Street Talk: Everybody’s girding up for new winter woes


The worst winter in 40 years seems like it just ended, but already this year’s blast is making its presence felt.

You can be assured those in the logistics industry and along the supply chain have not forgotten about the introduction of the term “polar vortex” into our everyday vocabulary, however.

As its final instructional event for the year, the West Michigan World Trade Association is hosting a roundtable discussion devoted to overcoming impending logistical challenges.

“Distortions to the supply chain this past winter are still fresh in the memory of everyone exporting, sourcing from abroad, or working in the transportation sector,” said Andy Wahl, WMWTA president.

This year, however, it looks like businesses will have to deal with a different type of storm.

“Capacity and equipment shortages, labor unrest, and the looming threat of a strike on the U.S. West Coast have created a perfect storm for importers and exporters,” he said. “With port negotiations still ongoing, colder weather setting in and bottlenecks tightening daily, local businesses want to know what they can do to react.”

That will be the topic of discussion 6-8 p.m., Thursday, when WMWTA gathers at GVSU’s Eberhard Center.

A discussion of likely risks and appropriate mitigations will be led by Jeanne Heilman from the Port of Virginia; Susan Nathan, representing the Port of Halifax; and David Radle from Steelcase.

Wahl said they are expected to address supply chain impacts, port operations and contingency routing, the labor climate for 2014-15 and other topics.

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

The cost is $15 for WMWTA members, $20 for others; tickets are available by calling (616) 301-0032.

Insider trading

The “consummate Washington insider” will headline the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan’s 65th Anniversary Luncheon Jan. 19.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen will speak at a downtown location that has yet to be determined, according to Dixie Anderson, executive director of the council.

She said Cohen spoke at the organization’s annual event in 2007 and drew rave reviews from the audience.

“He remains one of the finest speakers we have hosted — and we’ve had quite a few,” she said. “After his talk in 2007, the World Affairs Council board president at the time, Craig Meurlin of Warner Norcross, told me Cohen went around the head table and asked everyone what were their ‘hot button’ topics and what did Western Michigan want to hear? Then he got up and presented a brilliant analysis of global events extemporaneously, using the issues the table suggested. He was amazing!”

Cohen then switched gears and ended his presentation by reading some of his poetry.

“A true Renaissance man,” Anderson said.

He now runs the Cohen Group, a large international consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

Clean slate

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has a solid list of candidates up for election to its board of directors.

The four being publicly presented by the chamber’s Governance Committee, chaired by Steve Heacock, are: Meredith Bronk, president of Open Systems Technologies; Beth O’Shaunnessy, senior vice president, chief administrative officer, general counsel and secretary at Steelcase; Ted Vaughn, president and CEO of Tolman’s Wholesale Meats; and Doug Young, president and CEO of Behler-Young Co.

If that bunch isn’t to your liking, you’ve got until Thursday to submit other nominations, along with the signatures of 25 chamber members who are in good standing with the organization, according to President Rick Baker.

Ironically, Baker made no mention of whether the chamber’s directors are subject to term limitations. If so, there might be a few (former) city officials eligible for the next round.

Check in the email

Grand Rapids City Hall released this advisory the other day from City Treasurer John M. Globensky under the heading “Money Gram Express Pay.”

“During the months of September and October, there have been attempts to pay city of Grand Rapids water bills using a Money Gram Express Pay tool offered at local retailers. Money Gram is a commonly used money order service that citizens use to send payments to the city. Local retailers, gas stations and convenience stores offer Money Gram money orders as well as the Express Pay product.

“The city of Grand Rapids accepts the Money Gram money orders. The Express Pay tool is not an approved payment channel. There have been issues with payments taken at retailers and being sent to the wrong company or municipality. For example, one citizen’s water payment was sent to a water company in Moab, Utah. The retailer’s employee was searching for the city of Grand Rapids and selected Grand Water Sewer, which is in Utah. The refund to the customer will take up to 20 business days to process.

“The city has never subscribed to Money Gram’s Express Pay program and has no intention of doing so. This media release is informing our citizens of the issue with the Money Gram Express Pay product. Approved payment channels are listed on our water bills, the city’s website under the Online Services menu, and the Other Payments link. Citizens can also come to City Hall to make payments. We offer 30 minutes of free parking in the Government Center ramp when paying a bill at City Hall.”

And that’s a lot closer than Moab.

Gun club

Sometimes a person’s public persona doesn’t match up with his or her private interests.

The late Peter Wege, champion of all environmental causes, as well as the arts, education and family, made news this year with several gifts through his eponymous foundation to Aquinas College, Grand Rapids Ballet and St. Cecilia Music Center, among others.

So it might surprise some to learn the Steelcase magnate also held an abiding love for guns. Collecting them, that is.

Grand Rapids Public Museum is sharing that collection with the public in its “Be Curious” gallery for a limited time. The collection includes a wide variety of firearms and knives Wege collected throughout his lifetime.

From original Civil War pieces to modern hunting arms to replicas of some of the most famous weapons in the world, the Wege Gun Collection presents an impressive exhibit that can be appreciated from several vantage points. The collection covers a wide swath of history and contains everything from primitive flintlocks to sophisticated modern automatic weapons. Significant pieces include a Colt Navy Revolver from the Civil War and a dagger from Nazi Germany.

“By collecting and preserving replicas of the weapons worn by Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp, or George Custer, Wege's collection showcases the importance of these heroes in constructing the American identity we all share,” said Kate Moore, the museum’s vice president of marketing and public relations.

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