Street Talk: Whale of a tale


Thanks to a local sign company, visitors to a downtown museum can find more details than ever about its most famous artifact.

The main hall of Grand Rapids Public Museum, 272 Pearl St. NW in downtown Grand Rapids, recently became brighter and more informative with the installation of new interactive high-definition video displays for its “Finny the fin whale” skeleton artifact.

The museum partnered with Freshwater Digital, a Grand Rapids-based digital signage and media production company, for the artifact upgrade. Freshwater installed two 75-inch LG Ultra HD UH5C Series displays with TSi infrared touch overlays. ComQi players power the content.

Visitors now can use the touchscreens to learn more about the Finny artifact and fin whales in general.

Freshwater designed and developed an experience that allows users to explore the history of Finny and how the skeleton came to the museum and to see images of Finny throughout history. 

“Using technology to enhance our experiences here at the museum is one of our priorities,” said Dale Robertson, president and CEO of GRPM. “Creating an interactive (display) for one of our most iconic artifacts allows visitors to learn more about it from a scientific and historical perspective while adding a new dimension to visitor trips to the museum.”

Freshwater Digital said it approached the project with enthusiasm. 

“It’s been a privilege to partner with the GRPM on the Finny project,” said Matt Downey, president of Freshwater Digital. “The display has been an iconic piece of Grand Rapids culture for (generations), and we hope the new digital experience will further enhance the artifact and inspire the public as much as it inspired our team that worked on the project.”

Job jump

In the manufacturing sector, Michigan came out among the top states for employment in 2017. Mark Crawford, staff editor for Area Development magazine, said although U.S. manufacturing has lost millions of jobs over the past few decades, it still has the highest multiplier effect of any sector, with each manufacturing job generating four elsewhere in the economy.

Michigan has the fourth-highest number of total manufacturing jobs in the country. By the end of 2017, the state had 607,732 jobs, a 10 percent increase from 2013-17. California was No. 1 (1,288,417 jobs), followed by Texas (851,395) and Ohio (687,911).

Michigan also ranked third in the highest growth rate in manufacturing jobs between 2013 and 2017 at 10 percent — bested only by Idaho (11 percent) and Florida (12 percent).

The state came in first for total manufacturing jobs in the automotive sector. The sector currently has 186,237 employees, 14,039 of which were added between 2013 and 2017. As the state rebounded from the Great Recession, nearly one out of eight new jobs was in the automotive industry, including automotive parts manufacturing.

Crawford said one of the biggest economic drivers among the states adding manufacturing jobs is automotive and automotive parts manufacturing. From 2013-2017, motor vehicle parts manufacturing jobs grew by 16 percent in Michigan.

“Where automobile manufacturing plants locate, auto parts manufacturers and suppliers soon follow,” he emphasized.

Another sector experiencing nationwide growth is plastics manufacturing. Over the past four years, job growth increased 18 percent in Michigan, coming in behind Alabama (29 percent), Tennessee (20 percent), and Nevada and North Carolina (19 percent each).

But the increase in jobs will pose a challenge for employers to fill them with skilled workers. In 2015, Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute predicted nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will be created, 2 million of which will go unfilled, and these predictions already are coming true. The institute recently revealed 80 percent of manufacturers nationwide reported a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants.

“If national and state governments and their manufacturers want to remain competitive, domestically and globally, they must work collaboratively with each other and with educational institutions to provide future workers with the critical skills they need to fill these positions,” Crawford said.

Good philosophy

Alvin Plantinga, a writer and philosopher, gave half of his $1.4-million prize as the 2017 Templeton Prize Laureate to his intellectual home: Calvin College.

Plantinga left Harvard to study at Calvin College in the 1950s and “values Calvin as a place where faculty and students have the freedom to integrate their faith and learning.” He later returned to teach at his alma mater for nearly 20 years.

The bulk of his donation will support faculty research and student scholarships.

“Plantinga is an intellectual giant, and at Calvin, he walked among other giants of Christian academia. His generation modeled the kinds of teamwork and mutual support that allow Christian scholars to thrive,” said Matt Walhout, dean for research and scholarship at Calvin College. “Calvin honors their legacy by continuing to invest in world-class faculty scholarship.”

The award is given to “an individual and honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works.”

“The types of research projects and publications that the faculty now pursues were made possible by the pioneering work Al did to make Christian scholarship professionally credible,” said Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung, professor of philosophy at Calvin College.

“We can now be explicit about how our faith infuses and catalyzes our thinking and our cultural engagement — whether that’s in the areas of health care policy, food and animal ethics, gender and disability advocacy, urban planning and design, studies of consciousness, or Christian virtues and spiritual practices, to name only a few of the areas in which the philosophy department faculty are currently contributing to cultural and scholarly conversations,” DeYoung said.

Going with the Flow

Local businessman Ted Kallman, a leader of the project management professional association, has co-authored a new book with his brother, Andrew, and it’s already hitting high-5s on Amazon.

The Kallmans’ new book, ‘Flow: Getting Everyone Moving in the Right Direction… And Loving It,” is published by Morgan James, which has published more than 25 New York Times Best Sellers. The topic is “agile management,” now one of the hottest desired future states in organizations. Morgan James indicates more than 90 percent of executives recently surveyed have indicated “going agile” is in their immediate strategic plans.

Kallman has the attention (and a good review) from David Rico, chief methodologist for Boeing, and from Volvo Motor Car executive team Chief Futurologist Aric Dromi, who provides the forward to the book. Robert L. Sligh Jr., former Sligh Furniture president, noted of the Kindle version: “‘Flow’ melds lean and agile processes with enterprise vision and strategy to help power results. I’ve met with co-author Ted Kallman in business settings over a hundred times and have heard personally the testimonials of people from company after company where ‘Flow’ made an important, positive difference. This book lays it all out in a way that’s easy to understand…”

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