Street Talk: It was meant to B


What a difference a little over a year makes.

Last year, Bazzani Building Co. applied to become certified as a B Corporation through the nonprofit B Lab. To become certified, a company needs to voluntarily meet standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. Certification recognizes a company for its positive social and environmental impact.

Now, with that certification in hand, things are looking up for the Eastown-based sustainable design/build firm.

“We’ve just received news we’re all thrilled to share with our clients, colleagues and friends,” said Brian Wolters, head of business development. “Bazzani Building Co. has been honored as Best for the World for using business as a force for good.”

The Best for the World list by B Lab sets the gold standard for high-impact companies, Wolters said, adding Bazzani earned a B Impact Assessment in the top 10 percent globally.

Bazzani, which is led by President and CEO Guy Bazzani and Vice President Pete Skornia, joins 350 companies in 29 countries, all using business as a force for good for the world.

“Measuring our company’s impact in the areas of governance, workers, community and the environment, (our) overall BIA score totaled 147,” Wolters said. “To put this into perspective, the median score for businesses of our size (a micro-enterprise) is approximately 95.”

E is for excellence

Why stop at one? The Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce this year is re-inventing its entrepreneur awards program.

The new “E-Awards” will recognize the area's most innovative entrepreneurs during a luncheon event recognizing area Entrepreneurs of Excellence and announcing an Outstanding Entrepreneur of the Year and a Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

The chamber has a long history of recognizing innovative business leaders and has awarded an outstanding entrepreneur award each year since 1982.

“This year we wanted to expand the program to highlight the many successful entrepreneurs of the community while still honoring one as the outstanding entrepreneur," said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

“This event and new format better showcases the rich foundation of entrepreneurial spirit in the Muskegon business community.”

A celebratory luncheon is scheduled for May 19 at Watermark 920 in downtown Muskegon, where the stories of successful local entrepreneurs will be featured and the overall winner announced.

This year’s Entrepreneurs of Excellence are: Al Fansler, Family Farm & Home Inc.; Arthur Scott, JAAR Inc.; Brett and Jera Gilbert, Fatty Lumpkins Sandwich Shack; Chris Baker and Bryan Betten, Betten Auto Group; Gary Post, Port City Construction & Development; Harold Hall, Hall's Sport Center; Jim VanderWier, Redi Rental; John Sytsema, Sytsema Funeral Homes; Jon Rooks, Parkland Properties of Michigan; Kathleen and John Riegler, The Cheese Lady; Laura Holmes, FineLine Creative; Marty Sytsema and Dave Van Andel, i'move; Michelle Harris, Harris Hospitality; Orville Crain, Klever Innovations; Dick Lindrup and Walter Grzybowski, R.W. Bakers; Ted Fricano, Fricano Place; Tina Butler, Comfort Keepers; and Peter Gawkowski, Subway Inc. GNS.

Term limit

Cross another few years of experience off the Grand Rapids City Commission.

When voters approved term limits last year, it was with giving others “opportunities” in mind, according to political organizers.

Mission accomplished. Walt Gutowski Jr., longtime First Ward commissioner, has decided he’s done with seeking elected office — at least for now.

“My final term as First Ward commissioner comes to a close on Dec. 31, 2015. After a great deal of spiritual reflection and conversations with friends and family, I have decided that business commitments will prevent me from seeking another elected office at this time.”

Now it’s time for Gutkowski to take what he’s learned in public service and apply it to the private sector. Already the owner of a successful west-side business, Swift Printing, look for him to further explore his development skills, especially on his beloved west side.

“I love serving the people of Grand Rapids and plan to remain deeply involved in various business, philanthropic and civic initiatives — particularly on Grand Rapids’ west side, where my family and business have deep roots.”

Going deep

Nothing sets a better example than success.

When 120 or so Grand Rapids Public Schools student athletes gather on the campus of Calvin College this Friday, they will be treated to time with one of West Michigan’s most decorated professional athletes.

Mercantile Bank is hosting a leadership workshop for young athletes featuring Kirk Cousins, former Michigan State University and current NFL quarterback, who will lead discussion and workshop activities throughout the day. He also will share many of the stories from his book, “Game Changer,” and how the decisions he has made have impacted his success.

“This event is designed to empower students to create and navigate their own paths to success,” said Michelle Shangraw, senior vice president at Mercantile. “We are excited to be able to partner with Kirk and the Grand Rapids Public Schools to bring this workshop to the students. It’s our goal that they each take away something that will help them along their journeys. These are the future leaders of our community, and it’s so important to invest in them and support their growth and development.”

Cousins, a Holland native, said he has a strong desire to give back to the community. “Being a part of this event gives me an opportunity to really make a difference and show these students what it means to grow into a person of integrity. I want to provide some guidance and awareness during a time when they are making some very important life decisions.”

When approached by Mercantile to participate in the workshop, Kurt Johnson, executive director of athletics for GRPS, said it was a great fit for the student athletes.

“Kirk Cousins is a remarkable athlete and one of the single most inspiring speakers I have ever witnessed. His passion, energy, direction, and words of empowerment are exactly what our student athletes need.”

Home, sweet home

People pining for a cat or dog but strapped for cash might want to head down to the Kent County Animal Shelter or the Human Society of West Michigan, on Saturday.

It's free adoption day, compliments of Bissell Pet Foundation.

If it's a dog you want, you will still have to shell out $12 for a dog license, but all other fees are waived.

That's a good deal: At the county animal shelter, it costs from $80 to $143 to adopt a dog. A cat is cheaper because no license is required, nor are rabies shots, but it still costs from $5 to $40.

Last year the Bissell Pet Foundation made a grant to the county shelter that covered all adoption fees through November and December, and it nearly doubled the normal rate of adoptions. This is the first time the Bissell Foundation has funded adoptions at both the county shelter and the humane society simultaneously.

“We work to fund programs that will make the biggest difference for the millions of homeless pets available for adoption" throughout the nation, said Cathy Bissell, founder of the foundation.

In place of adoption fees, people are asked to bring in canned pet food or new blankets.

The Kent County Animal Shelter will be open for free adoptions 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, and the Humane Society of West Michigan will be open 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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