THESE ARE TOUGH times for Cliffs Natural Resources but so far the local office is keeping quiet. Can’t blame them. Who knows what lies ahead for them?
Here’s what’s been happening recently for the mining company that’s long been one of Marquette County’s biggest employers and most involved corporate citizens:
1) Its Duluth office, with 30 employees, is closing down. Those employees apparently are being offered jobs elsewhere.
2) Cliffs has reportedly hired Deutsche Bank to sell its coal assets in West Virginia and Alabama.
3) The company’s also hired the Jefferies Group LLC to sell its Australian iron ore mines.
4) One of Cliffs’ directors, Richard K. Riederer, has resigned from the board citing bullying by other board members as a reason for his departure.
5) All of this, of course, comes in the wake of the hostile takeover of the Cliffs’ board by Casablanca Capital several weeks back, and the dumping of then CEO Gary Halverson.
None of these moves should come as a surprise. Casablanca, dismayed by Cliffs’ dismal stock performance over the past few years, had promised major strategic changes and cuts when it seized control.
Whether those cuts will hit closer to home remains to be seen.
SOME COMPANIES SEEM to see the future and embrace it.
A great example on Third Street in Marquette. The River Valley Bank branch recently closed down for a few months to make some remarkable changes.
When they reopen in late November, here’s what we’ll be seeing:
An internet café and lounge inside the bank. Yeah, that’s right. Free cappuccino, free Wi-Fi, free iPad access, comfy chairs, and a fireplace. Oh, the popcorn’s over there.
C’mon in, even if you’re not a customer of the bank. Sit down, log on, surf the web, enjoy the java, give your feet a rest, take a break from the cold.
River Valley is calling it “the bank of the future.” It’ll also feature individual “teller pods,” rather than a long, forbidding partition between tellers and customers. The tellers and bank managers will be out in the open and mingling constantly, rather than hidden away in their offices.
This new concept is being tried out on the East and West coast at some banks, and River Valley is now putting it into practice at their Wausau, Madison and Marquette branches.
An official says the idea is to give the bank–normally a boring, staid institution–more of a Starbucks feel. Sounds pretty good, especially when the coffee, the popcorn and the iPad access are all free.
YOU MAY HAVE noticed that the Union Grill in south Marquette is up for sale.
Owners Terry and Christie Doyle have decided to pare back their business interests a bit with the awareness that they’re not getting any younger. It was the same sort of reasoning that recently convinced Christine Pesola to loosen her ties to her beloved Landmark Inn.
The Doyles will, however, remain intimately involved with their primary business, the Vierling.
In fact, come November 15th, they’ll undertake a major renovation of the kitchen at the Vierling and also of the underutilized front room which, to this point, has just been used for overflow, not for dining.
The Doyles plan to put a couple of TV’s in the room, give it more of a hip, brew pub feel, and offer full dining, as well.
As for the Union Grill, which offers high quality food and barbeque in what’s considered a fast-casual restaurant (slower but better than fast food, faster but less formal than a normal, sit-down restaurant), it’d be a shame to see it go. It’s unique to this town.
The Doyles aren’t rushing the sale–it’s not even listed with a realtor yet.
NO WORD YET on how long it’ll take the city and Duke LifePoint to iron out a contract for the relocation of Marquette General Hospital.
One official suggested that the contract itself may present more difficulties than the original Memorandum of Understanding between the two parties. Let’s hope that’s not the case. DLP wants to start building next spring.
And let’s get ready for the complaints from motorists and residents in the neighborhood of the new hospital. Erecting a bridge on Grove Street over US-41 and constructing a roundabout a few hundred yards west of there will not exactly be dust-free and congestion-free.
It’ll be a mess for at least a few months.
One final thought about the entire Duke LifePoint search that has consumed the community for the last year: likely, the critical factor that turned DLP toward the Roundhouse property and away from the golf course and the township site was Roundhouse’s eligibility for Brownfield funds. The township and the golf course couldn’t offer that.
A Brownfield project can offer millions of dollars to a developer. That’s important to a for-profit corporation.
HOLD ON. ONE final, final observation about Duke LifePoint and the city.
City Commissioner Don Ryan’s eloquent and clear-minded summation last week of the deal that was reached for the relocation of Marquette General Hospital had to remind some of us that we’re losing three wise, conscientious, even-tempered commissioners this November.
Ryan, Fred Stonehouse, and mayor Bob Niemi are all leaving because of term limits. You might not have agreed with all their decisions during their tenure but you can’t deny that they’re smart and devoted and polite, and commission meetings have generally run smoothly.
And the city, despite some daunting challenges, is moving ahead.
Maybe our three retiring commissioners could move to Washington DC and teach those clowns how a government is supposed to be run.
A WORLD PREMIERE in Marquette!
It sounds a little hyperbolic but it’s true. The play Willpower takes to the stage this Thursday and Friday at Kaufman Auditorium.
It was written by Marquette novelist Tyler Tichelaar. The director is Moire Embley, the musical director is Jeff Bruning. They’re both locals. The actors are local, the singers are local.
So yeah, this is local and it’s original.
The story itself isn’t too bad, either. It’s about Will Adams, a young man in Marquette at the turn of the 19th century who overcame a mysterious, crippling disease to write poetry, essays, magazine articles and an operetta.
At the end of his life (at age 32), he was paralyzed from the neck down, but he was still determined and creative.
A lesson for all of us. And we’ll be the first to see it this Thursday and Friday at Kaufman.
You got news? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to receive Word on the Street as soon as it’s posted, go to Word on the Street by Brian Cabell on Facebook and “like” it.