Street Talk

Street Talk: Can the tariffs

The unfrozen tundra.

October 26, 2018
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Now it’s really getting personal.

As talk of tariff wars continues to dominate the national press, the Beer Institute has come forward condemning President Donald Trump’s continued targeting of the aluminum industry.

Jim McGreevy, Beer Institute president and CEO, gave an official statement expressing disappointment in Trump’s decision to maintain tariffs on aluminum imports from Mexico and Canada as part of a new trade deal between the two countries.

McGreevy asserted aluminum used to make beer cans has nothing to do with national security, and continuing to impose these tariffs on U.S. allies unnecessarily increases costs to the beer industry at home.

“These tariffs are hurting American companies while benefiting foreign-owned aluminum manufacturers,” McGreevy said. “Tariffs are taxes. It is time for President Trump to end the tariff on aluminum so America’s more than 5,600 breweries can continue to innovate, support good-paying jobs, and make beer — our nation’s most popular alcoholic beverage.”

The Business Journal reported in March that local brewers predicted the cost to can and distribute their beers would rise because of these tariffs. Brewery Vivant co-owner Jason Spaulding, at the time, said the new trade policy could be costly for the brewery’s production, 60 percent of which is canned beer.

Spaulding recently said Brewery Vivant is experiencing longer lead times, which has forced the company to change vendors where pricing is more expensive, and Brewery Vivant is now paying about 12 percent more for cans than it was six months ago.

Not everything can be blamed on the tariffs, however. It might be an issue of supply and demand in Beer City, USA.

Spaulding said he was not completely sure of the cause and added the flood of local breweries now using cans could be the main factor in driving up costs.

And cans aren’t the only issue for local breweries.

Brewery Vivant also unveiled plans recently to open another brewery and taproom, dubbed “Brewery Vivant Concept Two,” at 2885 Lake Eastbrook Blvd. SE, Kentwood. Spaulding said the tariffs on steel imports could affect the cost of the project.

“As of yet, we have not ordered any new equipment, so that may surface in the coming months,” he said.

The Beer Institute, based in Washington, D.C., is a national trade association for the U.S. beer industry and represents brewers of all sizes, as well as importers and suppliers.

The organization was founded in 1862 as the U.S. Brewers Association and rebranded as the Beer Institute in 1986.

Follow the leader

A downtown coworking space will host a brand new six-month leadership program for entrepreneurs next year.

Worklab by Custer — which bills itself as a “premier coworking and meeting facility” at the “nexus of business and creativity” in Grand Rapids — said this month it will be the venue for “Small. Smart. Strong.,” a six-month leadership program kicking off in January that will equip participants with the leadership skills and strategies needed to grow their business.

The program, facilitated by Abbey Johnston and Greg Mutch of AG Collaborative and Laurel Romanella of Laurel & Co., will train a group of 15 professionals one day a month for six months in areas such as leadership, mission and vision statements, risk-taking, talent retention, customer experience and more.

Mark Custer, owner of Worklab by Custer, said his company is proud to be hosting the new experience.

“It’s important to invest in yourself and your business to achieve results, and this program will help participants become better positioned to sustain growth and support a thriving team,” he said.

Stephanie Chandonnet, operations manager at Worklab, said the program will expand the coworking space’s range of offerings.

“We are always looking for creative ways to use Worklab’s collaborative spaces and provide additional opportunities for our members and community members to grow in their careers,” she said.

Johnston described the training program as a “fresh approach that combines leadership and business development to help maximize personal and professional growth.”

“AG Collaborative is thrilled to partner with Laurel & Co. and Worklab to bring this intensive, six-month leadership program to local professionals and business owners who want to discover their strengths and use those strengths to take their business to the next level,” she said.

The program will cost $2,295 per person, which includes a five-visit punch card to Worklab’s coworking space.

There will be two informational sessions in November to learn more.

Nov. 5: Registration is available at smallsmartstronginfo1.eventbrite.com.

Nov. 13: Registration is available at smallsmartstronginfo2.eventbrite.com.

Up north

A Grand Valley State University faculty member was awarded a $1-million grant by the National Science Foundation to study climate change in northern Alaska.

The funding supports the next five years of research by biology professor Robert Hollister and a team of five GVSU undergraduate and graduate students.

Hollister and the students will study the impact climate change has on Arctic tundra vegetation in the regions of Utqiaġvik, Atqasuk and Toolik Lake.

Hollister established the GVSU Arctic Ecology Program in 2007, funded as part of the Arctic Observatory Network. The team's research sites originally were established as part of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) — a collective of researchers conducting similar warming experiments in the tundra since the early 1990s. Hollister serves as the co-chair of ITEX.

Graduate student Katlyn Betway has been working with Hollister for three years, starting as an undergraduate biology major. She said the research is important because it connects to the larger climate change conversation.

“Everyone is talking about climate change, and the implications it has for our future are worrisome,” Betway said. “We are attempting to understand how it is affecting plant life, which will then fuel further research on how ecosystems as a whole might respond to a warming climate. Ecosystems are very complex, so we are focusing on just one piece of the puzzle.”

One of the main aspects of the vegetation that Hollister and his team will continue to monitor is energy balance, which affects how certain plants grow depending on the season. Another area of study is carbon balance and how fast or slow carbon metabolizes in the soil of the region.

“There is more carbon in the soils of the tundra than there is in the trees of the rainforest, so people talk about deforestation as being a big contributor to climate change, and that’s true, but the soil in cold regions contains a huge amount of carbon,” Hollister said.

To monitor the vegetation over time, Hollister and his team will continue conducting a variety of experiments. Students monitor plants each summer by estimating the number of different species, measuring when plants flower and produce seeds and when they go dormant, among other measurements.

Hollister said another main objective of the research is to make the data understandable for the general public.

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