Asia is the right place for Snyder

September 6, 2011
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Gov. Rick Snyder’s economic team is putting together his first trade mission to Asia, and The Right Place involvement likely has been key. Recall that Snyder noted in his first State of the State address “open-source economic development” to leverage successful programs across the state. Snyder’s example was Oakland County’s Automation Alley as best-in-class for international trade and Grand Rapids’ The Right Place is best-in-class for international business attraction. Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs has been leading such gubernatorial delegations through three administrations.”

Yet another coup is that of Dixie Anderson, executive director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, the largest international nonprofit organization in the state. As Snyder returns from the trip Oct. 1, Anderson has succeeded in capturing the moment. Snyder will deliver remarks tentatively framed as “Michigan’s Place in the Global Marketplace” Oct. 10 to the World Affairs Council’s 62nd annual dinner. Anderson also is the vice chair of the national board of World Affairs Councils of America in Washington, D.C., now 90 chapters strong. She is selling tickets.

Ferris State University is sponsoring the event at the JW Marriott, which will assist the university in showcasing its integration of international study in most every curriculum.

Join the network

How will anyone get any business done in September except by networking during all the events, especially ArtPrize? New to the month’s schedule is the 30th anniversary celebration of the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The dinner and sponsorships are nearly sold out, even at minimum table sponsorships of $2,500 each. The big winner? Heart of West Michigan United Way is the beneficiary.

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is negotiating an east-west exchange of high-ranking Michigan business executives, with the east Michigan group touring ArtPrize Sept. 30 (see Street Talk, Aug. 29), but such activity is now growing in scale. Grand Action has assisted an east-coast connection set for November. Grand Action staff noted that Springfield, Mass., has designed a national initiative to link leadership from one metropolitan area with another. According to City@City Greater Springfield, leaders participate in site visits to designated "peer" cities with similar demographics. Participants discover best practices and possible strategies that can be incorporated into on-going or emerging strategies in their home city. The Springfield group's first visit was to Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C. They have selected Grand Rapids for the next site visit Nov. 28, and are said to be especially drawn to Grand Rapids’ long history of public-private partnerships.

Canadian connection

Crystal Flash President Tom Fehsenfeld is also an at-large member on the Grand Valley Metro Council, and last week he told the board that a couple of his friends are in the auto supply business and both are doing well. When he asked them why, they told him they were getting a lot of orders from Ontario firms.

When he asked them why they were getting a lot of orders from Ontario, they told him business was good in the Canadian province partly because the companies’ costs for health insurance were affordable due to the national health insurance program. They said those firms handing out the orders were saving from $5,000 to $6,000 per year on each premium they bought.

“We’re getting to a somewhat disadvantageous position with Canada now,” said Fehsenfeld, of the state’s strongest trading partner.

Several years ago, Ontario passed Michigan as the No. 1 location for auto assembly in North America. Back then, Ontario had about 288,000 assembly jobs, and the Business Journal contacted a GM vice president to get his take on why Ontario had so many jobs. He told us then that it cost GM $1,500 in health insurance for every vehicle it produced in Michigan or anywhere else in the U.S. In Ontario, he said, that cost was $150 per auto because of Canada’s insurance program.

It sure would be nice to have those jobs back now, wouldn’t it?

A light in City Hall’s tunnel

Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell showed up at the Press Club last week to welcome the new Grand Rapids Black Chamber of Commerce. He noted that business and government alike has been through a “long, difficult economic period,” but he added, “We’re beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel.”

Like sales for businesses, tax revenues are the indicator of how well — or how poorly — a municipal government is faring, said Heartwell.

“We’re seeing an increase in the income tax level in Grand Rapids,” added Heartwell, happily.

First blood

The Great Lakes Blood Services Region of the American Red Cross received word last week of a potential work stoppage by a pair of employee unions that could begin as early as tomorrow.

In light of Hurricane Irene being responsible for the cancellation of more than 60 blood drives and the impending 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, an employee strike is not going over well with leadership.

“It is unconscionable and irresponsible that labor leaders would engage in this strike in an attempt to put pressure on negotiations without regard to the impact this may have on hospital patients who depend on life-saving blood,” said Sharon Jaksa, CEO of the Great Lakes Region.

“Even worse, they have chosen to strike just before the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. It is disheartening that some union members would disrupt life-saving blood donations on such a solemn day in our nation’s history by striking against the American Red Cross. This is especially true considering the significant role the Red Cross played in responding to the tragic event.”

Fashion’s heart

Fashion Has Heart, a local nonprofit that works to combine fashion, art and philanthropy to raise awareness for wounded American soldiers, is turning its attention to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by asking people to design a T-shirt in response to the question, “What does 10 years later look like to you?”

The shirts will be framed and put on display in the Fifth Third Bank building, 111 Lyon St. NW, Grand Rapids.

First half-century done

Happy George Bieber Day! What, you don’t know George?

Well, he’s not related to Justin Bieber, but he is the longest-serving employee at Terryberry Inc., a 93-year-old employee recognition products company, and he marks 50 years of service today. Mayor Heartwell issued a proclamation declaring today his day.

No word on whether Mr. Bieber will be getting a gold watch.

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