Cornering the market on leadership

March 3, 2012
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The Urban Market being built by the Downtown Development Authority and Grand Action Committee took another step forward last week when Grand Action co-chair Dick DeVos revealed the 10 people who will serve on the project’s board of directors.

The directors are George Aquino, JW Marriott general manager; Kayem Dunn, DDA vice chairwoman; Wayman Britt, Kent County assistant administrator; John Green, Locus Development principal; Lew Chamberlin, West Michigan Whitecaps CEO and managing partner; Tom Coon, director of the MSU College of Agriculture & Natural Resources; Melissa DeVos, Windquest Group member; Dirk Hoffius, attorney at Varnum; Amy Ruis, owner of Art of the Table; and Experience Grand Rapids President Doug Small.

Demolition on the 3.5-acre site on Ionia Avenue near Wealthy Street has begun, as has the remediation work. The development’s price tag has been estimated at roughly $30 million; the DDA and Grand Action hope to open the market in summer 2013.

Somebody alert Stryker

Since 2005, Chief Executive magazine has printed an annual list of the 40 Best Companies for Leaders — and this year, it includes Wolverine World Wide, according to a PR Newswire announcement put out last week by the shoemaker.

According to the website, the ranking is based on a study of about 1,000 companies around the world, conducted by Chally Group Worldwide, an Ohio sales and management productivity consultant. This year, the top three were Procter & Gamble, IBM and GE, in that order. Last year, the top three were JPMorgan Chase, Procter & Gamble and Wipro Technologies.

A check of the online January edition of Chief Executive shows Wolverine holding the 27th position on the list — right under No. 26 Stryker, the medical device manufacturer in Kalamazoo. But there’s no mention of it — yet — on the Stryker website.

Fifth Third makes a splash

Kevin Kabat, CEO of Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, came all the way to GR last week to — by the way — introduce the bank’s new advertising campaign: “The curious bank.” Actually, he was here for the Fifth Third Leadership Forum Feb. 29 at DeVos Place.

Lots of bigwigs were there, along with Fifth Third employees. The bank invited local business and community leaders, and Capt. Mark Kelly, recently retired astronaut and husband of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was brought in to make a presentation.

Gov. Rick Snyder put in an appearance (of sorts), too, “via Google Hangout.”

A prominent point of the big announcement was that “this is the first campaign for the new partnership between Fifth Third Bank and Leo Burnett.”

Actually, the Leo Burnett died in 1971, but Fifth Third was talking about his famous advertising agency in New York.

In the world of high-powered Big Advertising, whenever there’s a new “agency of record,” that means some other agency is no longer in the picture. It’s a business issue, of course, so we were “curious,” so to speak, and looked it up on the all-knowing Internet. It was Olson, from Minneapolis.

Olson did several campaigns for Fifth Third, which won two gold, four silver and two bronze awards in 2010 from the Financial Communications Society in New York, according to the ousted Olson.


Downtown GR Rotarians were feeling especially good Thursday during their weekly meeting. And why not? The featured speaker brought the beer!

Of course, since beer is his business, attendees probably weren’t too shocked when Brewery Vivant co-owner Jason Spaulding showed up with “samples” that he strategically placed in the rear of the room.

But Spaulding’s message carried a serious tone, too, and it’s one business owners know all too well. He said Brewery Vivant, by all accounts a thriving new business and an integral part of the city’s neighborhood business revival, almost fell flat at the outset.

“It was almost impossible to get any bank loans,” he said, referring to the financial crisis and skepticism regarding any new ventures. Even the SBA, Spaulding said, was reluctant to get involved with financing.

At first glance, the business plan may have seemed sketchy. Spaulding hatched the idea while still a member of Hope College’s soccer team when the players were on a European tour. He became fascinated with the culture of beer making in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany and France, and managed to sample more than a few offerings along the way.

Spaulding mentioned that his father thought brewing beer would be an excellent career for him, since he was obviously more interested in spirits than studies.

But from that experience grew a solid vision that included doing everything the right way, right up to the exterior landscaping chosen for its environmental friendliness.

Today, the former funeral home is the country’s only LEED-certified microbrewery. “We have achieved LEED Silver status and we are very proud of that achievement,” said Spaulding, who gave recognition to green developer extraordinaire Guy Bazzani for the inspiration.

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