Street Talk

Street Talk: Grand Rapids’ international immersion

Ode joy!

May 1, 2015
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The May dates of regional celebrations and awards marking area international trade will be given additional highlight at month’s end when Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima make their first official visit to the United States, including a stop in Grand Rapids June 2.

Michigan exports $333 million yearly to the Netherlands, according to Dutch government information, which also attributes 7,600 jobs in the state to trade and investment between the two nations. The Dutch government also noted, “The Netherlands was the first country to loan money, 5 million guilders, to a young America in 1782.”

The king’s mother Beatrix and grandmother Juliana were both visitors to the Michigan cities of Holland and Zeeland, but though Holland’s Windmill Island marks its 50th anniversary this summer, the royal couple’s schedule allows only enough time to meet briefly with the Dutch-American community from the lakeshore and Grand Rapids at the amphitheater of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The windmill in Holland was a gift of the Dutch government.

But the king first stops in Washington, D.C., primarily to pay tribute to the American men and women who sacrificed their lives 70 years ago liberating Europe. The Dutch government noted in press releases the royal couple will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, marking “the contribution of the United States to the liberation of the Netherlands. In 2015, the Netherlands will celebrate 70 years of liberation.”

In a side note, Gemini Publications owner and CEO John Zwarensteyn was a Dutch citizen near that time.

The couple is also expected to meet with President Barack Obama, the Dutch consulate and security advisors, but emphasizes an expected visit to a workshop “focusing on sustainable smart cities, a topic in which the Netherlands excels.”

Well, that’s an outright point of pride and invitation to GR Mayor George Heartwell, who last week secured designation for areas of downtown as one of the Emerging 2030 Districts in partnership with a group of local leaders in the building and development industries. (See the story on page 23.)

Gov. Rick Snyder will lead the entourage meeting the royal couple at Gerald R. Ford International Airport, from which they will depart for Meijer Gardens. Following the greetings and a luncheon, the royal couple is expected to follow in the footsteps of the previous queens and plant a sugar maple in the volunteer gardens.

But the Grand Rapids trade highlight will be a tour of Spectrum Health and Van Andel Institute. The Dutch government noted: “Both Grand Rapids and the Netherlands have been investing in innovative techniques and practices in life sciences in health (like the Medical Mile). The king, as well as the companies that will travel with him, will focus during the visit to Grand Rapids on opportunities to share knowledge and working more closely in these fields. Both the Netherlands and Grand Rapids are leading in life sciences and health research (in areas such as oncology, regenerative medicine and neurosciences) as well as in combining research, patient care and community engagement. The king will inform himself on current and future possibilities for Grand Rapids and the Netherlands to work together in this rapidly evolving field of life sciences and health specifically in the field of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease.”

Those possibilities include ParkinsonNet care network of the Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen.

Donor honors

Donors are certainly a big part of keeping the VAI endowed, a point anticipated by King Willem-Alexander. The institute celebrated two of its benefactors last week in the third annual Carol Van Andel Angels of Excellence dinner.

Carol Van Andel is executive director of the David and Carol Van Andel Foundation, and Van Andel Institute’s Board of Governors. The event honored Rebecca Wierda, owner of Leigh’s, for the women’s specialty store’s Couture for a Cure, which has helped raise important funds to benefit cancer and neurodegenerative disease research and science education at the Institute. The Sharpe family also was recognized for its support of Parkinson’s disease research and as chairs of VAI’s Winterfest event, which has raised more than $1 million for Parkinson’s disease research.

Treasurer’s view of China

World Affairs Council of West Michigan Executive Director Dixie Anderson has another coup for her counting cap with agreement from former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Hank Paulson to give the keynote speech at the council’s 66th Anniversary Dinner, Nov. 4.

Paulson’s book, “Dealing with China: An Insider Unmasks the New Economic Superpower,” has been trending in the No. 3 spot of The New York Times hard-cover, nonfiction bestsellers list.

Don’t mess with Uber

San Francisco-headquartered Uber took its name, according to Wikipedia, from German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsch, who coined the term “Ubermensch” to describe the “higher state to which he felt men might aspire.”

Last week Michigan millennials especially took that to heart and launched a campaign to stop Michigan Senators Dale Zorn, R-Monroe, Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, and Rick Jones, R-Eaton, from introducing a bill to amend the Limousine Transportation Act regulating ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The bill would have required the companies to secure “certificates of authority,” restricted those under 21 from working as drivers and required a chauffer’s license — acts widely viewed as entrenchment of old ideas, not to mention the limousine industry lobby.

“Generation opportunity” in Michigan “bombed” Kowall’s Facebook page, appealing to the senators to support ridesharing companies like Uber, not to mention employment opportunity for hundreds of college students. Kowall informed the group last week the legislation is “dead.”

A special blend

Grand Rapids Ballet and Chris McKellar, founder of Love’s Ice Cream, have partnered to create a May treat of extraordinary taste. The confectioner created a “Brand New Limited Edition” flavor in honor of the world premiere of “Beethoven,” named “Rocky Rode to Joy.”

The two groups noted in a press release: “The flavor is inspired by the trials and tribulations throughout Beethoven’s life. This chocolate and marshmallow treat symbolizes the fact that success is a journey on the rocky road less traveled.”

Love’s Ice Cream creates hand-crafted ice cream, vegan gelato, sorbet, baked goods and confections all made from scratch using organic ingredients including grass-fed dairy, and produce from small Michigan farms, operating in Grand Rapids Downtown Market.

Grand Rapids Ballet will perform Mario Radacovsky’s world premiere of Beethoven, based on the composer’s musical genius, “with dense and driving narratives in his symphonies.” The ice cream debuted May 1; the performances are May 8-10 and 15-17.

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