Street Talk: That cheering was from the Michigan Chamber


The Michigan Chamber of Commerce celebrated last week as it announced the anti-fracking group in Michigan failed to get enough signatures to put its proposal on the ballot next year.

The chamber said its statewide campaign “to protect Michigan’s energy future” worked, as proponents seeking to ban hydraulic fracturing in Michigan gathered only 27 percent of the minimum required signatures.

“We applaud the thousands and thousands of Michiganders who declined to sign this harmful proposal being pushed by environmentalists who conducted a campaign short on facts and long on scare tactics,” said Michigan Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley.

“This reckless attempt to hijack Michigan’s energy policy would raise home heating bills and kill jobs in Michigan.”

In August, the chamber said it launched an aggressive statewide campaign called “Protect Michigan’s Energy Future.” The campaign included a public speaking tour, a multi-media interactive website, 42 billboards across the state and Internet advertising that delivered more than 11 million impressions.

“Hydraulic fracturing has been used for over 50 years without a single negative impact on human health or the environment,” noted Jason Geer, director of energy and environmental policy for the Michigan Chamber.

“During that time, over 12,000 wells in Michigan have used this technique; hydraulic fracturing has clearly been proven safe.

“Over 80 percent of the homes in Michigan are heated with safe natural gas produced right here in Michigan that translates to lower heating bills and more jobs for our state,” added Geer.

“Michigan has scored a victory for now, but we know the fight isn’t over,” Studley said. “The Michigan Chamber will continue to be vigilant in advocating policies to promote Michigan’s energy independence and to protect Michigan’s energy future.”

The Committee to Ban Fracking is led by LuAnne Kozma of Charlevoix. Its website ( says the goal was to prohibit “the new type of horizontal fracking and frack wastes in Michigan.”

The committee says there is “industrial-scale fracking planned for Michigan” and cited “the enormous amount of frack wastes inherently created in the fracking process, including wastes that would come here from other states where fracking takes place.”

Its legislative proposal (not an amendment to the state constitution) would ban horizontal fracking and frack wastes, and also remove the language in the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act “that favors the special-interests of the oil and gas industry fostering ‘maximum production’ of oil and gas over the protection of human health and water.”

Michigan’s current policy promoting maximum production of natural gas also “adds to global warming,” according to the group’s website.

Ladies first

A recent development in women’s conferences has us scratching our heads a bit.

Last Wednesday, Darlene Lee enlisted four male executives to lead a panel discussion about disadvantages women face in the workplace. On that same day, Doug DeVos, president of Amway Corp., had a “conversation” with members of Inforum — the area’s economic club for women.

Lee’s conference and Inforum’s event certainly meant well. And anything directed toward acquiring talent, self-promotion, negotiation skills, networking techniques and improved communication is certainly worthwhile. However, both events hint at the lack of professional women who are big enough headliners to draw a revenue-producing crowd.

Just an observation that we hope doesn’t become a trend.

Be happy

When Julie Aigner Clark spoke at the Business Journal’s Top Women Owned Businesses event in March, she hinted at what was next for the creator of the Baby Einstein craze. She said Baby Bytes, an app development company focused on apps for children age 1 and older, would be the focus of her attention.

Last week she released Happy Appy, a new app with the simple goal of making people smile.

Aigner Clark is a graduate of Michigan State University, which along with the University of Michigan and Wayne State University comprise Michigan’s University Research Corridor.

Jeff Mason, URC’s executive director, isn’t surprised by Aigner Clark’s success. He said URC alumni were 1.5 times as successful as the average U.S. business owner at keeping start-ups and acquisitions alive in the past five years.

Clark, who is based outside of Denver, said she created Happy Appy because the world needs a way for people to feel happy at some point every day.

“I was tired of being inundated with news that was bad, sad or mad,” said Clark. “I wanted to create something simple that could incite a smile and would appeal to people of all ages. Imagine you’re having a bad day. With the tap of a button, you’re given the gift of Happy. How great is that?”

When the app’s alarm sounds, users are greeted with a link to a short YouTube video that often features funny animals, inoffensive pranks or laughing babies. Each video is selected with the pledge “never crude, rude or nude.”

Clark personally selects the YouTube videos, none of which exceed four minutes in length.

Happy Appy ( is available for iOS and Android devices. The free version sends users a new video each day. The 99-cent upgrade includes an alarm, the option to easily share happy videos and the ability to save favorite videos.

City speak

Activists Azizi Jasper, Jonathan Jelks and Jamiel Robinson (all Grand Rapids natives) have organized a statewide tour entitled Empower Michigan, during which they will host a series of forums discussing the creation of an “urban agenda” in Michigan regarding the African-American community.

The Grand Rapids stop takes place at 6 p.m., Thursday, at Wealthy Theatre, and features an event titled “The Future of the Black Community in Grand Rapids: The Tale of 2 Cities.”

Jelks said the dialogue within this symposium will revolve around developing an urban agenda that empowers education and economic development, and works to revitalize inner-city neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.

Problems the organizers hope to address include ending the school-to-prison pipeline, black-on-black violence, and working with the community to replace negative youth culture with more positive reinforcement and peer accountability for young people.

Jelks said the ultimate goal of the discussion is to work with residents to come up with a tangible action plan that can create outcomes and self-sufficient solutions, as well as provide more resources for minority communities.

At the conclusion of the tour, Jelks said the Empower Michigan crew will launch a website that will share the findings from the forums and develop a list of best practices to be shared among cities in Michigan.

Scheduled panelists for Thursday’s event include 3rd Ward city commissioner-elect Senita Lenear; Darel Ross, executive director of LINC Community Revitalization; activist Chaka Holley; Jamon Alexander, fund director of the YMCA; Joe Jones, CEO of the Grand Rapids Urban League; Donald Williams, president of the Black Chamber of Commerce; and Rev. Jerry Bishop of Lifequest Ministries.

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