Street Talk

Street Talk: Taxes out of thin air

Good sport.

June 7, 2019
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Last year, Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish negotiated with Airbnb to begin collecting the same lodging excise tax that is paid on regular hotel rooms.

Lodging taxes pay for convention and visitor marketing by Experience Grand Rapids and are used to pay back loans for construction of the DeVos Place Convention Center.

Kent County began collecting the tax last August, and since then, the county has collected about $130,000 in revenue, according to Parrish.

And that number may be growing.

Parrish said approximately 22,000 people used Airbnb properties in Kent County in 2017, up 76% from the previous year.

Partner trophy

ChoiceOne Bank was honored with the nonprofit TrueNorth Community Services’ Community Partner Award last month at Camp Newaygo in Newaygo.

Over the years, ChoiceOne Bank has volunteered and sponsored many of TrueNorth’s programs, including Tools for Schools, golf outings to raise money for Camp Newaygo, children’s Christmas programs, serving senior meals at Thanksgiving and Bowl for True Mentors.

“As the local community bank, we believe healthy families build strong communities,” said Kelly Potes, president and CEO of ChoiceOne Bank.

Sue Purcell, our Fremont branch manager, has been instrumental in keeping us informed of all the great services offered by TrueNorth and where we can assist. We are honored to support this wonderful, caring organization with resources both in monetary and time donations. Our ChoiceOne teams are always ready to volunteer, so this award speaks volumes to their tireless efforts.”

Purcell said she is proud to lead the partnership with TrueNorth.

“The values of TrueNorth of building vibrant communities and the values of ChoiceOne to show our utmost respect to everyone we meet align. Helping people is the goal of both TrueNorth and ChoiceOne Bank.”

Uphill climb

Michigan lawmakers have reintroduced legislation to expand civil rights protections for the state’s LGBTQ community, with the support of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity protections against discrimination to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.

The existing act outlaws discrimination based upon religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, familial status or marital status.

The Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce outlined this initiative as a priority.

“We believe everyone deserves the right to show up as their whole person in all aspects of their life, and we see this expansion as not only the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do,” the chamber stated.

The chamber said it remains “committed to advancing diversity and equality in West Michigan,” and inclusivity is vital for Michigan to remain competitive while attracting and retaining top talent, pointing out LGBT people in Michigan experience discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations, and LGBT youth in Michigan experience bullying and harassment at school, according to a 2019 study by The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, a public policy research institute focused on sexual orientation and gender identities issues.

The study also found LGBT people in Michigan experience economic instability, and LGBT adults and youth experience health disparities due to stigma and discrimination.

All of these issues have economic consequences for employers and the state government, the study said.

“This legislation faces an uphill climb,” the chamber said but added its team will keep members informed of ways to engage in this issue. The chamber recommended Michigan residents voice opinions to their state representatives.

Step ahead

Juniors from Innovation Central High School’s Academy of Design & Construction last month were invited, along with lead teacher Kyle Jelens, to represent the ADC at the Wolverine Global Sales Conference at 20 Monroe Live. During the conference, they met a number of professionals who work for the Wolverine brand and also had the opportunity to model Wolverine’s new line of work boots and apparel.

Wolverine surprised the ADC with a new step in their six-year partnership by announcing the organization will match funding raised by the ADC scholarship committee for the 2018-19 school year. The scholarship fund, previously at $7,500 thanks to the annual Rewind to Recess fundraiser, now has total revenue of $15,000 to support ADC students.

“We were all blown away,” Jelens said of the donation. “This is an exciting time to be a part of a theme school with college/career-focused academies because of the nationwide labor shortage. We are preparing our students for their careers, and our partner companies in West Michigan show a tremendous amount of support."

The scholarship fund helps students financially as they pursue vocational training, certifications and college education. The fund also helps provide materials and equipment for ADC instructors. Wolverine is one of the major supporters of the ADC. The company makes annual donations of work boots, coats, hats, socks and shirts, which keeps students warm and protected while they build a full Habitat for Humanity House.

“Wolverine has been working with the Academy of Design & Construction for six years, and we continue to partner together to shine a light on the amazing career opportunities that exist within the industry,” said Todd Yates, president of the Wolverine brand. “We are thrilled to support this program that is literally teaching students how to build their own future. Supporting students in their future endeavors with this donation helps change lives and perceptions of careers in the industry.”

Marathon man

The Meijer State Games of Michigan is celebrating its 10-year anniversary during this year’s Summer Games. To mark the milestone, West Michigan Sports Commission President Mike Guswiler will be participating in 10 sports during games.

“It’s a cool idea for 10 years; it’s a fun way to celebrate,” Guswiler said. “We’ve never seen someone take on 10 sports. That will be pretty exciting.”

Exciting, and probably tiring, too. Guswiler will have to channel his inner Jim Thorpe, Bob Mathias and Rafer Johnson just to finish.

During the first weekend of events, Guswiler will be participating in men’s pickleball on June 14 and coed softball on June 15.

But that’s just a warm-up. Guswiler will participate in eight sports during the main event weekend. On June 20, he will participate in bocce ball, followed by golf and archery on June 21, track and field’s long jump, skeet shooting and freestyle swimming on June 22, and bowling and the small-bore rifle competition on June 23.

In the last 10 years, more than $28 million was generated in direct visitor spending due to the State Games events.

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