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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

In this LAB, business world is under microscope

When the invitation arrived, I didn’t know what to expect.

Most times, when I hear the word “LAB,” I think back to Bunsen burners, beakers and frog dissection during my school days.

Turns out, I wasn’t far off on the school part. It’s the science I had wrong.

“LAB” in this case is short for “Learning About Business.” It’s a program for students from Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga and Ashtabula counties who will enter their senior year in the fall.

The students gather in Lake County and do just what the name says — learn about business.

They learn how to run one. They learn how to be an employer. They learn how to handle a crisis. They learn how to negotiate with their workers.

In essence, they learn what we adults do every single day of our lives at work.

But they learn it in an atmosphere that’s calm and nurturing.

That’s not to say there’s no pressure.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I was honored to receive an invitation to attend a luncheon celebrating this year’s participants in LAB. They wanted those taking part to get there early so they could chat with the students.

Sounds easy, right?

Don’t forget refreshing.

As I was putting on my name tag, a couple of young ladies from Lake County high schools walked up and introduced themselves. Then they put their hands out for a handshake.

I reached back and was met with a firm squeeze of hands.

“OK,” I thought, “they’re teaching the right things.”

How many times have you reached out to shake someone’s hand and come back with what could have doubled as a dead fish? Limp equals wishy-washy to me.

I know some of you are probably saying that’s a better alternative than the hand-crusher version. I disagree. When I get one of those, I know they’re serious and on their game.

And, these teens were on theirs.

But, immediately after saying their names and where they go to school, they let me take the lead.

I asked how they enjoyed their time in LAB and what they’ve been working on. They explained that the students broke into teams and “launched” a business — in the electric car field.

They had to figure out what was unique about their car, what would make it sell and how to get that done.

They said that the night before the luncheon, they’d undergone a session with a “negotiator,” who had simulated a labor issue and had the company’s executives deal with it. His job was to get concessions from the company before its workers would go back on the job.

It was a stressful exercise conducted by John Rampe, general manager of Torque Transmission in Fairport Harbor, who admittedly puts the students through the ringer during the negotiations.

He’s tough, trying to push them to make good decisions, as they try not to give up too much to the workers.

After hearing about the session from the first young ladies I spoke with, I asked the others I met about it. They all made the same eye-roll-with-deep-breath move that indicated pain and suffering had occurred.

When Rampe, who was honored during the luncheon with a Pauline Krug Excellence in Entrepreneurship award, spoke to his victims, er, students, he stressed that what they learned during a week of LAB will stay with them as they move forward in their lives.

It was a common theme from all the award winners.

“The only advice I want to give you is go out there and do it,” Rampe said.

He’s no-nonsense, which the youngsters said came across during the activity the day before.

Another nominee, Pam Trivisonno, who owns Trivisonno CPA in Mentor, spoke from the heart as she told the students that she has been involved in LAB since her own graduation from the program in 1980.

A 1981 Mentor High alumna, Trivisonno said she has stuck close to Mentor her entire life, leaving only to attend Bowling Green State University. She told a story about dreading a final course in her accounting program. When she sat down on the first day and looked at the syllabus, she said she thought, “This is LAB. I’ve already done this.”

The worries were gone, Trivisonno said.

“Appreciate what you have today, and know that it will be with you in the future,” she said. “Thirty-two years later, and I’m still involved.”

At the end of the luncheon, one of the volunteers who works with the students got up to address them.
Donald Wayne McLeod didn’t need the help of a microphone as he pushed them to remember the passion used to complete the program.

He also encouraged them to always maintain eye contact. As he spoke, he studied their faces, giving them a life-size example of his lesson.

The founding partner in Listen UP!, an area public relations and communications company, McLeod clearly inspired his students to follow his example. If they remember the many lessons learned last week at LAB, they’ll be steps ahead of their peers when they start their careers.
Twitter: @Lauranh

Friday, June 15, 2012

Tour of town aboard Osprey is one hot time

The U.S. military ruined my ability to fly comfortably.

In September 2006, I took a flight with Air National Guard Major John Klatt across Northeast Ohio before the Cleveland National Air Show.

Klatt was serving as an aerobatic pilot during the event and took me on a ride that included loops and rolls over Lake Erie.

I got a little queazy and overheated during the experience, after Klatt kept up the rolls in an attempt to get me to keep my eyes open as we came back around to horizontal.

It was a warm, sunny day, and the plane was pretty small, so, as you can imagine, it heated up pretty quickly. Add a queasy stomach, and I couldn’t wait to get back on terra firma. Once on the ground, Klatt popped the dome of the plane so I could get some fresh air.

That flight honed my skills to know when a plane I’m in is turning or just flying out of normal formation.

And, yes, it always brings back some unsettling memories of those rolls over the lake.

That’s why it’s all the more shocking that I agreed to head up into the friendly skies with the U.S. Marines this week aboard a V-22 Osprey.

Let me get technical first: This is neither a plane nor a helicopter. It’s a tiltrotor craft that combines the functionality of a helicopter with the flying speed of a plane.

In other words, it flies really fast and can do vertical takeoffs and landings.

When I got my first look at the Osprey, or V-22 to the Marines, it was on the tarmac at Burke Lakefront Airport in its resting position. It looks like a helicopter giving a shrug in answer to a question, with its propellers facing forward.

When it starts moving, the props lift up to vertical and start spinning.

If you’re nearby, I hope you’re wearing earplugs, because these things are loud. And, they produce a lot of wind.

Our preflight instructions advised us to be careful walking out to the Ospreys, because we’d feel a good deal of wind low on our legs. They weren’t kidding. I honestly wondered how a couple of the really thin ladies kept from getting knocked over.

Once on board, we strapped into our seats via the flotation devices that we’d previously strapped to our chests. Pulling wooden beaded handles on the sides would create a giant boat-like floaty that the Marines said would prevent us from getting off the craft safely. So, yes, we heard “DO NOT PULL THE BEADED HANDLES!” over and over while preparing to head out to the Ospreys.

As we headed out to the Osprey from inside the Burke building, one of the crew who’d gone over the pre-flight instructions asked if we wanted to take with us what they termed “air-sick bags.”

Remembering that queazy feeling after my time with Klatt, I grabbed the quart-size zippered plastic bag.

We loaded through a rear hatch that lowered to the ground to create a pseudo-ramp. Once we were ready to head out, it raised up and became part of the Osprey’s floor.

They left the hatch open so we could view the skyline as we traveled around the lakeshore for about 30 minutes.

I was sitting about five people deep on the right side of the cabin and could make out landmarks as they came into view on the left side of the hatch.

We followed the shoreline out to the Pennsylvania line, before heading back with a move that showed off the Osprey’s speed and maneuverability. The ground suddenly appeared as we peeked out the hatch, a hint that we were actually flying straight up off the ground.

The roll-spin combo felt impressive inside, but probably looked cooler to those on the ground.
It was at that point that I thought of those who travel on the Osprey during combat. They fly with the hatch closed, so they have no idea what’s going on outside.

There are a few tiny windows high up on the sides, but since they’re strapped in, it’s impossible to glimpse outside.

When that hatch opens, they’d better be ready for whatever awaits, no matter what form it takes.
On the return ride I started to realize how warm the Osprey can get. It brought back those memories of Klatt and his acrobatic flight.

Luckily the rear was open, so fresh air was pretty easily obtained.

Later, when I stood up to walk back outside, I noticed I’d sweated through my shirt and pants. Then, once inside the terminal, when I took off my helmet, which had protective ear covers attached, I realized my hair was sopping wet.

Our guides that day, Marines whose duty it is to fly these Ospreys, showed off nerves of steel. One sat on the floor in the open doorway of the hatch, ready to jump up in case we needed assistance while onboard. One sat on the floor outside the cockpit, facing us next to an open side door. He spent most of the flight watching the coastline as it passed by.

The Marines amassed to share their $67 million aircraft with the public were eager to tell us what these machines can do, how fast they can go (290 mph, since you asked) and how ideal they are for the missions they fly.

They pointed out in no uncertain terms that, as U.S. taxpayers, these machines are our property, and they’re thrilled that we’re letting the Marines and Air Force use them every day. There currently are about 110 V-22 Osprey deployed in the Marine Corps and Air Force. Most are used by the Marines, however.

These young men and women are eager to discuss their work, and show off the tools of their trade. And, this week, they just happen to be in your back yard.

If you want to check out an Osprey that’s actually been in combat, head over to Voinovich Park in Cleveland, where there’s one on display that’s done duty in Afghanistan.

And, remember, as the temperatures rise this weekend, you’re in for one hot time.

For details on other events taking place this weekend as part of Marine Week, head to for a full schedule.
Twitter: @Lauranh

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A few complaints about some bothersome topics

I’m in the mood to complain.

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s that I have to work five days this week after a few three- and four-day weeks.

Whatever it is, get ready. I’m about to vent.

In most cases, I’m sure you’ll agree that I’m right. If not, I’ll be complaining about that soon enough!

My dander first started  to rise last week when my boss was going over the list of area high schools and their commencement dates, in preparation for compiling our annual “Salute to Grads” section.

She was looking at the site for one of our area schools, and pointed out that there was a dress code for the graduates.

I asked why. She couldn’t understand why I was surprised.

I said then what I’ll say now: Why would a public high school require its graduates to dress a certain way on their last day of organized school activity, when, for the rest of their educational career, there was no dress code?

Don’t get me wrong. I wore dresses to both of my commencements. And, to show off even more, the one that occurred at Kent State in late August 1991 was outside in the football stadium on a 90-degree day while I was wearing a dress, pantyhose and high heels under my black robe.

I just don’t think it should be mandatory for a male graduate to wear a tie, when just about the only part of it you’ll even see is the knot. Let them be comfortable, because there’s a lot of pressure walking around on that stage, remembering which hand to shake with and that they’re not allowed to do any sort of touchdown dance after receiving what’s probably only their diploma case.

That displeasure only served to open the flood gates of my annoyance lately.

On the way home that night, as I pulled under the State Route 2 bridge over Vine Street, waiting for the traffic light to change so I could get on the highway, my favorite song stopped playing.

I was listening to Channel 10 on Sirius satellite radio, which is called The Pulse. It plays music from the 2000s and today.

If you know anything about satellite radio, it’s that there are no commercials. Until you go under a bridge or behind large trees. Then it’s a long, silent break that gives you lots of time to think. Many times, I think about how fast I can change to the channel back to mainstream radio, which continues to play regardless of how many bridges I drive under.

Other times, it’s like what happened that day. I sat under the bridge thinking about all the other things that can break through a bridge barrier — like snow, rain, birds, bugs, and other types of satellites that could ping off my cell phone to alert the police where I am.

But why, in 2012, can’t a satellite get the second half of Gotye’s “Somebody I Used to Know” into my car?

Bringing up Gotye leads to another frustrating curiosity.

For the past three days, Cleveland radio station Q104 has started playing his song as I passed the Mentor Avenue/Kirtland Road intersection. That’s about two minutes from my parking space at The News-Herald.

Is it possible one of their morning DJs is watching my commute — using a satellite, of course — and is just messing with me by starting my favorite song at a time that ensures I won’t be able to hear the whole thing?

I’m no conspiracy theorist, but I’m thinking of becoming one.

Something else I’m thinking of doing is writing to Ford, maker of my fine automobile, to complain about the fact that they’ve developed the technology that allows their vehicles to parallel park on their own, but nothing that turns the headlights on if it starts to rain.

My car turns its headlights on when it senses the light level has dropped from blinding sun to shady sun, but when I turn the wipers on, there’s no corresponding action.

As they say on Twitter, that’s a #fail. Come on, Ford. You can do it! I’d even accept it if you made it a command in your patented Sync system.

“Turn lights on.”

But then again, if it’s like commands to play certain artists on my iPod, I might end up with the trunk open.

I’ll stop complaining now. I know it didn’t accomplish anything, but I feel a lot better to get this stuff off my chest.

I think I’ll go for a ride to see if I can hear that Gotye song.

If anything, I can probably count on it coming on as I’m about to get back to the office.
Twitter: @Lauranh