Learn To Shoot Straight

March 3, 2008
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Grand Valley State University students, assembled last week for the Ambassador Peter Secchia Lecture Breakfast at Loosemore Auditorium, heard from Meijer Inc. President Mark Murray. President at GVSU from 2001 to 2006, Murray outlined three skills required for their 21st century careers in a global economy: intercultural capacity, constructive skepticism and integrity.

“What’s the skill set required if you’re going to be in a more autonomous environment? It’s integrity,” Murray said. “Your word has to be good. You have to be able to make a commitment.

“I don’t mean this in a moralistic sense, although it’s certainly got that dimension. I mean it in a purely competitive sense. If we can form partnerships with businesses and we can talk to each other and get this all agreed to in two days instead of two weeks, in two weeks instead of two months, that’s money in the bank,” Murray said.

“There’s a whole literature out there of Sarbanes-Oxley, and that is a direct result of the lack of integrity in certain businesses. I happen to believe that one of the advantages that we have in West Michigan is that we’re still, by and large — no place is perfect — your word is good. We get things done a little quicker here. We live up to what we say we’re going to do.”

After the 58-minute presentation, Murray declined to comment about the controversial financial meddling by Meijer in elections in Acme Township, where the company wants to build a store near Traverse City. The retailer’s role is being investigated.

“I really don’t have any additional comment about the situation up north,” Murray said. “We have acknowledged our responsibility. We filed a self-report with the state and we are prepared to accept any penalties or remedies that we believe are appropriate. That’s really the only comment I’m going to have.”

Also spotted in the audience Thursday were lecture underwriter and former Ambassador to Italy Peter Secchia and his wife, Joan Secchia; GVSU President Thomas J. Haas; Dean H. James Williams, of the Seidman College of Business; and John Canepa, consulting principal at Crowe Chizek & Co.

**The Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women (see insert) will be recognized Wednesday at a luncheon that will bring more than 500 attendees to the JW Marriott. The salutations directed at these honorees came so fast and furious, we had yet another one to report on deadline.

The MSU Alumni Club of West Michigan last week recognized the Influential Cynthia Kay as the club’s 2008 West Michigan MSU Business Person of the Year. She has operated Cynthia Kay & Co., a media production company, for 20 years.

More than 150 people attended the MSU Means Business function at the Gerald R. Ford Museum. They heard from new MSU athletic director Mark Hollis, who focused on the big-time business of intercollegiate sports. Hollis administers a $74 million budget that funds 25 sports at the school. He noted the athletic department is self-sufficient and its budget is separate from the academic side of the university equation.

He touted MSU’s strong West Michigan link and said he “fully understands” why the school sees great value in locating the MSU College of Human Medicine Secchia Center here. The groundbreaking/construction launch of that project will take place April 21. The BIG cranes to be used for the project were being put in place over the weekend.

Hollis also deflected potential catcalls from frustrated audience members who remain chagrined over the lack of access to the new-fangled Big Ten Network due to ongoing negotiation standoffs. “Hey, I’m a Comcast subscriber myself, and I haven’t been happy about it. Hopefully, the negotiations will get us where we need to be on that soon.”

The MSU club also honored Bob Duncan, dean of MSU’s Eli Broad College of Business, who is stepping down from that position on June 30 to return to the classroom at the university.

**Spartan Stores Chairman and CEO Craig C. Sturken was tabbed to launch a day of trading by ringing the bell at NASDAQ at 9:30 a.m. today, in honor of his fifth year of leading the company. The 90-year-old supermarket company and grocery distributor went public eight years ago and is traded on NASDAQ. A live Webcast was planned at www.nasdaq.com/reference/marketsite_about.stm. Go SPTN.

**Steve Yencich is getting used to a new title. Not that he’s changed jobs, it’s just that the Michigan Hotel, Motel & Resort Association should have a new name, its board of directors decided in February: Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association.

“It better reflects who we are,” said Yencich.

**Blodgett Hospital President Jim Wilson told the Business Journal that the emergency room in East Grand Rapids has seen 10 to 15 more patients daily since Metro Health left its nearby Boston Street digs on Sept. 30.

**Maybe that’s because so many people have been sick. Kent County Health Department spokesperson Bridie Kent said that the number of lab-confirmed influenza cases rose from the single-digits at the start of 2008 to weekly totals of 103, 74 and 68 in February. The more general category of “flu-like” illnesses amounted to 12,367 through Feb. 26, compared to about 10,000 in 2007, Kent said.

**It's hard to tell from looking at him, but technically Dan Oegema retired at the end of January.

"I'm not done working," he said. So there he is, still working at Grand Rapids City Hall in the Economic Development Department, where he's been since the mid-1980s. In all, Oegema has been a city employee for 30 years. He's known throughout the Grand Rapids business community, and he knows the ins and outs of tax abatements to retain or lure business, so the city asked him to continue in his job until it has found a replacement.

Oegema said the city used to do a lot of tax abatements related to new construction. Now it's "more abatements for personal property. A fair amount of companies need to improve and upgrade their equipment."

That necessity is driven by the increasing pace of changing technology, which in turn keeps changing the way just about everyone does business.

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