Tracy Samilton

Auto Reporter/Producer

Tracy Samilton covers the auto beat for Michigan Radio. She has worked for the station for 12 years, and started out as an intern before becoming a part-time and, later, a full-time reporter. Tracy's reports on the auto industry can frequently be heard on Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as on Michigan Radio. She considers her coverage of the landmark lawsuit against the University of Michigan for its use of affirmative action a highlight of her reporting career.

Tracy graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature. Before beginning her journalism career, she spent time working as a legal assistant at various firms in the Ann Arbor area.

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Auto
11:10 am
Mon August 5, 2013

Air museum hopes to save 'Rosie the Riveter's' factory

A real-life 'Rosie the Riveter' in 1943. She worked at Vultee-Nashville, Tennessee. The plane is an A-31 Vengeance dive bomber.
Alfred T. Palmer U.S. Government

The historic Michigan factory where the iconic Rosie the Riveter and thousands of other women built B-24 bombers during World War II could face the wrecking ball two months from now.

A modest nonprofit is trying to raise enough money to salvage some of the massive plant, which Ford sold to General Motors after the war. The Yankee Air Museum figures the factory is the perfect place to start anew, after a devastating fire destroyed its collections in 2004.

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Environment & Science
4:55 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Another Kalamazoo River cleanup begun by Enbridge

The Kalamazoo River
Photo courtesy of www.epa.gov

Enbridge Energy has begun a new round of dredging in the Kalamazoo River, three years after the nation's largest inland oil spill.

The company will have to work fast to meet the government's deadline of completing the work by the end of the year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered Enbridge to dredge an additional 350,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment.

The work will temporary close 12 miles of the river to the public. Enbridge has already removed about 190,000 cubic yards of sediment, as well as more than a million gallons of oil from the river.

The company does not yet have all of the permits from the state that it will need for the new project. Enbridge estimates that the new work, in addition to what it has already done, brings the cost estimate for the cleanup to nearly a billion dollars.

Education
4:48 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Districts surrounding dissolved Inkster, Buena Vista, prepare for influx of students

New school district boundaries, to absorb Inkster
Wayne RESA

Updated, 9:40 p.m.  The Board of the Saginaw Intermediate School District has voted to dissolve Buena Vista Public Schools, and redraw nearby district boundaries to absorb its students.  Students will be accepted by the Frankenmuth, Saginaw and Bridgeport-Spaulding districts. 

Inkster Public Schools no longer exists - and Buena Vista School District will soon join its fate.

A state law aimed at swiftly addressing the two districts' financial problems required their immediate dissolution.

Wayne County RESA Superintendent Chris Wygant says he disagrees with the state legislature's decision to draft the law in such a way that it included Inkster.  He says an emergency manager appointment would have sufficed.

"But now we're trying to shift our thinking from all that adult stuff into what's really best for these children."

Wygant's agency dissolved the Inkster district last week, and redrew the boundaries of surrounding districts in order to absorb its roughly 1700 students, who will attend either Westwood, Wayne-Westland,  Romulus or Taylor school districts.

The Saginaw Intermediate School District will vote to eliminate the Buena Vista School District on Tuesday. 

"Transportation is a major issue, as we try to equalize as best we can," says Saginaw ISD Superintendent Richard Syrek. 

He says two of the biggest districts that will likely absorb many of Buena Vista's students are a long bus ride away.

Auto
4:26 pm
Tue July 30, 2013

Group vying to save Ford's historic Highland Park buildings

Model Ts being unloaded from 2nd floor at Highland park
Ford Motor Company archives Ford

A preservation group has less than 60 days to raise enough money to save part of Henry Ford's historic Highland Park site.

The massive complex is where Ford built millions of Model T's on the first moving auto assembly line.

Ford sold the buildings to a group of investors in 1981.

Deborah Schutt is with the Woodward Avenue Action Association, which faces an October 1 deadline to complete its fundraising to buy the complex's Administration building and Executive Garage building.

"We actually have people that come from Europe and Asia that show up at the guard shack and want to come in and see Ford's Highland Park, because they've all read about it in their history books. They're amazed that they're unable to come in and access such a historic resource. People could be so proud of their heritage, we've gotta quit knocking it down!"

Schutt said the long-term hope is to use the site as part of an auto tourism center for southeast Michigan. 

Schutt envisions a bus tour, that could start from the Piquette factory, Ford's second factory, where Model Ts were laboriously hand-built, to the Highland Park facility, where they were assembled on a moving assembly line.  The final stop would be Ford's Rouge factory in Dearborn, which the company renovated, and where Ford 150s are currently assembled.  

Schutt said the project in no way is competition for Ford's Greenfield Village, which Henry Ford built to showcase the way of life that he knew as a boy - and a way of life that his inventions helped to destroy. 

Politics & Government
10:39 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Moody's: Detroit could set municipal bankruptcy prededent

Detroit City Hall
user pasa47 Flickr

Moody's Investors Service says other financially distressed cities in the U.S. are closely watching Detroit as it goes through bankruptcy.

Analyst Anne Van Praagh  of Moody's says other cities might follow Detroit's path, if the city can jettison most of its bond debt and reduce its pension obligations.

"But if Detroit finds itself bogged down in years of onerous proceedingd, or fails to materially reduce its debt, than that may actually be a deterrent for others to follow their approach," Van Praagh notes.

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Education
4:24 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Another Michigan school district will be dissolved this week

Students and parents of the Buena Vista school district embrace during a school board meeting earlier this year
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Buena Vista schools will become the second district to be permanently dissolved under a new state law this week.

After Buena Vista shut down without warning in May, state legislators decided they needed an additional tool to deal with fiscal emergencies besides the emergency manager law.

The new law requires financially troubled districts to prove they have enough money to make it through an entire school year. If not, they can be dissolved. That happened to Inkster's school district last week.

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Auto
3:18 am
Mon July 29, 2013

July auto sales are expected to be very good

thecarconnection.com

Analysts are expecting a robust month for auto sales.

Jesse Toprak is an analyst with TrueCar.com.  He says July sales were good across all categories.

“But two extreme segments stand out, we see very high demand for small cars and small SUVS, and a very healthy demand for large pickup trucks,” says Toprak.

Toprak says the increase in pickup sales is being driven by small business owners, and an uptick in home renovations.

Auto
12:11 am
Mon July 29, 2013

Henry Ford at 150

Henry Ford with Model T in Buffalo, NY, 1921
Image from the Collections of The Henry Ford

Ford Motor Company celebrates the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford this week.

Bill Ford, Jr. is Henry Ford's great-grandson, and Executive Chairman of the company

Ford says the founder would have been pleased that his company is still a family business, 150 years later.

“I know Henry Ford would have been incredibly proud of the way his grandchildren led the company through the most difficult times,” says Ford

Ford Motor Company took out a $24 billion loan in 2006, using its trademark blue oval as part of the collateral.

Auto
6:30 pm
Thu July 25, 2013

GM makes $1.2 billion quarterly profit - same as Ford

General Motors logo in front of General Motors car
General Motors

General Motors is number two in global auto sales so far this year, just behind Toyota, and just in front of Volkswagon.

So why didn't GM make more money than its Dearborn rival, Ford Motor Company, in the second quarter?

Both companies made $1.2 billion, but Ford made that money based on a lower volume of sales.

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Auto
11:30 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Ford Motor Company makes $1.2 billion in second quarter

Campaign for new 2013 Ford Shelby GT500
Ford Motor Company's official website

Have you looked at a Ford financial report lately?

Ford Motor Company posted its 16th consecutive quarter of profitability on Wednesday.  The company made $1.2 billion dollars, driven by strong results in North America, combined with improved results in every other region of the world.

Ford is still losing money in Europe, as expected, due to the region's protracted recession.  But even in Europe, there is some good news.

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Offbeat
1:47 pm
Mon July 22, 2013

The question everyone is asking about the royal baby

A royal kiss that led to a royal baby.
user: whitneyinchicago Flickr

We know the question everyone has been asking about the impending arrival of a new member of the British royal family. 

No, of course it's not, will it be a girl or a boy. We are, after all, public radio consumers. What we really want to know is: What will the economic impact of the royal birth be on the U.K. economy?

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Education
7:29 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

U of M takes another step toward choosing next president

John Monteith, president, University of Michigania, 1817-1821
Bentley Library

The University of Michigan's board of regents named seven faculty members this week to serve on a presidential search committee.

The current U of M president, Mary Sue Coleman, will retire next year.

The faculty members will serve in addition to the eight regents.

The search committee looks very different than it did in 2002, when Coleman was selected. Then, the search committee was more diverse. Besides faculty, the committee included a custodial supervisor, the head of the U of M Alumni Association, and two undergraduate students.

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Arts & Culture
2:16 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

Both art and science, Art Fair features images from under the microscope

Wearing His Heart On His Sleeve
Bioartography Project University of Michigan

Visitors to the Ann Arbor Art Fair saw some unusual art if they stopped by the University of Michigan Health System's booth this week. The Bioartography project features images of cells taken under a microscope.

Researcher Deborah Gumucio is director of the project. She says just about all of the images that doctors, post-docs and other researchers submit are incredibly beautiful, resembling abstract art. A panel of artists sorts through and selects the best.

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Education
7:35 pm
Thu July 18, 2013

University of Michigan approves in-state tuition for undocumented students, US military veterans

People react to tuition change
Alana Holland Michigan Radio

The board of regents of the University of Michigan has approved in-state tuition for some illegal immigrants who live in Michigan. The policy change follows two years of intense lobbying by undocumented students and supporters.

Undocumented students will have to show they attended middle school and high school in Michigan to get the lower tuition rate. For the 2013-14 year, in-state tuition for a freshman undergraduate will be $13,142. The out-of-state tuition rate is $40,392. 

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Auto
11:36 am
Thu July 18, 2013

Air Museum hopes to save part of historic plant where Rosie the Riveter worked

The Yankee Lady is a WWII-era B-17G bomber.
Alana Holland Michigan Radio

With the touch of a button, a massive two-story-tall bay door opens slowly, as an insistent alarm sounds, to reveal part of the former Willow Run bomber plant near Ypsilanti, Michigan. A heavy waft of must and dampness rushes out from the dark interior.

Once, scores of B-24 bombers exited these bay doors, on their way to aid the American war effort. 

"It works better than my garage door back home," says Grant Trigger with a grin, as the more than 60-year-old doors lift.

Trigger is the Michigan Cleanup Manager for RACER Trust, which handles the vacant GM Willow Run Assembly Plant, along with scores of other properties abandoned by the automaker as part of its bankruptcy reorganization in 2009. 

The factory began its life as a Ford Motor Company World War II factory, famous for being the place where Rosie the Riveter worked. GM later bought the plant and converted it to make automobiles.

But soon it will be demolished, unless a modest museum can raise more than $4.5 million in the next 15 days.

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Auto
12:42 pm
Mon July 15, 2013

Chrysler celebrates two big investments in the future

Sterling Heights Assembly line worker
Chrysler

When Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne was given control of Chrysler in 2009, it wasn't just the Detroit automaker's cars that needed to be improved. Many of Chrysler's factories were sorely in need of upgrades, too.

This week, Chrysler will give tours to media to show off an $850 million renovation of the Sterling Heights Assembly plant, which includes a built-from-the-ground-up new paint shop.

On Thursday, Chrysler will offer media a chance to see the upgraded Toledo Assembly plant, where the new Jeep Cherokee is being built.

Auto
1:17 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Auto industry execs optimistic but still not hiring

Ford executives announce Russian expansion
Ford Motor Company

Consumers aren't the only folks to get scared and pull tight the purse strings during (and after) deep recessions.

Auto industry executives do it, too.

A survey by EY (formerly Ernst and Young) found that despite a dramatic increase in optimism about the economy, many auto industry executives say they're delaying big investments in acquisitions, equipment, and jobs.

52% in the most recent EY survey said the economy is improving - up from 22% just six months ago.

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Environment & Science
12:50 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

NWF sues EPA over "weak" ballast water discharge permit

ships

The National Wildlife Federation is suing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the agency's new ballast water discharge permit.

The EPA will require ships entering the Great Lakes and other U.S. waters to get a permit, before dumping their ballast water.

But the environmental group says the permit is weak and won't keep new non-native species from getting into the lakes.

Marc Smith is senior policy manager for the environmental group.

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Health
12:02 pm
Thu July 11, 2013

Who's happiest with their insurance? Medicaid recipients

Marianne Udow-Phillips.
user mudowp Twitter

A new survey by the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) finds Medicaid recipients are the happiest with their health insurance. 

65% of people with Medicaid insurance rated it as very good or excellent - compared to  54% with Medicare insurance. 

51% of people with employer-based insurance rated it as very good or excellent. 

The lowest number was among the individually-insured group - those are people who buy their own insurance.  Only 43% said it was very good or excellent.

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Auto
5:32 pm
Tue July 2, 2013

GM and Honda to co-develop hydrogen fuel cell powertrain

GM, Honda To Co-Develop Next-Gen Fuel Cell Technologies
media.gm.com staff

General Motors and Honda are joining together to develop cars that run on hydrogen.

The two companies are leaders in fuel cell technology, which is still many years away from being viable --and affordable.

GM and Honda have had some joint projects before, although combining fuel cell car programs is the most ambitious.

The two companies together have only about 200 of the cars on the road, which generate electricity in a hydrogen fuel cell.

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