Street Talk: A shift in power

Michigan’s energy legislation likely made headway last week when it gained some critical support.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce announced Wednesday it supports the latest version of Senate Bill 437, a bill that includes provisions regarding Michigan’s electric choice program.

“The new substitute bill, combined with some clarifying amendments, greatly improves upon the version of SB 437 that was voted out of committee,” the chamber said in a statement.

It said while the bill isn’t perfect, it is a “compromise that addresses three key issues” the Michigan Chamber has been concerned with: sustaining customer choice; competitive bidding; and improving reliability.

The chamber said the proposed legislation now before the Senate would change how the customer choice program will function, but it would not eliminate any customer’s right to choose a qualified electric provider if they are currently within the 10 percent cap.

“The proposed substitute keeps in place the grandfather clause that ensures customers who have been on choice prior to the 2008 law remain able to stay on electric choice and expand their electric use, despite the 10 percent cap,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, it would permit any customer that is served by an alternative energy provider for their total electric load to be able to expand usage under certain conditions, despite the 10 percent cap.

“Senate Bill 437 now provides the opportunity for non-utility energy producers to offer alternative proposals to the utility company generation projects to ensure a project cannot be approved by the Public Service Commission unless it meets the most reasonable and prudent standard. The end result of this new competitive bidding process will be a stronger commission review and the introduction of more market forces to ensure more competitive cost for ratepayers.”

So, if the Michigan Chamber is on board, the Grand Rapids Area Chamber is sure to follow suit, right?


GRACC said it still opposes SB 437.

“We stand opposed to the legislation as it currently stands based on our priorities of ratepayer protection and the preservation of a viable electric choice program,” said Joshua Lunger, director of government affairs for GRACC. “I understand that there are further amendments (or a substitute) being drafted that we will evaluate to see if it addresses any of our concerns.”

Finish line in sight

Davenport University’s construction of its Donald W. Maine College of Business is right on schedule, university officials said Oct. 25 in a media hard hat tour of the facilities.

“Mother Nature has been very kind to give us good weather and keep us on track,” said Peg Luy, executive vice president of alumni and development.

Damon Gonzales, vice president of facilities, said the building, which is being built by Rockford Construction and was designed by Integrated Architecture, is comprised of three floors with 58,000 square feet of space, including 23 classrooms and several faculty offices.

The first floor lobby has an open-concept plan with a vaulted ceiling, café, a large multimedia screen, gathering spaces for students and a separate room that will house a business accelerator lab and center for community entrepreneurship.

Along with classrooms and offices, the second floor will contain “control rooms” for student projects and meeting, and a couple of walkout patios with three-season seating. The third floor will have more classrooms, breakout rooms and a walkout area on the roof for events.

Lyndsie Post, director of communications, said the building was necessary because the Richard M. DeVos and Jay Van Andel Academic Building, which houses all the other colleges, had run out of room for the business program.

President Rick Pappas said the first step in the process was to consult with students, professors and other potentially primary users of the building to determine what would be needed on its three floors.

The project is scheduled for completion in January.

Real-life math

Byron Center High School students were shown how math applies in real life.

A group of 28 geometry students visited a.j. Veneklasen last week to see how math applies in the real world, while giving the contractor the opportunity to share more about skilled trades.

The students had learned about perpendicular lines and angles earlier in the week and were able to inspect a pre-engineered structure under construction. At the site, the students saw how the steel pieces were fitted together.

“I think it was a good experience for both parties,” said Rachel Austin, Veneklasen’s quality assurance manager. “As a company, we were able to learn what high school students are looking for and what interests them about the skilled trades industry, and they were able to take away knowledge and skills that will be applicable to real-life situations.”

Stand-up guy

Twisthink prides itself on its unique way of looking at things. So, when the Holland-based strategic design and technology firm moved into its new offices, managing partner Bob Niemiec ensured each employee had their own unique working space.

Twisthink had experimented with adjustable sit-stand desks at its old offices, but in moving to the new space, Niemiec saw an opportunity to improve the health of his employees by providing each one with sit-stand workspaces. But it didn’t stop there — the desks didn’t quite fit the look Niemiec was going for. So Niemiec, who was focused on furnishing the new digs with local products, turned to an old colleague — new downtown Holland neighbor Ed DeNave, co-owner of furniture maker Cento Anni.

On short notice, Cento Anni provided each of Twisthink’s 25 employees with their own custom-made work surface — “No two are the same,” Niemiec said. Cento Anni also is providing its new neighbors with kitchen tables.

Ready for some football?

Could professional football be close to a reality in Grand Rapids?

Last year, the Business Journal reported on the possible re-launch of the United States Football League and its aspirations to put a franchise in Grand Rapids. Well, it turns out USFL President and CEO Jim Bailey still is hopeful to push the league to kickoff.

According to a recent update sent from the league to the Business Journal, the league still is raising capital but offers are coming in from companies offering “technologies and services in broadcasting, league financial services, concussion detection, player training, safety and rehabilitation, fan experience and coaching and digital satellite telecommunications.”

The update also was accompanied by support for a pro football developmental league from Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk; Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin; Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh; and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, among others.

Bailey told the Business Journal last year that the league would target the largest U.S. markets without a National Football League or Major League Baseball franchise and a strong proven fan base for sports.

Following a discussion with Grand Rapids Griffins President Tim Gortsema earlier this month, the Business Journal highlighted the city’s status as a minor-league sports town, which Gortsema credited to the dedicated fans following the area’s high school athletic teams, as well as the minor-league franchises of the Griffins, Grand Rapids Drive, Grand Rapids Football Club and West Michigan Whitecaps.

The four current minor-league teams are attracting fans but could a football team? Remember the Arena Football League team supported by none other than Dan DeVos and David Van Andel eventually folded.

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