Medical Mile anchor brings cavalcade of supportive viewers

November 2, 2009
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Van Andel Institute celebrated its ninth annual Hope on the Hill gala Thursday in record-breaking fashion, with 1,000 guests at the VAI raising nearly $400,000 for disease research and science education — the largest amount ever raised by the annual event.

“You are standing in the midst of what can happen when friends, allies, and people of courage and goodwill gather together and work for a common purpose,” said Chairman and CEO David Van Andel in prepared remarks. “The buildings that now dot the skyline of the Medical Mile stand as a testament to our community’s ability to unite and work together.”

The event also provided the public with its first look inside the newly completed, $170 million, 240,000-square-foot Phase II expansion. Set to open in December, Phase II provides capacity for expanded and enhanced cancer and neurodegenerative disease research, and includes the newly established Jay Van Andel Parkinson Research Laboratory.

“After we leave here tonight, the scientists will be back bright and early in their labs tomorrow,” said VAI Hope on the Hill Council Board of Governors Chairman John Canepa, in prepared remarks. “And their work continues day in and day out.”

Tributes in order

The YWCA's annual TRIBUTE! Awards luncheon will be held Wednesday at DeVos Place. Since 1977, the awards have honored more than 175 women who have been leaders and trailblazers in the community.

This year’s honorees are Leslie Cameron Curry, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, Advocacy;  Carol Johnson artist, educator and social worker, Arts;  Shelley E. Padnos, Louis Padnos Iron & Metal Co., Business, Management, Industry & Labor; Judge Sara Smolenski, 63rd District Court, Community Service; Pamela J. Wells, C.A. Frost Environmental Science Academy, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Professions; Stephanie Painter, School Health Programs, Grand Rapids Public Schools/ Spectrum Health, Sports, Fitness & Wellness; and Storee Harris, Creston High School, Student Honoree and Judy Lloyd Leadership Award Recipient.

Keeping it in the family?

New Grand Rapids Press Editor Paul Keep had his coming out party at a Press Club of Grand Rapids luncheon last week. He outlined a litany of possible strategies about how the town’s daily will survive when many newspapers across the nation no longer exist. One of the methods already in place is a staff-saving effort on the universal copy desk in GR to use the same templates but dissimilar (in some cases) content for pages going to readers of The Press and the Muskegon Chronicle.

Who received a tap on the shoulder from Keep to help hold the sample pages in front of a then-snickering audience of journalists and PR types? None other than Gemini Publications publisher and owner John Zwarensteyn. Keep ended his presentation by alluding to possible media collaborations in the future to enable the traditional Fourth Estate to remain afloat. Some speculated “Z” might collaborate with event organizers to find a table in the back of the room next time.

Down on the farm with the GOP

A Public Policy Breakfast arranged for the business community last week by the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce was supposed to be a "hot seat" for West Michigan members of the Legislature — but some of them ended up taking pokes at Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who wasn't there.

State Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck, mentioned Granholm's executive order back in early October which, decreed that henceforth, the governor would appoint the director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture, not the non-partisan Michigan Commission of Agriculture.

"She sees those as Republican-protected areas," said Genetski. "This governor makes a lot of decisions based on politics, not on logic."

A little later, Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, picked up on the same theme, regarding the state agriculture commission.

"It's problematic when you have a successful industry in this state and the governor wants to completely decimate it," said Kuipers.

Agriculture in Michigan is a growth industry (sorry — bad pun), generating more than $38 billion in direct economic activity annually, and about $64 billion in total economic activity, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture.

Not long after Granholm's executive order came out, Zeeland Farm Services issued a public statement, appealing to the Legislature to overturn it. ZFS is a $300 million business — mainly soy bean processing — with more than 200 employees. It's owned and managed by Cliff Meeuwsen and his brothers.

The Meeuwsens' statement said ZFS supports the current system, which has been in place almost 90 years and has had a Commission of Agriculture that is "autonomous, and provides a venue for input, comment and transparency to the activities of the (Michigan Department of Agriculture). Under the governor’s new approach, the Commission of Agriculture’s role would be limited simply to providing a forum for gathering information."

The same day ZFS spoke up, Kuipers sponsored a concurrent resolution in the Legislature to reject Granholm's executive order.

"I believe we will be successful," Kuipers said at the Chamber breakfast.

…And a shot at the Big Utilities

The two big public utilities in Michigan were candidates for a hot seat at the Chamber breakfast, too.

Electricity rates have gone up in Michigan over the past year and "are going to go higher," said Kuipers, criticizing the law passed a year ago that he said restored a monopoly on electricity generation in Michigan by Consumers Energy and DTE. It put a 10 percent cap on how much electricity customers of CE and DTE could choose to buy from other suppliers.

"I would like to see a floating rate" on the amount that could be supplied by other companies, said Kuipers. He said the cap should rise "every time the utilities want a rate increase."

The next day the Customer Choice Coalition in Lansing quoted Kuipers, who said residential electricity rates in Michigan "have increased faster than any state in the Midwest and are now the highest or very nearly the highest in the region. Commercial and industrial electric rates continue to increase, as well. How can we expect to be competitive in the business market with this type of environment?"

Xerox goes solid

In phase four of a campaign to introduce Xerox’s new ColorQube printer, the company hit Grand Rapids. What’s new about the ColorQube? It uses solid ink, which eliminates the use of toner cartridges, and 90 percent less packaging. The ColorQube also reduces the cost of color prints, making a print with limited color roughly the same price as a typical black and white print. The pricing is based on the amount of colored pixels used, and the printer counts the amount of colored pixels to generate the pricing.

Growing GROW

A local nonprofit economic development organization that reaches out to primarily women, Grand Rapids Opportunity for Women, or GROW, has been doing just that.

Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, the organization recently announced its melding of the 25-year-old Alliance for Women Entrepreneurs within the GROW umbrella.

Kim Schwamberger, president of AWE, said the two complement each other nicely. While GROW focuses on the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, AWE supports entrepreneurs who are looking to take their business to the next level.

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