Street Talk

Street Talk: Connecting the dots

Objection collection.

March 4, 2016
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As John Wheeler discussed his investments in downtown Grand Rapids, he made sure to cite the top 10 resurgent cities in the Midwest identified in a report by CBRE.

Despite quite a bit of downtown development, Grand Rapids is not among those cities.

But Wheeler did connect the dots between the similarities those cities share with Grand Rapids and where Furniture City can improve. He also cited the 11 cities in his talk last week at the ICSC P3 Conference as communities that are doing a better job of attracting retail.

Each has more than 1 million people in the metro area with more than $250 million under construction at the core of the community. Six have more than $750 million in development.

The 11 cities? Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Louisville, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh and St. Louis.

“I did some research — holy (crap), they’re smoking,” Wheeler said. “It blows my mind. I was interested in why they’re winning, and what’s a competitive advantage they all have?”

A major feature each city shares — and Grand Rapids does, too — is a river.

One reason Wheeler is so keen on residential mixed-use projects: Almost all of the top cities had double-digit growth in downtown residents over the past 10 years.

By 2020, Grand Rapids officials hope to have 10,000 residents living downtown, which would put it on a par with many of these other “secondary markets” mentioned by CBRE.

Louisville, Columbus and St. Louis all have fewer than 10,000 downtown residents. In the past decade, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Kansas City have jumped from fewer than 10,000 to more than 13,000 downtown residents, including Kansas City’s rise from 5,500 to 19,900.

You can count that as one of the reasons developers and the folks at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. believe a bountiful mix of people living, working and playing in downtown Grand Rapids can happen.

Kicking back

In response to President Barack Obama’s announcement in February 2015 “calling on” the Department of Labor to update its rule to protect 401(k) and IRA investors, the U.S. Department of Labor released a proposal in April 2015 requiring advisors to put their clients’ best interests before their own profits.

Nearly a year later, the fiduciary and suitability standard discussion is still in a stalemate at the federal level.

The DOL’s initial proposal was intended to mitigate “the effect of conflicts of interest in the retirement investment marketplace” and “update and close loopholes in a nearly 40-year-old regulation,” according to the DOL press release.

The proposal required retirement investment advisors and their firms to formally acknowledge fiduciary status and make “truthful statements about investments and their compensation.”

Deloitte, an audit, consulting and financial advisory service firm, noted the proposal could have a significant impact on “revenue streams, business models, products, services and customer experience,” and was met with opposition from trade associations, market participants and members of Congress.

In October 2015, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would delay the DOL from finalizing a rule until the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a proposed fiduciary rule. The White House then issued a State of Administration Policy expressing opposition to the bill.

As of late January, the DOL sent its final rule on to the Office of Management and Budget, which has up to 90 days to review the policy.

Last week, the press office of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan issued a statement in its blog defining a fiduciary rule as a “one-size-fits-all regulation from the Obama administration” that will create “more paperwork and costly recordkeeping requirements for financial planners, restricting access to quality investment advice for upwards of 7 million Americans with IRAs.”

Fred Iacovoni, of Synergy Wealth Management in Grand Rapids, said the rumblings of the issue between the fiduciary standard and suitability standard have been going on for quite some time.

“The investment industry is fighting it tooth and nail because it is going to decimate a lot of firms, and this is because there are so many kickbacks going on behind the scenes,” said Iacovoni.

“I think (the fiduciary standard) services clients better because it puts their interest first and foremost. It explains clearly both implicit and explicit costs, how things are being managed and what is going on. This is going to have major ramifications on our industry.”

Complaint department

Nearly 9,000 people took the time last year to register written complaints with Attorney General Bill Schuette. And, no, none of them were politically motivated.

The embattled AG last week released his list of top 10 consumer complaints registered with his office in 2015.

“Consumer protection is etched into the DNA of the Department of Attorney General and guides everything we do,” said Schuette. “For example, we emphasize safe social media use for students and fight to protect seniors from fraud and scams, and we also defend consumers by exposing insurance fraud and price fixing, guarding against bogus charities, and prosecuting home foreclosure scammers. We work every day to protect families and educate citizens on how to spot scams from a mile away.”

Credit and financial concerns once again topped the list, with 1,137 complaints, including complaints such as credit reporting and collection, non-bank credit agencies and installment finance companies. Complaints on debt collection and credit reporting accounted for the majority (872).

Here’s the list:

1. Credit and Financial Concerns: The top complaint category for 2015 held on to the spot it has had since 2006, generating 1,137 complaints in a variety of areas including debt collection, credit repair, payday lending and mortgage brokering.

2. Telecommunications, Cable and Satellite TV: Moving up from the third spot in 2014, this category included complaints involving issues like robocalls, telemarketing, wireless communications, and cable and satellite TV services. Complaints in these categories exceeded 900 in 2015.

3. Retail: Moving up from the fourth spot, this category included complaints about merchandise quality, warranty and pricing disputes.

4. Motor Vehicle and Automobiles: Moving up from the No. 5 spot in 2014, disputes with used car dealers topped this category, with other top complaints involving motor vehicles and car bodies, new car dealers and repair shops.

5. Internet: Moving up two spots from No. 7 in 2014, complaints in this computer-based category numbered more than 500. Almost half involved online purchases while others included fraudulent email solicitations and issues with Internet service providers.

6. Personal Service Providers: Staying at No. 6, complaints in this category ranged from dating services and beauty shops to home security and health and fitness organizations.

7. Landlord and Tenant: Moving up one spot, this category had more than 400 complaints. A majority involved apartment owners and managers.

8. Gasoline, Fuel and Energy: Not surprising with this year’s lower gas prices, this category dropped way down from 2014’s No. 2 spot, with complaints against gasoline service stations dominating the category.

9. Contractors: Moving up a spot from the 2014 list are complaints about landscaping services, special trade contractors and residential building construction services.

10. Health Service Providers: Dropping down one spot from 2014, this category involved complaints about health service providers like doctors, dentists, hospitals and medical clinics.

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