Street Talk

Street Talk: It’s cold and flu season; don’t die

Building battle.

January 9, 2015
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Each week, Business Journal Publisher John Zwarensteyn sends an email to all employees that is filled with notes.

Sometimes they are funny. Sometimes they are serious. Sometimes they are serious and we think they are funny. And sometimes, we collectively miss the point entirely.

Last week, John was coming off a nasty bout of the flu that laid him out for most of a week and decided to send us a warning: “The flu strain running around the country is pretty widespread. It was not included in this year’s flu vaccine concoction. However, doctors say those who received the flu shot will have 40 percent less virulent symptoms than those who did not take the flu shot. Common sense precautions are pretty basic: keep regular hours; get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night; drink plenty of fluids; wash your hands regularly; don’t cough or sneeze in public or close proximity to people without covering up; avoid shaking hands, and if you do shake hands, be sure to wash your hands as soon after as practical; and don’t rub your eyes. In other words, use caution and common sense!! If you do get the flu, taking immediate action will reduce its severity.”

Thanks, Mom!

Then the Kent County Health Department weighed in. This headline will get your attention: “Flu May Have Contributed to Nine Deaths in Kent County.”

The numbers will get your attention, too. During the week of Dec. 6, there were 19 new cases of flu reported in Kent County. On the 13th that number jumped to 40. The holiday season was especially tough, with 341, 625 and 581 cases, respectively, reported those three weeks. So far, there have been more than 1,600 reported flu cases reported in Kent County this season.

“Most of the deaths reported to us have been elderly patients with pre-existing medical conditions,” said Adam London, health officer for the Kent County Health Department. “It is so important for us to check on our elderly family members, friends and neighbors, even if it’s just a daily phone call. We also should remember the flu can have a deadly impact on the young and those with compromised immune systems.”

Guess that hand-washing routine is a pretty good idea.


Last week’s announcement of Chemical Bank’s planned acquisition of Lake Michigan Financial Corp. was a big surprise in Michigan banking, and also among many businesses in western and northwestern Michigan.

As reported Jan. 6 on, the Midland-based banking powerhouse has agreed to pay $184 million in cash and common stock for LMFC, a privately held organization launched in 1998 by Rich Lievense. LMFC’s first bank, The Bank of Holland, opened the same year, followed by The Bank of Northern Michigan in Petoskey in 2000. Today, The Bank of Holland has locations in Holland, Grand Haven and Grand Rapids, and The Bank of Northern Michigan has locations in Petoskey and Traverse City.

As of September, LMFC had total assets of $1.2 billion. Its acquisition by Chemical Financial Corp. holding company — the second largest Michigan-based bank — will give Chemical Bank a total of $8.9 billion in assets. The deal is expected to increase Chemical Bank’s earnings-per-share by 10 percent in the first full year.

Investment banking firms that advised the two parties on the transaction were Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Sandler O’Neill & Partners; the lawyers involved were from Warner Norcross & Judd and Varnum.

David B. Ramaker, head of Chemical Financial Corp., said they have “long admired” Lievense and Garth Deur (LMFC president/CEO) and “the talented Lake Michigan Financial team.”

Ramaker said that since LMFC began, its primary focus “has been on lending to small and medium-sized businesses. Their entrepreneurial spirit has driven their growth, and has enabled their team to do an excellent job of building relationships with business owners in western and northwestern Michigan. Above all, this entrepreneurial focus has helped Lake Michigan’s experienced team of bankers develop their commercial and industrial lending expertise while helping make their customers’ dreams come true.”

Eric Seifert, who spent 32 years in West Michigan banking and now is a finance consultant on the staff of the Michigan Small Business Development Center, can speak to that LMFC connection with business. He is also familiar with Lievense, who was his last boss when both were at Old Kent Bank. Lievense was running the business banking group for the Old Kent holding company when he left to start Lake Michigan Financial Corp.

Seifert’s reaction to the announcement?

“I’m flabbergasted,” he said. “I thought (LMFC) would be independent forever. It’s a fine bank.” When it came to commercial and industrial lending, LMFC was always “very selective. High standards, but very aggressive and very creative. They would find ways of doing deals that other banks had not even thought of,” he said.

“They’ve hired pretty much the cream of the crop from other banks in the area,” he added.

Seifert said “being run by an entrepreneur” — Lievense — LMFC has a “high entrepreneurial spirit.”

In his work today, Seifert meets with two or three bankers every week to stay on top of trends and deals, and he said he always asks, “Who is your toughest competition?”

“The Bank of Holland name is always among the top mentioned — but more and more recently, Chemical Bank has been mentioned,” he said.

Seifert said like LMFC, “Chemical is an excellent bank, as well,” a regional bank “with a real local feel to it. All the shots are called here in the state of Michigan. They, too, have an excellent crew.”

The heat is on

Registration is officially open for Michigan commercial and industrial buildings interested in joining the U.S. Green Building Council of West Michigan’s second annual Battle of the Buildings competition, according to Cheri Holman, executive director.

The statewide competition is an expansion of the Battle of the Buildings that started in West Michigan last year.

The competition is a way to encourage energy-efficient practices and instill a spirit of friendly competition among building owners and operators. Steelcase, Western Michigan University and Nichols have already committed for the 2015 competition.

“I would like to thank the Michigan Battle of the Buildings Program for taking steps to reduce energy waste in our state,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “By working together, we can make Michigan’s energy resources more adaptable, reliable and affordable while preserving our environment for upcoming generations.”

Participants will measure, track and report monthly energy consumption using Portfolio Manager, the Environmental Protection Agency’s online energy tracking tool. They will engage in a variety of energy-saving activities such as making improvements to the building, optimizing operations and maintenance, and engaging occupants to save energy.

Buildings that demonstrate the greatest percentage-based reduction in EUI (energy use intensity) will be recognized.

In 2014, a total building square footage of 11.4 million competed. For 2015, the USGBCWM partnered with USGBC Detroit Regional Chapter, Consumers Energy and DTE Energy with plans to more than double last year’s participation. Companies that register by the deadline, March 31, can attend workshops to learn more about the latest technologies to save energy and money.

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