Street Talk: Newsmaker notes and laughs

Fee fix.
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The Business Journal’s annual Newsmakers of the Year breakfast traditionally produces a few surprises, especially since the winners in 16 categories are not informed beforehand.

Based on the number of comments afterward, the Jan. 26 live event at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park proved to be a welcome break from almost two years of COVID-19 lockdown.

Adding to the unexpected were moments like Randy Thelen, executive director of The Right Place, deciding to give out his cell phone number while accepting the Newsmaker award in the Economic Development category. His reasoning was that he still was somewhat new to the region and needed more contacts.

Afterward, Thelen acknowledged he’s done that before and received “three or four” responses. By the time he left the breakfast, he said he had almost two dozen contacts from the crowd.

Poor Steve Jbara. The Grand Rapids Gold president took home the Newsmaker award in the Sports category, but not without first going through a bit of morning angst. Keep in mind the temperature that day was about 3 degrees. First, Jbara said he went to start his car and the key fob fell apart, landing beneath the vehicle. As he scrambled in his search, a button popped off his sport coat. He went inside to change. Now in a rush, he grabbed his computer case, and the handle came off.

“You’re probably still having a better morning than I am,” he told the crowd upon accepting his award.

Well, that’s debatable. Consider the plight of Carter Pavey, assistant general manager of Gun Lake Casino. His boss, Sal Semola, was up for the Newsmaker in the Arts category, but couldn’t attend, so he sent Pavey in his place.

“What do I have to do?” he asked. “Nothing,” Semola replied. “Just sit there.”

Not exactly true. Not only did Semola pick up the Arts Newsmaker, he also won the overall Newsmaker of the Year award for GLC’s $300 million expansion and community contributions.

The result was Pavey had to come on stage not once but twice to extol the virtues of the casino and its involvement in the West Michigan business community to an audience of more than 260.

Oops!

To read about the winners in each of the 16 categories and GLC’s triumph as overall winner, go to grbj.com.

Count on it

The financial services firm Rehmann — which has West Michigan locations — last month said it will join HLB International, a global network of independent accounting and advisory firms.

“We are extremely excited to make this move official,” said Rehmann CEO Randy Rupp. “HLB International is a strong global network of firms with strategies that align with Rehmann and talented associates that will add to the depth of solutions that are key to our clients’ success. This move allows us to provide an even higher level of service to our clients.”

Founded in 1969, HLB firms currently operate across more than 150 countries, comprising more than 32,000 industry professionals. Combining local expertise and global capabilities through affiliation, HLB firms can better help clients meet organizational growth goals of expanding into new domestic territories and across borders.

“Over the years, we have been fortunate to establish very strong relationships across the HLB network. We’ve known many of the HLB member firms for some time and have always been impressed by the quality of their people and the work they do,” said Chip Hoebeke, Rehmann’s director of consulting and director of the firm’s turnaround, restructuring and insolvency practice.

“Their forward-thinking strategies, passion for client service, and strong presence in both the domestic and global markets directly align with our goals. Of course, this means we will be leaving Nexia International, which is an excellent organization about which we continue to have nothing but positive things to say. This decision simply makes the most sense for the direction of our firm.”

Life happens

St. Joseph-based United Federal Credit Union is overhauling its overdraft and nonsufficient funds policy by eliminating overdraft protection and nonsufficient fund fees and reducing courtesy pay fees for all members. 

“Our motivation for eliminating and reducing fees associated with overdraft is simple — it’s the right thing to do,” said United President and CEO Terry O’Rourke. “These fee changes are consistent with our core value as a credit union of people helping people. Those who rely on courtesy pay are often the ones least able to afford it. We’re taking a stance to support our members’ financial wellness and provide options that help them avoid fees.”

United’s new overdraft policy will take effect April 1, eliminating overdraft protection and nonsufficient funds fees and slashing the courtesy pay fee from $35 to $20.

Overdraft protection is a service for members to automatically transfer funds from one account to another to cover an overdraft. United will continue to offer this benefit while eliminating the $10 transfer fee. NSF fees, sometimes referred to as “bounced-check” fees, currently are assessed when a transaction like a check or preauthorized transfer is presented for payment in an amount that exceeds the available balance in an account and the transaction isn’t paid. United will continue to deny payment in these cases, but without charging a $35 fee. Members who choose to overdraw their account using courtesy pay can still use this service for a reduced fee of $20 from $35.

“We have the tools to help members avoid overdrawing their accounts,” O’Rourke said. “We also know that life happens, and when it does, we’re here to help with affordable overdraft solutions. We want all of our members to feel welcome and accepted at United with options to meet their unique financial needs.”

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