Street Talk: Holland hopes energy reduction pays off


The city of Holland is competing to win $5 million, and its chances of scoring the prize are good.

Holland is one of 50 cities nationwide competing for the Georgetown University Energy Prize, or GUEP, a two-year contest that challenges communities to rethink their energy use.

Holland found out last month it is currently in fourth place.

The city earned the ranking due to its current net energy reduction score of minus 20. The current leader — Huntsville, Alabama — holds a net minus 32 score.

The results are an accumulation of data from the first two quarters of 2015.

GUEP rankings represent an estimated snapshot of the overall energy score, which calculates each community’s reduction in overall energy use in 2015, compared to the same periods in 2013 and 2014. It also adjusts for number of households, the weather, and to account for the energy used in producing and distributing the energy.

The competition officially kicked off in January 2015, and the city has worked with Holland Board of Public Works and Semco Energy Gas Co. to develop community-facing programs to help reduce energy consumption.

The city of Holland and HBPW have participated in community events, used marketing techniques such as videos, social media, radio ads and billboards, and implemented quarterly competitions with prizes to help incentivize residents to take action. Volunteers have been enlisted to travel door-to-door, promoting energy reduction.

Mayor Nancy DeBoer said over the past year, city residents have become “more conscious of their energy usage,” ultimately helping the community earn its ranking.

“The buzz around the competition is growing, but we need to make a concerted effort to keep residents excited and interested in reducing their energy consumption if we want to win the prize,” said Dave Koster, general manager, HBPW.

While the $5 million prize is a great reward, Koster said the long-term goal is “to save homeowners money and help our environment, too.”

School and work

During its final meeting of the year, the Michigan Strategic Fund board not only approved business expansion and community revitalization projects and an amendment to the MEGA agreement with General Motors, but also continued support for entrepreneurship in the state.

Steve Arwood, CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said the board’s actions provide further evidence of the commitment to help companies grow and generate new job opportunities for Michigan residents.

“It is through the effort of public-private partnerships that today’s projects are taking place, and we’re pleased to support those collaborations,” said Arwood.

To support entrepreneurship, MSF approved a one-year extension and $2.3 million in continued funding for the Technology Transfer Talent Network and the Michigan Corporate Relations Network, which are within the University Technology Acceleration and Commercialization Program.

The program is intended to accelerate the transfer of technology from Michigan-based universities to commercialization in the private sector. The Technology Transfer Talent Network, aka T3N, was established in 2011 as a collaboration of seven Michigan universities. The MichiganCorporate Relations Network also was launched in 2011 as a partnership among six of Michigan’s research universities with support from MEDC and MSF.

T3N received $1 million in continued funding to support mentor-in-residence and post-doc fellowship work toward commercialization of university projects with licenses or launch them as entrepreneurial companies.

Through the program, more than 200 jobs, 38 new companies, nearly $28 million in follow-on funding and 37 signed licenses have resulted in the state.

The MSF also approved nearly $1.3 million in funding for the Michigan Corporate Relations Network to continue facilitating partnerships between Michigan businesses and universities. The MCRN helps small to mid-sized companies by connecting them to interns, a research portal and matching funds of up to nearly $40,000 for new projects.

The program has helped spur nearly 300 jobs, attract more than $56 million in additional funding and served about 300 companies.

Journey’s end

Ed Dobson’s 15-year battle with ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is over.

Dobson, a prominent Christian leader who served as pastor of the local megachurch Calvary Church for 18 years, died Dec. 26 at the age of 65. His wife, Lorna, and children, Kent, Heather and Daniel survive him.

He was born in Northern Ireland and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 14. Dobson was appointed to the board of the Moral Majority by Rev. Jerry Falwell, and also served as an administrator at Liberty University in Virginia, before leaving in 1987 to become a pastor at Calvary.

While at Calvary, Dobson mentored a number of Christian leaders, including Rob Bell, who went on to found Mars Hill Bible Church, where Dobson’s son Kent became pastor after Bell’s departure. Kent also recently announced his resignation.

In 2000, Dobson was diagnosed with ALS, and his illness caused him to step down from ministry in 2005. In 2008, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary dedicated a Dobson Study Center to honor his legacy.

Passing along tips

No-tipping restaurants seem to have traction — at least on the Grand Rapids page of

Last week’s Business Journal article, “Is Michigan ready for no tipping?” generated more than 100 comments.

The initial poster of the articles loves the idea but worried about workers’ incentives disappearing.

“We live in too much of a reward-based society,” said user pauliep84. “Basically, by removing an incentive to provide good/adequate/etc. service, without tipping there would be no incentive for servers to maintain a level of service.”

That comment drew the strongest rated comments of the discussion, including mxtrav responding that if service is bad, don’t go to the restaurant.

“If a restaurant wants to continue to be profitable, they are going to need to make sure their services are adequate,” mxtrav wrote.

User too_too2 agreed.

“How many other job categories require tips to provide good service?” too_too2 asked. “You don’t have to tip your doctor to expect proper care.”

Some said Michigan is ready, but wondered whether it’s actually a better system, while others pondered if a market needs to be “ready” for a new idea.

One user questioned the motives of owners to remove tips, which go directly to staff, rather than raising menu prices 20 percent.

Servers worried their wages would go down, perhaps far enough that they’d have to look for new work.

Others said servers don’t deserve as much as some of them make in tips and said they’d like to see servers be paid a wage dictated by the market through a portion of the restaurant’s sales, rather than because of a social norm.

It was a lively discussion that seems to point to one conclusion: No one is quite sure what Michigan, and the restaurant industry, wants or needs.

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