Ding Ding Come Out Swinging


    A West Michigan casino is attracting high-profile entertainment away from downtown Grand Rapids, proving itself without any cards, chips, or dice.

    Ring the bell, it’s fight time for the Wayland Casino.

    The Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish Band of Pottawatomi Indians, commonly known as the Gun Lake Tribe, came out swinging last week with a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit filed by Michigan Gambling Opposition (MichGo), 23 is Enough!’s self-proclaimed effort to “delay” the planned a 200,000-square-foot casino in WaylandTownship

    Long against the casino is the collection of West Michigan powerbrokers known as 23 is Enough!, including Gerald R. Ford, the DeVos and Van Andel clans, Perrigo founder Peter Jandernoa and Peter Secchia, chairman of Universal Forest Products.

    “We spent 30 years rebuilding Grand Rapids,” Secchia told the Detroit News in July. “You cannot compete with someone down the street that doesn’t pay income tax, single business tax and doesn’t have to follow the rules. It’s wrong, wrong, wrong.”

    Secchia notes the GunLake tribe has 140 acres to build a 15-acre casino.

    “What do you think they’ll do with the rest of the property?” he asked. “I think they’ll put in car dealerships and all kinds of other businesses. If they’re on Indian property they don’t pay taxes.”

    Three separate Potawatomi tribes in southwestern Michigan are attempting to win approval for new casinos. The tribes are: Nottawaseppi Huron Band near Battle Creek; Pokagon Band in New Buffalo; and the Match-E-Be-Nash-She- Wish Band or GunLake tribe in AlleganCounty, near Grand Rapids.

    All have received permission from the U.S. Secretary of Interior, but are tied up in federal court battles with local opposition. All are facing lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

    “Each day that the suit remains unresolved is another day that our tribal members and thousands of other residents of West Michigan will go without jobs and other basic necessities, like housing and health care,” said D.K. Sprague, tribe chairman.

    Despite 23 is Enough!’s impressive bankroll, it may be outgunned on the legal front. In the corner opposite of Bob Jonker of Warner, Norcross & Judd is a dream team of tribal law.

    Outside of the ring, there have been a number of squabbles, mostly between opposing lobbyists John Helmholdt of Jones and Gavin LLC, representing 23 is Enough!, and Tom Shields and James Nye of Marketing Resource Group Inc., representing the tribe, and famous for its work on behalf of the Red Wing man and Detroit casino matriarch Marian Ilitch

    Helmholdt recently produced a warning to potential casino vendors citing the tribe’s bad luck with business partners. Shields responded with a complete rebuttal two hours later.

    Shields also penned the campy “23 is Enough! Presents: How to Cook a Poll,” which takes the 23 group to task for its poll methods and poll question wording.

    • Time to root for the home team.

    That other commercial furniture, you know, the one that isn’t in West Michigan, appears to be riding the same wave as the locals. The fourth member of the Big Three, Iowa-based HNI Corp., last week announced a record second quarter, with sales up nearly a $100 million to $508.6 million.

    Net income was up 35.5 percent to $35 million, besting the combined $28.3 million profit of Steelcase Inc. and Herman Miller Inc. last quarter.

    • The Public Record page in every issue of Business Journal often provides a nod or a laugh for the assumed names people choose to file. This week we add recent patents filed:

    A Rockford inventor, Donna McLin, was assigned a patent last week for “Method of Cheerleading and Cheerleading Gloves.”

    Karl Chapel, vice president of Grand Haven Plastics, received a patent for a fishing lure holder. 

    And, speaking of gambling, Orlando Stephenson received a patent for a new “gaming machine.” Chairman of Kentwood-based slot-machine manufacturer Spec International, Stephenson was recently cited in a GrandValleyStateUniversity survey of the local economy.

    He said his $12-million, 77-employee company is in a hiring mode, looking for new vendors, and expecting a big 2005. He’s not listed on the 23 Is Enough! roster.     

    Surprisingly, Spec International isn’t a chamber member.    

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