Speak Out

February 6, 2006
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Grand Rapids Business Journal Small Business Matters columnist Paul Hense (he also owns an accounting firm, Hense & Associates) has been elected 2006 chair of the National Small Business Association.

Hense’s oft-quoted testimony before the White House Council on Small Business Affairs is legendary in every administration. At the top of his agenda: health care deductions the feds won’t allow to small business owners.

It is his new title and reputation which earned a call from a writer for Reader’s Digest, preparing an article on the impact of health care cost increases on small businesses. Hense says he was succinct (we could hope; it’s Reader’s Digest, after all). The article is expected to be published in the April issue.

Already NSBA officials are excited about what might happen under Hense’s watch.

“NSBA is fortunate to have a small business owner of Paul’s experience and commitment lead our organization,” said President ToddMcCracken. “We are looking forward to a very successful year.”

And “call me chairman Paul” Hense was at work last week as the first meetings of the association began in Washington. His first meetings? “The head of the IRS small business assault team is coming this afternoon.”

  • It’s not necessarily the award, he said, but what the award does to put Grand Rapids on the map. Readers learned here last week that former U.S. Ambassador to ItalyPeter Secchia and Amway (Alticor) co-founder RichDeVos will be honored with Woodrow Wilson Awards for their work in public service and in corporate citizenship. Grand Rapids will be one of fewer than 20 host cities for the awards this year. Others include Sao Paulo, Brazil, and New York City

And just as Secchia was speculating as to whether a city this size had ever previously been so honored, the White House called and he was off to the now Supreme Court Associate Justice SamuelAlito’s swearing-in ceremony.

  • Dolan ’em out — On Jan. 27, GVSU Seidman College of Business Alumni and the up-and-coming Press Club held a fundraiser Texas Hold ’Em poker tournament. The event was a success, generating more than $2,000 for two scholarship funds, and at least one memorable story for a tournament participant.

A 60ish-year-old gent (we’ll call him “Benny”) sat down at the table of “celebrity dealer” Grand Rapids Police Chief Harry Dolan. Benny, a four-time felon and the self-professed “biggest bookie” in Allegan, Kalamazoo and Barry counties, knew Dolan on sight. Benny said that Dolan recognized his face (“probably from my mug shots”), but couldn’t place him.

Afterward, Benny marveled at the cosmic irony of having one of the most powerful law enforcement officers in the state dealing poker and taking bets from a guy who has a rap sheet for doing things like, uh, playing poker and taking bets.

  • As mentioned in this week’s B1 story, “Lights, Camera … Where’s The Action?” the film industry has room for many professions not directly associated with the craft.

Perfect examples are public relations firm Lambert Edwards and Associates and marketing firm Hanon McKendry. Both companies have found niches working with family-themed productions in the national market.

“This was something that was developed by our clients,” said Jeff Lambert of his year-old entertainment practice. “We’ve found that we can compete in the entertainment sector nationally based on the relationships we have in niche industries.”

His company has applied its expertise in Christian products and services to Christian entertainment and movies. Hollywood is generally moving toward niche marketing, Lambert said, with the Christian culture the best example of such.

His firm is currently in the midst of a campaign for the major motion picture release “End of the Spear.”

Lambert’s niche is one that is already well grounded in West Michigan. CompassAcademy’s Dave Anderson came to West Michigan to work for Gospel Films in Muskegon. There he produced 92 films, although few were filmed in West Michigan

“Ultimately, the success of the local film industry will be predicated on its ability to take their product outside of West Michigan,” Lambert said.

  • Speaking of brushes with fame, here are a couple of strange bedfellows. It seems that radio shock jock HowardStern and CornerstoneUniversity have something in common — they’re both distributed on Sirius satellite radio.

Cornerstone’s Mission Network News is distributed on Channel 159 at and 9 a.m. Stern’s “news” will not be heard at that time on that channel.

  • While the office furniture industry appears to be back on track, there are still some lingering signs of sluggishness. Namely, analyst Michael Dunlap’s quarterly trends survey. Last week it produced its third lowest index ever, 56.56, slightly below October’s 56.90 and well below that all-time high of 59.72 in July.

Oddly, personal outlook, where the respondents rate their enthusiasm for the coming quarter, was an all-time high last week at 65.15. Employee costs, raw material costs, and tooling expenditures all showed improvement.

Declines were seen in gross shipments, order backlog and incoming orders, and capital expenditures. Employment levels and hours worked remained steady. Thirty percent of respondents said they expect to see 5.1 percent to 10 percent growth in the coming year, another 29.5 percent expect to see growth of 10.1 percent to 15 percent.

Only 3.2 percent expect a decline.

“Some of the indicators are down, but the key secondary indicators in the survey confirm that the industry is still on very solid ground,” said Dunlap. “The continuously strong product development activity combined with the high levels of enthusiasm for the industry, are probably the best signs of continued optimism.”

  • Michigan takes it on the chin in most employment outlooks, so here’s something that deals with the opposite end of the spectrum. Applications are being accepted by AARP through March 20 for its Best Employers for Workers Over 50 program. Before you chuckle, know that six Michigan-based businesses — more than any other state — received recognition as best employers in 2005.

Those interested in applying can visit the AARP Michigan Web site for more information, including an application link, at www.aarp.org/mi      

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