Bill Seidman's impact on business forges into the future

May 17, 2009
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Thomas V. Schwarz, who helped Grand Valley State University open its Seidman School of Business Center for Enterprise as its director, is leaving the college and the state in semi retirement aimed at personal goals. No word yet on a replacement from Seidman School Dean H. James Williams, who is now assisting in the planning for the school namesake's memorial ceremonies.

L. William “Bill” Seidman died last week in Albuquerque, N.M., at the age of 88. The former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was born in Grand Rapids and became a high-profile icon in global business affairs. He began his career at Seidman & Seidman, his family’s local accounting firm. He later founded BDO Seidman and was a board member of Old Kent Bank. He became a key player in the development of Grand Valley State University in the early 1960s and established the F.E. Seidman College of Business.

The fruits of Seidman’s efforts for GVSU are evidenced daily, as was the case once again as several scheduled events involving the university were staged during the week of his passing. Birgit Klohs, president of The Right Place Inc., was the final speaker of the season for the Seidman College of Business Alumni Association Breakfast Series on Tuesday.

She said the biggest challenge for economic developers in Michigan is the “perception versus reality” competitive quandary in which the state currently finds itself. “Our job is to build a positive perception” regarding business opportunities in Michigan, she told the breakfast audience. She noted the U.S. has traditionally been “the hub of the entrepreneurial economy, going back through 100 years of innovation. We’re still looked at (globally) as the economic leaders, so let’s act like it.”

Klohs also chimed in regarding the fateful nature of the state’s infrastructure. Her comments were in response to the release of the Michigan Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) statewide evaluation, concluding that infrastructure conditions in Michigan are dismal — receiving a cumulative grade of D.

“I’m surprised we received a D,” Klohs said in urging the audience to support efforts to increase the state’s gasoline tax to help shore up a sagging revenue source to fix roads, bridges and other transportation outlets. Her comments came only a couple of days before a major bridge on I-94 near Battle Creek showed signs of damage severe enough to force closure of one of the most vital business routes in the region.

Another key route more directly impacting Grand Rapids will undergo major upheaval, primarily a year from now. The Michigan Department of Transportation is inviting the public to attend an open house to learn more about the planned reconstruction of I-196 from the Grand River to Fuller Avenue in the city of Grand Rapids.          

The open house will provide an update of the project and present concepts developed from previous discussions with local residents, businesses  and major service providers such as Spectrum Health Hospital, Grand Valley State University and others. The open house is from 3-6 p.m. on Thursday at the Immanuel Lutheran Church, 2 Michigan St. SE.

Seidman influence continues

On another front involving the Seidman legacy, and responding to the continued extreme pressures confronting regional automotive suppliers, BDO Seidman is joining two other West Michigan-based firms in a collaborative effort to help the supply sector survive the economic downturn.  BDO Seidman is partnering with Simplicity Tactics, a provider of business plan implementation services, and Autoconomy, an automotive research and analysis firm, to host an invitation-only industry forum, “From the Rubble: Mapping a Way through the New Automotive Landscape,” to be held on May 28 at Davenport University’s South Campus 6191 Kraft Ave. SE, Academic Building Hall A & B.

The event is intended for automotive supply executives responsible for their companies’ strategic direction, operations or finance, and will offer presentations, workshop-style breakout sessions and individual conversations.

There is no cost to participants for this event, which includes a continental breakfast and all workshop materials. Registration is available at For information or questions, contact Andrew Samrick at (616) 635-2920.

Chrysler dealership owners will need another version of survival tactics, after the company late last week announced it would sever relationships with 789 dealerships nationwide, 40 of those in Michigan including six in West Michigan.

A family that stays together

Chris Beckering has left the building... the Grubb Ellis/Paramount commercial real estate business building anyway. The millennial generation of Pioneer Construction has rejoined grand dad, Pioneer Construction owner Tom Beckering, now that reconstruction and expansion projects are finished at Thousand Oaks Country Club and at Centennial Country Club, which he owns. Chris is now director of business development and sales for Pioneer, his younger brother is ensconced as manager at Centennial.

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