Paying Dividends

September 2, 2003
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Why is Gentex Corp. widely regarded as one of West Michigan’s best companies?

In a word: Money. The Zeeland manufacturer makes money. It saves money. And it spends money (locally). How many other larger companies in this region can boast zero debt?

Well, now FredBauer and the boys are going to start giving money away. Not to just anyone, of course, but to the shareholders who have helped propel the automatic-dimming rearview mirror maker to the top of the financial heap.

“It’s unusual for a growth company to pay a cash dividend,” said GarthDeur, executive vice president. “However, based on the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, which has significantly reduced the federal income tax rate for shareholders who receive corporate cash dividends, the declaration of a dividend is now a more tax-efficient means of returning value to shareholders.”

So for the first time in company history, that’s exactly what Gentex is going to do. A 15-cent-per-share dividend will be coming to holders of common stock (as of Oct. 3) on Oct. 17.

This is a big step for a fairly fiscally conservative firm that has had a standard of annually pumping 25 percent of profits back into research and development. But Deur said that, despite the uncertain economy, this is the right thing to do right now.

  • Clients of Lambert, Edwards & Associates can expect some big personnel news in their mailboxes. BrianEdwards, one of the founding principals of LE&A, has decided to scale back his daily involvement with the public and investor relations firm.

In a letter to clients, JeffLambert said Edwards would assume an “of counsel” role on Jan. 1 in order to pursue some other personal interests and business opportunities.

Don’t worry, Lambert said, Edwards will still be around for consultation and strategy sessions, but he won’t be “in the office” every day.

  • Some building dedications take an hour or a day. This one will take a whole week.

The Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences is opening Monday, Sept. 15. And Tuesday, Sept. 16. And Wednesday, Sept. 17. There are events planned all the way through Saturday at the $57.1 million, 215,000-square-foot addition to Pill Hill. For a complete list, call GVSU’s News & Information Services at (616) 331-2221.

But for a fun list, here are some things to know about the new center. More than 2,200 tons of structural steel, 8,000 cubic yards of concrete and 37,000 square feet of glass were used to construct the facility. If you put all the steel studs end to end, they would span 67 miles and weigh nearly 150 tons. The electrical wiring would extend 99 miles. The carpet in the building could completely cover the Detroit Lions’ Ford Field one and a half times, and that doesn’t include the 14 miles of vinyl tile.

No wonder it’s going to take a week to open.

  • You think gasoline is expensive now? West Michigan’s designation by EPA as an air quality “non-attainment” zone (thanks to pollution coming here via of the prevailing winds from the Chicago-Milwaukee megalopolis) could well raise the price even further.

EPA requires that motorists in such zones use oxygenated gasolines that, in theory, burn more cleanly. The oxygenating additives are ethanol (alcohol distilled from corn) and a substance called methyl tertiary-butyl ether.

Now most folks don’t know methyl from Ethel . . . or ether, either. But a study by the White House National Science and Technology Council — the Clinton White House, incidentally, not the Bush White House — some years ago reported oxygenated gasoline to be less effective than originally supposed in reducing pollution and smog. Such gasoline also burns less efficiently than standard gasoline, so motorists must buy more of it to drive the same distance. And because oxygenateds are boutique blends, they’re even pricier than the elevated prices now being paid at the pump.

The EPA ignored the council’s findings. It also has ignored subsequent independent research that backs up the council’s research. But thanks to the studies’ findings, California’s governor, Gray (I love Kyoto) Davis, issued a 1998 executive order to phase out oxygenated gasoline in California. He subsequently sued EPA when it blocked his order. Reportedly, EPA now is on the defensive, awaiting a federal court ruling on whether its posture is arbitrary and capricious

It could be assumed that EPA is comprised of conscientious scientists trying to protect the environment. Yet, thinking back to when West Michigan went through this non-attainment zone business before, it should be recalled that EPA reacted to facts in a legalistic rather than a scientific manner. Rather than addressing the problem, air pollution from Chicago-Milwaukee, it set out to penalize the victims in West Michigan.

Now really . . . would a genuine scientist try to abate Milwaukee’s pollution by imposing penalties on West Michigan citizens and business?

Or would such a policy more likely emanate from an untouchable federal civil servant with a law degree . . . the type who’s too timid to try making it in private practice?

  • As an electrician, GeorgeLessens seems to makes a great meteorologist. One day last week when the TV-13 Weatherball was imitating a lime-flavored Tootsie Pop, a full quarter of the greenish globe went dark.

Maybe it was supposed to be a variation on the orb’s signals that tell us what we can’t help knowing already. Or perhaps it was a new predictive indicator of some type: like, “Don’t drink from the Grand River today — it’s really green and putrid.”

But then last Wednesday, the flavor changed to grape — or maybe it was blueberry — which may mean that the folks at 13 are rooting for U-M this season. Or that autumn is coming. Or both.   

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