(No) Win-dy City

June 26, 2006
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West Michigan’s business community was represented at the 20th annual Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards banquet in Chicago Thursday evening.

Unfortunately, most attendees wouldn’t have known.

Six firms that won local EOY awards moved on to the regional competition in Chicago, but only one — Holland’s Trans-Matic Manufacturing Co. and CEO Patrick Thompson — earned an award, and someone local had to win the “Best of West Michigan” honor. Otherwise, only two West Michigan firms were finalists in the other nine categories combined.

Sure was nice in years past when the EOY awards were a celebration of business in West Michigan and one of the top attended events annually. Oh well, that’s life in the big city.

  • Classiest move of the night: E&Y presented the four Junior Achievement 2006 Youth Entrepreneurs (including West Michigan’s Aaron Mamo) with $1,000 checks. The surprise announcement caused all four students to literally drop their jaws in amazement.

  • West Michigan sent plenty of sponsor reps to Chicago, too, including Miller Johnson, Seidman College of Business, Grand Valley State University, Fifth Third Bank and the Business Journal. The funniest story of the night involved Seidman Dean James Williams and his daughter, Michelle, who had stayed overnight in Chicago before attending the event. Upon leaving a hotel elevator, Williams (who is no small man) was asked by another hotel guest if he was the young lady’s bodyguard. To which he replied: “I have a 16-year-old daughter, of course I’m her bodyguard.” Priceless.

  • The West Michigan Environmental Action Council is hosting a showing of “An Inconvenient Truth” this Thursday at 7 p.m. at Studio 28.

Sponsored by WMEAC, the Center for Environmental Study, C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy and Loeks Theatres Inc., “the passionate and inspirational look at former Vice President Al Gore’s fervent crusade to halt global warming’s deadly progress by exposing the myths and misconceptions that surround it” will be immediately followed by a panel discussion on the subject.

The panel will include Grand Rapids Mayor and lover of any nature that isn’t fully-nude George Heartwell; Steve Bourna Prediger, a professor of religion at Hope College; University of Michigan research scientist Natalia Andronov; Interface Fabrics Vice President of Global Sustainability Mark LaCroix; and Lisa Oliver-King, an independent consultant and founder of My Kitchen Table.

“This movie will change hearts and minds,” said Lisa Locke, associate director at WMEAC. “Then it’s up to us to change the way we live.”

It will be interesting to see how well the film does in West Michigan. The region has embraced sustainable business and green attitudes. Herman Miller, Cascade Engineering, Haworth, Steelcase and others have become shining beacons of green business. Aquinas College has the nation’s first sustainable business degree.

But, sustainable business could be translated into “Environmentalism for Republicans.” And around here, Gore is still “that guy I didn’t vote for in 2000.”

  • Local PR firm Lambert Edwards was the title sponsor of last month’s Lambert-Edwards RV & Manufactured Housing Investor Conference in New York City. Hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel, it is rather doubtful any of the attendees were seen putting through Manhattan in a 40-foot-long house-on-wheels.

A week later, the firm was back in New York as the recipient of the 2006 Silver Anvil Award by the Public Relations Society of America for its work promoting Zondervan’s launch of the “Today’s New International Version Bible.”

An excited Jeff Lambert called it the “Oscar of PR.”

  • The U.S. Senate voted last week in favor of a proposal by Sen. John W. Warner, R-Va., to name a new class of aircraft carriers after Grand Rapids native President Gerald R. Ford.

“I can think of no finer tribute to our nation’s 38th President, and indeed to the United States Navy, than to add the name of a brave World War II carrier sailor to a warship that will sail the seven seas for the next half-century,” Warner said.

Others were less gracious. In an on-line discussion, several contributors made light of the potential for comedic high-jinks aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford.

“I don’t mind a carrier named after President Ford,” wrote one commentator. “But I’d warn the commander to take it easy on those steps.”

“Maybe the USS Chevy Chase will have a career again,” wrote another.

  • The Michigan Credit Union League has added itself to the growing number of special interests worried about rocking the old SS SBT. The league issued a statement to its members last week declaring that it is closely monitoring the situation.

At risk, the MCUL believes, is credit unions’ tax-exempt status in Michigan.

“We don’t take anything for granted in times when both state and federal governments are experiencing deficits,” MCUL CEO Dave Adams told the Business Journal. “As legislators look to replace the Single Business Tax with something else, we’re sure there will be no sacred cows. They’ll be looking at all types of exempt organizations.”

In its statement, the league dropped a few names of lawmakers it believes to have its back, such as House Speaker Craig DeRoche, R-Novi, who shared a coffee with MCUL lobbyist Patrick LaPine earlier in the week.

  • The second annual Parade of Downtown Living attracted more than 750 potential homebuyers and curious onlookers last week. Hosted by sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine and National City Bank, the event offered the public an inside peek at the multitude of housing options available downtown.

Business was brisk for at least one property management firm featured in the parade. Parkland Properties Jon Rooks said his firm, which showed units from four of its buildings, took 35 condominium reservations over the weekend. The agreements could translate into nearly $6 million in sales.

Tickets were $10 with all proceeds going to Dwelling Place, an affordable housing provider that organized the Parade volunteers. The group also offered patrons a sneak peek at its new Martineau Apartments on the Avenue for the Arts (a brightly lit stretch of South Division).    

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