Casino profits driven by savvy gambling crowds

February 13, 2011
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They literally ran out of ribbon at the new Gun Lake Casino last week.

After several evenings of openings for various distinguished audiences with scissors in hand to cut ceremonial ribbons, the glittering new casino’s staff ran out of ribbons to cut Thursday evening during a VIP celebration, shortly before the long-awaited facility opened to the public about an hour later.

“This one will just have to be a photo op,” said casino and Gun Lake Tribe PR ringmaster James Nye as yet another group associated with the project’s 15-year odyssey stepped forward to be recognized. “We don’t have any more ribbon left for you to cut.”

It was symbolic of a whirlwind week of activities that saw the casino open its doors under yet another (hardly detectable) cloud of suspense as a lingering lawsuit threatening its shutdown loomed in the legal background.

The payoff for the tribe and the casino management was evident as soon as the doors opened to the public for the first time. The glitz and glamour of the VIP crowd quickly turned into a blue-collar throng of Joe Six-Pack slot machine veterans eager to see if they could loosen up the gambling house’s purse strings.

It certainly made for some interesting social commentary.

Best of the best

More than 120 commercial real estate practitioners and affiliates attended the Commercial Alliance of Realtors annual awards reception last week at The B.O.B. in downtown Grand Rapids. Duke Suwyn of Colliers International was named Realtor of the Year, crediting his assistant, Paula Nichols for helping do the legwork that leads to such an honor. Her comrades in real estate saluted her patience in working with the hard-charging Suwyn by presenting her with the Assistant of the Year Award.

CAR also honored the following recipients:

  • Grand Rapids Project/Transaction of the Year:

Franklin Partners Undercar Products Group — John Kuiper, Steve Marcusse and Duke Suwyn, SIOR, CCIM — Colliers International

  • Lakeshore Project/Transaction of the Year:

Terrace Point, Muskegon — Kirt Ojala, Anmar Atchu, Cole Rathbun, Rich MacDonald — Hinman Co.

  • Affiliate Service Achievement Award:

Jon Siebers, Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge

  • Realtors Active in Politics Achievement Award:

John Francis — Prime Development

  • Biggest Lease Award:

Biggest Lease — Office: Nate Scherpenisse, CB Richard Ellis & Kirt Ojala, Hinman Co.

Biggest Lease — Retail: Earl Clements and Dave Denton, Colliers International

  • Biggest Lease – Industrial: Duke Suwyn, John Kuiper and Steve Marcusse, Colliers International

  • Biggest Sale Award:

Biggest Sale— Industrial: Duke Suwyn, John Kuiper, Colin Kraay, Bill Bowling and Chip Bowling, Colliers International

Biggest Sale — Land: Rod Alderink, Doug Taatjes, and Bob Winter, NAI West Michigan

Biggest Sale — Multi-Family: Michael Cagen, Marcus & Millichap

Biggest Sale — Office: Wally Bulkowski, Fusion Properties

Biggest Sale — Retail: Pete Colvin and Dave DeMaagd, Sperry Van Ness Silveri

A real payback

Another big deal is four of the city of Grand Rapids’ top executives are voluntarily giving back the raises city commissioners gave them in December. City Manager Greg Sundstrom, City Attorney Catherine Mish, and City Clerk Lauri Parks were given pay hikes worth 4 percent that went into effect on Jan. 1, and last week the three announced they were returning their raises and going back to their 2009 salaries.

City Treasurer Al Mooney was awarded a 5 percent increase at the same time and he has decided to return 2 percent of his pay hike. Mooney spent years at the position’s top salary without getting an increase. In all, the four appointed officials are giving up about $16,600 this year. Sundstrom, alone, is handing back nearly $6,000. In addition to these concessions, the four previously agreed to skip the 5 percent step-pay increases that were part of their contracts and last year they accepted a 10 percent cut in their overall compensation.

Telling ‘em where to go

A month after the opening of Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, an average of  20 percent of pediatric emergency patients per day are still arriving at the adult ER at Butterworth Hospital, Tom Hanley, director of marketing and communications, said last week.

The children’s hospital has its own emergency department with an entrance off of Bostwick Avenue NE, and provides valet parking to families showing up there. Apparently many people are unaware of the children’s emergency room entrance across the street from the Van Andel Institute.

Children who mistakenly are taken to the adult ER are stabilized and transferred to HDVCH. Hanley said the hospital is working to improve signage. The hospital also is communicating with doctors’ offices and using social media and advertising to reach parents.

Hanley also said that the $268 million facility, which opened 1-11-11, was launched utilizing only social and earned media after its advertising budget was cut due to belt-tightening at Spectrum.

Hanley made his remarks during a presentation to Interchange, the Association of West Michigan Communications Professionals.

Moore mesmerizes Manistee

Is Grand Rapids far behind?

Filmmaker Michael Moore was in Manistee the other day to unveil a new project he hopes will duplicate his success with the famous old State Theatre in downtown Traverse City. Moore has now set his sights on revitalization of the Vogue Theatre on River Street in The Salt City’s historic downtown.

The Vogue is a 72-year-old theater that has been closed for several years, according to Tim Ervin, spokesperson for The Alliance for Economic Success, Manistee County’s non-profit economic development organization.

"The people of Manistee are about to see what a popular, thriving movie palace can do for their downtown," said Moore. "They will return the Vogue to being the crown jewel of Manistee. We will turn on the Vogue's marquee lights, bring in some jobs, pump money into the economy and do it with a non-profit venture staffed mostly by volunteers. The Vogue will show first-run movies plus documentaries, foreign films, kids’ movies and classics — something for everyone.”

Led by Moore (and with the help of donations from his and other private pockets), the State Theatre was renovated and re-opened in 2007 and is a popular venue now in downtown Traverse City.

Moore actually wants to duplicate the State Theatre success all over Michigan, through his State Theatre Project, a nonprofit endeavor he's funding.

The Vogue was recently acquired by the Manistee Main Street/Downtown Development Authority, which is now partnering with the Alliance for Economic Success to form the Vogue Theatre Project, a nonprofit organization.

“Manistee County right now has no movie theater whatsoever,” said Ervin. “It’s a big need, for kids, families…”

Moore spoke about the project at an outdoor gathering in downtown Manistee last Wednesday, in what Ervin described as “brutal cold, but we had a huge turnout of people from all walks of life.”

“Just to get things started, he made a personal donation of $10,000” at the event, said Ervin. “I know he will be looking (for theaters to restore in) other communities.”

MAREC jump start

Grand Valley State University’s Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon, opened in 2003 to “incubate” new start-ups in alternative and renewable energy, will get a $100,000 grant in March.

Arn Boezaart, director of MAREC, said GVSU requested the grant from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to help continue recruitment of entrepreneurs, business start-ups, and early-stage businesses that are developing energy-related technologies, products, and services. It will fund a part-time “incubator manager” and allow for support services such as legal advice on patenting new technology.  The grant also makes available limited seed capital for MAREC clients, and enables MAREC to develop additional incubator office and lab spaces within the existing building. 

Currently the building houses four “active incubator businesses” and one independent research lab, according to Boezaart: Smart Vision Lights, Logical Lighting Systems, McKenzie Bay International, and Scandia Wind. Energy Partners LLC, a one-person research lab, also rents space at MAREC.

“The grant will allow us to do a lot more of that work, in a more organized fashion,” said Boezaart.

“Beginning in March, we will have somebody on board, two days a week, to oversee the incubator space and to actively recruit” more tenants to the building, he said.

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