Street Talk

Street Talk: Feel free to walk a mile in our shoes

Aces high.

July 29, 2016
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There’s a good chance Kris Larson is jumping out of his boots this week.

The Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. CEO has long been a proponent of making Downtown Grand Rapids a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, and it appears at least some people are taking notice.

Redfin, a real estate company that pumps out list after list, ranked Midwest cities with under 300,000 people by the most walkable neighborhoods with more than 1,000 people. Grand Rapids had two neighborhoods in the top 10: Heartside and East Hills.

Heartside was No. 2 and earned a score of 93.8 out of 100, while East Hills was No. 7 with a score of 86.

“Our neighborhoods are the heart and soul of our city,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said in a release. “Each is important, unique and crafted by the citizens who call that area home. In partnership with local business districts, each neighborhood strives to promote walkable, safe and vibrant communities throughout the city.”

City officials also were quick to thank residents for their support of the Vital Streets millage.

“The 15-year, voter-approved funding mechanism is incrementally improving streets, sidewalks and enhancing neighborhoods with innovative streetscapes and lighting to boost the quality of life in each distinctive community,” Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom said in the city’s release.

Other neighborhoods in the top 10 included the downtowns of Ann Arbor; St. Paul, Minnesota; Cincinnati, Ohio; Madison, Wisconsin; Fargo, North Dakota; Bloomington, Indiana; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood also made the top 10.

B plus

Sometimes a B is exactly the grade you’re going for.

Highland Group, a Grand Rapids-based marketing consultant, recently announced it has become a Certified B Corporation, aka a “B Corp,” which certifies Highland Group as a business force for good in its community.

“We want to hold ourselves to high standards of performance, transparency and accountability,” said Scott Crowley, managing partner. “The B Corp assessment helps us measure our performance against these high standards and gives us a yardstick for continuous improvement.”

B Lab, a global nonprofit, offers businesses certification for meeting rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.

“Highland Group redoubles its commitment to creating a fulfilling work experience that allows team members to tackle big professional challenges without sacrificing deeply personal living and active community involvement,” said Jennifer Crowley, chief strategist and managing partner at Highland.

“Being a B Corp gives us the opportunity to demonstrate how one can be a small company and still have a positive impact on social justice.”

The new certification makes Highland Group the ninth Certified B Corporation in the city. That group includes names like Bazzani Building Co., Brewery Vivant, Cascade Engineering, Essence Restaurant Group and The Gluten Free Bar, among others.

There are more than 1,785 Certified B Corporations from more than 130 industries in about 50 countries worldwide, according to B Lab.

“We at Brewery Vivant raise our glasses to Highland Group and welcome them to the community of B Corps here in Grand Rapids,” said Kris Spaulding, sustainability director and co-owner at Brewery Vivant. “As a member of the growing community of businesses in Grand Rapids dedicated to creating a positive social and environmental impact, we’re excited to see Highland Group make the public commitment to be a force for good.”

The trust factor

The stereotype of the “little old lady” as scam victim is wrong, and millennials are more vulnerable to scams than baby boomers.

That's the conclusion of new research by the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust. Scams affect one in four North American households each year at an estimated loss to individuals and families of $50 billion, yet most consumers believe they are invulnerable.

"This research is so vital, not only to stop scammers from hurting consumers, but to help businesses," said Mary Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “That $50 billion 'underground' economy is stealing from the legitimate marketplace. Every dollar lost to a scam is a dollar not spent at a lawful, trustworthy business.”

The research is based on a survey of more than 2,000 adults in the U.S. and Canada. Participants were asked about their perceived vulnerability to scams, who they think is most likely to be scammed, and about the factors that helped them to avoid being scammed. The participants did not know that BBB was the sponsor of the survey.

"We've bought into stereotypes about scam victims — they're usually seen as vulnerable and elderly, or gullible and poorly educated,” said Emma Fletcher, product manager with the BBB Institute. “These stereotypes are strongly held ... and they are wrong. We are all at risk, but younger and more educated individuals are actually the most likely to be scammed.”

Optimism bias — the idea that other people are more vulnerable than we are — is associated with risk-taking and failure to heed precautionary advice, said Rubens Pessanha, CBBB director of marketing research and insights. “Seniors may be the one group that does not suffer from optimism bias when it comes to scams. They've heard, loud and clear, that they are at risk.”

The new research also confirms some trends noted in BBB Scam Tracker, a crowd-sourced reporting tool. More than 30,000 consumers have reported details of scams to BBB since the site was launched in late 2015, and reports are shared with law enforcement to drive investigations. Of those consumers reporting scams to BBB Scam Tracker, 89 percent of seniors (age 65 and up) recognized the scam in time, while 11 percent reported actually losing money. For those ages 18-24, however, more than three times as many failed to recognize the scam: 34 percent reported losing money.

In response, the BBB suggests taking to social media to let others know of scams, realizing scams are targeted at all age groups, and learning the scam types and common methods scammers use.

Vegas vacation

Conservative West Michigan apparently likes to roll the dice once in a while, too.

Sun Country Airlines and The Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino continued their streak of selling out all seats on their popular casino charters from the Muskegon County Airport in June and July. Each flight carries up to 162 passengers and operates roughly 11 times per year.

“We are very pleased to consistently sell out these popular charters. The casino trips began four years ago and every flight has been completely booked. We continue to look for additional charter destinations, because the demand in the region is obviously quite high,” said Dianne Hoofman, Muskegon County Airport air travel marketing consultant.

“The airport is a convenient starting point for West Michigan residents, and it is great to offer affordable charter vacation packages from Muskegon County Airport,” added Jeffrey Tripp, Muskegon County Airport manager.

The popular Vegas runs don’t follow a set schedule but have been averaging just about one a month over the course of a year.

To be notified of future casino charters and other specials at Muskegon County Airport, visit muskegonairport.com/casino-charters.

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