Street Talk

Street Talk: Native Detroiter discovers an ‘amazing’ GR

Michigan roots and tweeting the dance.

July 12, 2013
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Bill Manns, chief operating officer at Alameda Health System in Oakland, Cal., has been named the new president at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s in Grand Rapids.

Manns has been in that position at Alameda since 2005, but he’s no stranger to Michigan or to the organization Saint Mary’s is part of. Manns grew up in the Automotive State and earned undergrad and master’s degrees at the University of Michigan.

But he admitted that before this, he wasn’t too familiar with The Furniture City — and that he now finds himself rather “amazed” by GR.

“Growing up in Detroit, I had no clue what a gem Grand Rapids really is,” said Manns, 46.

Manns is replacing Phil McCorkle, who has served as Saint Mary’s president and CEO since April 2000. McCorkle announced his impending retirement in April.

Manns and his wife, India, have a 12-year-old son. Mann’s first day at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is Aug. 19.

The Alameda Health System employs 2,900 and is comprised of three hospitals and a network of health centers, a psychiatric hospital, more than 30 specialty clinics and a rehabilitation hospital.

Manns previously worked in management at St. John’s Health System in Warren in several capacities, including chief operating officer and executive vice president of Providence Hospital and at Mercy Health Services, the forerunner of Trinity Health.

"Mercy Health Saint Mary’s is strongly mission-driven, which sets it apart from other organizations. The hospital has high patient safety and quality rankings, a great staff, and excellent physician collaboration, which is especially important as we enter the new world of health care reform. I am looking forward to working with the team, and I am honored to have been selected to follow a great leader like Phil McCorkle,” said Manns.

“I'm delighted with our choice and deeply grateful for the work of the search committee. They had a difficult task as we had a pool of outstanding candidates to select from. Bill Manns is an incredibly talented and personable leader who will hit the ground running and build on the solid foundation that has been created for Mercy Health Saint Mary’s,” said Roger Spoelman, regional president and CEO of Mercy Health.

“We conducted a nationwide search and Bill Manns rose to the top, unquestionably. He will be a new leader for a new era in health care,” said Chuck Frayer, chair of the Mercy Health Saint Mary’s board.

Comparing Saint Mary’s and the Alameda system, Manns said Alameda is a public hospital “and we take care of everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. I think the mission of Saint Mary’s to view health care as a fundamental right is important to me, and I see a similarity there.”

Manns said this is an era in which “health care is going to undergo tremendous change with the Affordable Care Act.”

One Alameda strategy that may have direct application at Saint Mary’s, he said, is being “lean” — which any manufacturing person understands.

“I’m a huge proponent of lean, which is the Toyota production system,” said Manns. “It can help drive waste out of a system, primarily by involving all the employees. You can become more efficient by working with the people who do the work on a daily basis and by asking them ‘What is it that we can do to help make your work easier? What is it that we do to help make this process more efficient? What are some of the areas of waste?’ And once we do that, it shows a level of respect for the men and women who work at Saint Mary’s and we really get their buy-in to the process. We start to really drive out waste in the health care system,” said Manns.

Deep Michigan roots

Reverberations of the Great Recession still rumble through the professional services sector. One might see that in play in the state’s most famous law firm, regarded on the national and international level for its depth of talent in manufacturing and related fields.

Butzel Long, which opened in Detroit in 1854 and is one of the oldest firms in the Midwest, began its legacy in Great Lakes shipping disputes and later in cases related to Henry Ford and John and Horace Dodge.

Last week the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. took over benefits payments to the firm’s almost 470 current and future retirees.

PBGC wrote in a notice on its website that it stepped in “because the firm would be unable to maintain its pension plan and remain in business.” PBGC indicated it will pay all pension benefits earned by the law firm's retirees up to the legal limit of almost $57,500 a year for a 65-year-old.

The federal agency also noted: “According to our estimates, as of March 20, 2013 (the plan termination date), the pension plan was 47 percent funded with $34 million in assets to pay $73 million in benefits. The agency expects to cover most of the $39 million shortfall.”

Butzel Long clients are involved in a number of fields including advertising, automotive and financial services. PBGC noted, “In 2008, after reaching a peak of some 500 employees, the firm was hit with financial troubles, especially in Michigan and New York City. In January of this year, the firm asked PBGC to assume responsibility for the pension plan.”

Butzel Long also has affiliated offices in Washington, D.C., Mexico and China. 

Something to Tweet about

Grand Rapids Ballet has joined popular social media sites Instagram and Twitter.

GRB has had an active Facebook page for several years, and as the organization continues its efforts to attract a younger audience, it decided it’s time to utilize more social media platforms.

“We believe in the strength of our programming, the quality of our dancers and affirmation we’ve been receiving from our community, and we wanted to communicate that to a larger audience,” explained Amber Stout, marketing and design manager. “Nowadays, people get their information from all different mediums, and social media helps us reach different segments of our audience. Our Movemedia dance series is particularly geared toward a younger audience that can be reached on these platforms.”

Stout said followers can expect to see new posts daily and hopes they will be conversation starters.

“As the only professional ballet company in Michigan, it is imperative that we spread the word about who we are and what we do. It’s not so much about selling a ticket — it’s about building awareness and starting a conversation about the arts. Our content lives in the theater, but with social media, we can share what is happening with more people online.”

The organization also is undergoing a website redesign. “We will also be heavily investing in search engine optimization,” Stout said.

The Grand Rapids Ballet has plenty to share: Its Summer Intensive Program has attracted 248 dancers from across the country — the largest enrollment to date.

“The students learn from our talented guest faculty, which include principal dancers from companies such as New York City Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet in London,” Stout said.

And in a nod to the quality of GRB dancers, three will perform “The Sofa”at the Joyce Theatre in New York City in August.

GRB’s success has resulted in the board of directors’ unanimous vote to renew the contracts of Artistic Director Patricia Barker and Executive Director Glenn Del Vecchio, each for three years.

Tweet out to the Grand Rapids Ballet using #GRBallet.

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