Street Talk: Parking suggestions welcome


With all the hubbub surrounding parking this past week, maybe it’s time for Grand Rapids to tear a page from Seattle’s book.

There are two distinct lines of thought with the Grand Rapids parking situation: one, let’s add more, and two, let’s find another way to get to work.

Neither are right and the truth is likely in the happy medium, at least until the city has far too much parking to choose from in 2030. In the meantime, it looks like Seattle is figuring a way to skirt the parking needs as it continues to add jobs in its downtown.

The nonprofit Commute Seattle reported the share of downtown commuters dropped from 35 percent in 2010 to 30 percent last year, despite adding 45,000 jobs in the same time frame.

With just 2,255 new drive-alone car trips added with the jobs, 95 percent of the new commute trips were absorbed by transit, walking, biking, telecommuting and shared car trips, according to the organization.

The glaring difference between Seattle and Grand Rapids appears to be a much more comprehensive transit system, which makes up 47 percent of commuter trips in Seattle, including 31,000 of those new jobs since 2010.

Seattle also probably has more people living downtown, so that could help.

Holding the key

A local company has been beating the national coupon books at their own game for nearly 30 years.

Michael Anthony calls his business, KeyCard, the “Robin Hood of coupon books,” as it doesn’t charge businesses to be in the book, charges less for its books than competitors and donates more back to the schools, churches and civic groups using the program.

Anthony said the company has helped raise more than $12 million for the local groups that have used the program for the past 16 years.

The book, which retails at $25, has hundreds of coupons to local retailers and now includes a card that fits into a wallet, so no longer are the deals forgotten about in the glove box.

Trash haul

For the 10th year in a row, Grand Valley State University is participating in a national competition to collect the largest number of recyclables and least amount of trash.

The Recyclemania competition, which began Feb. 5 and continues through April 1, pits GVSU against hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide. Other West Michigan colleges participating include Aquinas College, Kalamazoo College and Kendall College of Art and Design.

The 10-week competition includes categories such as food service organics and waste minimization.

During the 2016 competition, GVSU ranked first in the state and in the top 15 nationwide for universities with more than 20,000 students in the composting category. A total of 221,986 pounds were recycled.

Janet Aubil, operations supervisor for Facilities Services at GVSU, said the university aims to increase the amount of compost and recyclable materials this year.

“It's important that students, faculty and staff make recycling and composting a daily, normal routine,” she said. “Food service areas on campus now serve food in nearly all compostable or recyclable materials. Our compost is sent to a facility that turns it into dirt for gardens and farms.”

Facilities Services is leading the campaign, with support from Campus Dining, GVSU’s Green Team, Office of Housing and Residence Life, Sustainability Initiative, Student Environmental Coalition and Pew Campus Operations.

For more information about Recyclemania, visit For more information about Recyclemania at GVSU, visit

Bank shot

Starting next year, the Grand Rapids Drive will be playing in the G-League.

No, that's not a demotion. But the NBA Development League, affectionately known as the D-League and current home to the hometown Drive, announced last week that it is entering into a multi-year corporate sponsorship with sports drink giant Gatorade beginning in the 2017-18 season. That includes renaming the D-League to the NBA Gatorade League, or G-League. And yes, all the good Snoop Dogg jokes already have been made.

This marks the first time in U.S. professional sports history a league named a corporate title partner.

As part of the partnership, the Gatorade Sports Science Institute will collaborate with the G-League on programs that can enhance player performance and recovery. GSSI scientists will offer player nutrition and training programs.

"As one of the most iconic brands in the world and a founding partner of the NBA Development League, Gatorade is an ideal fit for this first-of-its-kind partnership," NBA deputy commissioner and COO Mark Tatum said.

A new league logo was unveiled along with the partnership, complete with Gatorade's recognizable "G" in the lower right corner.

While financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, nothing is really free, and it’s likely Gatorade paid for licensing rights. However, the NBA's official minor league stands to gain from the rebranding in other ways.

The D-League was founded in 2001 and has never quite had the appeal of overseas leagues for players looking to get paid. Partnering with a well-established company like Gatorade strengthens the league's credentials and while it remains to be seen how that will impact player decisions, it could mean basketball in Grand Rapids could get even better.

The future is female

This week, a group of seventh- and eighth-grade girls will get the chance to see what it’s like to be a software developer.

Configura, a Swedish software company with commercial operations in Grand Rapids, is inviting 20 girls to attend BitCampGR from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Feb. 21.

BitCampGR is a hands-on introduction to the software development profession — presented in a fun and supportive small-group environment. As part of the activities, the students learn to code a basic website.

Configura’s BitCampGR event will feature a tour of the company’s Grand Rapids office and the opportunity to meet with programmers, including women.

BitCamp focuses on seventh- and eighth-grade girls because women are underrepresented in technology fields.

The hope is early exposure to software development will increase the number of young women who pursue degrees in tech fields.

“The tech industry has a gender diversity problem, and Configura is proud to be sponsoring and hosting a BitCampGR event to do something about it,” said Brooke Snow, Configura’s business development manager.

A 2016 survey by Stack Overflow of more than 56,000 coders from 173 countries showed only 5.8 percent of respondents identified as female; meanwhile, 92.8 percent of respondents identified as male.

At the same time, there is a growing demand for software professionals in the United States.

Atomic Object launched BitCamp in Grand Rapids in 2006 as a one-time event; the company then introduced BitCamp to Detroit in 2012.

SoftwareGR officially began producing the camps in 2014 and has coordinated about 20 camps in the region since then, impacting more than 400 girls.

“We believe support and exposure are the best tools for introducing young women into a male-dominated profession,” said Beth VanSlyke, talent acquisition lead at Open Systems Technologies, who helps coordinate BitCampGR activities.

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