Street Talk: The American way


Amway Corp. sells more than just products.

The direct sales giant, which last year had more than $10.8 billion in sales worldwide, is making some of its better pitches closer to home.

That’s why Grand Rapids Community College recognized Amway last week with its Internship Employer of the Year Award.

The Ada Township-based company has provided internships to GRCC students over the past several years, and many of those work experiences turn into full-time jobs. In addition to being represented at GRCC job fairs, company representatives visit the campus to recruit manufacturing students for summer positions.

“Amway has always been supportive of GRCC students,” said Scott Lampe, professor of plastics manufacturing technology. “This is the third year in a row that Amway has come to make contact with GRCC students above and beyond the open houses that GRCC hosts.”

The partnership also benefits Amway, said Laura Davis, vice president of talent acquisition and employee engagement.

“With our internship program, Amway hires an average of 100 interns every year who work beside and learn from leaders across the company,” she said. “We are excited to continue building our associate degree internship program, partnering with GRCC to empower students with the skills they need to fill positions in growing industries.”

Lampe said the recent internships for Robert Zemaitis and Quy Nguyen were a direct result of Amway’s visits to GRCC. The company hired Zemaitis for a full-time job after his internship ended. Nguyen opted to continue his education at Ferris State University.

Lauren Walker, Amway’s vice president of Ada manufacturing, said interns get chances to make real contributions to the company’s operation.

“Our manufacturing and engineering internships provide students with the opportunity to work on real-world projects that will be used to improve efficiency and expand our capacities on a global level,” she said. “The manufacturing operations needed today require highly skilled people, and our internships provide students a behind-the-scenes view of the competitive career path while offering them the opportunity to fine-tune their skills, preparing them for the workforce.”

Cleaning up

Plugged toilets and social media may not seem compatible, but they’re an award-winning combination for the city of Grand Rapids.

The Grand Rapids Environmental Services Department’s innovative embrace of social media to promote awareness of its “No Wipes in the Pipes” campaign captured a 2015 Award of Excellence by the Central Michigan Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America.

Judges rate submissions based on quality of research, planning, execution and evaluation.

“We are proud that national experts in the public relations and marketing industry recognize Grand Rapids’ communication services as among the best in Michigan,” said Mike Lunn, manager of the Environmental Services Department.

The department teamed with Lansing-based Güd Marketing to develop and implement a low-cost, high-impact plan that would address an increasingly serious challenge: the rise of sewage backups caused by residents flushing disposable wipes and other nondisposable items that plug sewer pipes and pumps.

As a result, Grand Rapids sewer workers pull rags and disposable wipes out of pumps and valves at the wastewater systems’ lift stations an average of two or three times per week, expending taxpayer resources on a preventable problem. Plus, it’s gross!

The campaign featured Facebook ads and other tactics. The city’s ads directly reached 26 percent of Grand Rapids residents an average of three times throughout the campaign; grew organic reach from 36 people to more than 150 people on average; and sent more than 2,500 clicks to the No Wipes web page — an approximately 2,100 percent surge compared with 115 page views January-November 2014.

Dancin’ in the streets

A downtown bar and grill aims to keep music and fun flowing on Wednesday evenings this summer while raising money for Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.

North Monroe hot spot Grand Rapids Garage Bar & Grill will host weekly street parties with a charitable angle. Starting June 10, and continuing each Wednesday through Aug. 12, Garage Bar Block Parties will be held from 6-10 p.m. in front of the venue, 819 Ottawa Ave. NW.

There will be a $3 admission with $1 donated to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, along with $1 from every Perrin Veteran Pale Ale sold. The events will feature live music and classic motorcycles and cars on display.

With the new event, the Garage Bar gives a slight nod to the popular weekly street parties held by its predecessor, Teazers. Aside from entertainment, Grand Rapids Garage Bar & Grill will offer food and drink specials and provide seating on Ottawa Avenue.

The establishment also wanted to create an event that keeps music and fun flowing in downtown on Wednesdays, following the departure of WLAV’s Blues on the Mall series from downtown to The DeltaPlex.

Having a charitable component to the block parties was important to owner and operator Kevin Farhat, and to building owners Third Coast Development.

“The Garage Bar Block Parties will be fun, but they’ll also be community-minded by allowing us the ability to give something back to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans,” said Farhat. “Our tagline is ‘We run a good party,’ but we’re all about safety and responsibility too, so we’re making these events as comfortable as possible for the diverse audiences in our area.”

Car clubs and enthusiasts are encouraged to display their cars. A designated exhibit area will run along Ottawa from Fairbanks to Newberry streets.

Road warriors

It’s a bit ironic that “Mad Max: Fury Road” is playing in theaters right now, given the rancor with which Michigan voters have responded to the Legislature’s inability to fix the roads.

Sixty-six percent of respondents to a poll conducted by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Mackinac Center for Public Policy said they would support redirecting Michigan’s $50 million annual film subsidy to fixing the roads. Forty-eight percent said they support the idea while 25 percent said they were opposed.

“Clearly, Michigan voters recognize the benefit of reprioritizing existing resources to fix the roads,” said Rich Studley, Michigan Chamber president and CEO. “This costly and ineffective film subsidy is not creating full-time, permanent jobs for Michigan residents and is a waste of taxpayer dollars.”

When asked if Michigan’s $50 million film subsidy should be continued or stopped altogether without regard to road funding, the majority of respondents — 60 percent — said the state should end the program.

“Despite all the glitz and glam of Hollywood and the positive press productions have received, voters are largely unimpressed with the program,” said Joseph Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center. “Lansing lawmakers have a real opportunity here to ensure that good policy makes for good politics.”

“If this polling data shows anything, it is that lawmakers have an opportunity to reprioritize a low-value expenditure (film subsidies) into a higher one (road improvements),” said Studley. “It’s time for legislators to place a higher priority on Michigan’s taxpayers and get the job done on fixing the roads.”

Mel Gibson and Tom Hardy would not be pleased.

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