Do not adjust your dial you are not having flashbacks

May 6, 2012
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In the world of television, there’s something called Sweeps Week during which stations attempt to attract more viewers through investigative reporting during newscasts, blockbuster movies, special programming and just about anything else they can think of to beef up audience numbers (which results in better ad rates, no doubt).

We have no idea what this week is called at WZZM TV13, but it sure looks like fun.

In honor of the local Gannett-owned ABC station’s 50th anniversary, get ready for a blast from the past, when several news, weather and sports anchors from the ’80s and ’90s return to the airwaves on TV13.

You may recall them as having those big, cheesy mustaches and wearing awkwardly huge glasses (not to mention those matching spiffy gold blazers), but everything old will be new again when the guest anchors return. Odds are they won’t be asked to squeeze into those blazers again, but we can’t wait to see if the questionable hairstyles remain intact.

This week Monday and Tuesday, veteran newsman Lee Van Ameyde will lead the team of former co-workers, including well known and respected meteorologist Craig James, wildly popular sportscaster Sam Hooks, and “all-around super nice guy” and long-time West Michigan news anchor Barry Shanley. Then on the following Monday and Tuesday, May 14 and 15, news veterans Dave Whitford, Guy Gordon, Mary Eilleen Lyon and John Keating (formerly known as Steve Knight) are on tap for a return engagement.

While we are not privy to what the plans are for these broadcasts, we do know that longtime WZZM cameraman Rick Kamel has a basement full of equipment and tapes from that era, chronicling every event of significance that happened in West Michigan. It would be nice to see some of that on the air, too.

The (really) big screen

A couple of Grand Rapids firms are playing title roles in the next evolutionary phase of movie theaters. The Celebration Cinema in Portage, owned by Loeks Theatres Inc. in Grand Rapids, is getting a Super-IMAX screen. Unfortunately, the existing structure is too small to house the giant screen.

What to do? Enter Grand Rapids construction firm C.D. Barnes, which has built most of the Celebration Cinemas for Loeks (including the IMAX), with an uplifting idea. Why not raise the roof — while the rest of the theater remains in use?

That’s the Portage plan, and it’s the first time something of this nature has been attempted in the United States. If successful, you can bet it will just be a matter of time before Super-IMAX makes another big-screen debut.

Money lessons

Earlier this year, the Business Journal bestowed its Newsmaker of the Year award on Grand Valley State University, in part for its economic impact on the region. Last week, the university put some new numbers behind that impact — and they are impressive.

The annual economic impact that GVSU has on the region rose by more than $50 million to $732.3 million. Grand Valley issued its yearly tri-county economic impact report at its last board of trustees meeting. The report covered Kent, Ottawa and Muskegon counties and used 2010-11 data to draw its conclusions.

The university employs more than 3,200 people and has an enrollment of nearly 25,000 students, all of whom spend money and pay taxes in the region.

Other interesting nuggets included:

**New construction and renovations pumped nearly $70 million into the local economy in 2011. Two major projects continue to offer employment and economic vitality to the area: the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons and the L. William Seidman Center for the Seidman College of Business.

**More than 10,800 permanent off-campus jobs in the region exist because of Grand Valley’s campuses in those communities.

**There are more than 81,000 Grand Valley alumni, and nearly half are living or working in West Michigan’s tri-county area.

Looking ahead, university trustees also approved the purchase of the Admiral Gas Station at 346 W. Fulton St. — near the center of the Pew Grand Rapids Campus — for $1 million.

Thomas Butcher, university counsel, said the purchase of the property is key to consolidating the university’s properties into one large parcel bordered by the Grand River to the east, Winter Avenue to the west, Fulton Street to the north and Butterworth Avenue to the south.

“This is a positive move for the university, (and) also for the city,” Butcher said. “It’s part of Grand Valley’s initiative to improve the west side of the city, and the best use of this property is for educational purposes.”

Demolition of the gas station will take place this summer.

Clean sweep

If you live in West Michigan, where do you want to work?

One answer might be mechanical contractor and fabricator Andy J. Egan Co. In addition to some of the most glowing client testimonials ever found on a website, the 93-year-old Grand Rapids firm can add “best of the best” to its resume, according to the Michigan Business and Professional Association.

The annual West Michigan’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For event took place last week, and Egan landed at the top of the heap. And according to MBPA President Jennifer Kluge, it was a clean sweep.

Egan’s “exceptional human resources practices” gave it the distinction of outranking all of the competing companies “in every category that the MBPA uses to evaluate winning entries,” she said.

Kluge was quick to point out that the other 11 Elite winners had plenty to offer their employees, too.

Elite awards were earned by Skanska of Portage; Greenleaf Trust, Kalamazoo; Valley Oak, Kalamazoo; Plante Moran PLLC, Grand Rapids; Southwest Michigan First, Kalamazoo; Express Employment Professionals, Grand Rapids; Ernst & Young, Grand Rapids; Easter Seals of Michigan, Grand Rapids; Elzinga & Volkers Construction Professionals, Holland; Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, Kalamazoo; and Wesco, Muskegon.

“Our Elite winners this year were so impressive with their dedication to coming up with inventive and motivating programs for their employees,” Kluge said.

“We are proud to provide an opportunity for West Michigan companies to demonstrate their accomplishments. These select 101 companies engage their employees in meaningful ways and every year we are more impressed.”

The Grand Rapids Bar Association celebrated Law Day last week by giving Marge Palmerlee its 2012 Liberty Bell Award. The bar also honored Rodney Martin with the President’s Award and the Worsfold Award went to Judge Benjamin Logan.

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