Auto

transportation
3:05 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Lawmakers expect changes to how Michigan pays to fix roads

A 2-mile section of I-196 was widened and reconstructed in the middle of downtown Grand Rapids in 2010. The project cost $40 million and closed the freeway for seven months.
Ifmuth Creative Commons

A new study shows the conditions of Michigan’s roads will continue to decline unless the state can come up with a lot more money to maintain them. More than a third of Michigan’s roads are in poor condition.

The study was released this week by a bipartisan group of state lawmakers. It shows the state needs $1.4 billion more each year for at least 85-percent of roadways to be in good or fair condition.

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Economy
2:49 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Too many brain surgeons, not enough machinists?

Author Joel Kotkin says Michigan needs more mid-level workers, like welders, plumbers, machinists and office workers.
earl53 Morguefile

An expert in economic trends says Michigan needs more people with mid-level skills, not advanced degrees. 

Author Joel Kotkin says too many people in Michigan go to four-year colleges and come out with a lot of debt and no marketable skills.

He says that’s created another problem:

"Even in Michigan, with all the unemployment that you’ve had, skilled workers are in short supply, in manufacturing, in medicine, these sort of what we might call middle-skilled jobs, jobs that might take a certificate, maybe a couple years in community college,” Kotkin says.

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Auto/Economy
12:09 pm
Thu September 22, 2011

Moody's considers GM credit rating upgrade

GM might get a credit upgrade from Moody's.
user paul (dex) Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Moody's Investors Service is considering upgrading General Motors Co.'s credit ratings based on improvements in its finances and the expected ratification of a new contract
with the United Auto Workers union.

GM currently has a Ba2 corporate family rating and a Baa3 secured credit rating from Moody's. Both are several notches below investment grade. GM lost its investment-grade ratings in 2005,
when it was losing billions of dollars.

GM and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on a new contract last week. Workers are expected to finish voting on it by next Thursday.

Moody's said that after an initial review, it expects the contract would let GM remain competitive in North America. The deal would pay workers a $5,000 ratification bonus and profit-sharing
checks, but it helps GM lower costs by not giving annual raises to most workers and offering buyouts to clear out older, more expensive workers.

"A critical issue in our review is whether the new contract will preserve's GM's new-found  competitiveness and support its ability to contend with increasing volatility in the global economy," said Bruce Clark, a senior vice president at Moody's.

Moody's review also will consider GM's long-term commitment to the discipline it has adopted since its 2009 government bailout and bankruptcy. Moody's said it will look at whether GM will continue
to limit production and incentives, improve quality and limit acquisitions and shareholder returns in order to strengthen liquidity.

GM's stock fell 72 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $20.56 during a broader-market selloff. The Standard & Poor's 500 was down 3 percent in late morning trading.

Economy
8:42 am
Thu September 22, 2011

New census data: More Mich. residents in poverty

New census data show more Michigan residents are living in poverty.

The 2010 numbers from the American Community Survey released Thursday show the poverty rate rose from 16.2 percent in 2009 to 16.8 percent in Michigan. The percent of children under 18 in poverty in Michigan rose from 22.5 percent to 23.5 percent.

In Detroit, 37.6 percent were in poverty and 53.6 percent of children.

Median household income fell more than 1 percent from 2009 to $45,413 as more people worked in the lower-pay service industry than in manufacturing.

Help shape stories on this topic. Answer our news questions related to this story:

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Changing Gears
11:03 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Midwestern union workers have hope for their jobs

Navistar Springfield, Ohio plant manager Jim Rumpf with one of the four models of trucks now produced at the plant.
Niala Boodhoo

Navistar builds trucks across North America, at non-union factories in the South and Mexico, as well as union shops in the Midwest. The UAW members at the Navistar plant in Springfield, Ohio say a year of changes has made them competitive with those non-union plants – and they’re optimistic about the future.

In the final assembly department at Navistar’s Springfield, Ohio, plant, Veronica Smith is helping her team put the finishing touches on a truck. The cab is being mounted to its frame.

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Auto/Economy
10:24 am
Wed September 21, 2011

Moody's downgrades Fiat's credit rating

Fiat's credit was downgraded by Moody's.
Fiat USA

MILAN (AP) - The ratings agency Moody's has downgraded the credit rating Fiat SpA citing financial risks tied to the integration with Chrysler Group LLC.

Moody's on Wednesday downgraded the Italian automaker to Ba2 from Ba1.

The ratings agency said it expects integration of the two automakers will mean they will have "to support each other in the event of financial difficulty."

Fiat took an initial 20 percent stake in Chrysler in exchange for engine technology and management prowess. It currently holds a 53.5 percent share.

Moody's said it made the downgrade even though Fiat does not guarantee Chrysler's debt, and that the two companies' finances remain separate.

Auto
7:30 am
Wed September 21, 2011

The latest on UAW contract negotiations

Union leaders at General Motors' factories across the U.S. are endorsing a tentative contract with the automaker. 

In an unprecedented press conference yesterday, UAW President Bob King discussed details of the 4-year-contract. The rank-and-file will vote in the coming days. General Motors is the first automaker to reach a deal with the UAW. And,  these negotiations are the first since the federal government stepped in to help GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy in 2009.

We caught up with Tracy Samilton, Michigan Radio's auto reporter, to talk about the tentative contract and what it means for GM, the UAW, and the state's economy.

Auto/Economy
5:25 pm
Tue September 20, 2011

Report: Michigan lost 79,800 jobs to China from 2001 to 2010

Map showing the percentage of jobs displaced by trade imbalance with China as a share of state employment.
Economic Policy Institute

A report by the Economic Policy Institute looked at the growing trade deficit between the U.S. and China and its effect on jobs.

The group found the trade deficit with China has been a "prime contributor to the crisis in U.S. manufacturing employment."

From the report:

Between 2001 and 2010, the trade deficit with China eliminated or displaced 2.8 million jobs, 1.9 million (69.2 percent) of which were in manufacturing. The 1.9 million manufacturing jobs eliminated or displaced due to trade with China represents nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs lost or displaced between China’s entry into WTO and 2010.

The report finds that the number of Michigan jobs displaced by the trade deficit with China totaled 79,800. That accounts for 1.75 percent of total employment in the state in that time period.

Despite being a heavy manufacturing state, Michigan was not the hardest hit state by the trade imbalance.

From the report:

Jobs displaced due to growing deficits with China exceeded 2.2% of total employment in the 10 hardest-hit states (i.e., jobs lost or displaced as a share of total state employment): New Hampshire (19,700, 2.84%), California (454,600, 2.74%), Massachusetts (88,600, 2.73%), Oregon (47,900, 2.71%), North Carolina (107,800, 2.61%) Minnesota (70,700, 2.61%), Idaho (17,400, 2.54%), Vermont (7,800, 2.37%), Colorado (55,800, 2.30%), and Rhode Island (11,800, 2.24%).

The report concludes, "the U.S.-China trade relationship needs a fundamental change. Addressing the exchange rate policies and labor standards issues in the Chinese economy are important first steps."

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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