Same Old Same Old


    JackBuchanan remembers when he used to be invited to Mayor JohnLogie’s “birthday parties” (read: fundraisers). He also remembers trading stories with Universal Forest Products Chairman PeterSecchia in a casual office atmosphere.

    My, how times have changed.

    Now Buchanan is being painted as the black sheep of the development community for his gall in promoting a convention center hotel on Calder Plaza.

    And, if the Blue Bridge Ventures CEO’s gut feeling is right, this black sheep is on the way to an orchestrated slaughterhouse on Tuesday with the City Commission. He said city staffers have told him he will be the main course.

    Why? Because Buchanan apparently isn’t part of “The Plan” for downtown Grand Rapids.

    The Plan is what the old guard has in mind for downtown. The Plan is to follow the same methods, with the same players, that have got the city to where it is today.

    Look at the timing. County officials DarylDelabbio, RogerMorgan, AlVanderberg and BobWhite are trotted out to meet with the media, at the behest of Wondergem Consulting, to explain why the county is staying on Calder Plaza. DickDeVos and his son, RickDeVos, start a media tour a few days later to say they are studying the feasibility of another downtown hotel. And city officials end the whirlwind fortnight with a request that Buchanan drop his option on City Hall or face a “slaughter” at the City Commission on Tuesday.

    Hey, they’re probably just trying to spare his feelings, right?

    Dust is flying in the political backrooms, and many of the usual names are creating the whirlwind. The major players have done well: See Van Andel Arena, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, DeVos Place, etc.

    But this smacks of trying to knock the new kid off his high horse. Interestingly, talk on the street has area CEOs seething at Buchanan’s treatment. His plan, they say, is secondary to the personal assault on everything from his intelligence to his integrity.

    Those same CEOs also are wondering what dominoes will fall if The Grand Rapids Press decides to move its entire operation to a new facility in Walker, opening up for development a prime corner across from the convention center.

    The DeVos family, Secchia, Logie and the rest all claim to have Grand Rapids’ best interests at heart. In fact, the DeVoses said as much during a recent meeting with the Business Journal’s editorial board. Rick DeVos, in particular, said it is imperative that Grand Rapids be infused with fresh ideas and new champions. His vision for the future, he said, includes a place where his generation can enjoy the rewards of their hard work in a welcoming, all-inclusive atmosphere.

    Apparently that doesn’t apply to Buchanan’s generation.

    • Let’s not dance to the tune of misfortune others are singing.

    When Herman Miller last week announced it was consolidating its North American systems furniture manufacturing operations into West Michigan, resulting in more than 350 jobs in the Spring Lake area, company officials were loathe to comment on the move other than to confirm it was happening. Yes, the Canton, Ga., plant is closing and, no, we really have no further comment.

    Why? Because more than 500 families were feeling the pain in Georgia. And those people are just as real as those of us living in West Michigan, and those families depend on that income just as much as those here do. There was no real good news here.

    Still, Gov. JenniferGranholm would not let the opportunity pass and issued a press release trumpeting the move even while HM officials played it low-key.

    “Michigan is the nation’s No. 1 office furniture manufacturing employer, with Herman Miller playing a key role in the development of this important industry,” Granholm said. “It is encouraging to see the company continuing to build on their heritage here. Herman Miller’s decision to bring this production work north is a testament to Michigan’s attractiveness to industry leaders and to the ongoing dominance of Michigan’s office furniture manufacturers.”

    Word has it that HM executives were not real pleased with the tone of the release.

    • On the positive side, Granholm is in the midst of making a pitch to bring another major manufacturer to Michigan that wants to build a new plant.

    Granholm said Thursday that the Michigan Economic Development Corp. has presented an aggressive business case to Boeing Corp. to convince the company to make Michigan the landing spot for its 7E7 aircraft manufacturing facility.

    “We have the skilled workforce and manufacturing prowess to ensure that Boeing is successful in Michigan,” Granholm said. “I’ve personally contacted the company to share my commitment and to make our case as to why Michigan is an ideal location for this new facility.”

    In addition to her phone call to the company, the governor also provided an introductory video message to the MEDC’s proposal.

    The incentive package to convince Boeing to locate the $900 million aircraft manufacturing facility in Michigan is valued at up to $300 million over a 20-year period. Possible incentives offered to the company include local tax abatements, Single Business Tax credits, infrastructure assistance and worker training grants. The new Boeing facility is expected to employ more than 1,200 workers.

    Three possible Michigan sites were presented for the new facility: Willow Run Airport in Wayne County, Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport Authority in Oscoda and Alpena County Regional Airport in Alpena. After a competitive site selection process, these sites proved to be the best options to meet the company’s list of requirements for the new facility, Granholm said.

    Outside of financial assistance, the Michigan proposal contained information on the state’s storied history of aeronautic excellence, world-renowned manufacturing and R&D talent and first-class transportation network, including 18 airports and 38 deep-water ports.  

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