Sign Of The Times

September 25, 2006
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The New York Times featured Grand Rapids in a recent "36 hours" column, detailing a writer's trip to a location in a 36-hour span. The article mentioned a variety of local hot spots, including The BOB and the Blue Water Grill, and pokes fun at the "Great Lakes accent," referring to the downtown entertainment complex as "The Bab."

We don't really get the joke, especially coming from a Nu Yaaker.

Greg Gilmore, CEO of The Gilmore Collection, said he frequently reads the column and has even been inspired to visit some of the featured places; he cited mentions of The BOB and the Blue Water Grill as "awesome."

Steve Wilson, president of the Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau, said though the author of the article, Beth Greenfield, was not among the writers attending press tours from the national media that the bureau has hosted, the bureau has been inviting members of the media to discover Grand Rapids.

"All of this is very helpful to building our national identity," he said. "That is incredibly helpful to have that very well-known third party endorsement. It's one more example that Grand Rapids can compete effectively on a much larger scale than it has in the past."

The article also mentioned Four Friends Coffee House, San Chez Tapas Bistro, Bar Divani, the Kava House in Eastown, and several other area restaurants, as well as area attractions such as the Grand RapidsArt Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, FrederikMeijerGardens & SculpturePark, and the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. The AmwayGrandPlaza, Fountain Hill Bed and Breakfast and Radisson Hotel Grand Rapids Riverfront were mentioned as places to stay while visiting the city.

Carol Dubridge, owner of the Fountain Hill Bed and Breakfast, said while she was not surprised to hear about the mention, she was pleased: "I love being mentioned any chance I get!"

**If you needed any reminding that it's an election year, U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra has again pushed legislation through the House to reform Federal Prison Industries and remove its pseudo-monopolistic preferred-vendor status for federal purchases.

The Federal Prison Industries Competition in Contracting Act passed by a substantial 362-to-57 vote, a gain on the 350-to-65 vote for the bill in 2003. The previous bill died in the Senate.

Let's hope this one has some legs. As was revealed in this week's Business Journal list of Top Area Business Government Contracts, local furniture makers have taken advantage of what ability they do have to penetrate the public sector.

**Global real estate interest Prologis has announced a 227,000-square-foot lease of industrial property with Grand Rapids furniture maker Steelcase Inc. at the AtlantaWestgateIndustrialCenter

"This is a fairly large deal for Atlanta, which is becoming more and more land constrained," said Prologis' Rodney Davidson. "Activity has been very good this year with vacancy rates continuing to decrease in our portfolio."

Must be nice.

**Wolverine Gas & Oil Corp. president/CEO and budding oil tycoon Sidney Jansma will be honored by the West Michigan Chapter of the Association for Corporate Growth at its annual dinner this Wednesday at

DeVos Place

From West Michigan, Jansma directed Wolverine's efforts to drill a wildcat prospect in central Utah, which Oil and Gas Investor declared as best discovery of 2004. A great growth story indeed, Jansma will surely inspire some growth wizards to pick up a shovel and start digging.

**For some free infotainment this week, check out the annual Grand Rapids Diversity Film Series at

Rosa Parks Circle
. Films start nightly at , with "Boys Will be Men — Growing Up Male in America" Tuesday; "Home of the Brave — A White Woman's Sacrifice for Civil Rights" Wednesday; and "Genghis Blues — A Blind Blues Musician in the Land of Tuva" Friday.

**The West Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America got a crash course on the life sciences and biotechnology last week from a panel discussion with some of the officials largely responsible for building up the industry in West Michigan

"It's an opportunity for anyone looking to expand their business," said Linda Chamberlain, commercialization director for the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative at GrandValleyStateUniversity. "An automotive company could develop motors and parts into medical devices, service organizations can apply their services to the new market."

The Right Place Inc. Vice President Ray DeWinkle noted that West Michigan real estate developers are actively investigating the best practices of the life sciences, which, as an economic developer, he is especially excited to see. Stephen Rapundalo, executive director of MichBio, added that "automotive manufacturers across the state are very keen about this."

"Everyone is wondering where is going to be the next Silicon Valley," said John Van Fossen, in-house lobbyist and Washington, D.C., liaison for the Van Andel Institute. "Specifically, where are we going to see the Silicon Valley for biotechnology?"

Van Fossen believes that because of the Van Andel Institute and the cluster slowly developing around it, West Michigan has a legitimate shot at playing a role in that development.

"I know Ben Rudolph doesn't think so," he said of the popular GVSU professor who writes a column for a Muskegon-based newspaper. "And I try to dispute that every chance I get."

Chamberlain believes that West Michigan is well suited for adaptation to this market with its entrepreneurial philosophy.

"We are great at just going out and getting things done, more so than anywhere I've seen," she said. "But with life sciences, we are going to have to get used to risk. This requires long-term thinking."

Plus, as Van Fossen astutely pointed out, "you don't have to have a Ph.D. to work in this field," noting that he was the only one of the assembled life science professionals who did not.    

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