Street Talk: Beer with a view


City Built Brewing Company is taking full advantage of the two-and-a-half months of Michigan summer.

Guests to the Monroe North brewery now can enjoy City Built beer outside at a newly licensed parklet facing Monroe Street. The 330-square-foot deck has capacity for 30 people.

“We take what we’re doing inside and create what we’re doing outside,” said brewery co-owner Ed Collazo. “I can say it’s been really good. People in Michigan like to sit outside, even when it’s 100% humidity.”

Collazo said City Built always wanted to have outdoor seating. The brewery, located on the corner of Monroe Avenue and Mason Street, originally planned to have a parklet installed on the Mason side of the building, with a door leading out to the deck.

“We realized it’s like a wind tunnel on Mason,” Collazo said. “There’s been moments where the door is ripped off of the (hinges).”

Head brewer and co-owner Dave Petroelje got the idea of installing a parklet by the brewery by watching other businesses downtown that had done the same, but with mixed results. Some were installed in very poor locations and kept getting hit by cars.

City Built’s parklet is in a safer location, buffered by a large tree on the corner of Monroe and Mason, as well as a bike lane between the edge of the deck and Monroe. The parklet also is fortified by four-by-four-inch steel beams and a fence of perforated steel.

City Built obtained a grant from Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and contracted Willink Construction Inc. in Grand Rapids to build the parklet.

The city also is helping City Built by giving it access to another grant to construct bicycle parking. With it’s proximity to the Riveredge Trail along Monroe and the Grand River, both Collazo and city staff agreed it was a worthy investment.

“I think overall it will make our corner a little more desirable for people who are on foot or bike,” Collazo said.

City Built had to jump through quite a few hoops to get the parklet going, Collazo said. Although construction had been complete for a while, it wasn’t licensed to serve food until a couple weeks ago. But people who wanted to sit and eat outside were undeterred.

“Sure enough, people started getting to-go food, and they were eating out here,” Collazo said, laughing. “They went inside, ordered to-go food and ate it out here.”

On board

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced the composition of the prepaid inpatient health plan Region 3 board and is seeking nominations for board members by Aug. 15.

With MDHHS, the new board will oversee the activities of West Michigan’s PIHP to ensure sound management and to protect individuals receiving services, the state said.

The department developed the new board proposal following the cancellation of the contract with Lakeshore Regional Entity after “several years of poor performance,” the state said.

In recent months, Beacon Health Options has been operating with LRE to provide managed care support to the Region 3 community mental health services programs. Based on feedback from the CMHSPs about the value of this partnership, MDHHS will seek to establish a contract with Beacon that allows this work to continue.

The new board will oversee Beacon’s work. After listening to public feedback, MDHHS has added fiduciary powers to the board.

“A board with public representation, diverse stakeholders and critical responsibilities will help achieve the goal all of us share: delivering better services to the residents of West Michigan,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “By operating under FOIA and open meetings laws, the board will also make decision-making more transparent and accountable.”

The Region 3 PIHP Board will include the following members:

  • Five representatives from the CMHSPs in the region
  • One representative of county governments in the region
  • One individual or family member of an individual receiving services from the PIHP
  • One member of an advocacy group representing individuals with behavioral health needs or intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Three representatives of MDHHS
  • Three individuals with expertise in behavioral health or intellectual developmental disability services and/or administration
  • One representative of the contracted PIHP

Board members will be appointed to a one-year term that begins Oct. 1, 2019, and ends Sept. 30, 2020.

Each CMHSP in the region will appoint one representative, the county boards of commissioners will appoint one representative and the contracted PIHP will appoint one representative. MDHHS will appoint all other representatives.

Individuals interested in serving on the board should complete an online application by Aug. 15 to nominate themselves, at:

Employment outlook

U.S.-based employers plan to hand out fewer pink slips this month.

The pace of downsizing slowed in July, as employers announced plans to cut 38,845 jobs from their payrolls, down 7.5% from the 41,977 cuts announced in June, according to the latest report on job cuts released Aug. 1 from global outplacement and business/executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

July marks the second consecutive drop in monthly job cut announcements and is the lowest total since August of last year, when 38,472 job cuts were announced.

Despite the drop, July’s total is 43.2% higher than the 27,122 job cuts announced in the same month last year. So far this year, employers have announced plans to cut 369,832 jobs, a 35.8% increase from the 272,301 cuts announced in the first seven months of last year. It is the highest seven-month total since 2015, when 393,368 cuts were announced.

“The U.S. is enjoying the longest economic expansion in American history, and the June jobs report documented a decidedly strong labor market. However, slowing GDP growth in the second quarter, cuts in business investment and trade tensions led the Federal Reserve to cut its key interest rate by a quarter-point.

“This move signals trouble on the horizon for the current economic cycle,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president at Challenger Gray.

“Employment tends to be a lagging indicator, as companies often keep hiring up to the edge of a recession. Right now, the labor market is strong. Employees can continue to anticipate moderate wage growth and advantageous employment prospects for the time being.”

Transportation led all sectors in July, with 5,532 announced cuts, followed by industrial goods manufacturing, which announced 4,403 cuts last month. The energy sector announced 3,737 job cuts in July, while pharmaceutical companies announced 3,062.

“Manufacturers are being hit, not only by shifting consumer behavior and automation, but by the imposed tariffs. Last month saw over 1,000 cuts announced due to the impact of tariffs,” Challenger said.

In fact, 1,053 cuts were announced due to tariffs, for a total of 1,430 this year.

Retail continues to lead all sectors in 2019, with 55,167 cuts, 1,919 of which occurred last month. That is 27.2% fewer cuts than the 75,763 announced in the same period last year.

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