Street Talk: Bottoms up when it’s cold outside


Last week at the Kent County Board of Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Tom Antor of Sparta introduced a resolution that reveals Kent is a hard-drinkin’ county, indeed.

The resolution noted the county receives a liquor tax distribution from the state each year based on sales of liquor (not beer and wine) sold at liquor stores in Kent County. Half of the county’s share is dedicated to substance abuse treatment at network180.

In 2014, the county was expecting $4,879,320 in liquor tax revenue, so the Kent County 2014 Intergovernmental Budget listed $2,439,160 for network180.

Turns out the county’s actual share of the liquor tax was $6,538,714, so an additional $830,197 was added to network180’s 2014 budget.

Lisa LaPlante, Kent County community liaison and communications director, did some checking for the Business Journal and reported that yes, consumption of the hard stuff apparently is on the upswing in Kent County. (We already know the craft beer enthusiasts are fired up, making Grand Rapids Beer City USA and all.)

LaPlante said the Michigan Department of Treasury collected $5,625,290 in 2013 liquor taxes in Kent County and then it jumped again last year, as noted above.

Here’s a possible clue as to why:

That same morning last Thursday, LaPlante issued a news release from the county Health Department and Emergency Management office, noting the arctic air headed our way would bring record low temps and possible wind chills of -35, which is very dangerous weather for people and their animals. Predictions for the overnight lows Saturday night and Sunday morning were -7 and -10.

Maybe the recent harsh Michigan winters are driving people to drink — the ones who can’t escape to Florida, anyway.

Fair trade

The world is shrinking. Business collaborations that just a few years ago would have been cumbersome, at best, are now second nature.

To take advantage of this spirit, the West Michigan World Trade Association and Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals are doing some collaborating of their own.

On Feb. 26, they will host a half-day seminar on opportunity and risk in the global marketplace devoted to best practices in contemporary international commerce.

“This event continues our new focus on helping local businesses maintain a competitive edge,” said Andy Wahl, WMWTA president. “Consistent with this objective, we are very excited to collaborate with the CSCMP, which brings a wealth of experience to the topic.”

Michael Finney, who recently accepted the position of senior advisor for economic growth to Gov. Rick Snyder, will give the keynote address. Additional speakers, drawn from the private and public sectors as well as the Van Andel Global Trade Center, will lead breakout sessions. Topics will include a global workforce, Foreign Trade Zones, supply chain disruptions and the relationship between West Michigan and Mexico.

“These presentations reflect the dynamism of the world business environment,” Wahl said. “Risk profiles have changed dramatically, and new prospects for success have emerged. We look forward to exploring each in detail.”

He said the discussion will be particularly relevant for business executives, sales directors and forecasters, logistics professionals, customs brokers, sourcing and supply chain experts, financial risk managers, general counsels and in-house lawyers.

The event is set for 1-5:30 p.m., Feb. 26, at Wealthy Street Theatre, 1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids. Networking will follow at Elk Brewing Co., 700 Wealthy St. SE. The cost is $74-$99, and reservations can be made by calling (616) 301-0032.

Winging it

The Detroit Red Wings played host to 63 high school writers over the weekend, and five of the fledgling sports journalists hailed from West Michigan.

Putting pen to paper were Anna Bulkowski and Calvin Gaines, East Grand Rapids; Gabriella DeStefano, Forest Hills Central; Vince Tierney, Grand Rapids Catholic Central; and Alexis Simonson, Forest Hills Eastern.

The students participated in a host of activities and had the opportunity to interview Wings’ coach Mike Babcock and GM Ken Holland. They also talked shop with reporters who frequently cover the Red Wings, including Kevin Allen of USA Today, Michael Caples of Michigan Hockey, Dana Wakiji of and Ken Kal, the play-by-play voice of the team.

School work

Contractors involved in Grand Rapids Community College’s $15 million campus-wide renovation project are building work experiences for students while creating new learning spaces.

Gov. Snyder has declared February Cooperative Education and Internship Month, and more than 400 students can attest to the importance of the internships and co-op opportunities GRCC provides. This past year, GRCC asked companies involved in the recent capital bond issue to help create on-the-job experiences for students.

C2AE was the first company to respond to GRCC’s request. C2AE principal Dennis Bekken, a Kalamazoo Valley Community College alumnus, said he welcomed the opportunity to help GRCC students gain workplace experience.

“Community college was a great avenue to a degree because I was able to fill my general education requirements in an affordable way,” he said of his time at KVCC. “I wasn’t able financially to attend U of M for six years, which is what an architecture degree requires.”

C2AE’s second GRCC intern, Mauricio Urtubia, started last month.

“I am so excited to have the opportunity to have an internship at C2AE,” said Urtubia, a native of Chile who graduates from GRCC this spring. “This company has an outstanding reputation in the architecture industry and firmly believes a good design and great planning can make a huge difference to the community.

“My colleagues are very patient and willing to help every time I have a question. Right now, they have me working at creating detail components for their Revit library. I have about two weeks’ worth of work just doing that.”

“Real world” experiences like Urtubia’s are important to both students and employers, said Susan Lichtenberg, GRCC’s internship coordinator.

“Internships are becoming increasingly important as our community evaluates workforce and talent demand needs,” she said. “Employers tell us they value internships as a way to develop a pipeline of talent for the future. Students appreciate being able to apply their classroom learning to real-life situations.”

The scoop scoop

When the Business Journal broke the news Wednesday on that Trader Joe’s is coming to West Michigan, an understandable media feeding frenzy ensued.

The popular grocer has big-name cachet, and judging by viewership numbers on our website and various social media channels many people in West Michigan were very interested in the story.

So a big shout-out goes to Mary Hollinrake and her staff in the Kent County Clerk’s Office for quickly responding to reporter Mike Nichols’ request for public documents. A little help went a long way in this case.

Also, a thank you goes to most of our fellow media outlets in West Michigan for crediting us with the stories they posted on their websites, at least until they could get their “own” versions. Chris Fleszar, executive director at WZZM TV13, even had the decency to call and chat about it. Same goes for FOX17, WOOD Radio and others.

Only WOOD TV8 decided to go without mentioning the source of the story. Hey, they’re an NBC affiliate, right?

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