Street Talk: Passing the baton


A statewide small business development leader is re-entering the private sector this month.

Keith Brophy, Michigan Small Business Development Center state director since March 2015, left the MI-SBDC on March 8.

He described his departure as “a planned passing of the leadership baton.”

“It has been my honor to lead this team through our rapid evolution over the past several years. We have accomplished significant goals during that time,” Brophy said.

“The SBDC is strong, effective and ready for the next era. With this transition underway, I am excited to return to the private sector to resume my activities in health tech.”

The MI-SBDC did not disclose what specific company and role Brophy is transitioning into.

GVSU will begin a nationwide search for Brophy’s replacement in the upcoming months.

Ed Garner, the West Michigan SBDC regional director, has assumed the role of interim director.

“It is an honor to be chosen to lead such a great organization at this time,” he said. “Along with a solid foundation in our core, growth and tech teams, there continues to be forward momentum with our special initiatives, such as cybersecurity awareness and economic inclusion.”

MI-SBDC provides no-cost consulting, business education, information-based planning and technology commercialization services to Michigan’s new business ventures, existing small businesses, growing businesses and innovators.

Its State Lead Center is at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business on the Robert C. Pew Campus.

In 2017, MI-SBDC generated $229,326,660 in capital formation and assisted its clients in creating 423 new jobs.

Golden girl

When Lynn “Chick” McNamara Blue was hired at Grand Valley State University as a clerk typist in 1968, she was put on a six-month probation. Her performance must have been acceptable because she now is a vice president and will break the record for the university’s longest-serving employee when she passes the 50-year mark in September.

While she noted she definitely is a “Laker for a lifetime,” Blue announced she will retire at the end of this year.

Blue has worked every position in the records office, starting with one filing cabinet that held the records of all 1,729 students at Grand Valley. Academic record keeping kept evolving and becoming more automated, and Blue is credited with being part of developing Grand Valley’s one-stop service center for students to register and pay bills.

She steadily moved up the ranks, being promoted to vice president for Enrollment Development by President Thomas J. Haas in 2015. Enrollment now stands at more than 25,000 students. Blue said she never had to leave Grand Valley to change jobs because the university kept changing around her, but the one thing that has never changed is her commitment to students.

“Our rapid enrollment growth made my work innovative, fascinating and exciting,” she said. “I found ways in each of the positions I held to connect positively with students. Over the years, I’ve been able to impact how we, as a university, intensify our focus on students and their Grand Valley experience. The work I’ve been able to do matching scholarships with students and guiding them through to a degree has been transformative. I’m incredibly grateful for 50 years on the job and for the students and my colleagues who make Grand Valley such an extraordinary place. I’m going to breathe in every last minute until my retirement on the last day of the year.”

Haas said her half-century of service, in the integral roles Blue has held at Grand Valley, has truly changed the fabric of the university.

“Chick has given her heart and soul in service to our students and to our university community,” Haas said. “She is an amazing example of someone who puts the student experience and success front and center. From overseeing technical innovations to personally committing to many students, Chick has led by example. She’s smart, practical and a steadfast champion of students. An era is coming to a close with the retirement of a person with her character, work ethic and devotion to students. Her contributions will live on in the spirit of how we serve students at Grand Valley.”

Haas said the university will immediately begin looking for her replacement with a search committee chaired by Vice President for Inclusion and Equity Jesse Bernal. 

Casting a net

Comcast recently implemented a new internet service allowing business and residential customers in West Michigan one-gigabit capabilities, at a cheaper price and without digging up sidewalks.

The new service uses DOCSIS 3.1 technology, allowing Xfinity and Comcast Business internet customers to receive gigabit speeds over the communications lines that most customers already have in their homes and offices.

Comcast has invested in a combination of hardware and software upgrades to its own network. The change requires minimal hardware upgrades to existing Comcast customers. Customers with an old Comcast modem can have it exchanged for a DOCSIS 3.1-cable modem for free.

Michelle Gilbert, Comcast vice president of public relations, said the decision to implement DOCSIS 3.1 technology is designed to warm up small business customers to a more expensive fiber build.

“It’s a niche product, but there are a lot of small businesses out there that need those speeds but are not ready for the costs of a fiber build-out,” she said.

Over Comcast’s fiber service, download and upload speeds are consistent. The company’s fiber build across downtown Grand Rapids offers up to 100-gigabit internet speeds. DOCSIS 3.1 offers download speeds up to one gigabit and upload speeds up 35 megabits.

“For us, this was just as much about the future and having the speeds in place to meet the needs of what our customers will demand,” Gilbert said. “We’re constantly trying to stay ahead of their needs. We know they’ll be relying on it more because of what history tells us.”

Sweet child o’ mine

Wedgwood Christian Services is hosting the second Wedgwood’s State of the Child, an educational panel conversation and breakfast for business, health care and community leaders to discuss the challenges facing young people in West Michigan.

The event will take place 8-10 a.m. April 17, at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, 1000 East Beltline Ave. NE, Grand Rapids.

The event features a panel of experts:

  • Sgt. Joel Roon, Kent County Sheriff’s Department

  • Judge T.J. Ackert, 17th Circuit Family Court

  • President Bill Pink, Grand Rapids Community College

  • Ashley Anderson, Wedgwood’s Manasseh Project clinician

  • Holly Wixon, Wedgwood clinical supervisor

“There are a number of disciplines that must work together to maximize support and care for children in West Michigan: business, law, health and enforcement,” Ackert said. “This conference brings together leaders from all fields to discuss the ‘best practices’ to address the threats to children and families.”

Guests also will hear from a panel of local teens sharing their experiences.

“State of the Child is a unique opportunity to be inspired by community leaders who relentlessly work to transform the lives of our kids who have been handed a difficult life journey,” said Randy Zylstra, Wedgwood president and CEO

Tickets can be purchased at

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