Street Talk: Once a leader, always a leader


The billboard along U.S. 131 south of Grand Rapids touts Extra Credit Projects’ twisted sense of thinking. Courtesy ECP

What to make of one of West Michigan’s genuine leaders?

In February 2013, Street Talk opined: “Retirement is just not working out for Jeanne Englehart — again. The former CEO/president of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce retired from that post after seven years, but she had retired at least twice before.”

Maybe this time it’s for real.

The vice president of M&A firm The Charter Group slipped on another hat Thursday when she stepped into the role of “executive in residence” for Inforum’s West Michigan chapter. Judy Welch recently departed Inforum to head up the Grand Rapids office of Michigan Women’s Foundation, leaving an Inforum leadership void on this side of the state.

So here comes Englehart to the rescue — again. And since she’s one of the founders of West Michigan’s Inforum, it makes perfect sense.

“In her focused, four-month engagement with Inforum, Jeanne will be responsible for serving as a local brand ambassador for both Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership in West Michigan, increasing awareness and positioning our organization with key business, community and civic leaders and centers of influence in the region,” said Terry Barclay, president and CEO of Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership, in an email to members.

“In order to expand and deepen our overall relationships, she will not only be calling on people and organizations herself, she will be ‘quarterbacking’ or positioning members of our staff and volunteer team, including me, Jacque Wiggins, Rachele Downs and others, to ensure all members of the team are known and connected and that we have many touch points.”

Englehart will remain with Charter while piloting the local efforts of Inforum through April. Then she will … retire?

Fair enough

The Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions will host its annual conference Jan. 9-11 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.

Karen Klug, MAFE executive director, said she believes the conference brings together the best in entertainment and festival vendors from around the country.

“We offer everything needed to produce outstanding fairs and events throughout the state, all under one roof. We are providing many options in entertainment, food concessions, tent companies, sound and light companies, and so much more that our fair and event organizers need to create excellent events.”

The 129th annual convention also allows MAFE members to attend educational workshops, share ideas and best practices at roundtable discussions, and attend a showcase of entertainment acts.

Klug said she hopes attendees will be inspired by keynote speaker Johnny D — “The Motivational Cowboy" — and his presentation on "Living the OUTSTANDING Life." The schedule also includes presentation of the Volunteer of the Year and Heritage awards, as well as recognition of scholarship winners. The conference is a MAFE members-only event.

Good sign

Advertising companies are often tasked with sending out a brand message for their clients. Rarely, however, do they toot their own horns (at least, publicly).

So in a bit of a twist, motorists along U.S. 131 south of Grand Rapids are getting a glimpse into the minds behind creative firm Extra Credit Projects (of Betty Ford billboard fame). And it’s … twisted.

“We’ve designed tens of thousands of billboards over the years, but ironically this is our first one,” said Rob Jackson, principal and creative director at ECP. “We feel it’s an example of simplicity, relevance and brand-positioning in an 80-mile-per-hour world.”

An early start

Entrepreneurs often point to writing a solid business plan as one of the most difficult aspects of starting a business. Everyone wants to jump to the business part first because they “already know what they want to do.”

But any good business owner will tell you that’s putting the cart before the horse, so it’s refreshing to see entrepreneurial organizations pairing with area high schools in an effort to put order to the chaos.

The e-merge Entrepreneur Network of West Michigan and its partner organizations are inviting area high school students to participate in the 2014 Young Entrepreneur Awards business plan competition.

“This competition is a great skill-building experience and an excellent addition to a student’s résumé,” said David Stradal, chairman of e-merge’s youth subcommittee and coordinator of marketing, management and entrepreneurial studies at Muskegon Community College.

“We see the area’s top high school teachers and administrators encouraging their students to participate. Last year’s finalists were from Muskegon, Whitehall and West Michigan Christian high schools, and we had entries from many other schools including Shelby, Grand Haven and White Cloud.”

Students who enter have approximately eight weeks to develop a plan for starting a business — either real or something they’ve dreamed about doing.

“The process is simple but does require commitment from the participants,” said Linda Meyers, e-merge youth subcommittee member and program director of entrepreneurship at Baker College of Muskegon.

Students who enter receive an outline explaining the type of information that should be included in their business plan and judges’ evaluation criteria. Participants will meet with a business mentor to review their plan, ask questions and receive input. The top 10 semi-finalists will present their plan to a panel of judges in March. The top five finalists will be guests of honor at the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 Entrepreneur Award Luncheon April 16, where the winners will be announced.

The top three finishers will win a new laptop computer. Other prizes include college scholarships, college gear and gift cards donated by area businesses.

Entry deadline is Jan. 17. To register, see

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