Street Talk: The two-minute warning


Thursday’s groundbreaking for the Grand Rapids Research Center (MSU nowhere in sight in that title) got the ball rolling on an $88.1 million development that is sure to change the makeup of downtown Grand Rapids in the years to come.

The event also showcased unabashed MSU supporter Peter Secchia in all his glory.

At an invitation-only Town Hall Breakfast for community leaders prior to the groundbreaking, Secchia got the festivities rolling with a little reminder.

“By the way, we paid for breakfast,” Secchia said, referring to himself and co-hosts Mike Jandernoa and Doug DeVos, “and all of you are paying for the $88 million across the street.”

The breakfast started with MSU minions alerting local business leaders they were taking too long, yakking. Get in your seats. And everyone did (for fear of being called by name when Peter got to the podium).

The tight timeline continued throughout the morning, with Secchia riding herd on every detail.

“Every speaker: You’ve got two minutes,” Secchia intoned. Rick Chapla (Birgit Klohs was in France on an economic mission), Rick Baker, Mike VanGessel, Thomas Haas, Steve Heacock, Bill Manns and Rosalynn Bliss all got the same directive. After The Right Place’s Chapla exceeded his limit by a few seconds, Secchia took issue.

“Chapla, you took too long. We’re going to have to make up some time. Two minutes!”

But Secchia was generous — sort of — when it came to Marsha Rappley, the outgoing dean of the MSU College of Human Medicine who announced last week she will become vice president of health sciences and CEO of the Virginia Commonwealth University Health System in Richmond. Rappley’s last day as MSU dean is Aug. 14.

“Marsha, you can have another minute to say goodbye,” Secchia said.

Rappley used her good fortune to thank those in attendance.

“One of the reasons I was considered for this top position is what you all did, together, in Grand Rapids,” she said. “People across the country want to know how this happens.”

The former U.S. ambassador to Italy offered no quarter for others, however, even for MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon, making repeated reference to her diminutive stature. “Microphones don’t reach down that far, but you’ll hear her.”

Secchia then told everybody they had two minutes to walk from the breakfast at DeVos Place to the research center site: “There’s a bathroom on the way if you have to stop.”

Where’s Waldo?

Missing from Thursday’s festivities was GR Mayor George Heartwell, but it turns out Hizzoner had a pretty good excuse. (Bliss was sent as a stand-in. Sign of things to come?)

Heartwell was participating in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative annual meeting, where mayors from the United States and Canada congratulated the premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and the governors of Ohio and Michigan, John Kasich and Rick Snyder, for their leadership in joining forces under the Western Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement.

The accord, announced less than two weeks ago, commits the jurisdictions to reduce phosphorus in Lake Erie by 40 percent over the next decade, with an interim goal of 20 percent by 2020.

"I commend Gov. Snyder's leadership role, together with the Ohio governor and Ontario premier, in pledging efforts toward water quality improvements for Lake Erie through specific targets of 40 percent phosphorus reduction to help in addressing harmful algae blooms,” Heartwell said. “While the city of Grand Rapids has taken many steps to strengthen and improve water quality, it is timely to see collaborative efforts across state and national borders to address challenges and threats facing our water resources in the Great Lakes.”

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative called on federal, state and provincial governments to commit to hard deadlines to reduce algae in Lake Erie. Canada and the U.S. have yet to release their proposed phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie for public comment. The two governments have committed to setting targets by 2016 and to developing domestic action plans to reach reduction targets by 2018.

“With the commitment to 40 percent reduction by Ontario, Ohio and Michigan, we now need our federal governments to show similar leadership,” said Cities Initiative Board member John Dickert, mayor of Racine, Wis. “We encourage Canada and Ontario to immediately release their proposed Lake Erie targets for public consultation and to commit to reaching the interim and 2025 target dates outlined in the Western Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement.”

Also at the Cities Initiative annual general meeting, member mayors passed a resolution calling for more stringent, harmonized safety measures to prevent oil train derailments that have been occurring on a regular basis throughout the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin.

“The goal must be zero derailments of trains carrying highly volatile oil,” said Cities Initiative Board member Denis Lapointe, mayor of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec. “To reach that goal, the replacement of outdated train cars must be accelerated and harmonized across the border.”

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of more than 110 Canadian and U.S. mayors, representing more than 17 million people.

Working vacation

Professionals across the country are planning summer trips, but research suggests many financial executives will be taking their work along with their sunscreen.

In a recent survey by Robert Half Management Resources, 68 percent of CFOs said they typically are in touch with the office at least once a week while on summer vacation, a 20-point increase from a similar survey three years ago.

Roughly one-third of CFOs anticipate a clean break from work while on vacation, which is down from 51 percent in 2012. In general, respondents are more likely to check in with the office daily than not at all.

“Demands on CFOs, from regulatory compliance requirements to technology and growth initiatives, are at historical highs,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director for Robert Half.

“While this reality makes it difficult for many to unplug completely, the key is to strike a balance. Before checking in with the office, executives should ask themselves if it's necessary, or if they are doing so when they should be relaxing and enjoying their time away from work.”

McDonald also commented on the need to set the right tone.

“Employees understand executives will need to check in from outside the office from time to time. However, if professionals see senior managers overdoing it and feel pressured to constantly be connected themselves, they may start looking for opportunities offering greater work-life balance,” he said.

McDonald said there are some ways to mitigate the vacation issues for both out-of-office CFOs and their staffs.

“Tell your colleagues how much, if at all, you plan to check in and when. In turn, they will be less likely to contact you outside those times,” McDonald said.

“Your vacation can be an opportune time for your protégé to take on higher-level projects and prepare for an expanded role. Make him or her your point person and the one you list on out-of-office messages.”

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