Off The Fence

    Some say naming JimRinck to the position of president of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education is like inviting the fox into the henhouse. Others say the volatile attorney and public servant might be just what the embattled school district needs.

    Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on, however, one thing is clear: Rinck never will sit on the fence.

    Judging from his actions as a member of the Downtown Development Authority, as a downtown Grand Rapids attorney and as an outspoken member of the school board, Rinck has an opinion on everything. He also has proven time and again that the opinions he offers are based on solid research. That should be enough to warrant his opinions being heard.

    He also brings something else to the job that is desperately needed in the district: Passion. Like him or not, Rinck will throw everything he has into improving the school district, which is what GRPS needs right now.

    Combined with a new superintendent, BertBleke, who really campaigned hard for the job, the leadership in the school district has taken on a whole new edge. Bleke’s track record in the suburbs, with Forest Hills and then as superintendent in Lowell, would have been enough to stamp his career as successful. His desire to take on the GRPS job, however, will be the ultimate challenge.

    In a story in today’s Journal, Donnelly CEO DwaneBaumgardner, whose company was just acquired by a huge international firm, says a lack of change leads to a lack of growth.

    Here’s to hoping the new leadership in the city’s public schools can grow — together.

    • It’s common knowledge in the financial world that June 30 is the collection date for deposit figures as tabulated by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Not that anyone would ever do such a thing, but it is possible to manipulate some of those numbers just a tad.

    According to the FDIC’s KevinBrown, a senior financial analyst in banking statistics in the division of insurance and research, attempting to draw conclusions on loss or gain in market share can be problematic.

    “The most common problem that comes up is that if the bank has more than one charter in different areas, or offices spread throughout many areas, there’s the potential under the same corporate umbrella to transfer large deposits basically seamlessly without really having any bearing on whether or not the business has risen or fallen as far as activity goes in your specific area,” he said.

    As Brown explained, a financial institution can move a large corporate account to a branch because it has certain personnel at a large branch or office that might be better suited to handle that particular account.

    Or, it could move a large corporate account out of a large office and into a smaller one. It could go either way — without really having any bearing on the geography, Brown pointed out.

    That’s a question that comes up a lot, particularly when there are MSA changes, he said, because it’s not uncommon for a bank holding company to acquire a bank or another bank holding company.

    “Let’s say, for instance, that the old bank holding company was located in your geographic area as far as headquarters go, and the new bank holding company is located in another geographic area.

    “It would not be uncommon after that merger for the larger corporate accounts to maybe be transferred to wherever the centralized home office is. It could go either direction.”

    Those types of accounts are typically very large — say, the country’s largest brewer or manufacturer of widgets, for example.

    Such an account can just as easily be handled someplace in Ohio or someplace in Missouri, Brown noted.

    “It’s not really something that has to be associated with maybe where the business is located because you’re talking about computers and wire transfers and that sort of thing.”

    Like we said, not that anyone does it, but … Mercantile’s JerryJohnson might be the only one exempt from such maneuverings. According to today’s page 1 story, there were only two Mercantile branches on June 30, 2001, and both were in Kent County. That pretty much negates Mercantile’s ability to shift accounts to make a set of numbers looks good.

    • Johnson, BenSmith at Macatawa Bank, Bank One’s DickHaslinger and Jim Dunlap from Huntington, among others, reportedly are feeling pretty good today.

    That’s based on the news from the latest Phoenix Management Lending Survey, which says lenders are more optimistic about domestic business lending now than at any other time during the last two years.

    More than half of the lenders surveyed now expect lending to middle-market and small businesses to increase throughout the remainder of this year. In addition, 45 percent expect lending to large corporate customers to increase as well.

    Typical of most bankers, however, is the practical side that never lets them run away with their emotions, regardless of how excited they might seem.

    For example, the survey also said lenders expect the effects of the economic downturn to linger at least through the rest of this year. More than half expect loan losses to increase, and 62 percent forecast bankruptcies to rise.

    Oh yeah, more than one third expect the nation’s jobless rate to increase further.

    Talk about playing both sides of the fence.

    • Even happier today in the banking world are the folks at Fifth Third. They are announcing this morning that Fifth Third has hired Brian Lefler and Jeff Zylstra away from A.G. Edwards & Sons in Grand Rapids, which was the top public finance broker in the state. Lefler and Zylstra were Edwards’ top two bankers.

    The move is paying immediate dividends, as the State of Michigan has named Fifth Third co-senior manager of its recent $300 million general obligation refunding bond.

    “We are thrilled to have Brian and Jeff join our organization,” said PeggyJanei, bank spokesperson. “Their presence greatly steps up our efforts in the public finance area.”

    In 2001, Lefler and Zylstra banked approximately $1 billion of senior managed business and $1.4 billion of co-managed business, according to Fifth Third.  

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