Street Talk: Mr. Van Andel goes to Washington (again)


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce named Steve Van Andel chairman of its board of directors. Van Andel, chairman of Amway Corp., will serve a one-year term.

“Steve embodies the free enterprise system that the chamber works so hard to advance and protect,” U.S. Chamber President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue said. “Steve has proven himself to be a tireless leader on global trade, competitiveness, and many issues of interest to the business community. We look forward to continuing to work with him to elevate job creators, entrepreneurs, and innovators around the world.”

As chairman of Amway, Van Andel is responsible for managing daily operations and has led the business to become a stronger, more diverse competitor in the new economy. Before becoming chairman in 1995, Van Andel was Amway’s vice president in charge of the company’s business operations in North and South America. Additionally, he held the position of vice president of marketing.

Van Andel served a previous one-year term as chairman of the U.S. Chamber ending June 12, 2002, and was then chairman of the board’s Executive Committee. He will continue to act as vice chairman of the chamber’s U.S.-Korea Business Council and work to advance an expanded trade agenda as chairman of the board.

His father, Jay Van Andel, also served the U.S. Chamber as chairman (1979-80) and on the Chamber Senior Council (1980-85).

“I’m a very strong proponent of more businesses getting involved around the globe,” Van Andel said. “It doesn’t matter the size of the business — small, medium, or large. Promoting trade in any part of the world will continue to be a top priority of mine.”

Van Andel dedicates a great deal of his time to supporting the continued advancement of downtown Grand Rapids and West Michigan. He serves on the board of directors of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Metropolitan Health Corp. and Metropolitan Hospital Foundation. He also serves on the dean’s advisory board for Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University and is a member of Business Leaders for Michigan.

High praise

Monday night’s Economic Club of Grand Rapids annual dinner was an amazing PR coup for Amway. 

Recent discussions in the elite media — New York Times, Washington Post — have brought up the old notion that Amway is little more than a Ponzi scheme recast as multi-level marketing. Having Hillary Rodham Clinton explicitly endorse the firm and its living founder, Rich DeVos, goes a long way toward legitimizing Amway's business practices. 

(Of course, what else could she have done given that Rich, Helen, Doug and Steve all were honored at the dinner?)

Name game

And if that’s not enough, there’s a rumor going around the Motor City that the new home of the Red Wings will be … Amway Arena. 

The building, which is the centerpiece of a proposed $650 million Downtown Detroit Events Center District, is part of a public-private partnership that includes Olympia Development of Michigan, which is owned by Mike and Marian Illitch, owners of the Red Wings, Tigers and MotorCity Casino Hotel (and that pretty successful pizza chain, too).

Big breakfast

Jim Zawacki, CEO of Grand Rapids Spring and Stamping, got a little something extra with his breakfast at Grand Coney recently: relief from debilitating back pain.

He happened to be enjoying an early morning meal at the popular Michigan Street breakfast spot when he glanced up at the TV and caught a spot on the Laser Spinal Institute and its work with people suffering from back pain. One thing led to another, and Zawacki found himself being treated at the LSI facility in Tampa, near the family condo.

“I can't believe how good I feel,” he said in an email to business associates. “Only using an ice-pack every two hours and (taking a) prescription for anti-bacteria.”

Zawacki said he was having problems with the L4 and L5 portions of the spine, and local doctors suggested fusing the vertebrae. No thanks.

“(LSI) did a laminotomy, after two days of tests, etc., that cuts away the bone that is touching the nerves. So far, 23 hours after surgery, all is well.”

The procedure is done on an out-patient basis, and  doctors have told Zawacki he’ll be playing tennis in eight weeks.

Park place

The art director for Juxtapose and Thrasher magazines will visit with students at the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology Monday afternoon to kick off a summer-long project to create a local magazine on green spaces and initiatives in Grand Rapids.

Trent Temple, art director for High Speed Productions Inc., will spend the afternoon sharing his career experiences and creative insights with 50 high school students who are part of WMCAT’s Summer Learning Academy. The teens will be placed on one of four design teams led by facilitating artists. They will work collaboratively over the course of eight weeks to create a WMCAT magazine: Green Spaces in Grand Rapids. Each design team will be responsible for researching, developing content for written and visual communications, documenting the design process through social media, incorporating the teen voice, and connecting to the local community, all while being visually cohesive. 

The magazine will be sold at retail stores throughout Grand Rapids. The students will earn a stipend for their work.

Clean cut

For the second year, temporary jobs for teens and cleaner neighborhoods are the expected outcomes of a new partnership between West Michigan’s landlord organization, Rental Property Owners Association, and The Other Way Ministries, a nonprofit on the west side of Grand Rapids.

In 2012, in order to tackle problem properties in neighborhoods with grass, weed and trash issues, RPOA supported The Other Way’s Youth Employment Service and neighborhood associations by providing financial support for certain cleanup projects.

This year’s program started Thursday with 10 teens taking on a cleanup project at a home on Chatham NW, near Sibley Elementary.

RPOA is asking neighborhood associations to identify properties of the greatest concern. YES will contact the owner of the property to let them know of the cleanup offer and schedule the service. RPOA will provide financial support for the cost of the cleanup.

YES workers hope to eventually mow and maintain up to 40 lawns each week while participating in a variety of skill and character development exercises.

The intern games

Those logo-clad people you saw running through downtown Grand Rapids Thursday were doing more than running errands.

The sixth annual Summer Intern Olympics took place throughout the downtown, with teams from such places as GE Aviation, Gordon Food Service, Meijer, Haworth, Perrigo, Steelcase, Spectrum Health and Wolverine Worldwide competing in a variety of events.

“Northwestern Mutual is excited to participate in the Intern Olympics this year and be a part of an event that celebrates West Michigan as a great place to live, work and play,” said Jon Brickner, development officer at Northwestern Mutual. “Our college interns are such an important part of the Northwestern Mutual team and we’re happy to celebrate them and all their hard work.”

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