Minority business feats taking center stage


    The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce’s Sonya Hughes, vice president of diversity initiatives and programs, has announced the particulars of the chamber’s Minority Business Awards Celebration slated for Oct. 26 at Noto’s Old World Italian Dining, 6600 28th St. SE.

    Keynote speaker for the evening event will be Andrea Harris, president and co-founder of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development.

    Hughes said Harris has considerable experience in community economic development, minority and small business development issues and extensive knowledge of both state and federal government operations and programs.

    The Minority Business of the Year Award is going to Kennedy Management Resources Inc. Led by President and CEO Alice Kennedy, the company was founded in 1997 as a human resources/management consulting business, providing human resources management services to small to medium-sized businesses without a human resources department. Kennedy Management Resources’ best-known product is “Diversity Theater,” an “entertaining, and engaging diversity training tool that utilizes live inter-active theater.”

    The Minority Business Entrepreneur of the Year award will be presented to Floriza Genautis, principal founder of Management Business Solutions, which was founded in 2006 with the “commitment of providing clients with high quality candidates along with consistent professional service.”

    Minority Business Advocate of the Year is Erhardt Construction. Hughes indicated  Erhardt Construction “walks the walk” on diversity, “working to enhance the overall talent and resources of the disadvantaged business community through mentoring outreach, and networking, as well as involvement in associations and workgroups seeking to enhance diversity.”

    More information on the event can be found at grandrapids.org.

    The ‘buzz’ is deafening

    As he has indicated in pre-event interviews with the Business Journal, ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos reiterated in a blog written for Rapid Growth last week that beginning Wednesday, Grand Rapids will be host to 1,262 artists in 159 venues scattered throughout three square miles of downtown, “and so will begin an exciting social event and experiment that I am privileged to have been a part of founding.”

    ArtPrize is an international art competition taking place Sept. 23-Oct. 10. The artist with the most public votes wins the $250,000 ArtPrize. Awards are $100,000 for second place, $50,000 for third, and $7,000 each for fourth through 10th places. Winners are selected by visitors who vote online at artprize.org or by text messaging while they view the art.

    “With just over a week until the opening evening, I and the entire ArtPrize team are in awe of the response we’ve received,” DeVos wrote in the blog. “The number of artists, the number of venues, the number of collaborations, the variety and quality of the work, and the buzz that we feel happening in the city are all-amazing. We are honored to be a part of it. We would love to have you join us. Come and see.”

    No doubt, thousands will oblige.

    A bridge to somewhere

    The 30,000-pound table and chairs placed on top of the Blue Bridge pedestrian walkway over the Grand River last week is competing for the chance to be ArtPrize’s most jaw dropping piece of art. Concept Design Group, led by its president Steve Frey, assisted with the architectural design and structural integrity. Pioneer Construction carried out the massive job of fabricating, transporting and assembling the 15-ton piece of art with the help of a 275-ton crane.

    The dimensions of the piece are staggering:

    The table and two chairs weigh more than 15 tons.

    The project required more than 6,100 square feet of plywood, colorfully painted by artist Sarah Grant.

    The top of the table sits approximately 60 feet above the Grand River.

    Two steel “frames” were made using approximately 200 feet of 8-inch steel beams weighing more than 6,000 pounds to structurally reinforce the bridge before placing the table and chairs on top.

    The price tag? No one is willing to go on the record, but don’t be surprised if the project exceeds a quarter million dollars, some say.

    DeVos is the place

    Melissa Morrow’s art piece, “Moved by the Blues” will be displayed at DeVos Place for ArtPrize.

    It’s a collaborative sculptural shrine containing painted icons of the legends of blues music. A trestle-like timber sculpture supports a cabinet with doors opening on four sides to reveal portraits of classic and modern blues heroes Muddy Waters, BB King, John Lee Hooker and Keb Mo.

    “We’re celebrating the blues through a work of art, revering masters that shaped a truly original American music through their own struggles, and recognizing the music’s unique ability to help us endure the hard times,” said Morrow, who worked in the automotive and furniture industry as a coatings engineer for 17 years. She is now pursuing her fine art full time. Her work includes exhibits in several West Michigan galleries, recently winning a purchase award in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s regional exhibit.

    A Thursday reception on the DeVos Place skywalk from 7:30-10 p.m. will feature the 29 artists displaying their ArtPrize entries there.

    Funds in Ford’s name

    Davenport University’s new president Rick Pappas is profiled in this week’s Inside Track (see page 10) as the school announces it is seeking applicants for its prestigious scholarship named for former President Gerald R. Ford, who once served as an instructor and assistant football coach at the university. The Gerald R. Ford Memorial Scholarship is granted to a highly distinguished student pursuing a four-year degree in business, technology or health professions at Davenport’s W.A. Lettinga Campus in Grand Rapids.

    Ford granted permission before his death in 2006 for Davenport University to name a scholarship in his honor. The full scholarship includes tuition, room and board, study abroad, and fees and textbooks for four years.

    Davenport awarded the first Gerald R. Ford Memorial Scholarship in 2009 to incoming freshman Lauren Anderson, a student working toward a four-year degree in the health professions.

    More information and applications are available at fordscholarship.davenport.edu.

    Another executive honor

    Candace Matthews, Amway Corp.’s chief marketing officer, received Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2009 Corporate Executive of the Year Award on Friday in a ceremony at Amway World Headquarters in Ada.

    Matthews, profiled in Inside Track in the Aug. 3 Business Journal, mentioned then that she was the youngest of 18 children. She also noted the vast difference between pursuing her career in New York, where she ran a couple of divisions of L’Oreal, and settling in West Michigan.“You could just feel the goodness-to-the core people (here). It just comes through.”

    Down but not out

    Fleetwood Group Inc. in Holland has not been immune to the negative impact of the economic downturn, but they are among those “good people” Matthews identified. In response to the economy, the company has been creative in developing an unusual means to retain employment for its workers through a program of voluntary service assignments.

    Fleetwood Group’s President and CEO Doug Ruch said that, as orders for Fleetwood’s educational furniture began to slow in June, the company’s leadership devised a plan to “navigate the crisis with a goal of minimizing job loss.”

    As part of the plan, the “Win-Win Mission Project” was initiated. Starting this month and running for eight weeks, 24 team members are volunteering at local Christian organizations by answering phones, cleaning, landscaping and helping with maintenance projects.

    “Rather than exclusively giving monetary gifts to organizations, the company is able to maintain employment and provide much needed service hours for organizations, including the Holland Rescue Mission, City on a Hill Ministries, Geneva Camp and Retreat Center, and Habitat for Humanity,” Ruch said.

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