Street Talk: Another use for the fiscal cliff


It’s always about the money. Especially if you happen to be a congressman hanging off the fiscal cliff — or being thrown off.

U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, unceremoniously tossed from the House budget committee by House Speaker John Boehner in the first week of December, last week was threatening Boehner’s future leadership opportunities in retribution. Amash had not been informed of his committee dismissal until a local television station called him for comment (though his comment seemed unnecessary, given the amount of comment from the reporters).

The mini-purging of four such GOP House members from committees was explained as a reboot as Boehner attempts to reach some compromise with President Barack Obama on the budget deficit. The booted members are seen as blocks to crucial votes forming the Republican agenda, and Amash’s well-known Libertarian position is staunch.

Meanwhile, back home, Republicans are not rushing to his defense. Jerry Ford’s party isn’t sympathetic to the “Amash mafia headquartered in Ada.” In fact, steam is rising over the “Amash mafia” lawsuit against the Kent County Land Bank.

There’s not much love for former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, either, whose husband, Dan Hibma, vice president of business development for a real estate firm, is among the group contesting the Kent County Land Bank Authority’s bid on foreclosed properties. The lack of love is rooted in Hibma’s conflict of interest. Hibma is a member of the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance, headed by Ada cardiologist Eric Larson and former Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education Treasurer Jeff Steinport, who ran as a Libertarian against then Congressman Vern Ehlers. The same group managed to create a ballot issue in Grandville, and in November in Walker, to pull participation and funding from the regional The Rapid bus service. Both proposals were defeated by the voters.

One party pol commented, “They clearly do not like Republicans. They are Libertarians posing as Republicans for access. That’s what happened to Amash — he’s not a Republican, and Boehner called him on it and pulled him.”

Meanwhile, Land is said to be actively seeking the Michigan GOP chairwoman leadership post, and may be knocking heads with a much younger GOP stalwart and the current Kent County GOP chairman, Sam Moore. Land, just off the failed trail for Peter Hoekstra’s U.S. Senate run against incumbent Debbie Stabenow, wants to bring some “tea party” principles to the Michigan GOP. Or is the Tea Party now the Libertarian party? Or is that the new Republican Party?

West Michigan last had such statewide representation when Betsy DeVos was Michigan GOP chair from 1996 to 2000, when her husband Dick DeVos ran as the Republican nominee for governor, losing to incumbent Jennifer Granholm.

They are IT

Information technology workers remain in high demand in West Michigan. About 60 percent of responding companies plan to hire tech staffers in the next six months, continuing at the level of the past 12 months. More than two-thirds of small companies (fewer than 50 employees) will add IT staff. There will be three times as much hiring by educational groups as there was during the past six months.

More companies see IT pay rates increasing in the next six months than did back in June, but they are less likely to be hiring senior level workers. The use of interns fluctuates during the summer, driving the higher percentages into the first half of each year.

Paragon Recruiting, a local technology recruiting firm, just released its new Technology Employment Forecast for Winter/Spring 2013. The information can be indicative of the overall business climate in West Michigan and help companies make their strategic decisions, said Beth DeWilde, Paragon’s chief recruiting officer.

Unlike the larger national outlook reports, this one is restricted to West Michigan and IT jobs. DeWilde said about 100 West Michigan firms of varying sizes and industries participate in this semi-annual forecast. Most have been faithful participants since the first forecast for 2003, she added.

“I had really expected more firms to hold steady with their IT staffing, but tech hiring remains very strong in West Michigan, especially in mid-level applications staff: programmers, analysts, web developers. Companies may be trying to make more effective use of the technology they have on site and could be planning ahead for succession as baby boomers retire.”

Save the date

Davenport University will welcome former First Lady Laura Bush to the podium of the Excellence in Business Award Gala at DeVos Place May 3, 2013. Michael J. Jandernoa will be honored with the 2013 Peter C. Cook Excellence in Business Award at the event, which benefits student scholarships at Davenport.

“We are excited to have Laura Bush join us for this annual celebration,” said Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University. “She is respected and admired by so many people for her many contributions as First Lady and for her advocacy for education, health care and human rights.”

At the local level, the Cook Award winner garners a similar amount of respect, Pappas said. “This event also will be a true celebration of business excellence as exemplified by Mike Jandernoa, who has achieved so much as the former CEO of one of West Michigan’s most successful companies, as a venture capitalist, and as a community leader.”

Money raised by the event will go directly to the university’s scholarship fund.

“The Excellence in Business Award Gala is important for Davenport students who rely upon scholarship support,” said Peg Luy, executive vice president for advancement. “This event is our largest annual fundraiser and we are grateful for the generous support it generates to help students achieve success in the classroom.”

For table reservations and individual tickets, call (616) 233-3412 or visit

Diminishing returns

Looks like the days of vast cash bonuses and world travel on the company dime are coming to a close for CEOs and other top management. The Executive Compensation 2012/2013 report released by Compdata Surveys analyzes national and regional data by base pay and total cash compensation for more than 70 executive and senior management positions. Information was collected from nearly 6,800 organizations across the country, reporting on more than 31,000 top-level managers.

The survey found that supplemental life insurance continues to be the perk most commonly offered to CEOs, at 43.3 percent. Not all that sexy, right?

Car allowances were offered to CEOs at 36 percent of companies surveyed, compared to voluntary deferred compensation at 31.2 percent. CEOs at 25.3 percent of companies surveyed were offered club memberships, and 13.9 percent were offered supplemental medical coverage. Only 8.2 percent of companies responding report offering a spousal travel allowance to CEOs as a perk.

“Over the past few years, there has been a lot of debate on the cost of executive perks versus the overall value — real or perceived — they provide,” said Amy Kaminski, vice president for Compdata Surveys. “Most organizations offer perks to their leaders because they are effective at ensuring the company maintains the highest level of talent at the helm, although a few organizations have chosen to phase out some or all executive perquisite offerings.”

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