Amway Grand Tower Dedicated

January 28, 2003
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Grand Rapids Business Journal is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a little history of its own. Throughout the year, the Journal will revisit significant events that occurred each week 20, 15 and 10 years ago. For longtime Grand Rapidians, this is a chance to test historical trivia. For newcomers, it’s a chance to “catch up” with everyone else.

Twenty Years Ago

  • A month of festivals downtown wrapped up with the official dedication of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel tower.

  • Four years after its announcement, ground was broken for the new Campau Square Plaza office building. “The market is there,” said Paul Bowers, of the partnership. “It’s an excellent location and it’s very attractive, but it took a while because we didn’t want to go head-to-head with the Calder Plaza and the Mutual Home buildings.”

The 13-story, $17 million building was set for occupancy in 1985.

  • City Hall announced that the Welsh Civic Auditorium would receive a $5.5 million basement-up renovation while the city also would work with Amway Corp. to build a new 10,000-seat, $14 million arena on the south side of Fulton Street between Ionia and Ottawa.

The move saved the Welsh while satisfying the need for a larger, more flexible arena. The Welsh work would be financed by a $1.4 million balance in the Grand Center Fund, plus, it was hoped, county government approval of $4.4 million in hotel-motel tax revenues.

As for the new arena, the city hoped to buy the land for $4 million while Amway would be asked to build the $10 million facility.

  • Beene, Garter & Co., and Vannatter, Clink, Naill & Co. merged practices under the banner of Beene, Garter & Co., with offices in Grand Rapids and Traverse City. The merger resulted in seven partners and 34 professional and support personnel.

  • United Auto Workers Local 828 went on strike against Blackmer Pump. The walkout involved 157 workers in the local union.

  • Two St. Joseph County hospitals said they would no longer accept Blue Cross-Blue Shield coverage for patients.

Fifteen Years Ago

  • With more than 130 printing companies in the community, Grand Rapids was counted among the top 10 graphic arts markets in the nation. Competition within the industry locally was described as intense because nearly every niche in the industry here was saturated.

“There are so many four-color printers in town and in West Michigan that you hardly have to bid a job,” said Walt Gutowski, owner of Swift Printing.

“But it is more of a friendly competition,” added Ted Etheridge, president of Etheridge Printing. “There is not a lot of shake-out going on. It’s more like it keeps you on your toes.”

On two occasions, Michigan Litho outbid all Ohio printers to get that state’s map-printing job, prompting the Buckeye legislature last year to pass a bill requiring that such jobs remain in Ohio.

  • An attorney for DST Systems Inc., the sole shareholder of the now-defunct H.B. Shaine brokerage, criticized disgruntled investors who were suing the bankrupt company for losses occurred in last October’s stock market meltdown.

Russell Pitts, attorney with Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, said the litigants were well informed of the risks they were taking. He said Shaine fully disclosed the risks to those investors and that the investors had the ability to read and comprehend the situation.

  • C&F Stamping Co. Inc. was scheduled to undertake a major excavation soon to determine the source of chemicals apparently leaking from beneath a company plant. Several solvents used in a factory paint-mixing room were discovered during a construction project at C&F’s plant on Breton Road north of 32nd Street.

The firm’s officers said they immediately halted the project and called the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and simultaneously hired an environmental engineering firm to determine the source of the spill.

  • WZZM TV-13 named Catherine Herendeen Behrendt as producer and reporter for its 11 p.m. newscast. Previously she worked as a special assignment reporter and anchor and producer at WWTV/WWUP-TV in Cadillac.

Ten Years Ago

  • After more than a year’s wait for approval — and almost eight years since it was formed — the Kent-Ottawa-Muskegon Foreign Trade Zone authority received the go-ahead to designate more than 275 acres in the Tri-County area as international trade zones.

The sites are more than 100 acres in Cascade, 25 acres in Wyoming, 70 acres in Muskegon and five acres in Holland.

Support for the zones’ creation came from Meijer Inc., Old Kent Bank, United Development Real Estate Co., First of America, Brunswick Corp., SPX Corp., K-Line Inc., Prince Corp., Herman Miller Inc. and The Right Place Program.

  • Steelcase Inc. acted on its previously announced 60-day warning to 1,000 employees with notification to 460 workers that layoffs would begin on Feb. 8.

“This circumstance is compounded by a flat market, shorter lead times and a smaller order backlog,” said Rob Pew, Steelcase North America president.

While there was no guarantee that the workers would be called back, their chances were better than in 1992 when more than 930 workers were laid off and subsequently called back.

  • Michigan National Bank appointed Calvin College executive William J. Boer to the post of Grand Rapids city president, where he served as chief commercial banking officer and spokesman for the bank.

  • The directors of the Alliance for Health decided to seek funds and community support for a study concerning the area’s future needs for hospitals. The board’s president, Phil VanHeest, said the study wouldn’t focus exclusively on Butterworth’s plans to build a new hospital, but that the plan is a concern.

“They’re talking about a minimum of $150 million, which is the biggest project this community has ever seen. And if they do everything they’re proposing to do, it could be a half to three-quarters of a billion dollars.” That, he said, could push Grand Rapids from being one of the lowest-cost areas in health care to one of the highest.

Wayne Nargang, Blodgett’s vice president for corporate development, said VanHeest’s figures were extremely inaccurate, as were those he said were being circulated in a letter by Butterworth CEO William Gonzalez.

  • Frank Bartoszek, project coordinator for Owens-Ames-Kimball, said that construction of the new $33 million Public Museum of Grand Rapids was “pretty much on schedule,” despite a minor delay caused by the abnormally high Grand River.

Because the river was seven to eight feet above normal, pilings important to the project were well under water. But that didn’t stop construction of the riverfront carousel.

  • The Downtown Development Authority planned to issue $3.4 million in bonds to pay for the new parking ramp that was to serve the Public Museum of Grand Rapids.

With a fund balance of $7.2 million, the DDA could have paid cash to have the structure built, but Robert White, city fiscal services director, and DDA Chairman Thomas Wesholski said low interest rates made financing the better bet.

“Besides, there’s a lot of talk about the arena and the convention center,” Wesholski said, indicating that this wasn’t the time for DDA to draw down its cash reserve.

  • Grooters Development Co. negotiated financing and leasing of a 220,000-square-foot warehouse in Zeeland Township’s Highpointe Industrial Park.

President Robert Grooters predicted the light industry park’s 100-acre expanse — for which he recently received site plan approval from the township planning commission — would be the eventual home of 20 firms in six buildings. He said he expects the project to be concluded in 1995.

  • Construction was well underway on an 80,000-square-foot molding plant being built for Lacks Enterprises Inc.

The factory, at 4375 52nd St. SE, grew out of the firm’s three-year, $90 million contract to supply body side moldings and bumper trim components for two 1994 vehicles. The contract increased the firm’s staffing from 1,300 employees to 1,500.

  • Construction also began on an $8.5 million solution to Grand Rapids Community College’s perennial parking problem, a seven-story parking ramp at the corner of Lyon Street and Bostwick Avenue. The only concern about the 770-car facility was whether the college’s student body would soon outgrow it.           

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