Street Talk

Street Talk: For construction, it's all about the ethics

One-shop stopping.

November 3, 2012
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A few weeks ago, the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan celebrated general contractors from throughout the West Michigan region. Prior to its annual event, the membership independently sent ballots to Beene Garter to tally for the award of Contractor of the Year.

The subcontractors vote on the basis of bid ethics, safety, jobsite supervision, communication, schedule coordination, project relations, lien process, administrative procedures, payment terms and quality workmanship.

Elzinga & Volkers was named recipient of the Michigan Contractor of the Year award, and has now been nominated for the top award in the U.S.

ASAM board member Linda Vos-Graham, president of Vos Glass, noted that the national nomination from the Michigan chapter required extensive vetting in regard to ethics, including outside industry verifications. Vos-Graham also noted West Michigan association leaders are finding themselves elected to wider representation: Jeff VanderLaan, Kent Companies, has been elected to the national American Subcontractors Association board, and Jack Austoff, Sobie Co., now serves on the Michigan association’s board.

We’d also like to note that Vos-Graham is secretly treasuring a very special bid win: The Vos Glass bid for an elaborate glass front for the Northview High School renovation. Is she celebrating one of the largest bid wins in company history? Is she celebrating the job-related creativity required? Probably, but she’s happiest because she is a Northview grad and proud to “be back” in a big, cool way.

Sandy causes worry here

There were undoubtedly many people in West Michigan worrying about those in the path of Hurricane Sandy last week. One place the worriers were concentrated was Universal Forest Products corporate headquarters on East Beltline Avenue.

“We have a lot of plants in the East,” said Lynn Afendoulis, director of corporate communications at UFPI.

A few closed for a day or so, in New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.

The storm that was so brutal to New York City residents and others “caused some disruption to some plants and certainly to a lot of our people — and that has been our biggest concern,” said Afendoulis.

But there was no major interruption of service to customers because the UFPI plants in the region that didn’t close were able to pick up the slack.

Muskegon hatching retail

The Muskegon Retail Incubator is looking to add more clients even as it raises funds to help entrepreneurs and startups.

A nonprofit organization designed to promote the economic recovery of downtown Muskegon, MRI was established to provide assistance and resources to small business owners, and its first project is the Russell Block Market. It will be located on the first floor of the historic Daniel’s building in downtown Muskegon (now known as the Russell Block Building).

The market will feature a variety of food/beverage vendors in an open environment. A local startup, Unruly Brewing Co. (Jeff Jacobson and Mark Gongalski), intends to lease space, and other potential vendors are interested. Welcome to the craft-brewing industry, Muskegon!

Meanwhile, MRI is trying to raise $300,000 — and it’s coming in. Generous donations of $25,000 have been made by John and Kathy Workman and Mark and Christine Fazakerley, the owners of the Eagle Alloy foundry. Consumers Energy Foundation has selected MRI for one of its $125,000 matching grants being made to economic development projects this year across Michigan in celebration of the utility’s 125th anniversary.

Anyone with money to donate or an interest in starting or relocating a retail business in downtown Muskegon should contact MRI’s president, Terry MacAllister, at (231) 206-1099 or For more information on the MRI program or to inquire about leasing space at the Market, contact Eileen McCormick at (231) 755-2649.

Other key people involved in MRI are Carla Flanders of CMF Marketing and Gary Post of Russell Block Development.

Mystery at Saint Mary’s

Katie Halloran at Saint Mary’s Health Care’s PR department gave the Business Journal a fascinating story about the hospital’s new clinical trial of a drug that may be a tremendous help to stroke victims (see Desmoteplase is a synthetic version of a clot-dissolving protein found in the saliva of the vampire bat.

Saint Mary’s is the coordinating center for the trials, commissioned by a Danish pharmaceutical company. The experiments with volunteer stroke patients will take place at about 60 sites around the U.S. Dr. Philip B. Gorelick, a neurologist and medical director at Saint Mary’s Health Care’s Hauenstein Neuroscience Center, is co-director of the U.S. Desmoteplase in Acute Ischemic Stroke Trial. Halloran put us in touch with him and he said in an interview that 20 patients already had been recruited.

Clinical trials are sometimes lucrative contracts for hospitals, and all the major hospitals in Grand Rapids engage in them, although their spokespersons played down the financial importance in recent interviews. Nonetheless, the Business Journal — being a business newspaper, always interested in the money angle — wondered how much Lundbeck, the Danish company, was going to pay for the trial. An email went off to Halloran, asking if she could provide the dollar amount.

She called a couple of hours later and said there had been a mistake. The trial had not started yet and she was not permitted to talk about it. The Business Journal asked if that meant she was not going to reveal the value of the contract.

“Oh, no,” she said. But not now.

Stay tuned.

Gang’s all here

Nineteen of the city’s 20 neighborhood business districts were represented by nominees in the 23rd rendition of the Neighborhood Business Awards Thursday evening at Wealthy Street Theatre.

Eastown had the most nominations with 18, followed by the Wealthy Street district with 10. Both the Heartside and Michigan Street districts had eight businesses nominated.

“All told, new investment in Grand Rapids neighborhood business districts was in the tens of millions of dollars over the last 12 months,” said Mark Lewis, executive director of Neighborhood Ventures. “It think it’s pretty cool that for all the commercial markets where that new development could have been focused, that commitment went right here into the urban core of our city.”

Bathroom break

Meijer might be renovating its Walker headquarters. Then again, it might not.

West Michigan’s retail power player is playing it pretty close to the (blue) vest and, short of printing rumors and innuendo, there isn’t a lot of solid news to report yet.

Although no official plans have been submitted to the city of Walker, officials say Meijer had meetings with the city about renovation plans.

“Nothing’s officially been issued yet,” said Tim Musser, Walker building official/zoning inspector. “We haven’t had plans yet, just meetings.”

Meijer held meetings with the city of Walker about further renovation in early fall, Musser said. Rockford Construction has been named to do the work — when it proceeds. When asked about a timeline for construction, Musser responded, “Not a clue. (We’re) just waiting on them right now.”

Meijer had already filed plans to renovate sections of its current headquarters at 2929 Walker Ave. NW. That work, Musser said, was bathroom renovation.

How would a new HQ renovation change things for Meijer and the city of Walker? We will let you know when we find out.

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