Wild West Michigan

June 4, 2007
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To some degree, an amendment tacked onto the Water Development Resources Development Act by U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Holland, and U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, appears to be a lifeline for West Michigan ports in need of dredging.

The amendment directs the Army Corps of Engineers to remove a two-year-old metric requiring harbors move at least 1 million tons of cargo annually to be considered for dredging funds. Although it does not guarantee funding for ports such as Grand Haven and Holland — neither of which touch the one-million mark — it would protect those communities against future enforcement of the rule.

As the rule has yet to be enforced in the region, the amendment will do little to change the status quo.

“Obviously, if you get 100 million tons you’re going to get a lot more funding compared to a port that gets a million,” said Tom O’Bryan, civil engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers in Grand Haven. “But if you’re at the low part of over a million, you still might not get funded. And if you’re in the under a million tons category, you might get funded. They’re still funding harbors of under a million tons. Whether they get rid of that …”

The current measure for funding is between shallow- and deep-draft harbors, with no dredging funds available for ports with less than 14 feet of draft — the Corps’ distinction between a commercial and recreational port. This is why Holland, which falls far short of 1 million tons, was dredged this month, and Saugatuck’s 13-foot Kalamazoo River harbor was not.

**The Muskegon Heights Downtown Development Authority is looking for a development partner for a DDA-owned building at 22 E. Broadway in Muskegon Heights.

“We are prepared to give the building to the right entrepreneur for one dollar,” said Shannon McMaster, authority executive director, of the long-vacant building in the heart of the Heights.

The authority has launched a Request for Proposals process to find an owner-occupied business operation with a solid plan and financing to take over and renovate the building. For more information on the authority’s “Building Give-away,” contact McMaster at (231) 733-8840.

**The West Michigan professional dance community got some brief time in the spotlight on last Wednesday’s episode of the FOX dance competition, “So You Think You Can Dance?”

Byron Center brother and sister Isauro “Sauri” Gomez and Yesenia “Yessy” Gomez were featured performers on the show, representing Melissa Parker’s Grand Rapids studio Dance Dimensions in the Chicago audition session. The 23-year-old Yessy made the first cut and earned a ticket to the formal Las Vegas competition.

Now a month removed from taping, Yessy is back in Grand Rapids as an instructor at Rapid City Dance Factory at 820 Monroe Ave. NW in the North Monroe neighborhood. She and another Las Vegas contestant will be performing at area dance studios this summer as part of their “Burn Da Floor” tour.

**Many of the deadly effects of pesticides cited in this week’s page 3 story “No-Pesticide Pest Control” were first discovered on the Lansing campus of Michigan State University. A new documentary, “Dying to Be Heard,” details MSU Professor George Wallace’s experiments on the pesticide DDT in the 1950s, the results of which were used in Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” the book often credited with sparking the environmental movement.

According to The State News, when Wallace first linked sick and dying birds to the DDT pellets dropped from World War II jets to kill beetles and mosquitoes across campus, he lobbied to get the pesticide banned. However, MSU administrators sided with the pesticide industry, and very nearly removed the professor before he presented his research to Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1960. After his testimony, the USDA threatened to remove federal funding from the university if it fired Wallace.

The documentary premiered on PBS this month, and will re-air throughout the summer.

**While it is true that Grand Rapids retail institution Jurgens & Holtvluwer has been sold, don’t expect to notice any changes. Longtime owner Rich Bishop has sold his interest in the store to Curt Holtvluwer, his partner of 26 years and a store employee for 31 years. Bishop, the elder by five years, will continue to work at the store on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

**A new restaurant scheduled to open in mid-June plans to host a sneak preview event and donate all proceeds of the event to cancer research at Van Andel Institute.

On Thursday, NAYA restaurant, at 1144 East Paris Ave. SE in the Terrazzo retail center, will open its doors from 5:30-7:30 p.m. For $40 per person, guests will be able to sample NAYA’s cuisine, Michigan wines donated by Leelanau Wine Cellars, and other beverages.

**Regarding the highly publicized flight of Michigan workers to Wyoming (the state) in search of employment — more than half that left in 2006 came back within a few months.

According to the Wyoming Department of Employment, Wyoming attracts 900 to 1,000 workers from Michigan in an average year, mostly to employment in the construction and mining industries.

But last year that number reached 1,734 — a record for Wyoming, which saw an 18.5 percent increase in the number of new workers from other states in 2006, as reported by Business Journal affiliate Capital New Service.

Tom Gallagher of the WDOE said the movements follow a predictable pattern: “It’s been pretty consistent for over 10 years, that half of the workers who come to Wyoming from Michigan stay, and half return home.”

That statistic holds true for many other states that export workers to Wyoming.

Michigan Economic Development Corp. spokesman Michael Shore said there are many environmental and way-of-life differences between the two states that bring many back home. Apparently, there is a good reason the Wild West state, with an unemployment rate of only 2.3 percent and 4 percent job growth, has to host job fairs in other states.

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