Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Because We Aren’t Meant to Do Life Alone. Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment

On occasion, I post about how I mentor elementary school-aged boys with difficult family backgrounds.

The truth is that kids with hard family backgrounds are not the only ones who need mentors.

The quote in the photo from New City Initiative in Portland, Oregon is revealing in a lot of ways. Homelessness may, by and large, be a product of a lack of relationships.


Applying this statement to the regular working class person who isn’t in jeopardy of going homeless, a lot of our problems could be stymied by the presence of authentic relationships.


The truth is, we aren’t meant to do this life alone.

Yet we so often do just that.

As for me, although I am interacting with many people on any given work day, I find myself too often dealing with concerns, problems and frustrations in a vacuum.

I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine a while back, another business professional. He commented on how, although he knows a lot of people, he doesn’t have anyone that he regularly confides in. He doesn’t have “close friends”.

I think my friend is in good company with many others.

So then why so often do we find ourselves living in a vacuum?

My thoughts:

It is hard to be vulnerable with others.  Our tendency is to hide our imperfections.  We can brush aside the reality that we lack relationships by telling ourselves, or others “I just don’t have time“. I believe that is just a smokescreen for the real issues:

It is hard to admit our weaknesses, failures or shortcomings.

The bottom line: we need to be in authentic relationships.

We need mentors, confidants, people willing to walk along side us.

On the flip side, we need to be pouring into other people as well.

There are excellent resources in our community, I think of an excellent one like the Jandernoa Mentorship Program (JEM).  Unfortunately, I am sure JEM and other groups would readily admit, those resources are limited.


I hear this theme in my work life, in the business community, non-profit service, I hear this when I go to church: call it mentoring, discipleship, or “sharpening iron” – we need to be in authentic relationships to build each other up.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Yesterday I created a Group on LinkedIn: Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

I created this Group simply to provide a forum to make it easy for people to connect in meaningful ways.

1. Professionals who recognize their need for a mentor;

2. Professionals who are established in their career and are willing to share their experiences and failures with others, at any level; and

3. Professionals seeking authentic community and peer relationships.

My goal isn’t that Members of this group have any formal obligation. My hope is that those who join this group are willing to add value to others and connect on a personal level.


So my question and charge to you reading this post:

Who are you pouring into?


Established Professionals: You have something to offer. Consider joining this group and being available to connect with peers, younger professionals on whatever time you have available in your life.

Younger Professionals: Join this Group. Get others to join. Reach out and ask for help. You are the future leaders, but you cannot succeed in life on your own.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Michigan Law Update: The Neighborhood and Commercial Corridor Food Initiative. Community Revitalization Now Includes Downtown Grocery Stores.

January 17, 2018 Leave a comment


Several years ago ago I took my family to New York City. (and took the below photo).

Even amidst the chaos of protecting my 4 young children from darting out in2015-11-26-13-04-02to oncoming traffic – we absolutely loved the City.


We loved the walk-ability of City life –

that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.


I love downtown Grand Rapids.


(Below, photo I took this morning from my office)

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs to continue to support growth in downtown grocery stores.


This is not a novel concept.

There has been recent exciting development in Grand Rapids on this front – see Meijer opening a grocery store on Bridge Street.

Also, Russo’s International Market opened last year as well.



“Neighborhood and Commercial Corridor Food Initiative” – Public Act 229

Last March, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative.” (re-named “Neighborhood and commercial corridor food initiative”)

This Bill intended to provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

Specifically, HB 4027 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program


Passed into Law

On December 28th this House Bill was given immediate effect and assigned as Public Act 229 . 


The law provides incentives to “new neighborhood” food initiatives. That is why, per the new law:

a new neighborhood and commercial corridor food initiative…is not eligible for a community revitalization incentive if it is located within 1 mile of an existing retail supermarket, grocery store, or produce market…that offers unprocessed USDA-inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”


Hopefully this law will spur development of urban grocery stores in Grand Rapids, and beyond to places like Detroit. There is wonderful community development work going on right now in Detroit, as the article below highlights.


Healthy Food Options – Essential for Urban Living

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living. Check out this recent article from Non-Profit Quarterly about Communities of Color Developing Residents-Owned Groceries.

According to the Article:

“Grocery stores…often anchor “neighborhood economies, recirculating local revenues through wages and nearby businesses. They can also be neighborhood hubs, where people go to buy good food as well as employment centers and sources of community pride.”

“Alas, the lack of these hubs can be damaging, notes Malik Yakini, who directs the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Yakini is one of a host of activists across the country who are working to foster community ownership of food businesses in communities of color.”


We should be encouraging Malik Yakini and others and supporting community ownership of food businesses in communities of color. Hopefully the new law will attract such local ownership.


Parting Thoughts

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. In Grand Rapids, we are confronted everywhere with the need for Affordable Housing. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan honestly asking the question: “How am I building a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Legal Update: Legislation that Real Estate Investors, Landlords and Veterans Should Keep Tabs on in the New Year.

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

It is a beautiful and cold afternoon in downtown Grand Rapids today.


We head into 2018 with some Michigan Bills that affect Real Estate Investors, Landlords and Veterans.


The Michigan Legislature is pushing hard to protect those who have served our country.

Yesterday MLive posted that the Michigan Legislature is taking up some 50 bills that will affect Veterans

One such bill I highlighted in a post last summer. On August 16, 2017 HB 4872 was introduced into the Michigan House.

The Bill would amend the “Elliott-Larsen civil rights act,” and would provide that veterans are included in the list of those protected by Michigan law against housing discrimination.

The Bill would define Military Service as:


The Bill brings two thoughts to mind:

  1. Our Veterans and those who served our country deserve to be treated fairly in housing and all other areas of life.
  2. This Bill brings up a fundamental question: are Veterans being discriminated against in housing? Does it happen?


According to statistics recently published in the Bridge with insight from Dennis Van Kampen of Mel Trotter Ministries, there are fewer homeless veterans than ever in Michigan today, but more homeless youth.

The Bill was sent to the committee on Military and Veteran Affairs. No action has been taken on this bill since I posted in August, but I will continue to track this bill.

I look forward to hear comments from the public on this issue: are we in Michigan protecting our Veterans access to fair housing?


“Nuisance Property”: Bill Would Protect Those in Affordable Housing from being penalized for calling 911.

On November 28, 2017 Senate Bill 667 was introduced.

The bill is intended to prohibit local units of government from penalizing tenants, occupants, or landlords of rental dwellings for contacts made for police or emergency assistance in certain situations.

Presumably, the Bill is intended to restrict those municipalities that have ordinances that punish landlords and tenants by labeling a rental property a “nuisance” when a certain number of calls to police or emergency assistance.

The Bill in its current form, generally, holds a “reasonableness” standard – meaning the emergency call must be reasonable under the circumstances – the person making the call must reasonably believe they, or a person they are calling on behalf of, is a victim of a crime; and the intervention is needed to prevent a crime, or respond to an emergency.


This appears to be one of several Bills that would potentially address the affordable housing crisis.

As a reference, I would highly recommend reading Matthew Desmond’s book “Evicted” It is no secret that Michigan, particularly Kent County, is experiencing an Affordable Housing Crisis.

One potential way to address this crisis is providing Landlords and Tenants security that their local government unit will not unreasonably label properties as nuisances if the police are called for real emergencies. It appears this Bill is attempting to address such a scenario.


Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Thursday Thoughts: A Call to Living a More Fearless Life.

October 12, 2017 Leave a comment

This morning, as I do most every morning, I was reading a devotional by author and Pastor Tim Keller – I would recommend this devotional to anyone.

This topic hit me today.


If we are honest with ourselves, we all have moments where we are fearful.

I can safely say that during the last week I have experienced some of the following fears:

  • fear of failure (do I have what it takes?);
  • fear of disappointing others;
  • fear of ruining my kids’ lives – am I parenting well?;
  • fear of what other people think of me;
  • fear of the failing health of loved ones.

I am sure I am missing several that could be added to this list.

This morning’s devotional ended with the prayer below.



“The Songs of Jesus” Devotional by Timothy Keller



Roller coasters.


I love roller coasters (this ties in, I promise).

It has been too long since I visited Cedar point, Michigan’s Adventure, Six Flags Theme Park, etc…

What I love about roller coasters –  I know that I am fastened in tight –  I am not worried about falling out.

Because I believe I am secure, I am left simply to enjoy the ride (and feel like I’m a superhero).


If I thought that I was really going to fall out – I am sure the ride would not be fun at all – but from start to finish – terrifying.

Life is hard.

There are many hardships that could cause me to panic.

The real question though is:

What am I fixing my eyes on?

Where is my security?


My Answer:

I am not my own. 1 Corinthians 6:20.



Because of that, I will pray Tim Keller’s prayer and strive to live more fearlessly today.


Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


A “Fierce Urgency.”​ Reflections on Community Development/Affordable Housing.

January 18, 2017 Leave a comment

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Yesterday, I took a picture of this quote from Dr. King, on the overhead of the Grand Rapids Urban League’s 17th Annual Corporate Breakfast in honor of Dr. Martinimg_1373 Luther King Jr.

In light of Dr. King’s quote, Co-Executive Director of LINC UP Darel Ross II spoke eloquently and boldly on the topic of Housing and Community Development.`

Grand Rapids has an Affordable Housing Crisis.

This Fall the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce hosted an Issue Summit on the topic of the Affordable Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.

All people are valuable – made in the image of God.

There are people who are hurting in our local community.

Dr. King’s quote is applicable to us, today.

There is a “fierce urgency for now.”

What Mel Trotter Ministries is doing.

In 2016 Mel Trotter Ministries helped 216 families and individuals find permanent housing.

There is still much work to be done.

There are still a significant number of hurting families who need housing in Grand Rapids, alone.

It requires action on our part.

The easy route is apathy and complacence.

Take action.

I invite anyone reading this to join me for lunch sometime and learn what we at Mel Trotter Ministries, in collaboration with so many others, are doing to end homelessness.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Business Law Update: Key Terms to Consider in Business Contracts.

January 13, 2017 Leave a comment

If you’ve followed my posts for any amount of time, you probably aren’t surprised that I  like reading and writing about the latest Michigan court cases.

Particularly if they are relevant to business or real estate. I always find there are some lessons to be learned.

As another aside – I also like to include photos I took of downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan – overloimg_1360oking Rosa Parks Circle. This one, from today, shows the Zamboni smoothing out the ice for skaters looking to enjoy some weekend ice skating.

The latest case on my mind:

Summit Diamond Bridge Lenders, LLC v Philip R. Seaver Title Company, Inc.

This dispute really has to do with:

Forum Selection Clauses in a Contract.

Backing up a step, why do we prepare written contracts for business transactions?

Contracts are about risk allocation.

In any business transaction, business owners need to  have set in stone terms that answer one question:

who bears what risk?

A Forum Selection Clause would include language indicating that no matter where a dispute about the contract occurred, the contract will be interpreted under (in our case) Michigan law, and the parties agree that any dispute shall only be resolved in _______ County (Typically,  Kent County, Michigan, for my clients.) The parties then would agree to submit to the jurisdiction of said Courts.

Therefore, if your contract contains a forum selection clause, and, for instance, you are owed money by a company in Florida, you would not need to retain a Florida attorney for initiating a lawsuit in Florida. Just initiate the lawsuit in good ole’ Grand Rapids.

So as a general principle, if your business operates in commerce in other states or countries, it is wise to have such a clause.


However, the Summit Diamond Bridge Lenders case tells us that although generally such clause is enforceable, it isn’t always the case.


This case involved an escrow agreement with a  forum selection clause that “provides that California law governs any dispute arising from or related to the escrow agreement. The parties also designated the state of California in the agreement’s forum-selection clause.”

Plaintiff brought suit in Michigan alleging defendant, title company, breached its fiduciary duty as escrow agent of the loan funds by dispersing the funds without an approved letter of credit. Id. at page 2.

Defendant filed a motion to dismiss – arguing that Plaintiff sued in the wrong state. California was the proper forum for the dispute under the plain language of the escrow agreement.

The trial Court agreed. It dismissed the case.

The trial court held that California was the proper forum based upon the plain language of the forum selection clause.

The Court of Appeals reversed.

The Court of Appeals noted on page 3 of its decision that “In Michigan, public policy favors the enforcement of such clauses and, absent certain exceptions” citing Michigan Statute, MCL 600.745(3)(a)-(e).

Those excepts are:

(a) The court is required by statute to entertain the action.

(b) The plaintiff cannot secure effective relief in the other state for reasons other than delay in bringing the action.

(c) The other state would be a substantially less convenient place for the trial of the action than this state.

(d) The agreement as to the place of the action is obtained by misrepresentation, duress, the abuse of economic power, or other unconscionable means.

(e) It would for some other reason be unfair or unreasonable to enforce the agreement.” Id. at pg 5, citing MCL 600745(3).

The Court looked to California Law to determine whether or not the forum selection clause applied. California had a statute that ” precluded from bringing suit against a defendant who is a foreign corporation unless …(2) the agreement relates to a transaction involving at least $1,000,00.” Id. at page 4.

Because the agreement does not relate to a transaction involving at least $1,000,000, because defendant only agreed to hold in escrow $700,000 of plaintiff’s funds.

Essentially, the court of appeals held that since California would not entertain the lawsuit – because it did not meet the monetary threshold – the parties couldn’t obtain effective relief in California – satisfying the exception under subsection b.


Important Lesson:

1. Understand Your Contract Before Signing. 

Contracts are about risk allocation. In a business relationship you need to decide what risk you are willing to bear, and what risk you will allocate away. I am sure in this case Summit did not foresee a dispute arising, and therefore was willing to bear the risk in the event of a dispute to litigate in California in an inconvenient forum. They were fortunate that an exception applied and allowed them to maintain their suit in Michigan.

2. Understand  Your Contract After Signing.

Your business contract will dictate what your rights and duties are.  Here, Summit had the perceived contractual duty to pursue its dispute in California. However, its attempt to avoid abiding by the contract worked out – but it was costly. It was initially dismissed. It took an appeals court to find that a narrow exception applied.

Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka





Real Estate Law Update: Recently Enacted Michigan Legislation Abolishes Dower Right.

January 10, 2017 Leave a comment


A few days ago Governor Snyder signed into law 21 Bills, including Senate Bills 588 and 560 that abolish a surviving wife’s dower right.

The measures are now Public Acts 489 and 490 of 2016.

This is good news since dower right is a relic of the past, sometimes referred to as an “inchoate dower interest” (You can look it up in Black’s Law Dictionary if you are interested.)

I have previously written about the consequences for failing to account for a wife’s dower right in real estate transactions. It appears that there won’t be any Michigan case law developing over this issue in the years to come.

Lawyers will no longer be including in transferring deeds from marital couples the magic words “and his wife for purposes of dower only.”  Something to get used to.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka