gala-style dinner meetings and the women of the west would meet for lunch, in business attire. The one gala split to two separate events but honoring both east and west winners at each.

All of that is reason for the Business Journal note here that a breakup (of sorts) is in the making. The Women’s Foundation this year is not only planning two separate recognition events, east and west, but two separate groups of women, east and west. It also is important to note the foundation is served by two directors of philanthropy, east and west. Deborah Phillips, director of philanthropy-west, sent an email to give GRBJ a heads up that the foundation also will focus its recognition on a specific industry for the 2014 awards: health care (in the west).

Pillow talk?

Regular readers of Street Talk will remember Dixie Anderson’s claim that she was not the “other woman” when news of Gen. David Petraeus’ affair broke last year. Anderson laughed and said that while she was with Petraeus just before news of the scandal came to light, it was strictly in an official capacity.

Now, there is proof:

The World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, of which Anderson is executive director, announced today that its speaker for its 64th anniversary event is none other than … Gen. David Petraeus.

“We had the privilege of hearing General Petraeus last fall during the National Conference of the World Affairs Councils of America while he was CIA director,” Anderson said. “He gave a forthright, concise analysis of critical security issues facing the United States. We expect that will be the focus of his discussion with us in January.”

The event is a luncheon scheduled for noon on Friday, Jan. 31, at DeVos Place. Titled “A Conversation with General David Patraeus,” the moderator will be Lori Murray, currently the Distinguished Chair for National Security at the U.S. Naval Academy. She happens to hold a Ph.D. in weapons of mass destruction.

“I have enjoyed a number of previous events around the country with World Affairs Councils, and I look forward to the opportunity to join the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan for what I’m sure will be a stimulating, enjoyable event,” Petraeus said.

Steve Heacock, council board member and chair of the Annual Event Committee, said, “Our committee feels that one of the most critical issues facing the United States is the entire issue of national security, including cyber terrorism. We immediately honed in on General Petraeus as someone who can address this. We’re absolutely delighted he has agreed to come to Grand Rapids for this important discussion.”

The Grand Rapids group is the first to host Petraeus since his resignation.

Nod and a smile

Wednesday’s well-attended “40 Under Forty” celebration at Goei Center honored West Michigan’s young business leaders and their many accomplishments. Gov. Snyder delivered a very appropriate speech about entrepreneurialism that was quite well received, and the Business Journal’s first 40 Under Forty Distinguished Alumnus, Sam Cummings, talked about real estate, his love for West Michigan (and downtown Grand Rapids in particular), and taking chances on the road to success.

After both speeches, Business Journal Publisher John Zwarensteyn and Editor Carole Valade handed out framed plaques to each of the honorees as they came forward individually to spirited applause.

Cummings was seated just to the left of the awards table, and an interesting pattern developed as the winners came off stage. Almost to a person, each of those involved in real estate and development — Derek Coppess, Chris Beckering, Mike Mraz, among others — tipped a nod or offered a discreet wave as they strolled past Cummings.

Sort of like paying homage to the king — without all the ring kissing.

Not kid-ding

For even further proof that the Business Journal’s 40 Under Forty class is all about making connections, look no further than Bridget Clark Whitney.

The Kids’ Food Basket executive director is reportedly in talks with September Inside Track subject Gloria Lara, CEO of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, about a possible partnership. Not many details yet, but plenty of positive energy there.

Whitney also found opportunity at the “40” event to invite Snyder to pack food bags. He responded with interest.

Payback time

Not that this applies to you. But maybe your boss, and most certainly a co-worker or 10, would fit into this category.

It just might be time to give yourself an early Christmas present: attendance at the “Dealing With Difficult People” seminar set for Dec. 16 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Why? Well, who wouldn’t want to know how to “take the offensive against know-it-alls, dictators, snipers, gripers, ‘yes’ people, ‘no’ people and all the other contrary characters you confront every day.”

This is touted as a day of intensive training with immediate payback. Participants will learn why people act the way they do, what to say and do in specific situations, how to become less of a target for antagonists’ barbs and antics and how to bring out the best in even the worst offenders.

More information and registration is available at www.careertrack.com.

Hint: You might not want to put this on your expense account.

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