Street Talk: Freed has new priorities


Twenty years with the same organization is a long time for anyone.

And for Michael Freed, it’s long enough.

Freed, president and CEO of Priority Health and executive vice president of Priority Health’s parent company, Spectrum Health, announced last week he plans to retire in early 2016.

Freed has led Priority Health since 2012 and has been a board member since 1995. From 1995 through 2013, he also served as executive vice president and CFO of Spectrum Health System.

Freed said he wanted to announce his plans now in order to give the organization time to transition smoothly to his successor.

“Priority Health is a very special organization that, together with the whole Spectrum Health family, has provided me with so much inspiration over these last 20 years. I’m very grateful for the incredible opportunity I was given to make a contribution in such a great community in such a wonderful state. It’s been a privilege that was much more than what a kid from a small New England town could have ever dreamed of. Looking ahead, we have many talented people in our organization who I know will ensure that Priority Health continues to improve the health and lives of the people in the communities we serve,” Freed said.

“Mike has been an integral part of building Spectrum Health, a health system that makes a difference every day to the individuals, families and employers who live in West Michigan. It has been my privilege to work with him as a colleague and a friend,” said Richard Breon, president and CEO of Spectrum Health.

Breon said Freed’s leadership has allowed Priority Health and the Spectrum Health System to thrive and grow.

Priority Health has added more than 100,000 members statewide and achieved one of A.M. Best’s highest ratings. Freed has been an integral part of helping Spectrum Health System become a $5 billion health care system.

“Under Mike’s direction, Priority Health has experienced robust growth,” said Jody Vanderwel, board chair. “Mike has that unique leadership quality that inspires creativity and innovation. He encouraged his team to explore new possibilities, and the results speak for themselves. His legacy includes a stable and growing organization headed by a strong leadership team. We wish him the very best.”


It’s in the bag

Kids’ Food Basket, the West Michigan-based anti-childhood-hunger organization, is issuing a community challenge to decorate 70,000 bags by International Brown Bag Decorating Day Sept. 25.

Granted, very few in the community even knew there was such an event as International Brown Bag Decorating Day. But that misses the point.

“There is nothing fun about childhood hunger, but changing the world can be fun. International Brown Bag Decorating Day provides everyone with the opportunity to engage. A community of support makes each child feel cared for,” said Bridget Clark Whitney, Kids’ Food Basket director.

Kids’ Food Basket exceeded its goal in 2014 by collecting 50,400 decorated bags. This year the organization has set a new goal: to collect enough decorated bags for 10 days of service for nearly 7,000 kids at 38 schools in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Holland.

Supporting organizations, businesses and members of the community have started decorating Sack Supper bags and are using the hashtag #KFBBrownBag to get others involved.

To participate, Kids’ Food Basket is asking the community to purchase 8-pound paper sacks to decorate with an inspirational message or drawing. Decorated bags must be delivered before Sept. 25 to the Grand Rapids, Muskegon or Holland Kids’ Food Basket locations.

“Our goal is to host and empower the community to ensure that every child has access to good nutrition in order for proper brain development. Children need daily access to nutritious sack suppers that contain the brain food, healthy habits — but most of all a touch of love to help local kids thrive,” Clark Whitney said.


There is Hope

Hope Network plans to fill at least 250 immediate Michigan job openings within the organization in the next 90 days.

The positions include full-time, part-time and on-call positions in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Northern Michigan and the Greater Detroit area. The vast majority of the positions are entry-level or direct support positions, which include full training.

“National Direct Support Professionals Week is September 13-19, celebrating the efforts of those who dedicate their careers to supporting people with disabilities,” said Phil Weaver, president of Hope Network. “We are proud of Hope Network’s continued growth and look forward to further strengthening our direct care teams around the state of Michigan.”

Hope Network’s direct support workers help care for older adults and individuals with disabilities by providing assistance with activities of daily living, in addition to some health care and rehabilitation services.

“Today’s nationwide direct care workforce includes more than 4 million individuals and is expected to grow to more than 5 million workers by 2020,” Weaver said. “In addition to helping with important tasks of daily living, health care and rehabilitation, direct care workers bring stability, peace of mind and freedom into the lives of the people they serve.”

Hope Network provides services with 2,800 staff members to more than 20,000 people annually in 240 communities throughout Michigan. Candidates can apply at


Ah, the irony

The Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes offices flooded over the Labor Day weekend when a pipe broke and dropped an inch and a half of water in the program kit storage area and office space at 3351 Claystone SE in Grand Rapids.

“This is the second time in 18 months that our offices have been damaged by building failure,” J.A. said in a statement announcing the calamity.

“As many of you know we are in the quiet phase of securing funds to build a J.A. Free Enterprise Center enabling us to serve 20,000 additional students, serve as our headquarters and empower us to control our future destiny. These incidents are simply further confirmation of the need to establish the new J.A. Free Enterprise Center as quickly as possible.”

That would seem to be an understatement.


Picture this

We don’t normally run ads in this space, so consider this a public service announcement.

If you want to see your picture in the Business Journal, get a professional headshot done. Stop pretending the thumbnail photo from your LinkedIn page will transfer well to print. It does not.

The flattering photo from your wedding 20 years ago doesn’t work well, either.

Former Business Journal photographer David DeJonge, the lensmaster at DeJonge Studio Photography Services in Grand Rapids, is taking appointments this fall for professional portrait shots (

DeJonge has taken photographs of many prominent West Michiganders. He’s even photographed President George W. Bush. He can certainly handle yours.

Current Business Journal photographers Johnny Quirin and Michael Buck often offer the same service at Business Journal events. But if you aren’t fortunate enough to be recognized during our Most Influential Women, 40 Under Forty, Top Women-Owned Businesses or Newsmaker events, please make an effort to get that new photograph taken.

We’d at least like your family and co-workers to recognize you when your picture appears in the paper.

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