Auto

Auto/Economy
4:02 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

A little clarity in the muddy international bridge debate

Bridge traffic estimates from the Anderson Economic Group's report. The report states that "public road projects in the U.S. that included a toll component tended to overestimate traffic by an average of 42%."
Anderson Economic Group

A report from the Anderson Economic Group has offered some clarity to the debate over a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor.

A little background in case you have sat this story out thus far:

Governor Rick Snyder has been pushing the idea of a new bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge, known as the New International  Trade Crossing (NITC).

It would connect up I-75 and Highway 401 in Canada.

The Ambassador Bridge owners, the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), don't want competition from another bridge. Owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been fighting against the proposed bridge with a $4.7 million television ad blitz.

The ads say Michigan taxpayers could be on the hook for the costs of the New International  Trade Crossing if plans don't pan out.

Moroun is proposing to build a second span next to the Ambassador Bridge to ease congestion.

The report from the Anderson Economic Group analyzes both proposals (NITC vs. DIBC).

The bottom line of the report from several media reports out today is that the new bridge (NITC) would ease congestion currently felt at the Detroit-Windsor crossing, and a second span of the Ambassador Bridge would not (DIBC).

It's finding no. 2 in the report.

From the Detroit Free Press:

The Detroit International Bridge Co.'s proposed second bridge between Detroit and Canada would not eliminate the current congestion on both sides of the border but the New International Trade Crossing bridge would do so, according to an independent study released today by the Anderson Economic Group.

From Crain's Detroit Business:

A proposed government-owned bridge over the Detroit River, with additional U.S. Customs booths, would do a better job reducing border traffic congestion and handling future traffic than a second Ambassador Bridge span, says a new independent report released today.

From the Detroit News:

A proposed bridge two miles south of the Ambassador Bridge would alleviate border congestion, but a new span beside the Ambassador would not, according to a study released Tuesday.

Finding no. 3 in the report states that the obligation to repay borrowed funds for the construction costs of either bridge does not rest with Michigan taxpayers. That finding assumes that protections for Michigan taxpayers are in place for "statute and bond covenants."

Jeff Watrick over at MLive has a nice summary of the 7 findings of the report.

Or you can read the report yourself.

Let us know what stands out to you.

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Auto/Economy
2:31 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Details of UAW's new contract with GM emerge

General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson (left) shakes hands with United Auto Workers President Bob King at the beginning of the UAW/GM talks last August.
gmmedia.com

Update 2:31 pm:

This story was clarified at 2:00 pm to say that the $5,000 bonus was for ratification of the contract.

Pay raises for entry-level workers, five-thousand dollar bonuses for ratification, and better profit sharing. Those are among the highlights of the four-year contract local UAW leaders will recommend to General Motors’ 48,500 hourly workers.

UAW President Bob King says the union bargained a “great framework” for all three Detroit automakers.

    "They’re in different states of financial health, different states of debt. We’re hoping that this country bounces back and the European situation gets resolved – they all could be impacted by that. And we think we’ve got an agreement that helps us get through those periods of time, because we didn’t add many fixed costs to this agreement."    

The tentative contract promises to add or save 6,400 workers. Nine hundred of those are at Michigan plants.

It also provides for a $5,000 dollar ratification bonus, and raises for entry-level workers. UAW President Bob King says those workers will also see generous health care provisions – including free emergency room and urgent care visits.

"What worker being hired at any employer today starts out with the kind of health care plan that workers hiring into General Motors will have? What workers have unlimited doctor visits, $25 co-pay? Nobody."

The contract also calls for $10,000 dollar bonuses for eligible employees who retire in the next two years. Skilled tradesmen who retire between November First and the end of March would qualify for additional $65,000 bonuses.

Ratification is expected at the end of next week.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett is at the United Auto Worker's press conference in Detroit today.

She's reporting on some details of the UAW's new contract with General Motors:

  • Entry level wages will be bumped up to $19.28/hr over the life of the contract plus a $5,000 ratification bonus.
  • Unlimited doctor appointments with $25 co-pay.
  • $10,000 bonus for eligible employees who retire within the next two years.
  • Additional $65,000 bonus for skilled trades who retire between November 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.
  • Jobs will be added in Michigan at facilities in Warren, Saginaw and Romulus.

UAW President Bob King says the next target for negotiations has not yet been determined.

From the Associated Press:

Union leaders from General Motors factories around the country have endorsed a new four-year contract with the company.

They are recommending that GM's 48,500 factory workers approve the deal in votes during the next week.

The agreement reached Friday includes a $5,000 signing bonus and improved profit-sharing instead of hourly pay raises for most of the workers. About 2,400 entry-level workers will get raises. They now make $14 to $16 per hour, about half the pay of a longtime UAW worker.

Profit-sharing will be a minimum of $3,500 next year.

The union now will focus on negotiations with Chrysler, and Ford will be next.

Since Chrysler isn't making as much money as GM, workers there probably won't see as good of a deal.

 

Economy
2:01 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Michigan proposal targets taxes on Internet sales

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan lawmakers are renewing a push to require more businesses selling items over the Internet to collect the state's 6 percent sales tax.

Legislation dealing with the issue was detailed Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The Michigan Retailers Association says some out-of-state, online-only retailers use legal loopholes that allow them to avoid collecting state sales tax at the point of sale. The retailers association says that gives the online retailers an unfair price advantage and hurts Michigan businesses that have storefronts and collect the sales tax.

Bills to be introduced by Republican Rep. Eileen Kowall of Oakland County's White Lake Township and Democratic Rep. Jim Ananich of Flint would move online-only retailers under the same sales tax collection laws under which brick-and-mortar businesses operate.

Auto/Economy
10:57 am
Tue September 20, 2011

Auto Talks: Far From Over

There’s a great deal of celebration going on over the fact that General Motors and the United Auto Workers union have reached tentative agreement on a new, four-year contract.

In the old days, what this would have meant was speedy ratification, followed by a similar settlement with Chrysler within perhaps two weeks, and then Ford maybe a month later.

That was the era of pretty much one-size-fits all pattern bargaining agreements. But that was before the near-death and the resurrection of Chrysler and GM, and it’s now a different world.

I spent some time yesterday with one of the best industry analysts around -- Kristin Dziczek, who heads the labor and industry group at CAR, the non-profit Center for Automotive Research based in Ann Arbor. Dziczek knows the management spokesmen and the economists, and has friends and relatives who are in the UAW. She eats, breathes, and sleeps this stuff.

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GM, UAW reach tentative contract
12:21 pm
Mon September 19, 2011

GM, UAW to announce details of tentative contract on Tuesday

GM CEO Dan Akerson and UAW President Bob King kicking off this year's talks with a ceremonial handshake.
General Motors

Contract talks between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler and Ford continue this week, after GM became the first to settle on the terms of a tentative agreement with the union, late Friday.

Officials with the union and the automaker will release details of the contract on Tuesday at an 11:00 a.m. press conference.

The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press report that the GM contract probably includes a signing bonus for workers if they agree to the deal, and a pay increase for entry-level workers.

Plus, GM is expected to agree to add more jobs in the U.S.

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Auto/Economy
8:47 am
Sat September 17, 2011

GM, UAW agree to new contract

General Motors headquarters in Detroit
Andrea_44 Flickr

General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers, sobered by the government bailout and bankruptcy at the automaker just two years ago, reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract without the public acrimony or strikes that have plagued the talks in the past.

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Legislation
5:12 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Detroit could be home to first patent office outside of Washington D.C.

Congress passed the "America Invents Act." President Obama signed it into law today. The Act could lead to a satellite patent office in Detroit.

President Obama signed the America Invents Act today which could establish Detroit as the first city to set-up a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office outside of Washington D.C.

From the Act:

DESIGNATION.—The satellite office of the United States Patent and Trademark Office to be located in Detroit, Michigan, shall be known and designated as the ‘‘Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office’’.

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Auto/Economy
5:09 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Bill signing revives plans for Detroit patent office

Congress passed the "America Invents Act." President Obama signed it into law today. The Act could lead to a satellite patent office in Detroit.
user wallyg Flickr

Patent legislation that had a big push from Michigan’s research universities and the Detroit automakers has been signed into law.

The “America Invents Act” promises to speed up the patent process, and help reduce a backlog of some 700,000 patent applications in Washington D.C.

Part of that includes opening a satellite patent office in Detroit and two other locations.  

"It really puts the patent office in one of the invention centers of the nation, which is the Detroit area," said Steve Forrest, vice president for research at the University of Michigan.

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Economy
2:16 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Health care building boom: Does another hospital in Oakland county make sense?

L. Brooks Patterson addressing the Oakland County Commission. He says new healthcare facilities will help add jobs in the county. But what about the costs to taxpayers?
screen grab of Oakland Co. video

New health care jobs have been a big area of growth in an economy struggling to create any jobs at all.

It's no wonder communities are working to attract new health care investments.

Marketplace's Gregory Warner produced a piece on what he calls L. Brooks Patterson's mission: "to rescue Oakland County by creating a medical mecca."

Patterson thinks a new hospital complex will bring in 3,000 jobs. He's seeking approval to build the McLaren Health Care Village in Oakland County.

But as Warner makes clear in his piece, people question whether the new hospital is needed.

And some economists say building redundant hospitals increases health care costs and taxes for all of us.

It's a point that makes Patterson a little hot around the collar.

You can listen to Warner's piece here:

And here is an animation by Warner and Adam Cole that helps explain the health care boom across the country:

Oh The Jobs (Debt?) You'll Create! from Marketplace on Vimeo.

Economy
2:01 pm
Fri September 16, 2011

Red Cross contract talks to resume Saturday

The American Red Cross regional blood center in Lansing
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Contract talks are scheduled this weekend for two American Red Cross unions.  A strike last week idled Red Cross workers in 65 Michigan counties.  

Last week’s two-day walkout ended after union leaders said they received assurances that this weekend’s planned contract talks would be "serious" in nature.  But the unions also scheduled a new strike deadline for next Wednesday. That irked some officials with the American Red Cross.  

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Auto/Economy
11:50 am
Fri September 16, 2011

The end of the classic police car, Ford makes last Crown Victoria

The last Crown Victoria rolls off the assembly line yesterday. The St. Thomas Assembly Plant in Ontario will close.
Ford Motor Company

"You couldn't kill it no matter what you did to it."

So said Ford spokesman Octavio Navarro of the Crown Victoria in CNN Money:

The last Ford Crown Victoria rolled off a Canadian assembly line Thursday, marking the end of the big, heavy Ford cars that have been popular with taxi fleets and police departments for decades.

Since 1979, almost 10 million Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Cars -- so-called Panther Platform vehicles -- have been sold.

The last "Crown Vic" rolled off the assembly line at 12:30 p.m. yesterday, according to the NY Times City Room blog. They write that the car will likely be exported to Mexico or Saudi Arabia.

The Canadian auto plant where the Crown Victoria was made, the St. Thomas Assembly Plant in Ontario, is closing.

CNN Money reports that Ford "is offering $100,000 cash payments or relocation offers, among other programs, for the workers at the plant."

So with the Crown Victoria out, what will future cop cars look like? CNN put together this gallery.

Economy
2:15 pm
Thu September 15, 2011

U.S. Post Office looks at closing most of Michigan's mail processing centers

The entrance to the U. S. Post Office mail processing center in Jackson, Michigan
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 Mail delivery could become even slower in Michigan under a plan announced  today.    The U.S. Postal Service wants to close most of its processing centers, including a half a dozen in Michigan.   

Postal Service officials are considering closing mail processing centers in Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo,  Jackson, Saginaw and  Iron Mountain.    All the state’s mail would be routed through three other locations.   

A Postal Service spokesman says he does not expect any mail processing centers will close before next Spring.

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Economy
5:01 am
Thu September 15, 2011

Big jump in home foreclosure filings in Michigan last month

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 August saw a big leap in the number of new home foreclosure filings in Michigan.   

2011 was expected to be a record year for home foreclosures in Michigan, but it didn’t happen.  Foreclosure filings slowed at the beginning of the year, as banks scrambled to fix paperwork problems and respond to new government regulations.  But it appears now the tide is turning.  

New home foreclosure filings jumped 36 percent from July to August in Michigan.  

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Economy
4:15 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Early season frost threatens Michigan crops

Corn growing along US 127 south of Mason
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

 An early season cold snap is threatening to seriously damage Michigan’s corn crop.   Temperatures are expected to slide into the 30’s tonight and into the weekend.  

This year did not start well for Michigan farmers.   A cold, wet Spring delayed planting for nearly two months.   Now, an early season frost could damage corn, soybean and other crops just a few weeks from harvest. 

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Auto/Economy
12:06 pm
Wed September 14, 2011

Lights-Out Machining: You Go Home, the Machines Keep Working

John Hill runs Midwest Mold. When his operators go home, some machines keep working.

Imagine going home out at night while your computer keeps doing your job. That’s the basic idea behind a trend in manufacturing called “lights-out machining.” You punch out. The machines keep working. It’s a way to make a lot more product with a lot fewer people … and fewer jobs. Here’s the story of two Michigan companies that are trying to boost productivity and stay competitive by turning out the lights and going home.

First, a little perspective. Man’s love/hate relationship with automation has been around a long time. Take the 1936 classic Modern Times.

Charlie Chaplin is in a frenzy. He’s tightening bolts on the factory line. The boss straps him into a person-feeding machine, so his hands can keep working while his mouth eats lunch. It’s a nightmare of productivity, where men are captive to machines. But manufacturers today have a different vision.

“At the end of the shift, my operators go home. Their machines continue running in the building with nobody in it,” says John Hill.

Hill owns a small business called Midwest Mold Services. The company designs and builds metal molds for plastic parts. These parts wind up in cars, medical devices, and even as the emblem on the back of a Cadillac. Hill says in the old days, shaping these metal molds was a job for one machine and one operator.

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Economy
6:56 am
Wed September 14, 2011

Homeless advocate worries about state welfare cuts

Michigan’s homeless shelters may be the next step for people losing their state welfare benefits next month.    And that worries an advocate for Michigan’s homeless.   More than 12 thousand families will be kicked out of Michigan’s welfare programs when the new 48 month limit on state cash assistance benefits takes effect October 1st. 

Eric Hufnagel expects most will be sustained by family and local charities.   But the executive director of the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness fears some will turn to local homeless shelters.  Hufnagel says local shelters are preparing for an influx of new clients, but decreasing government aid for shelters means it will be difficult.  

“We may not have the services that we need for some of those folks who are limited and no longer are receiving cash assistance.”   

Hufnagel expects only a small number of people losing their welfare benefits will turn to shelters initially.   But he says that tide will rise as religious groups and other charities find they cannot meet the need.

Economy
12:39 pm
Tue September 13, 2011

Census data show increased poverty rate in Michigan

46.2 million people in the U.S. are in poverty. Light green bars show recessions.
U.S. Census Bureau

The U.S. Census Bureau released more data today cataloging the nation's median household income, poverty rate, and the percentage of people without health insurance coverage.

Census officials say this data represents the first full calendar year after the December 2007-June 2009 recession.

For health insurance coverage, the differences between 2009 and 2010 were not significant. It's estimated that 16.3 percent of the population is without coverage - about 49.9 million people.

Real median household income in the U.S. in 2010 was $49,445, - a 2.3 percent decline from the 2009 median.

Not surprisingly, the nation's poverty rate was up. "Poverty" is defined by the number of people in a household vs. their income. For example, a family of four that includes two children is considered in "poverty" if  their income is below $22,113.

From the U.S. Census Bureau:

The nation's official poverty rate in 2010 was 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 percent in 2009 ─ the third consecutive annual increase in the poverty rate. There were 46.2 million people in poverty in 2010, up from 43.6 million in 2009 ─ the fourth consecutive annual increase and the largest number in the 52 years for which poverty estimates have been published (emphasis added).

This information covers the first full calendar year after the December 2007-June 2009 recession. See section on the historical impact of recessions.

The Detroit News broke down what the numbers mean here in Michigan. They point out that more numbers will be out next week, which could drive the numbers higher:

For Michigan, the numbers hint at a substantial rise in poverty. In 2010, the survey showed 15.5 percent of Michigan residents in poverty, up from 14 percent in 2009. Compared to all states, Michigan's poverty rate is 20th, same as last year.

However, the poverty numbers released Tuesday are from the annual Current Population Survey (CPS) of 100,000 households in the country. Although state-level poverty numbers are being released, more accurate statistics at the state level will come out next week with the release of the 2010 American Community Survey (ACS), which surveys 3 million nationwide. Last year, the CPS indicated that 14 percent of Michigan residents were living in poverty; the ACS revealed that far more, 16.5 percent, were.

Over the last five years, Michigan's poverty numbers from the ACS have trended higher than the CPS.

Contract talks may be extended
12:10 am
Tue September 13, 2011

UAW contract talks to be extended at Ford Motor Company

The deadline for Detroit automakers and the United Auto Workers’ union is fast approaching. 

But contract talks could be extended past the deadline of this Wednesday – especially at Ford. 

Ford is the only company that faces the possibility of a strike this time, because of agreements made during GM and Chrysler’s bankruptcies.

UAW President Bob King says a strike is not the goal.

But some union dissidents think a strike could happen.

Gary Walkowicz  is a bargaining committeeman at UAW Local 600 in Dearborn.

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Economy
2:07 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Quicken Loans plans to hire 500 new workers

DETROIT (AP) - Online retail mortgage lender Quicken Loans Inc. says it plans to hire 500 new workers, mostly based in Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News report the company plans to kick off the hiring effort with a job fair Saturday at its downtown Detroit headquarters. The company wants to hire immediately for several areas including mortgage banking, marketing and technology.

The event runs form 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Job listings are posted online.

Economy
1:22 pm
Mon September 12, 2011

Closing the book on Borders' Ann Arbor store

Shoppers walk around looking for bargains, or memories, as just a few copies of the Jonas Brothers tour book are about all that's left on the shelves at Borders' Ann Arbor location.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Today, the doors will close for the final time at the Borders bookstore in Ann Arbor. It’s a significant milestone marking the final days of the Ann Arbor-based bookseller. 

“Well it's so sad….we’ll miss’em…great store,” one longtime Borders customer said as she walked out the door of the bookseller's flagship store. That is the feeling of many people who stopped by the Borders store in Ann Arbor on its last day.    

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