Is One Kent proposal on its way to Lansing

August 29, 2011
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With September just down the block, the question is whether the One Kent Coalition will have its legislation to merge Kent County and the city of GR into a metro government introduced in Lansing. The coalition set September as the month to do that and state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has been mentioned as the one lawmaker most likely to make it happen. But Becky Bechler, the county’s Lansing lobbyist, told members of the county’s Legislative Committee just last week that he hasn’t committed to being the “introducer.”

“I didn’t get the sense of whether he was going to introduce it or not,” said Bechler. She said Richardville is a sponsor of the bill that would build a second bridge to Canada, and that legislation is his top priority.

In the meantime, unconfirmed rumblings say One Kent is considering pushing back its schedule because members of the group differ on the reasons for a consolidation, and the lawyers have taken the group hostage from the business types. A county subcommittee studying the consolidation proposal is meeting today with state lawmakers from the area, and all reportedly have said they will be there. Of course, the subcommittee had to offer a free breakfast to get that commitment.

Promises kept

Back during a sweltering July week, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce held its annual policy conference on Mackinac Island, hosting the state’s top politicos and business leaders. One of the many policy objectives coming from days of meetings was to better connect east and west Michigan business leaders.

It’s not a new idea; it just hasn’t had priority status on the Detroit side. The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s first policy conference in 2008 helped accomplish the beginnings of such endeavors (as did the second in 2010), but the group is going one step further, again opening the door to such unification Sept. 30.

Andy Johnston, chamber vice president of government affairs, is setting up a day of festivities to welcome a “high-level group of Detroit area business leaders,” who will be greeted in Grand Rapids by area business brethren. Johnston was deliberate in his intention to invite the group during ArtPrize. They will be greeted by new executive director of the art extravaganza Catherine Creamer. Oh, and Mayor George Heartwell.

The Detroit delegation will be headed by incoming Detroit Regional Chamber President Chip McClure, who is chairman, CEO and president of ArvinMeritor. McClure also is a board member of the National Association of Manufacturers, the Business Roundtable and Business Leaders for Michigan. On the occasion of McClure’s presiding over the Mackinac conference, PR Newswire quoted him saying, “No country can grow and prosper with an economy rooted in service-based industries. ‘Made in America' is not something we can afford to dismiss as an old way of life; rather, it needs to be our renewed commitment for economic vitality.  'Made in America' should be our new business plan."

Lights, cameras, batteries

It’s simply called “The Battery Show” but it has global connotations and it’s a big coup for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The show is a two-track conference on battery business models and technologies for electric vehicles, utility storage, mobile power, personal electronics and next-generation battery materials and chemistries. It’s moving from San Jose, Calif., to Novi, thanks to MEDC. Registration is now open for the Oct. 25-27 event.

MEDC notes Michigan is home to 17 advanced battery companies, representing $6 billion in capital investment creating 20,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.

The show attracted 1,400 participants to San Jose; MEDC expects 3,000 at the Novi event.

Library booking more business

New Kent District Library Director Lance Werner paid his first visit to county commissioners last week and said, “Business is booming at Kent District Library.” Werner was referring to a 120-percent increase last year in access to library materials, including e-books, which marked the fifth straight year KDL has had a bump.

Another KDL tidbit from 2010 was patrons used more than 560,000 hours of computer time, which turns out to be the equivalent of 64 years. The average patron would have had to spend $500 on books, $300 on CDs and $200 on DVDs if they had bought those items instead of borrowing them from KDL. Library mavens also downloaded more than 65,000 e-books, audio books and digital music files last year, which would have cost $690,000 to buy. KDL averaged 10,000 daily visitors last year to its 18 branches.

KDL’s millage, .88 mills, gave the system $14.3 million last year — nearly 86 percent of its total revenue. It costs the average Kent County household $60 yearly, and last year KDL had a surplus of almost $550,000.

Werner expects more of the same in the near future, “We’re going to squeeze every penny into a nickel.”

And the list goes on

When the Business Journal sent out a Web Exclusive last week announcing Peopledesign’s inclusion on the Inc. magazine 500/5000 list, which is a ranking of the fastest-growing companies in America, we may have jumped the gun a bit. Since then, we’ve received word that ad agency Kantorwassink and Pro-Vision Video Systems, a Grand Rapids-based maker of rear vision and video recording systems for the law enforcement, pupil transportation and commercial vehicle markets, also made the list.

“We are especially proud of the fact that we have been able to continue to grow and thrive here in Grand Rapids and be part of Michigan’s economic engine with bright, young, future-focused talent who choose to stay or move here,” said Wendy Wassink, a founding partner with Dave Kantor in the ad agency. “This recognition says a lot about the quality of work that can be found in the Midwest.”

Steve Peacock, founder and CEO of Pro-Vision, had much the same reaction. “As the only mobile video system company listed this year, Pro-Vision is proud to be featured among this year’s list of diverse and prominent brands.”

Send a letter

Mike Malaney, president of Travel Leaders of Grand Rapids, was featured in the Aug. 22 Business Journal with a report on the state of the travel industry.

That story must have fired him up, because on Monday he zipped off a letter to President Barack Obama to give him an update on the industry. Malaney took exception to the chief executive’s remarks during a town hall meeting in Illinois when Obama answered a question about job opportunities with: “One of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is — businesses have gotten so efficient that when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using an ATM? Or used a travel agent instead of going online? A lot of jobs that used to require people now have become automated.”

Malaney acknowledged that the leader of the free world probably didn’t mean any intentional slight to the travel agency industry, but asked that in the future Obama provide a more balanced approach by recognizing the contributions travel agents make to the economy and America’s travelers.

“After all, President Obama’s own travel plans are far too important to be left to the Internet.”


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