One very large hotel tab means pay off for market

January 31, 2011
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Kent County hotel operators had a really good year in 2010, setting an all-time record for room revenue of $103.2 million last year. According to Smith Travel Research, last year’s figure was $2.5 million more than the previous record set in 2007. Occupancy and revenue per available hotel room both increased by a record 11 percent last year from 2009. That increase was just about double the national average.

“We are extremely encouraged by such good news, especially since 2010 was said to be a year of caution for the tourism industry. The fact that we so predominately outpaced the national growth averages in all areas proves our marketing and brand qualities are being recognized on a regional and national level,” said Doug Small, Experience GR president.

Small also said 2010 was the second consecutive year the bureau had booked at least 125,000 room nights generated from conventions. Experience GR Chairman Ed Wilson added that some high-profile events held last year, such as ArtPrize, helped to bring more leisure travelers to the city.

“These record numbers are a direct result of our increased collaboration with hotels and area cultural establishments to package and market our offerings,” said Wilson.

“Our efforts have brought an impressive collection of world-class exhibits and events to Grand Rapids, including Chihuly: A New Eden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, Bodies Revealed at the Grand Rapids Public Museum, and Diana: A Celebration at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.” 

He who has the gold

It’s not a new idea, but ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos last week announced that he planned to expand on local initiatives to provide base funding for great ideas in the community.

Devos will host his “5x5 Night” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum at 5:30 p.m. the last Tuesday of each month, beginning Feb. 22. Five pre-selected presenters have five minutes each to sum up their ideas, with five slides in front of five judges, including DeVos and his partner in Pomegranate Studios, Bill Holsinger-Robinson. Admission is $5.

The group will then take an hour to discuss the presentations, and according to the press release, “visitors are expected to move to Reserve Wine Bar for drinks, conversation and the announcement of the evening’s winner.”

Reserve is owned by Rick’s parents, Dick and Betsy DeVos. Rick expects to award up to $5,000 for winning ideas.

As is being reported in the March issue of sister publication Grand Rapids Magazine, an increasing groundswell of such activity has been growing at the Division Avenue Arts Collective called Sunday Soup. The mini-grant funding program awards the pot from the $5 admission price to the best idea presented. It has already seeded several new entrepreneurial and artistic efforts.

Heart transplants climb

And then there were six: Spectrum Health has done two more heart transplants since a rush over New Year’s weekend, spokesman Bruce Rossman reported.

The new Richard DeVos Heart and Lung Transplant Program, featuring internationally recognized surgeon Dr. Asghar Khaghani, performed its first heart transplant Nov. 27. When the service launched, Spectrum Health officials said they expected to have 12 transplant patients within 12 months — but they have handled half that number in just nine weeks.

Rossman pointed to three factors for jump-starting the service line: First, the program started with area patients who had been placed on transplant lists elsewhere, but “were eager to transfer their listing to us.” The time they had already spent on the transplant wait-list was applied to their status at Spectrum.

Second, Khaghani’s “level of maturity” in selecting organs for Spectrum patients is unusual for a new transplant center, he said.

Third, “This is validation that the program was strongly needed in West Michigan. There are patients who need transplants and there are organ donors available,” Rossman said.

Fewer moans, more inquiries

The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan reports that complaints were down 5 percent in 2010 versus 2009, while the number of inquiries/reports issued was up 40 percent for the year. This reflects the increased access via the Internet as well as consumers being more cautious and checking on companies before making a major buying decision, according to Ken Vander Meeden, local BBB president.

“Our ‘reliability reports issued’ being up 49 percent somewhat explains why our local complaints were down 5 percent overall last year — more people checking more often for significant purchases actually helps everyone. In addition our ‘rosters issued’ exceeded 44,000 in 2010, which was also up over 58 percent, as well.”

While complaints within the 38 county region were down 5 percent, some industries in the “top 10” were up significantly — almost to the point of alarm, Vander Meeden said. Complaints for cell phones, used cars, new cars, banks, cable TV and Internet shopping all at least doubled regionally.

“Consumers became more aggressive in their complaints, as well as filing more questionable complaints in a tough economy,” he said. “We found more anger, angst and anxiety in dealing with upset people last year, including those businesses and consumers not happy with our own BBB services.

“Civility is an issue everywhere, even in western Michigan.”

More than 25,000 regional reports and 4 million national reports may be found at

EPIC nominees sought

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce EPIC Awards, launched in 2010 — combining three of its traditional events into one event — is now accepting nominations.

EPIC is an acronym for Entrepreneurial, Progressive, Innovative and Collaborative, qualities the selection committee uses to review award nominees. Nominees much be chamber members. The chamber will make awards in the following six categories:

Excellence in Business: Nominees must be nonprofit or for-profit organizations with more than 50 employees.

Small Business of the Year: Nominees must be for-profit organizations with 50 or fewer employees.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year: Nominees must be business owners 35 years old or younger.

Minority-Owned Business of the Year: Nominees must be at least 51 percent minority-owned.

Woman-Owned Business of the Year: Nominees must be at least 51 percent woman-owned.

Nonprofit of the Year: Nominees must be nonprofit organizations with 50 or fewer employees.

Learn more about the nomination criteria or nominate a business/individual at Nominations close Feb. 18.

Award recipients will be announced at the EPIC Awards dinner May 18 at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park

Furniture industry on a roll

Results of the 27th quarterly Office Furniture Industry Trends Survey released in January by Michael A. Dunlap & Associates show the biz is continuing to get better: The overall index score of 57.01 was the highest since the July 2007 Index of 58.49, and up from 56.65 in October. The worst ever was 41.45 in April 2009; the best in July 2005 at 59.72.

“I am especially delighted to see the increase in the personal outlook” for January, said Michael Dunlap. He pegged that at 61.09, the highest since July 2007, and well above the all-surveys average of 56.42. The survey began in August 2004.

“Suppliers and the OFM’s both appear to share the same level of optimism. However, I’m not convinced that this industry can return to the same sales levels we experienced in the late 1990s,” he said.

The January MADA/OFI Trends survey was sent to more than 600 individuals representing office furniture manufacturing companies and the companies that supply them, in North and South America, Europe and Asia.

Most of the responses come from chairmen, CEOs, COOs or presidents. A response of 100 to a specific issue means it couldn’t be better; a response of 1 is the worst it could be; and 50 is neutral, no change up or down.

In the January survey, gross shipments were 65.00, versus the all-survey average of 57.41. Order backlog was 56.47, nearly identical to the average of 56.46.

The Employment Index was the highest ever at 55.77. Hours worked was up to 59.09, the highest since January 2007. Capital expenditures rose to 58.24, the highest since April 2006. Tool expenditures rose again last quarter to 57.45, slightly over the average of 55.67. New product development was indexed at 66.12, the highest since July 2007.

Raw material costs (43.19) and employee costs (46.86) are in line with the average since 2004, said Dunlap.

Most respondents said increased costs of steel, copper and resins, energy and health care are the largest threats to the industry.

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