Street Talk

Street Talk: A real education

Treasure hunt.

March 18, 2016
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Gov. Rick Snyder was in town last week to discuss an issue that hasn’t exactly made him popular among Michigan’s teachers: education.

Snyder opened the Governor’s Economic and Education Summit 2016 at DeVos Place last Tuesday, and Jaime Casap, Google’s chief education evangelist, served as the keynote speaker.

“This is a great community that’s done wonderful … in terms of community leadership,” Snyder said, plugging the work of Talent 2025. “Having that leadership at the community level … Grand Rapids is probably leading in that.”

Snyder’s talk was followed by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who spoke on finding ways to make educational models more inclusive for all students, especially those with disabilities. Calley’s comments were noted by Casap as being particularly touching.

“I want everyone to close your eyes for a moment, and I want you to think about the thing you’ve struggled with the most. And just think about if this thing you struggled with the most was the thing that defined who you were. What if that was a part of your title?” Calley said.

“Every single room you go into, the first thing people know about you is the thing you struggle with the most. Welcome to the life of a person with a disability.”

Calley wants to change that, particularly in education. He urged the audience to consider how the work they do affects others, particularly those with different skills and challenges.

In fact, Calley said he’s made it a point to make friends with those who have Down syndrome, saying he’s never met a person with Down syndrome who isn’t sincere. For a man who works in politics, it’s a trait he’s found remarkably refreshing, and one that’s made him wonder: Who’s got the real disability?

Smoke signals

Medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan since 2008 and in other states dating back as early as 1996. But the industry still is struggling to gain legitimacy, according to Dr. Kevin Hill, an expert in the field who spoke at the DeVos Medical Ethics Colloquy last Monday.

To illustrate one of the issues the industry is facing, Hill displayed an ad that ran in the Boston Globe Jan. 17. Adorned with a caduceus surrounded by marijuana leaves, the ad encouraged patients interested in receiving medical marijuana to visit “” for more information. The ad also stated that the “physicians” would make house calls, and after a 20-minute evaluation, prescribe the drug.

“There are friends of mine who have medical marijuana practices. They're interested and they're advocates for that sort of thing and they're trying to do it the right way,” Hill said. “But this type of ad is what's out there now. And I know that's happened in Michigan too, talking with physicians here. But this really discredits the whole idea, this kind of ad right here.”

Parking slots

Surprise! Parking came up in yet another conversation about downtown development.

This time, Nick Koster, CWD Real Estate Investment vice president of operations, was talking about how critical parking is to a downtown’s vibrancy as new developments are built on sites that used to be surface parking lots.

That’s not to say he wants surface parking lots left alone — quite the contrary, actually.

“We all agree we don’t want the best sites in town tied up by surface parking lots or single purpose garages,” Koster said. “Everybody agrees on that.”

He applauded Orion Construction’s development of Arena Place for its placement of office and residential space above a parking garage pedestal.

The parking garage pedestal was something Concept Design Group’s vice president, Tom Tooley, also brought up in a conversation, noting because of regulatory differences, Grand Rapids can’t have concealed parking garages in its buildings like many (don’t) see in Chicago.

Still, parking should be a priority for downtown workers, as well as visitors.

“Those people typically drive a car to work,” Koster said. “It’s one thing to park at a commuter lot, which might be a viable option for some, but in a lot of fields — accounting, real estate, legal — often you’re traveling to client sites throughout the day.”

While there are two drastically different schools of thought on the parking issue, it seems the two sides are coming closer to a balanced response, which is what Koster would like to see.

Comfy cars

Jim Hackett is on the move again.

Coming off his stint as University of Michigan’s interim athletic director, Hackett has been named chairman of Ford Motor Co.’s Smart Mobility division, which is accelerating the company’s “plans to design, build, grow and invest in emerging mobility services.”

Since 2013, Hackett has served on Ford’s board of directors as a member of the sustainability and innovation committee. So it makes sense he’d head up the new division.

But why, you ask, has a former executive of a global furniture manufacturer taken the helm of an auto company division?

Well, Hackett had a successful run at Steelcase, then hired football coach Jim Harbaugh as icing on the cake during his brief tenure at U-M, and now Bill Ford sees something in Hackett he likes for the future of the automobile.

Forbes wrote a whole article trying to solve the question. We think it’s pretty simple.

As cars become autonomous, they need to have comfy interiors. Who better than the king of office furniture to design the next amenities for driverless cars?

Bankrolling innovation

Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center — aka MAREC — will help to connect the entrepreneurial world with the financial industry next week as it hosts a new event in Muskegon designed to launch and grow local businesses.

The two-part program known as MoneyLaunch will kick off March 29 with a funding review session in the business innovation center’s facility at 200 Viridian Drive, Muskegon. The program will feature educational presentations, networking and information from local bankers and funding partners to help entrepreneurs find the “best fit for bankrolling your business.”

Valerie Byrnes, business incubator manager at MAREC, said the event is not only educational but is “meant to help develop relationships between businesses and financial resource organizations with an ultimate goal to grow business locally.”

MoneyLaunch will cover topics such as conventional financing, alternative lending options, SBA 504 lending, Business Acceleration Grand Fund, SBIR/STTR grants, crowdfunding and angel funding.

On April 26, MAREC will host the second phase of the program where businesses can pitch their ideas to lenders and funding organizations.

Both Huntington Bank and Shelby State Bank, which are sponsors of MoneyLaunch, are expected to participate in the March 29 event.

John Irwin, president of Huntington Bank, said the organization is passionate about supporting small business lending growth.

“We encourage business owners at all levels to take a closer look at how they can access capital to help realize their goals and aspirations,” he said.

A number of other organizations have come together to support the new event, including Muskegon Area First, Muskegon County, Michigan Small Business Development Center, Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Small Business Administration and SCORE-Muskegon.

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