Street Talk

Street Talk: Newsmakers: This is not a drill

Credit report.

February 2, 2018
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When an alarm goes off in the middle of an event attended by nearly 600 West Michigan business leaders, that’s probably the most memorable moment of the day.

It was not.

The Business Journal’s 2017 Newsmaker of the Year breakfast at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park featured a number of memorable moments, and the inadvertent fire alarm didn’t make the top 5, although AgHelp’s Feliciano Paredes probably thought it was pretty cool coming as it did just before the announcement of his winning in the startups category.

The most memorable acceptance speech — and the highlight of the day — belonged to Dr. Norman Beauchamp Jr., dean of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, who was accepting the award in the health care category for MSU’s Grand Rapids Research Center.

Beauchamp’s remarks from the stage started off innocuous enough with a description of the $88.1-million research facility and its projected impact on West Michigan.

But with the Dr. Larry Nassar scandal still fresh in everyone’s mind, Beauchamp suddenly veered off course.

“The survivor impact stories so courageously shared are beyond devastating,” said Beauchamp, who then asked for a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Nassar’s sexual abuse.

Beauchamp struggled to keep his composure as he uttered three words to describe the school’s handling of the events: “We failed them.”

“These tragic events cannot and do not define us,” he said. “We have a responsibility to the victims. … We will go forward stronger.”

So an emotional day went on, highlighted at the end by a raucous standing ovation for Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, who was named the Business Journal’s 2017 Newsmaker of the Year for Muskegon’s $1 billion investment in development projects.

The alarm ended up being false, but the emotions, joy and camaraderie expressed at the event were very real.

Fabulous 50

An employee-owned office furniture manufacturer in West Michigan is incentivizing community service.

Holland-based Trendway, helmed by CEO William Bundy since 2008, recently announced a “Give 50” companywide volunteer initiative that coincides with the company’s 50th anniversary April 15.

The challenge encourages all employees to participate in 50 hours of community service throughout the year.

Trendway has about 300 employees in Holland and an additional 25 off-site employees throughout the U.S.

“One of Trendway’s special qualities that continues to support our success is not directly related to manufacturing office furniture,” said Mark Kinsler, president of Trendway. “We have an exceptional culture of caring and community outreach.”

As part of the Give 50 Challenge, employees may volunteer for traditional Trendway charities such as Hope Lodge, the annual Trendway Cruise-In Benefit and Angel Tree for foster children in Ottawa County.

They also may choose relief efforts, environmental stewardship or any charitable cause they wish.

Some volunteer outings performed with a team or department will be company sponsored.

“We know that many team members are already exceeding 50 hours of volunteerism per year,” Kinsler said. “If everyone rallies behind the Give 50 Challenge, we anticipate some impressive results — both in total hours of service and of impact to the greater Holland community.”

Throughout the year, Trendway will feature various company-sponsored volunteer opportunities in the region. Participation in the Give 50 Challenge will be counted toward rewards in the company’s wellness program.

Food fight

A special episode of “Man v Food” featuring prominent West Michigan eateries is set to air in mid-February on the Travel Channel.

Early in December, the Travel Channel arrived in West Michigan to film an episode for the new season of “Man v Food,” starring actor and restaurateur Casey Webb. The Business Journal previously reported Webb and crew filmed segments at the Beltline Bar, home of the “famous” wet burrito; Grand Rapids Brewing Company, to try the 2016 Grandwich winner 1-800-HOTLINE-BEEF; and Dog Central in Mount Pleasant, to attempt the DC challenge.

“When Beltline Bar was contacted by Travel Channel about featuring our restaurant on national television, we were very excited,” Beltline Bar owner Jeff Lobdell said. “The day we spent with Casey Webb and his crew was so much fun, and we can’t wait to see the episode.”

Beltline Bar, 16 28th St. SE,  will host a “Man v Food” Watch Party to view the special episode when it airs at 9 p.m. Feb. 12. The party is free.

The bar also will feature special pricing on the “famous” wet burrito and house margaritas in honor of being nationally recognized as the “birthplace” of the wet burrito.

Bonds, just bonds

Make room, Kent County, one of your smaller siblings is joining you at the fiscally responsible table.

Cascade Charter Township’s credit profile rating has improved from Aa1 to Aaa — the highest ranking a municipality can achieve.

While Kent County has enjoyed that distinction for several years, this is new territory for the township.

The rating comes from Moody’s Investors Service, a leading provider of credit ratings, research and risk management. Cascade’s new Aaa rating applies to $4 million of outstanding general obligation and limited tax debt, and demonstrates the lowest level of credit risk. This will make it easier for the township — and safer for investors — to bond municipal projects such as utility infrastructure and public improvements, among others. Additionally, Moody’s has updated the township’s outlook to stable.

“This is an incredible accomplishment for a municipality of our size,” said Ben Swayze, township manager. “The information provided by Moody’s analysis offers validation of the sound fiscal management of our township. Everyone — especially the many township committees and employees and the Township Board — should be proud of the upgrade, which will provide a significant benefit if we bond for future projects.”

According to the report, Cascade’s credit profile was bolstered by its sizeable, affluent tax base; extremely strong financial position with strong fund balances; and its modest debt and pension burdens. More detailed credit considerations stemmed from the township’s low pension liabilities, including a closed defined benefit plan and lack of other post-employment benefits, as well as its strong management practices, conservative budgeting and sophisticated capital plan.

In upgrading the township’s outlook to stable, the Moody’s report noted, “The township’s financial position will remain strong and its debt and pension burdens will continue to be modest.” The report also explained the company’s expectation that Cascade’s healthy economy and solid tax base will remain a credit strength.

In addition to its ranking with Moody’s, the township also holds an Aaa rating by Standard & Poor’s, a financial service company that provides market intelligence in the form of credit ratings, research and thought leadership.

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