Street Talk: The bottom line

The West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum will honor three local sustainable business leaders as inductees to the West Michigan Sustainable Business Hall of Fame at its Triple Bottom Line Bash on Oct. 12.

The lifetime achievement award honors individuals who have made the greatest contribution to sustainable business in West Michigan.

This year’s class includes: Guy Bazzani, CEO and president of Bazzani Associates; Deb Steketee, Ph.D., professor of sustainable business at Aquinas College; and Gayle DeBruyn, partner at Lake Affect Design Studio and associate professor at Kendall College of Art and Design.

Honorees were selected by a committee of past presidents and honorees, including Bill Stough of Sustainable Research Group, Fred Keller of Cascade Engineering, former Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell, Kris Spaulding of Brewery Vivant, Renae Hesselink of Nichols, designer Tom Newhouse, and past WMSBF presidents Carol Parsaca of Pilgrim Manor, Jennifer Wammack of IDa Design, and Steve Teitsma of Progressive AE.

Honorees will be recognized at the third annual Triple Bottom Line Bash at Studio D2D, 401 Hall St. SW, in Grand Rapids. A sellout in its first two years, the event has become the signature function for local sustainable business professionals in West Michigan, this year featuring food from Kangaroo Kitchen, beer from Brewery Vivant, prizes and a performance by local comedy troupe The Funny Girls.

The 2016 Sustainable Business of the Year Award, which goes to the West Michigan company or organization that best represents the values of the triple bottom line and is chosen by a vote of WMSBF membership, also will be announced at the event.

Past winners include Brewery Vivant and Organicycle. This year’s finalists include Amway, Aquinas College, Catalyst Partners, City of Grand Rapids, Disher Design & Development, Grand Valley State University, Herman Miller, Kent County Department of Public Works and Rockford Construction.

Tickets to the event are $100 per person.

Corporate welfare

Are American corporations on their deathbeds?

Almost certainly so, according to Jerry Davis, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.

Davis has a new book on the market: “The Vanishing American Corporations and the Hazards of the New Economy.” According to the book’s summary, the number of American companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange dropped by half from 1996 to 2012. Many of those companies have gone bankrupt — including General Motors, Chrysler and Eastman Kodak — while others, such as Bethlehem Steel, Lehman Brothers and Borders simply have disappeared.

Davis also points out the new businesses replacing those stalwarts aren’t large enough to sustain the previous employment opportunities. In fact, Davis said the combined workforces of Facebook, Yelp, Zynga, LinkedIn, Zillow, Tableau, Zulily and Box are smaller than the total loss of employment when Circuit City went out of business in 2009.

Davis will address topics such as inequality, job creation and the stock market and how the loss of American corporations affect those issues in a lecture at 6 p.m. Sept. 26, in the GR Press Auditorium on the second floor of the Eberhard Center on the Grand Valley State University Pew Campus.

The lecture is part of GVSU’s Koeze Business Ethics Initiative in the Seidman College of Business.

Money talk

Next April, employers will have to fall in line with the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule regarding investment advice, a new regulation which redefines who can be considered a fiduciary and what constitutes “investment advice.”

Under the new rule, the fiduciary standard is extended to include retirement investment services previously held to a less restrictive standard, requiring recommendations made by advisors not only are suitable but in the best interest of the client.

Make sense? Not really?

That's where Ben VerWys and Aaron Wassenaar of Action Point Financial come in.

Over the past couple weeks, VerWys and Wassenaar have hosted small, private lunch-and-learn sessions to help local employers and human resources professionals understand how the new rule relates to them and their organization’s 401(k) plans. They explained the ramifications of the new rule, when fiduciary status may be triggered and provided advice on how best to comply with the incoming regulations.

In short, the duo recommended fiduciaries adopt an Investment Policy Statement, monitor retirement plans’ investments, determine if plan fees are reasonable, hold regular plan review meetings, benchmark service providers and investments, and keep a fiduciary file.

And why is this important? You might not need more convincing than this — Wassenaar estimated in just the past three months, there have been more fiduciary lawsuits than in the previous 20 years. Better study up.

Art prize

ArtPrize inspires creation, and the folks at WZZM 13 felt they couldn’t properly showcase the imagination or share the stories that make up the event without embracing the creative spirit. So, they teamed with the designers at Custer and enlisted the fresh eyes of students at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University to create a news desk that is as unique as the event itself.

“With so many people and opinions, we very easily could have been stuck in the weeds coming up with the design intent alone,” said Jody Poole, interior project designer at Custer and a KCAD alumna. “We were all able to rally around our love of Grand Rapids, and that is the underlying message we wanted to come through.”

Months ago, teams from all three organizations began work on their common vision. Celebrating the culture of craft in Grand Rapids, the desk highlights elements fundamental to the city’s identity. Representations of manufacturing, sustainability, art and design, and natural beauty capture the vitality and pride tied to the reputation of Grand Rapids.

Constructed out of reclaimed ash wood from within 25 miles of downtown Grand Rapids, the desk is detailed with donated items repurposed from Goodwill Industries and bottles representing various West Michigan craft breweries — arranged in a wave formation in homage to the Grand River.

“The collaboration between Custer, KCAD design students and WZZM 13 has resulted in a news desk unlike any other,” said Janet Mason, WZZM 13 president and general manager. “It is such a unique piece of artwork — it’s a shame it’s not an entry in ArtPrize.”

“This project was an exciting and fun opportunity to guide the students through working with real clients, the design process and having a design idea constructed. It was inspiring to see the student sketches and ideas brought to life,” said Tara McCrackin, program chair and assistant professor of interior design at KCAD. “This was a fun project that I was privileged to be a part of, and I am thrilled with the end result.”

The desk is installed on the second floor of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and will serve as the ArtPrize studio for WZZM 13’s newscasts throughout the event. Mason said visitors can swing by and visit with the talent and staff — when they’re not on the air.

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