Street Talk

Street Talk: Water, water everywhere

10-4, good buddy.

February 12, 2016
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As the national outrage over Flint’s water crisis grows more fervent — and the calls for Gov. Rick Snyder’s ouster more strident — let’s not overlook the local scene.

Repeated studies have shown Grand Rapids’ water is safe, but now an independent national group is also touting its public health benefits.

This summer, the Grand Rapids Water System will receive the American Water Works Association’s Dr. John L. Leal Award for distinguished service to the water profession. The Grand Rapids Water System team will accept the award during the AWWA conference’s opening session June 20 in Chicago.

AWWA CEO David LaFrance said the organization’s board selected Grand Rapids as its annual recipient for its improved water quality, sound medical/public health expertise and promotion of public health.

“The history of the Grand Rapids Water System fluoride trial dramatically demonstrates the important results that were accomplished through the application of dental research with local, state and federal cooperation,” LaFrance said. “Water fluoridation proved to be one of the most efficient, effective and economical public health measures ever undertaken.”

GRWS manager Joellen Thompson said that, just as it was when Grand Rapids pioneered the use of fluoride, it is important to continuously hold public water system services accountable, especially in the wake of the Flint disaster.

“This is reassuring, positive news for the city and its water system,” Thompson said. “I believe it helps to build public confidence and also demonstrates a history and culture of caring about our water quality and public health. We continue to work every day to ensure that our water customers receive the cleanest, safest and highest-quality water possible.”

Home, sweet home

The Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids Foundation has a pretty simple mission statement: “Making an impact on the lives of those with special housing needs and supporting the development of the next generation of housing industry professionals.

Putting those words into practice, however, is a bit more difficult.

Last Thursday the foundation honored three organizations for exceeding the dreams behind that mission statement at its Home and Hearth Awards.

Owner John Bitely and Sable Homes picked up the Home Builders Care Award, while Home Repair Services earned the Community Builder Award, and Habitat for Humanity took home the Next Generation Workforce Development Award.

Sable’s award was for its work building a new home for Ryan and Amanda Bockheim and their children. The foundation recognized that, in a flourishing housing market, Sable didn’t have to help the Bockheim family, but because it did, the family’s twin girls are now thriving. Born 12 weeks premature, the girls weighed just over two pounds and faced ongoing health challenges. Their new Sable-built home provided a safe, clean, healthy and affordable place for the Bockheim family to live.

Home Repair Services was honored for the work its volunteers have done to help those with disabilities. A group of retirees spent 10,000 hours building access ramps for more than 500 families who can now safely enter and exit their homes.

Habitat for Humanity Kent plays a key role in developing the next generation of housing industry professionals by providing hands-on construction experience for students at YouthBuild/Bethany Christian Services, Grand Rapids Public Schools Academy of Design and Construction, Grand Rapids Community College M-Tech and Job Corps.

Summer fun

Grand Rapids Community College is hosting a job fair next Wednesday for students, alumni and the community.

Some of the industries represented will be catering companies, golf courses and country clubs, landscaping businesses, movie theaters, parks and beaches, summer camps and theme parks.

Area employers with representatives at the job fair will include Michigan's Adventure, Celebration! Cinema, Kent County Parks Department and Craig's Cruisers. Even Mackinac Island’s venerable Grand Hotel will have representatives on hand to meet with prospective employees.

“The tourism and recreation industry offers the opportunity to gain technical and customer service skills that translate to many other employment settings,” said Haley Spencer, from GRCC's Student Employment Services. “Adding these skills to a résumé will showcase a range of talents and experiences. Even a summer job can help someone prepare for future career goals.”

The job fair is scheduled for 9 a.m.-noon, Wednesday, Feb. 24, in Room 234 of GRCC’s Student Community Center, 122 Lyon St. NE.

Beer run

Apparently it’s hard to get some runners to run without the enticement of beer.

According to first-year Fifth Third River Bank Run race director John Zimmerman, a lot of requests were made to have a local brewery sponsor the race and have craft beer on hand at the after-party rather than macro light lagers.

Since the announcement that Perrin Brewing was brought on as sponsor, Zimmerman said he’s seen an increase in people signing up.

“Grand Rapids is Beer City USA, and runners love beer, so this is a perfect opportunity to celebrate local and provide an even better experience for race participants,” Zimmerman said.

By helping to bring in more than $2 million to the city’s economy and drawing thousands of spectators here, Perrin saw it as a huge opportunity, especially as it’s the brewery’s first major sponsorship, according to Keith Klopcic, who took over ownership last year. He’s also the brother — and former partner — of the owner of West Side Beer Distributing, which is a longtime beer sponsor of the race.

It’s perfect timing: Perrin just released its No Problems Session IPA. On the second Tuesday of each month until the race, a No Problems Training Series will be run at the Comstock Park brewery, offering 2- and 5-mile runs to prepare for race day.

Luckily, the beer is saved for the end of the race, unlike the growing fad of beer mile runs.

And that’s fine with Klopcic, who said while some people have no problem chugging beers like water during a race, for him carbonated beverages and long-distance runs are not a recipe for success.

Road warriors

While people might be skeptical of driverless cars hitting the road en-masse by 2020, Les Brand, CEO of Supply Chain Solutions, said the logistics industry would likely adapt driverless technology even sooner.

In fact, it already has.

“Logistics are way ahead because a lot of the logistics activities are happening in private space — so, in a warehouse,” Brand said.

He said Amazon, for instance, operates some of its warehouse facilities without the use of drivers.

“Amazon bought a company that has all these robots moving materials around,” Brand said, adding that operations within the warehouse facilities are fully automated.

Brand said driverless technology would drastically change over-the-road shipping, as well.

“You’ll be able to have one driver and maybe many trucks that he is supporting,” he said.

He said the driverless trucks would move along the roadways in a convoy fashion.

“It’s going to get really exciting,” Brand said.

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