Mr. Gavan goes to Washington sort of

February 5, 2012
Text Size:

Mary Free Bed’s announcement this week certainly adds to the specialty areas of expertise in medical services, even down the street from Grand Rapids’ now famous Medical Mile. That’s a moniker that caught on after Jay and Betty Van Andel dedicated their incredible gift to cancer and Alzheimer’s research, the Van Andel Institute, which is the towering anchor to this region’s continued medical-related economic development.

For the last five-and-a-half years, Vice President of Communications and External Relations Joe Gavan helped the rest of the world understand what was going on in those labs, and raised a fair share of funding for that research along the way. Friday was Gavan’s last day, however, and no replacement had been named. In a memo to VAI employees, Gavan wrote, “It’s been a great 5½ years and this has been a very difficult decision. Working for VAI and Dave Van Andel has been an incredibly enjoyable experience and is one for which I will be forever grateful.”

Gavan’s wife, WOOD TV8 producer Suzanne Samples, said her husband is joining D.C.-based Potomac Strategic Development Co. LLC as a senior consultant with primary responsibility for building the Midwestern U.S. client base. Potomac specializes in government advocacy, business development (, and corporate communications, public relations and training ( His new office will be located in downtown Grand Rapids.

Even the title is a little scary

“Decide While You Can” is the title of Dr. Colleen Tallen’s book published last fall. It’s about “a scary topic for a lot of people,” she said.

She is referring to that point in a person’s life when one ought to begin thinking about how they want to live their last days. There is a movement afoot here to get that in writing within the medical care system, in advance, so an individual’s ultimate wishes are known before it is too late.

Tallen is medical director of pain and palliative care at Saint Mary’s Health Care and director of cancer survivorship at Lacks Cancer Center, and her book reflects the growing realization across the country that medical advances now can prolong life like never before — but not enough people actually let their family and physician know in advance just what they are willing to live with.

The family has opinions, the doctors have opinions — but what does the patient want?

“It’s always been kind of a conundrum to me why this is such a hard thing for Americans to talk about,” she said. “Americans love to have autonomy, tell people what they want and what they think — and yet, we’ve been kind of paralyzed around this topic.”

Her book begins with a few simple principles:

  • We all deserve to have medical choices explained in detail so we understand how each may affect us.

  • We must all do our part by learning to communicate with our health care team, and we expect our health care team to do the same.

  • Our medical decisions impact our individual lives, which in turn impacts everybody around us.

“I’m really thrilled that the Grand Rapids community is taking this on,” she said.

More information about her book and the issues are found on her website,

Farm fresh

If you’ve ever wondered where your food comes from, there are restaurants in Grand Rapids that aren’t shy about telling you.

Recently, Essence Restaurant Group, which operates Bistro Bella Vita, The Green Well and Grove, adapted a platform called Real Time Farms to its online menu, with ingredients hyperlinked to the farm from which they came.

Real Time Farms, based in Ann Arbor, launched six months ago. More than 60 restaurants nationwide are now using it to blaze the trail of transparency. Customers are no longer baffled by unknown farm names or green-washing marketing slogans like “farm fresh,” “local” and “all natural” on menus.

To check it out, go to and click on one of the hyperlinked menu items. Example: Clicking on crème fraiche under Fall Squash Soup takes you to the Real Time Farms website and a profile of Moo-Ville Creamery in Nashville, Mich. — the source of the cream.

The market must be satisfied

Wolverine Worldwide announced record financial results last week for both the fourth quarter and the entire calendar year 2011 — which Gentex also announced last week. But that is where the similarity ends.

While Gentex just broke $1 billion in sales last year, Wolverine revenue rose 12.9 percent to a record $1.4 billion. The year’s revenue was the second consecutive year of double-digit growth.

Wolverine’s gross margin of 39.5 percent was equal to the prior year gross margin. Operating margin expanded to a record 12.1 percent, compared to 11.4 percent the year before. Diluted earnings per share increased to $2.48, compared to the prior year’s $2.17. (Reported full-year earnings in 2010 were $2.11.) Shareholders took home $22.7 million in dividends.

Gentex didn’t do so well on profits, and its stock price showed that the next day. In Rockford, however, the shoe guys didn’t have that problem. On Jan. 30, the day of Wolverine’s year-end report, its stock opened at $37.21 and closed at $38.46. The next day it was at $39.09 and the day after that, $39.47.

The home team

Did you know Grand Rapids Public Schools had a team at yesterday’s Super Bowl? Hopefully not, or else something went terribly awry.

Six GRPS public safety officers, including Executive Director of Public Safety Larry Johnson, were inside Lucas Oil Stadium over the weekend working with NFL security to keep players and fans safe during the Super Bowl.

John Helmholdt, spokesperson for GRPS, said NFL Security reached out to the district’s public safety team because of its national reputation and the Incident Command and Homeland Security training Johnson and other team members provide to the GR district and neighboring public and private schools.

Due to that rigorous training, Helmholdt said the GRPS officers’ security status was elevated enough to allow them to work alongside NFL security personnel at the Indianapolis Colts’ home field. Johnson and his team, which includes officers James Stokes, Christina Johnson, Faustino Garcia, Arnell Fleming and Tamara Robinson, supervised several security teams on Saturday during the VIP events and were on the field during the game yesterday.

The unit spent several weekends in Indianapolis to prepare for the event.

Pete’s peak

The U.S. Senate campaign for Pete Hoekstra doesn’t need security (yet), but it could probably use the services of an editor.

Our favorite bike-riding Holland Republican last week sent out a Super Bowl-themed fundraising query, complete with a link to an ad that said “get your sneak peak ticket now.” Unless he’s talking about a well-hidden mountain, we’re guessing “peek” would have been more appropriate.

The ad campaign will blame incumbent Debbie Stabenow for all of the out-of-control spending in Washington, but Pete, this trouble with homonyms is all you!

Recent Articles by Business Journal Staff

Editor's Picks

Comments powered by Disqus