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Economy
4:09 pm
Wed August 24, 2011

Detroit might close six libraries

The Richard Branch of the Detroit Public Library system. It's one of six being proposed for closure.
Detroit Public Libraries

As Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reported last February, "libraries face a tough paradox.  People tend to use them more when the economy is bad. But a bad economy also means they get fewer resources to work with."

Cwiek was reporting on the Detroit public library system which at the time was facing a $17 million budget shortfall.

This past spring, the city proposed closing 18 libraries, but then backed away from that proposal.

Staffing cuts were made, and now, according to the Detroit News, the city is proposing to close six of its 23 libraries because the "layoffs of about 40 staffers in spring hurt service and forced some branches to temporarily close on some days."

The News visited one library slated for closure and talked to people there:

Erin Carter...searches for jobs using computers at the Chase branch in northwest Detroit that is recommended for closure.

"There is so much stuff closing down," said Carter, 22. "I don't know where to go."

The small library at Seven Mile and Southfield Freeway was packed Tuesday afternoon and every computer was in use. Fifteen-year-old Brandon Thomas and his neighbor, 12-year-old Kalan Lewis, rode their bikes to the library for the first time Wednesday to pick up some books and look for the Civil War movie, "Glory."

"They shouldn't close it," Kalan said. "It's for kids. We need to be able to learn what we don't learn in school."

The libraries on the list for potential closure:

Changing Gears
11:32 am
Wed August 24, 2011

Foreclosures decline, while foreclosure businesses thrive

Frank Oliver clears out a foreclosed home in Roseville, Michigan.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Foreclosure activity dropped by more than a third this past year, according to the group RealtyTrac. But despite the national slowdown, regional companies that take care of foreclosed homes are still thriving. Their job is to keep empty houses clean and safe from the forces that depress local property values: squatters, thieves and decay.

Dawn Hammontree probably never expected to see their work firsthand.

The first part of Hammontree’s story is familiar in Michigan. Her unemployment ran out in December.

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Auto/Economy
10:15 pm
Tue August 23, 2011

Detroit neighborhoods struggle with squatters

flickr user Detroit1701 flickr.com

City officials have confirmed what residents in many Detroit neighborhoods have said for several years: squatting is on the rise.

Detroit has more than 100,000 vacant properties. And with the foreclosure crisis, even the city’s most stable neighborhoods are dealing with squatters.

Michael Brady is with Community Legal Resources, a group that has helped neighborhood groups deal with vacant property issues in Detroit.

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Economy
10:42 am
Tue August 23, 2011

The Future of Michigan Railroads

A few weeks ago, I talked about efforts Michigan is making to improve passenger rail service between Detroit and Chicago, efforts which include buying and upgrading a portion of the track.

That prompted some enthusiastic response from people who said they were eager for more passenger rail service.

Not just to Chicago, that is, but everywhere. Some were older listeners, who had fond memories of Pullman cars and traveling the nation by rail back in the day. Others were romantics or environmentalists or people not in love with automobiles.

There do seem to be a lot of us who are tired of fighting roads and traffic jams and paying four dollars a gallon for gas. This got me to wondering whether railroads are in fact mostly a part of our romantic past, or an important segment of our transportation future.

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Economy
6:39 am
Tue August 23, 2011

Report: Traffic crashes add up to $4.8 billion a year in economic costs

ChazWags Flickr

A new State Police report says traffic crashes in Michigan carry a price tag of $4.8 billion dollars a year. The report says the cost of traffic crashes in Michigan exceeds the cost of crimes.

Researchers used data from 2009, when the human toll of traffic crashes was 937 deaths and more than 70,000 injuries. They put the economic damage for those crashes at $4.8 billion dollars. That includes the cost of medical care, property damage, and lost earnings, among other things.

The institute also used data on jury awards to put a value on pain and suffering caused by traffic crashes, which put the number over $9 billion dollars. The study compared the dollar loss from crashes to the cost of violent and property crimes that are tracked by the state, and found the costs of crime are dwarfed by the costs of traffic crashes.

The report was commissioned by the state Office of Highway Safety Planning and was conducted by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Economy
5:09 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Michigan farmers talk about the future of agriculture industry

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) speaks with Jim May inside his barn in Sparta Monday afternoon.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Senator Debbie Stabenow visited a farm in West Michigan Monday to discuss how to expand the agriculture industry.

Stabenow is chairwoman the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“We all have a stake in our farmers doing well because we all have a stake in having food security, in making sure we have wholesome, American grown, Michigan grown food for us.”

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Auto
3:49 pm
Mon August 22, 2011

Ford and Toyota to develop a hybrid truck system together

Ford's Derrick Kuzak and Toyota's Takeshi Uchiyamada

Ford Motor Company sprang a surprise on the media world on Monday by announcing it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Toyota to jointly develop a rear-wheel drive hybrid system for SUVs and trucks.

Ford is the undisputed king of the pickup in the U.S.  Its F-series pickup has been the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 25 years.

Toyota is the undisputed king of the hybrid - the Prius is the best-selling hybrid in the U.S.

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Economy
10:47 am
Mon August 22, 2011

Borders Books liquidation moving forward

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

What’s left on the shelves at your local Borders bookstore is expected to be gone in about another month.  The liquidation sales have been going on for nearly a month at Borders 399 bookstores across the U.S., including the company’s 26 Michigan locations.   

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller ended its fight to stay alive in July after repeated unsuccessful attempts to find a way out of bankruptcy-protection. 

Richard Kaye is with Hilco, one of the companies handling Borders’ liquidation. He says overall Borders’ ‘Going out of Business’ sales are proceeding as expected. 

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Economy
1:52 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Using "Pure Michigan" campaign to rebrand the state's business climate

MEDC President Michael Finney (left) listens as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder talks to reporters at the Michigan International Speedway prior to the start of the Pure Michigan 400
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign targeted a new audience over the weekend….NASCAR fans.   The state tourism marketing campaign sponsored the nationally televised “Pure Michigan 400” race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.   It's part of the state’s 25 million dollar tourism promotion budget.  

Michael Finney is the President the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  He says the NASCAR sponsorship is part of an evolution of the marketing campaign.  

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No incentives war in 2011
5:55 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Will the U.S. see an incentives war among car companies?

Leading auto consulting firms are lowering their forecasts for U.S. auto sales in 2011. 

But it is unlikely to send automakers into a panic.

Some observers say the lower volume of sales means the U.S. is ripe for an incentives war among car companies.  

But Anthony Pratt with the auto consulting group R. L. Polk doesn’t see it happening.   He says a lot of the triggers that set off incentives wars in the past are missing. 

For one thing, U.S. car companies are making money at the lower volume of sales. 

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Transportation
2:47 pm
Fri August 19, 2011

Feds to invest more than $28 million in new Dearborn train station

A map showing current High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program investments.
Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration has obligated $28,204,450 to the Michigan Department of Transportation to build a new Dearborn train station.

U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn) made the announcement in a press release today:

This funding will allow the City of Dearborn to consolidate its two passenger rail stations into a intermodal station in the west section of downtown Dearborn... The intermodal facility will be designed for the planned Ann Arbor-Detroit commuter rail as well as future high-speed intercity passenger rail service.  The station will accommodate city, regional and intercity bus systems; local and tourist shuttles; bicycle and greenway linkages; and, auto, taxi, and limousine connections to Detroit International Airport.

In the release, Dingell said "modernizing rail travel will help attract small business development, increase job growth, and enhance the livelihood of communities and business, by helping to expedite the time and efficiency of people and goods getting from point A to point B."

Last May, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced an investment of $196.5 million to improve track and signal systems between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

The improvements, the federal government said, would reduce trip times between Detroit and Chicago by 30 minutes.

The Federal Railroad Administration selected the Dearborn rail station to be funded under the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail program.

In total, the government plans to spend $10.1 billion of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to improve passenger rail service in the U.S.

The Dearborn Press & Guide reports the announcement puts an end to questions about whether the money would come or not:

[The money] was awarded more than two years ago as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Although the money was awarded, until this week it still had not been obligated and Congressional Republicans are proposing to rescind all non-obligated ARRA funds as part of the upcoming federal budget process.

Dearborn Mayor Jack O’Reilly was quoted as saying he was relieved by the news, "I was panicked that our shovel-ready project would never come to fruition. This really is key for Dearborn, as we'll now be central to any future transportation planning for the region."

Economy
11:10 am
Fri August 19, 2011

Group seeks to create Detroit Jewish neighborhood

The Ellington Lofts in Midtown Detroit. The AP reports a rent program is aimed at bringing young Jewish professionals back to Detroit's Midtown area or to the downtown area.
user dig downtown detroit Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A group of young Jewish professionals attracted to the vitality of Detroit's evolving downtown wants to bring others into the city decades after their parents and grandparents left.

CommunityNEXT Director Jordan Wolfe says the 25 people targeted through a rent program would help return Jewish culture to Detroit and contribute to the city's revitalization.

Subsidies of $250 per month for a year will be offered. Wolfe says he is seeking to bring in people "who get a kick out of building a community."

The rent program piggybacks offers major corporations and businesses are making to entice their employees to relocate downtown or to Detroit's growing Midtown area.

A dodgeball tournament fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday in Detroit and will be followed Sunday by a kickball tournament in Los Angeles.

Economy
6:19 am
Fri August 19, 2011

Ag business strained finding good crop of employees

Hamilton Farm Bureau Chief Operating Officer Wade Blowers says he hopes to recruit sales people that will make investing in more storage and processing capacity at his co-op worthwhile.
Rick Pluta Michigan Public Radio

Originally published on Fri August 19, 2011 12:01 am

Last of a five-part series

In Michigan, one in 10 people who want work can't find a job, and that number doubles if you include people who are underemployed or who have just given up on their job search.

But despite high unemployment, some employers are still finding that the search for talent can be a challenge.

At the Hamilton Farm Bureau cooperative in southwest Michigan, a 50-ton truck is taking in a load of grain that will go to feed cattle.

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Chevy kicks off Dream Cruise
5:38 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Dream Cruise underway - with Chevy leading the way

A Volt owner shows off his new car prior to the parade.

Chevrolet kicked off the Dream Cruise with a parade of classic Chevys and fifty Chevy Volts down Woodward Avenue.

It’s the first Dream Cruise for GM CEO Dan Akerson. 

Akerson has been CEO of General Motors since September of last year.

Akerson says the passion people show for classic cars is no surprise.

"GM has been part of Detroit, Detroit’s been a major player globally in automotive, and the Dream Cruise is a celebration of the industry and the success and the rebirth of Detroit," Akerson said at an pre-parade celebration.

GM plans electric cadillac
5:15 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

GM brings back electric, extended-range Cadillac program

General Motors has confirmed that it will develop a Cadillac version of its flagship Chevy Volt.

Like the Volt, the Cadillac ELR will run on electricity made by a T-shaped lithium-ion battery, or a gasoline generator.

The car has had an on-again, off-again history. 

As a concept, the then-named Cadillac Converj made a big splash at the 2009 North American International Auto Show.

GM CEO Dan Akerson says he doesn’t know why the program was suspended.  The car came up at a meeting shortly after he took charge of GM.

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Economy
3:14 pm
Thu August 18, 2011

Pontiac braces for tax hikes, service cuts

ddaimage3.jpg Google images

Pontiac residents could soon pay more for fewer service as the city tackles a projected $12 million deficit. 

Emergency manager Michael Stampfler's plan would  add more than $6 million  to Pontiac’s tax rolls.

Leon Jukowski is Pontiac’s mayor. He no longer has power, but says he monitors the actions of the emergency manager.

“These are some pretty significant obligations: $4.6 million for the pension and VEBA contributions, Jukowski says. "$1 million tax appeal for General Motors. So this could be a significant tax increase.”

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Auto/Economy
10:52 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

West Michigan’s economy depends on…

Steven Depolo Creative Commons

West Michigan’s economy depends on turning around Detroit, an educated workforce and a better attitude. That’s the conclusion from leaders who took part in a community forum in Grand Rapids Wednesday night. The group included non-profit, business and government leaders.

More than anything, the group says people in Michigan need to adopt a more positive attitude.

Birgit Klohs heads The Right Place. She works to attract businesses and workers to West Michigan.

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Volts in Dream Cruise
6:25 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Quiet Chevy Volts to join classic V-8 Chevys in Dream Cruise

Chevrolet kicks off the Woodward Dream Cruise weekend with a parade of classic Chevy vehicles alongside 50 Chevy Volts - GM's modern flagship electric car with an extended range gas engine.

Chevy is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Spokesman Rob Peterson says fifty Volts will cruise quietly down Woodward Avenue on battery power – alongside some classic Chevys with their big V-8 engines.

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Economy
4:49 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

Genesee commissioner suggests using portion of hotel tax to fund police

Genesee County Commissioner Joe Graves says a portion of hotel tax revenue should be used to put more police on patrol. Graves says better security will draw more visitors to the region's events and attractions.
co.genesee.mi.us

A Genesee County Commissioner says a portion of a hotel excise tax should be spent on police protection, rather than promoting area attractions and county parks.

Commissioner Joe Graves says nearly$1 million is generated every year by the five percent hotel tax in Genesee County. Most of it goes to the Flint Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The rest goes to the County Parks and Recreation Commission.

Graves says it would make sense to take $250,000  get a matching federal grant, and put more police on the streets.

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Economy
4:34 pm
Wed August 17, 2011

State jobless rate rises again

Snagablog.com

More than a half-million people in Michigan are out of work.

About 33,000 fewer Michiganders had jobs in July compared to the month before.

"The state jobless rate has now edged up for three consecutive months," says Bruce Weaver of the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. "It rose by four-tenths of a percentage point in July to 10.9 percent."

It’s still better than a year ago, when the unemployment rate was 12.4 percent.

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