Post-Olympic Networking

August 18, 2008
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The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring a nine-day trip to China next spring that will mix business with pleasure.

From March 24-April 1 travelers will have the opportunity to experience Chinese culture via daily sightseeing tours, and arrange business meetings with Chinese counterparts. They'll take in tourist attractions as they travel from the capital city of Beijing to the financial hub of Shanghai.

Jeanne Englehart, president and CEO of the local chamber, said the trip offers an "amazing" opportunity to chamber members doing business — or thinking of doing business — in China.

Citslinc International has hosted several delegations of American businessmen and women on visits to China for the purpose of bringing American and Chinese business people together to do business. Citslinc organizes tours to China for chambers across the country. More than 400 chambers in the United States have already participated in the program.

"We saw this as a great opportunity for us to give our members a chance to see business and make connections in another country," Englehart said. "Because it's a program that is sanctioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, it was a very easy thing for us to do."

The chamber will hold a business partners conference on one of the evenings, and Citslinc will arrange business meetings between American and Chinese business people who have similar business interests and will provide interpreters.

"If someone is a manufacturer of plastic widgets and wants to meet someone in China that buys plastic widgets, that would be a meeting that's set up," Englehart explained. "But until we know specifically who wants to go and what kind of business relationship they want to develop, we can't go forward with that piece of the agenda because each of those will be customized."

Many domestic companies are small to medium-sized and would find it cost prohibitive to travel to China to explore the market, Englehart pointed out. 

"This is a great entry-level way to see if there is a market for them," she added. The chamber held an informational meeting Wednesday evening.

  • Recently recognized as a finalist for two Marconi awards this year, classic rock radio station WLAV has now been selected as a finalist for two Radio & Records Industry Achievement Awards. 97 LAV-FM has been selected as a top six finalist for the Classic Rock Station of the Year award, and Kevin Matthews is a top six finalist for Classic Rock Personality or Show of the Year.

This is the 10th year for the awards, sponsored by Radio & Records, an organization dedicated to serving key decision-makers in the radio and record industries through seminars, conventions, and print and Internet media. The Industry Achievement Award finalists are selected by a panel based on overall excellence and success. Winners will be announced at the R&R Convention Sept. 17-19 in Austin, Texas.

  • With the Olympic season upon us, it seems everyone has caught the fever — including Steelcase and Alticor. The two companies kicked off the first annual West Michigan Intern Olympics earlier this month. The games put 50 college interns from each company head-to-head in non-stop "Olympic" action. The eight events tested the interns' athleticism as they competed in a hula hoop relay, baseball, marshmallow dodge ball and tug of war to see who would take home the title of "West Michigan Intern Olympics Champions."

Besides the promise of Olympic glory, the two companies also see the games as a way to promote West Michigan as a fun and attractive place for young talent.

  • Finally dig out Grandma's ol' sewing table, but not in time for Antique Roadshow's Grand Rapids stop? No worries, the PBS show's David McCarran, experienced appraiser, will be at Art Van Furniture on Alpine Avenue Oct. 9 from 5-8 p.m. There will be group presentations and individual advice for attendants and McCarren will give as many appraisals as possible during the free event.

"With the introduction of so many new home shows, people have become so much more educated and interested in what they own and how they decorate their home," said Chris Morrisroe, communications director for Art Van Furniture.

  • The Caregiver Resource Network wants you to know about its new Web site: The site provides a vast array of information, resources and a calendar of events for people who provide care to elderly loved ones. That includes 37 percent of Kent County residents. CRN is a collaboration facilitated by the Grand Rapids Community College Older Learner Center and the Area Agency on Aging of Western Michigan as part of the Older Americans Act. CRN also offers a speaker's bureau on topics from Alzheimer's disease to legal issues and pet therapy: Contact GRCC's Mike Faber at for more information. Not a workplace issue? Think again: 25 percent of the work force provides care to elderly relatives at an average of 18 hours per week.

  • What's in a name? Well, the Jay Van Andel family made the largest single donation to the construction of the city's arena and pubic museum and both were named in their honor. The Richard DeVos family did the same for the city's convention center, which became DeVos Place for that reason. So Kent County officials might be scratching their heads and wondering why the official name of the local tourist bureau is the Grand Rapids/Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

City commissioners approved their annual financial support of the CVB last week, which totaled $50,000. Earlier this year, their counterparts at the county did the same but to the tune of $700,000. So the question becomes, does the county have naming rights? In a city with a tradition of honoring those who give the most, shouldn't the bureau's name become the Kent County/Grand Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau?

No word yet as to whether County Commission Chairman Roger Morgan will broach the idea to incoming CVB President Douglas Small when he arrives in a few weeks.

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