Street Talk: The CON game is afoot


While a new attack on the Michigan Certificate of Need was waged again last week on behalf of the twice-rejected attempt by McLaren Health of Pontiac for a fancy tower in affluent Clarkston (see Comment on page 12), one notable cost containment advocate was missing.

The Alliance for Health, which has represented local businesses and health care entities in providing the CON Commission with recommendations for cost containment, made no note of the ramifications of an issue considered urgent across Michigan.

West Michigan leadership on issues of cost oversight has been a model across the country. The Business Journal has learned, however, that the recently promoted Alliance Executive Director Paul Brand in May proffered board members a new operations template that effectively recreates AFH into a health exchange for businesses. Ludington resident Don Hall, board chair of the 13-county West Michigan alliance, is assisting Brand in spearheading that effort. Several others have since resigned, including RoMan Manufacturing owner Bob Roth, Judge Dennis Lieber and Frey Foundation’s Lynne Ferrell. Street talk indicates a meeting may be afoot, and some ask if it is a meeting to end all meetings. Only a quorum is needed.

Government assistance

“I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

That old saw attributed to President Ronald Reagan still prompts smiles among the business community, but apparently residents of Ottawa County are buying into the premise.

Seventy-six percent of residents gave Ottawa County government a positive rating, according to a countywide public opinion survey released last week. Seventy-three percent of residents said Ottawa County operations are heading in the right direction, up from 63 percent in 2012.

Respondents rated the county well in its handling of finances and 67 percent report their tax burden to be “about right” when considering the government services they receive.

Shannon Felgner, Ottawa’s communications manager, said this was the fifth in a series of biennial studies that began in 2006. The questionnaire asked residents to rank government goals, handling of finances, perception of tax burden, satisfaction with the state and local governments, and other customer satisfaction sentiments.

She said this year’s survey also probed residents on their support for a countywide road millage, with 57 percent backing the measure. Currently, roads are funded by the state and managed by the road commission. The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners approved the road commission’s request to place a half millage on the November ballot to supplement its budget. Felgner said the idea of a potential mental health millage was also assessed, and majority support was found.

Something old, new

The Lakeshore Athena program marks its 10th anniversary this year with an additional component: the Young Professional Leadership Award.

The program, put on by the chambers representing Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg, Muskegon and Michigan’s West Coast, recognizes outstanding lakeshore women who have demonstrated excellence in their business or profession, devoted time and energy to improve the quality of life for others in their community, and assisted women in reaching their full potential exhibited a spirit of regional collaboration.

Jeanne Englehart will be the keynote speaker for the Oct. 7 event at Trillium Events in Ferrysburg/Spring Lake. Englehart has an extensive history as a business owner and entrepreneur. She was the 2013 GRACC Athena recipient and was selected as one of 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Business Journal in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2014. Most recently, she provided independent consulting services to West Michigan business owners as vice president of The Charter Group.

This year’s Lakeshore Athena finalists are: Gwen Auwerda, Tulip Time, Holland; Mary Boyd, Mercy Health, Norton Shores; Sheri Holstege, ESSTEE Real Estate, Holland; Stacy Segrist Kamphuis, The Insurance Group, Holland; Jackie Kleino, Woodward Inc., Zeeland; Darcy Komejan, Children’s Advocacy Center, Holland; Suzanne Velarde, Velarde Marketing, Spring Lake; Tracy Wilson, Grand Haven High School, Grand Haven; and Helen Zeerip, Teddy’s Transport, Holland.

Those who are up for the first young professional award are: Katie Appold, Love Inc., Grand Haven; Jessica Sowles Chandler, Merrill Lynch, Muskegon; Kris Collee, Kids’ Food Basket, Muskegon; Jennifer Cross, MoDiv coach, Muskegon; Jennifer Crouse, Stifil, Grand Haven; Carrie Anne Engels, What a Gem!, Grand Haven; Carla Flanders, CMF Marketing, Norton Shores; Jamie Helsen, United Way of the Lakeshore, Muskegon; Stefanie Herder, Grand Haven Area CVB, Grand Haven; Meghan Heritage, BlueWest Properties|Boss Homes, Grand Haven; Elizabeth Kidd, Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland; Kate Klemp, Tulip Time, Holland; Sarah Lilly, Five Star Real Estate Lakeshore, Holland; Leigh Moerdyke, Pathways of Michigan, Holland; Colleen Perdok, Holland Hospital, Holland; and Brynn Shepherd, Northwestern Mutual, Grand Haven.

The scam that never dies

An email arrived the other day from Kathy Koch, president of CMIT Solutions of Grand Rapids, warning us about phone scammers claiming to be from Microsoft Security.

CMIT is based in Texas and bills itself as the “leading provider of managed services and other computer consulting services tailored to the unique needs of small business with over 135 locally owned and operated locations nationwide.”

The Microsoft Security scam has been going on for at least five years, according to CMIT, “and many of our CMIT Solutions clients have reported receiving them in recent weeks.”

The Better Business Bureau of Western Michigan also has weighed in with warnings.

A Business Journal reporter has unfortunately had firsthand experience with the scam. A family member was home alone when the scammer called the landline phone. The caller, with a strong Indian accent, said the family computer had been infected and was spreading it on the Internet. “Microsoft Security” was going to fix it, he said, but first the sick PC had to be booted up and then directed to a website where he said help was available.

Once that was done, the scammer website inserted crippling malware into the computer. He gave a price for the “repair” — $250 — and demanded a credit card number. The family member smelled a rat and terminated the call.

The scam left the PC completely unusable, however. A local computer shop got it working again, but key software had been deleted, and the cost to remove the malware was more than $100.

Older people are more vulnerable to this scam because they are most likely to still have landlines, with listed numbers, names and address. And, many seniors are not computer savvy and are more gullible when a scammer calls.

And just so you know: Microsoft never calls anyone about their home computer.

The scam is not limited to North America. It is also common in the U.K., and in fact, computer-savvy pranksters there have made a game of scamming the scammers, recording their pranks on video and putting them on YouTube. The pranksters play stupid to see how long it takes before the scammer realizes he or she has been had and wasted lots of time on the call.

Among the many YouTube vignettes created by anti-scammer pranksters are “Phone Scam Gone Wrong” and “Indian Windows Scammer Prank.” They are worth it for the chuckles.

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