On the defensive: West Michigan PTAC status remains unresolved

October 6, 2008
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David Van Andel adds a message to the beam that was raised at the VAI last week.

Back in May, the head of the Michigan Defense Contract Coordination Center, or DC3, a division of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., confirmed that a new Procurement Technical Assistance Center office would open in Grand Rapids, operating as a satellite of the Muskegon PTAC office.

PTACs help companies apply for and get government contracts, an increasingly important function here in Michigan where thousands of automobile manufacturing jobs have disappeared.

The Grand Rapids PTAC did open, in office space provided by The Right Place, but it is not a satellite of the Muskegon PTAC. A rift appeared this summer between the Muskegon PTAC and the DC3.

Bradley Lott, head of the DC3, told the Business Journal that "there were a number of issues. … Some had to do with who they were covering and were they giving Kent County a fair shake? Were they doing enough with small businesses as opposed to … big businesses?

"After October first, they are no longer part of our organization," said Lott.

He said he is planning to open another PTAC office in Holland, which would be a satellite of the Grand Rapids PTAC.

For about the last four years, the Muskegon PTAC has been administered by Muskegon Area First, a county-wide economic development corporation.

Roland W. Crummel, board chairman of Muskegon Area First, said the PTACs in Michigan had each been getting about $40,000 annually through the MEDC, but that the Muskegon office was notified it will no longer get that funding, starting with the new fiscal year that began Oct. 1.

But, noted Crummel, "We're getting the federal money."

Congressman Pete Hoekstra's office issued an announcement on Sept. 25 that the Muskegon Area First PTAC "has received a $170,862 grant from the Department of Defense that will enable it to continue assisting local businesses of all sizes in procuring state and federal contracts." Muskegon Area First will also kick in funds to bring the total to $227,816.

The DOD, through its Defense Logistics Agency, helps fund PTACs. According to an agency spokesperson, not all PTACs are funded by the DOD. Nine of them in Michigan do receive the DOD cooperative funding, which includes the Muskegon office. Grand Rapids was not mentioned.

Lott confirmed that the Grand Rapids PTAC won't receive DOD funding, nor would an office in Holland.

"That's not a problem," said Lott. "They'll be as funded as they need to be."

Crummel firmly disputes Lott's criticisms of the Muskegon PTAC, and he said the Muskegon office will continue to cover the 14 counties it has been covering for the past five years. Those counties include Kent and Ottawa, in addition to Muskegon. That means that technically, the Muskegon and Grand Rapids PTACs are both covering some of the same areas.

When asked if the Muskegon PTAC would be competing against the Grand Rapids PTAC, Crummel said, "No. I don't think the Grand Rapids PTAC office is going to survive."

A hall of a good time

To launch Homecoming Weekend, Aquinas College on Friday honored 13 people at its annual Hall of Fame Gala in the Wege Student Center. Receiving the first-ever President’s Award was Dr. Anthony J. Foster, a Michigan Medical PC surgeon who established the Contemporary Writers Series and the Foster Planet Walk on the Grand Rapids campus. Receiving Alumni Association Awards were artist Jose Narezo; West Catholic High School educator Ed Wagner; and assistant admissions director Damon Bouwkamp. Entering the Athletic Hall of Fame: soccer players and sisters Robin and Shannon Bessette; hoops standout Laray Hardy; track and cross-country coach Ernie Mousseau; and golfers Ed Kelbel and John O’Donovan. Named to the College Hall of Fame: Sister Jean Milhaupt, a long-time English teacher and college archivist; Trustee Emeritus and community activist Lyle Morrison; and the late George LaMountain, who was instrumental in establishing the psychology department.

Topping it all off

Van Andel Institute held a topping off ceremony (pictured) last week to celebrate the completion of the overall structure and the installation of the last beam atop its 240,000-square-foot, $170 million Phase II building expansion.

The expansion more than doubles current lab space and creates the capacity for an additional 500 jobs when the facility opens in late 2009. Employees and organization officials signed the beam before it was put in place. VAI Chairman and CEO David Van Andel and Congressman Vernon J. Ehlers spoke at the event.

The nation is watching

It didn’t take long for television crews, in town last week for Barack Obama’s appearance on Calder Plaza, to get word of how efficiently government funds are invested in these parts. CBS had its morning show folks shoot a stand-up with Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, a candid interview regarding how he views the investment crunch in light of the nation’s financial crisis. As can be seen once again by reading the story on page 1, Business Journal readers have had a bird’s-eye view of the seamless oversight Parrish and other public sector pencil pushers have for years been administering for area taxpayers.

The Rapid blows its horn

The Rapid transit system garnered a first-place award in the 29th Annual AdWheel Awards competition for electronic media in the radio advertisement category for its 60-second spot titled “Honked Off.”

The “Honked Off” radio spot lightheartedly communicates to listeners how public transportation can get them around town for about one-third the price of a gallon of gas. The spot is part of a larger “Dump the Pump” marketing campaign that incorporates radio, bus boards and Web banner ads created by ddm marketing & communications of Grand Rapids.

The Rapid competed with transit systems around the country that provide more than 4 million but fewer that 30 million passenger trips per year, which put it in the same group as transit systems in cities such as Indianapolis and Richmond, Va.

The Rapid provided more than 8.1 million rides last year. It serves the cities of Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids, Grandville, Kentwood, Walker and Wyoming, and portions of Alpine, Bryon, Cascade and Gaines townships.

The award recognizes public transportation systems and American Public Transportation Association business members for excellence in advertising, communication, marketing and promotion. A panel of independent judges evaluates electronic media ads based on clarity of message, production quality, attention-getting qualities, overall impact, and impression and effectiveness.

As a first-place winner, The Rapid will be honored at a special ceremony during the APTA’s annual meeting and Expo 2008. The radio spot is also eligible to win a grand prize award in the same division. Grand prize awards will be announced at the AdWheel Award Ceremony tonight in San Diego.

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