Street Talk: Reaching critical mass
Downtown parking is certainly on the minds of many people in Grand Rapids, and everyone wants to talk about it.
Even Andy Lofgren, the executive officer of Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, likes to chat about downtown parking.
When meeting downtown, he said he likes to park on about the fifth floor of the city’s Pearl Ionia ramp. He said he’s always surprised at how jam-packed the ramp is until he reaches that level, when it opens up every time.
Lofgren said Grand Rapids currently seems to be near the “middle ground” of parking opinions, but added maybe it shouldn’t be as big of a factor in future Grand Rapids developments.
In fact, he suspects cutting down on required parking for future developments might help curb the high “market-rate” rental prices downtown. He said building parking into developments is extremely expensive, and the space could be better used for more residential dwellings.
Grand Rapids likes to think it aspires to be a big city, but as a whole, we’re not realistic about the parking dilemmas a big city faces. Many Grand Rapidians are wary of walking more than a block to their destination, and some even balk at navigating a few extra floors in a parking garage.
He said if the city eventually hits its “critical mass” of downtown residents and a grocery store — and other necessities nearby — cars might not even be needed.
For Lofgren, who has spent time living in larger cities, cars become an option and one that is an extra expense. If you want a car, you’ll pay for it, he said, citing a story of a friend in New York City who’s never owned a car and rents one when it’s needed.
While some in Grand Rapids like that idea, however, West Michigan remains a car region — at least for the foreseeable future.
Word on the street is that Perrigo laid off 100 employees at its Allegan location two weeks ago as part of its previously announced plan to reduce its headcount by 800 employees, or 6 percent, worldwide.
The drug maker was not confirming reports last week regarding the Allegan layoffs.
In October, Perrigo announced it would lay off 800 employees, with at least half of them coming from the sale of its U.S. Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements business in South Carolina.
At the time, John Hendrickson, president of Perrigo’s global operations and supply chain, said he would be looking at redundancies in making another 250 job cuts.
Hendrickson said the layoffs would occur in the next 30 to 60 days.
“Some of them will be from Allegan,” he said. “It will be from the top all the way down, where we will look for redundancies.”
He noted Perrigo employs about 4,000 workers in Allegan and will continue to have a substantial presence in the community despite any layoffs.
“We are going to continue to produce a lot of products at our Allegan and Holland sites,” Hendrickson said. “We have been expanding jobs in the area and will still be operating on high efficiencies and investing more in those plants.”
Perrigo employs about 12,000 workers globally.
While Ottawa County was recognized as the healthiest region in Michigan by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings in 2015, the recently released 2015 Ottawa County Community Health Improvement Plan prioritized the three greatest health needs in the community.
The three issues weighing heavy on the minds of the plan’s steering committee are access to health care, mental health and healthy behaviors in county residents.
Patrick Cisler, executive director of Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance and Community SPOKE, said the assessment and improvement planning allows for better understanding of how certain aspects of people’s lives are connected to their health.
“The community must work together and address these contributing factors for healthier outcomes to truly make a difference,” said Cisler in the CHIP report.
The research indicated access to health care is the most troubling issue when taking into account how nearly 10 percent of adults do not have health insurance and 11.4 percent of the general population does not have a primary care physician.
Mental health was ranked the second greatest concern for the county. Nearly 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported experiencing depression and there has been approximately a 50 percent increase in the last two years in youths who reported one or more suicide attempts.
The study also identified promoting consistent healthy behavior messages and decreasing barriers to healthy living as a top priority. Although in comparison to national and statewide trends, adults in Ottawa County are beating the curve, the fact remains more than 59 percent of adults in the county are considered overweight or obese.
The CHIP report is intended as a call to action and a road map for implementing strategies, making improvements and engaging a variety of interest groups: hospitals, public health and mental health facilities, the nonprofit and faith communities, community members, funders and businesses.
The study was conducted in collaboration with the Greater Ottawa County United Way, Holland Hospital, North Ottawa Community Hospital, Ottawa County Community Mental Health, Ottawa County Department of Public Health, Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital and Community SPOKE.
Meijer has dropped a Thanksgiving surprise on 223 lucky customers.
On Nov. 21, the Grand Rapids-based retail titan brought back it’s “Very Merry Meijer” event and surprised a customer in each of its stores by gifting them their entire shopping cart upon checkout.
The unsuspecting customers, who also received $100 Meijer gift cards to donate to a cause of their choice, weren’t the only ones who got lucky: The Meijer cashier helping each customer also got a $100 Meijer gift card.
“We are always looking for ways to improve our customers’ in-store shopping experience through the quality products we sell, the service we provide and the many ways we offer savings,” said Meijer President Rick Keyes.
“The Very Merry Meijer event is a fun way for us to say thank you to our customers and our team members. That is what the holidays are all about.”
The surprise gift was met with hugs and sometimes tears from the unsuspecting winners. Some of the shopping carts resulted in values from $150 to upward of $1,200, according to Meijer officials.
Usually the store directors were on hand to unveil the gift, but in some cases, co-chairmen Hank and Doug Meijer, along with Keyes, were there to make the surprise even more overwhelming.
“The holidays are a time to give thanks, and we were so excited to bring back the Very Merry Meijer event to share the spirit of the season with those we hold dear: our customers and team members,” said Hank Meijer.
“We are very thankful for our customers and team members and wanted to find a special way to wish them a very Happy Thanksgiving.”