Street Talk: It’s all about the money


With all the “top” lists on which Grand Rapids has appeared — and they are legion — it’s a couple of the “bottom” lists that are most troubling.

In January, a contributor to listed Grand Rapids as the second-worst city in the country economically for African-Americans. Of the 52 largest cities in America, Grand Rapids/Wyoming ranked 51st, beating out only Milwaukee.

The post's author, Joel Kotkin, a professor of urban studies at Orange, Calif.-based Chapman University, said the ranking was based on three metropolitan statistical area, or MSA, measures: homeownership, entrepreneurship or self-employment, and median household income. Data was from 2013.

The ranking also considered a fourth factor — demographic trends — which incorporated data that measured the change in African-American populations in the metro areas from 2000-2013.

Each factor was given equal weight, and the cumulative results weren’t pretty.

Now comes another online blogger, Alexander Harris, writing for the site Sparefoot, which covers the storage industry. Harris chose to examine the gender pay gap in America’s 100 largest cities. Once again, the results are not flattering.

Women in the workforce have strived for decades to close the gender pay gap, yet it still persists. In 2013, full-time female workers in the U.S. earned just 78 cents for every dollar earned by full-time working males, according to Harris’ research, which was based on U.S. Census Bureau figures.

“That leaves a lot of room for improvement, especially in the country’s 100 most populous metro areas where women, on average, only make just over 71 cents per dollar compared to what men make,” he wrote.

How much room is there for improvement? Well, in Grand Rapids — a lot!

Harris examined U.S. Census data for women’s median earnings in 2013; five-year growth in women’s median earnings (2009-2013); women’s median earnings as a percentage of men’s in 2013; and five-year growth in women’s median earnings as a percentage of men’s (2009-2013). Each of the factors were given equal weight.

Grand Rapids/Wyoming ranks last on the list. There’s a bit of information Judy Welch and the Michigan Women’s Foundation can use during their Dolphin Tank event next month.

And it’s not that a single category dragged down the composite score. The region’s rankings were universally bad.

Here’s the breakdown: 2013 median salary: $21,638 (rank 92); five-year growth median earnings: 0.5 percent (rank 96); 2013 median earnings as percentage of men’s: 63.2 percent (rank 96); and five-year growth in women’s median earnings as a percentage of men’s: -0.7% (rank 95).

The consistency is startling and depressing. Grand Rapids can and should do better. For all the good those “top” lists have done, it’s the “bottom” rankings that are a drain on the region’s efforts to attract and retain minority talent. There is a reason skilled minorities are bypassing Grand Rapids, and it has little to do with how welcome they feel. It’s all about the money.

For future reference, the top metro areas for gender pay gap advancement are Albany/Schenectady/Troy, New York; Syracuse, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; Des Moines/West Des Moines, Iowa; and Little Rock/North Little Rock/Conway, Arkansas.

Note to Rosalynn Bliss: Make sure to introduce yourself to those mayors at the next conference.


Friendly skies

If your flight out of Grand Rapids seemed a bit more crowded than usual last month, there was a good reason: July 2015 was the single busiest month in Gerald R. Ford International Airport history.

July passenger numbers were up 9.4 percent year-over-year. It goes down as the busiest July on record, surpassing July 2011 by nearly 6 percent.

“Month after month our numbers are increasing, and we could not be more thrilled by the support from our area passengers,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks.

“As a result of this growth, our airline partners are taking interest by investing in more seats through the introduction of larger aircraft and additional nonstop routes to and from Grand Rapids, which is good for our entire region.”

GFIA is on pace to break its annual passenger total, as well, since it’s already 9.6 percent ahead of 2014 totals.

March 2015 was previously the busiest month in GFIA history with 231,138 total passengers. July 2015’s totals saw 234,282 passengers pass through GFIA.

Remember those passenger totals represent travelers going both ways, and those arriving here had a significant impact, too.

“Love this news!” said Doug Small, president and CEO of the area’s travel and tourism promoters, Experience Grand Rapids. “It certainly shows that we have become a bigger national draw, as July was the best performing hotel month on record, too. Great stuff …!”


Profitable enterprise

The West Michigan Public Relations Society of America will host its biennial Nonprofit Workshop from 7:45 a.m.-noon, Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Eberhard Center on Grand Valley State University’s downtown Grand Rapids campus.

The half?day event will feature advice for improving communication campaigns and strategies from industry experts.

“The variety of topics and caliber of presenters makes this event perfect for anyone who is responsible for communications in a nonprofit organization, agency or corporate setting,” said Adam Russo, owner of COM 616 and chair of the WMPRSA PRforGood committee.

In addition to hearing from the pros, one nonprofit will have the opportunity to work with the pros. The event will be the first chance for West Michigan nonprofit professionals to receive information about becoming the next WMPRSA PRforGood client, which includes two years of pro bono strategic communications support from the WMPRSA board to help achieve organizational goals.

Session topics include media interview insights with Nick Wasmiller of Amway and Clare Wade of JSJ Corp.; media relations with Tim Dye of Truscott Rossman; branding tips with Bill McKendry of DOMOREGOOD|hanon mckendry; social media resources with Derek DeVries of Lambert, Edwards & Associates; donor and board engagement with Sandi Frost Steensma of Kennari Consulting and Matthew Downing of the Johnson Center for Philanthropy; and event planning with Kim Bode and Chantell LaForest of 834 Design & Marketing. Participants will be able to attend three sessions of their choice.


The Daly Show

If Jon Stewart leaving “The Daily Show” wasn’t enough, now we’ve got to deal with Pete Daly leaving the Business Journal newsroom.

While he is more likely to be compared (by co-workers) to Peter Falk’s “Columbo” character, there is little doubt Pete will leave his imprint on the staff for years to come. His folksy humor will be sorely missed.

Who else could expound on subjects ranging from oysters to barn wood and from the Irish Troubles to Native American tools — often in the same conversation?

No longer will we be privy to a source’s lineage, simply because Pete thought he had once met someone with the same name and had to ask if there was a familial connection.

Pete is calling it a career on Aug. 31. We will miss his stories, his style, his homespun humor and his old-school journalistic ethics. But most of all, we will miss him.

So if you see a car pulled over to the side of the road near a trout stream, toot your horn and wave. It’s probably Pete checking out another “secret” fishing hole.

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