Singing the praises of our own Fab 50

March 12, 2012
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If you missed Wednesday’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan luncheon at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (and not many people did, as the newly refurbished Ambassador Ballroom was packed with 700 guests), we’ve got something to make you feel better.

During the luncheon, a video tribute to first lady Betty Ford was shown, with videography by Johnny Quirin and editing and production by Gemini’s Scott Sommerfeld. The music by Kerry Muzzey is understated, yet powerful. The seven-minute clip features members of the Fab 50, including Doreen Bolhuis, Kathleen Stewart Ponitz and Judge Jane Markey, reminiscing about Mrs. Ford’s contributions to West Michigan and the nation.

The elegant piece, which brought tears to the eyes of keynote speaker Susan Ford Bales, can be viewed at http://youtube/bAE4Qm7MVz4

“I’m glad your intro was long enough to give me time to compose myself,” Ford Bales told Business Journal Editor Carole Valade upon taking the stage for her comments. “Thank you so much for that. Mom would be pleased.”

Attendees agreed.

“Susan Ford Bales’ salute to her mother was very passionate, and the honorees who spoke of the influence Betty Ford had on their lives was inspiring,” said Ronald Nelson, president and CEO of YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids. “Thanks to the Business Journal for making this happen.”

For more event photos, visit the Business Journal’s Facebook site. In what was a very nice gesture, Ford Bales volunteered to have her photo taken with as many of the Fab 50 who wanted such an opportunity. Those photos can be seen at

Smoke and mirrors

Proponents of a smaller role for government in business and consumer choice probably cheered the other day when the federal transportation secretary, Ray LaHood, announced yet another delay in issuing final standards for the Cameron Gulbransen Kids Transportation Safety Act of 2007.

But there probably wasn’t much cheering at Gentex in Zeeland.

The act, signed into law by President George W. Bush Feb. 28, 2008, directs the secretary to “initiate a rulemaking” for vehicles on new safety features, including “an expanded rearward field of view to prevent backing incidents” that have resulted in deaths of many toddlers.

Gentex makes a rearview mirror that doubles as a mini-video screen for a rear-mounted camera that instantly shows the driver what is behind the vehicle when it is put in reverse. The company has been counting on implementation of the new law to require rear-mounted cameras, and thus generate more sales of the Gentex mirror.

Now it will be the end of this year before we find out exactly what the transportation secretary has in mind.

“We were surprised at the length of the delay,” said Gentex spokesperson Connie Hamblin. “I don’t think we are necessarily surprised that there was a delay. I mean, this is the U.S. government involved here.

“Knowing that there is an election in November, maybe it’s not so surprising,” she added.

The automakers, of course, have been heavily involved in the conversation in Washington, concerned about what it might add to the price tag of a new car.

LaHood’s letter to members of Congress states that the Department of Transportation “decided that further research and data analysis is important to ensure the most protective and efficient rule possible, including a wider range of vehicles and drivers.” It wants a “robust” underlying analysis to ensure that the final rule is “appropriate.”

“It’s not clear to us what they want or still need,” said Hamblin.

If rear video cameras are required, what would it mean in increased business for Gentex?

Hamlin said officials there can’t say because they don’t know.

There would be two ways to put that video image in front of the driver: One is a display built into the instrument panel, and the other is the Gentex specialized rearview mirror. Which one the consumer would want is “the million dollar question that all of our investors want us to answer: ‘How much of the market can you get?’ And we have not put a number to it just because we don’t know,” said Hamblin.

Based on the predicted cost of putting the video screen in the rearview mirror versus the “infotainment system,” she said analysts who follow Gentex “have determined we can get a pretty decent share of the market, but that’s their opinions, and it’s not based on guidance so much. They’re just basically looking at what’s available in the market and how much it costs.”

But there is one interesting fact worth noting: “We did ship 1.7 million units last year. That’s all based on market demand. So there is a demand for our product without any legislation,” said Hamblin.

Home and away

CB Richard Ellis has moved and the Grand Rapids Griffins haven’t. The AHL franchise has decided to stay put as the primary affiliate of the Detroit Red Wings. The local team extended its agreement with the Wings for five more years, meaning the two will cross sticks and sharpen skates through the 2016-2017 season.

It’s the third five-year affiliation contract for the cross-state franchises.

“Given the Red Wings’ complete oversight of our hockey operations and their talented management team, we’re confident that their remarkable ability to produce a Stanley Cup contender, season after season, will result in similar success for us at the AHL level,” said Griffins COO Scott Gorsline.

As for CBRE, the commercial real estate firm has left the Campau Square Building and trekked across the Grand River to 634 Front Ave. NW, also the home of Plante & Moran and the Christman Co., and not too far from the fish ladder.

“Our new office space will allow us to maximize office and environmental efficiencies while providing a collaborative working environment,” said Drew Miller, CRBE managing director. “We are immensely pleased with the move and look forward to welcoming clients at our new office.”

Alex would be proud

At last week’s Downtown Rotary Club meeting, members got a taste of LaughFest when three comedians were introduced and performed various routines.

The highlight was a “Jeopardy For Dummies” segment using Rotary members as contestants. Three categories were introduced: Mascots of Michigan Colleges and Universities, Cities in Michigan, and Nuclear Physics.

The first contestant chose Nuclear Physics. The answer was, “In nuclear physics, there are neutrons, protons and croutons. This particle is observable in salads.”

The second contestant chose the category Michigan Cities, with the answer being, “This city is between two rivers and four rivers.”

The third and final contestant again took the category Michigan Cities (probably thinking the second clue would be easier). “This capital city sounds like the medical procedure used to get rid of boils.”

If you’re not sure of the answers (or questions in this case), they were, in order: What are croutons? What is Three Rivers? and What is Lansing?

Of course, it was all done in good humor, mostly with the intent to promote the 10 days of LaughFest. We encourage you to get out and laugh along with the rest of Grand Rapids over the next week.

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