Street Talk

Street Talk: Leaders of the pack

History markers and makers.

April 29, 2016
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West Michigan’s business community has been blessed with abundant — and visionary — leaders, past and present.

Two of this era’s best will be recognized when the Economic Club of Grand Rapids hands out awards at its 29th Annual Dinner, May 31, at DeVos Place.

Dan DeVos, chairman and CEO of DP Fox Ventures LLC, will be recognized with the Business Person of the Year Award, and Mark Murray, vice chairman of Meijer Inc., will receive the Slykhouse Community Leadership Award.

Former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will be on stage with Susan Collins, professor of public policy and economics at U-M’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, as keynote speakers.

Tickets, which are $200 per person for members, are available at

DeVos was nominated for his leadership and contributions to the community. In addition to leading DP Fox Ventures, a diversified management company, he is majority owner and CEO of the Grand Rapids Griffins, chairman of the Orlando Magic, a limited partner of the Chicago Cubs and owner of sports management company DP Fox Sports & Entertainment LLC.

He also is a partner with Ontario-based Georgian Automotive Group, CWD Real Estate Investment LLC and the West Michigan Auto Auction.

Prior to forming DP Fox, DeVos was with Amway Corp. from 1980-2000. While at Amway, he served as vice president of the Pacific region and vice president of corporate affairs and director of U.S. special events. DeVos currently serves on Alticor’s board of directors and is a member of its audit committee.

Murray was nominated for The Slykhouse Community Leadership Award because of his contribution to the economic health of the Grand Rapids community.

The award recognizes those who have contributed through their time, talent and support to help the community grow and prosper economically.

Murray is the vice chairman of Meijer Inc., where he previously served as co-CEO and president.

Prior to joining Meijer, Murray was president of Grand Valley State University from 2001-2006. This followed a two-decade career in state government and education in Michigan.

During his years in state government, Murray served as state treasurer, state budget director and in other leadership and staff positions. He also served as vice president for finance and administration at Michigan State University and as a member of the Detroit Public Schools board.

The Econ Club instituted its Business Person of the Year Award in 1988, when Richard DeVos, co-founder of Amway Corp. was the first recipient. Others have included Jay Van Andel, L.V. Eberhard, Peter Cook, Fred Meijer, Peter Secchia and Robert Pew.

The Slykhouse Community Leadership Award, formerly the Slykhouse Lifetime Achievement Award, was instituted in 2000, and George J. Slykhouse, attorney with Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey and president and founder of the Econ Club, was the first recipient. Past Slykhouse award recipients have included Arend D. (Don) Lubbers, Peter Wege, Ralph Hauenstein and Gerald R. Ford.

History repeats itself

As CWD Real Estate Investment’s rehabilitation of The Rowe — once upon a time, the Hotel Rowe — on the corner of Michigan and Monroe nears the finish line, we’ve stumbled upon some interesting quotes from the recent and distant past about the building.

Check out this quote from last summer regarding The Rowe’s catalytic affect:

“It’s a big return to the north side of downtown,” said Nick Koster, CWD’s vice president of operations.

“The north end of downtown hasn’t been paid much attention in recent years, and now there’s this big boom.”

Koster and others are bullish on the development of the North Monroe corridor beyond its history of factories into a true part of the city’s downtown.

They’re not alone, especially if you go back nearly 100 years.

Business Journal reporter Pat Evans was doing research at the Grand Rapids Public Library recently when he stumbled upon a quote from The Rowe’s namesake, Frank Rowe.

“The Hotel Rowe is at the junction of Grand Rapids’ two widest streets, Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue. These are also the main avenues into the city from north and west. At the corner of Michigan Street and Monroe Avenue, more transfers are issued by the street railway company every day than at any other corner.

“It is true that the largest merchants are not located right around the Hotel Rowe, but this portion is developing with the greatest rapidity. Since work was begun, a dozen important building projects have begun right around, and more are being planned.

“Not only is the city naturally growing fast in this direction, but the hotel will increase its growth this way. This has already been demonstrated to me.

“The same situation existed around the Hotel Pantlind when it was built. There was almost nothing north of it. Now it is surrounded by the biggest commercial interests in the city.”

So now we play the waiting game to see what the future will bring.

Heart and sole

The Gazelle Girl Half Marathon began in 2013 as Michigan’s first women-only half-marathon and has grown into a major charity fundraiser.

“We are thrilled to continue to see an increase in our participation numbers,” said Cara Zerbel, co-director of the event.

“The Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K was started to celebrate Title IX and fundraise for local charities, but also to create an event where girls and women can train to complete a 5K or half-marathon in an encouraging, accepting and high-energy environment.”

The event’s Zero Waste initiative, aimed at reducing its environmental footprint, is one of the largest efforts of its kind in the city.

Grand Rapids-based Sole Sisters collected discarded clothing from the starting line and along the course. The clothes will be repurposed for women in transition who are training for athletic events.

Bananas and oranges remaining from the post-event refreshments were donated to John Ball Zoo, and the 80 gallons of leftover water from along the course and the aid station will be donated to help the Flint water crisis.

“The Zero Waste effort associated with the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon and 5K resulted this year in a diversion rate of 97.5 percent,” said Chelsea Brehm, event committee member.

“That includes 760 pounds composted, 1,060 pounds recycled, 5,000 wrappers/packaging to TerraCycle, 150 pounds of food donated, 80 gallons of water donated to the city of Flint, 425 pieces of clothing and 23 pairs of shoes for Sole Sisters, and only 55.8 pounds of trash going into a landfill — a far smaller environmental footprint than most large road races.”

All proceeds from the event are donated equally to Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Gazelle Sports Foundation, Kent County Girls on the Run and the YWCA.

Good call

AT&T has increased its coverage in West Michigan, which will be especially handy for customers using smartphones or tablets to surf the Internet.

The telecommunications giant recently announced its 4G network is now covering more of West Michigan, offering Internet speeds that are four times faster than 3G.

AT&T upgraded speeds in certain areas within Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

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