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AUTO
8:02 am
Wed August 17, 2011

UAW: Ford talks ahead of schedule, strike vote set

Pobrecito33 Flickr

The United Auto Workers' lead negotiator with Ford Motor Co. says talks with the Dearborn-based automaker are ahead of schedule and says the union is asking its locals to hold routine strike authorization votes by Sept. 2.

Jimmy Settles tells the Detroit Free Press the votes are "nothing unusual" and are a normal part of every contract cycle with Ford.

Settles and UAW President Bob King announced the decision to hold a strike authorization vote Tuesday at a UAW meeting in Chicago. The union started negotiations with Ford late last month to replace a four-year contract that expires Sept. 14.

Contracts also are up at General Motors Co. and Chrysler, of which Fiat is the majority owner.

Economy
7:10 am
Wed August 17, 2011

Report: MI teens are doing better, young children are worse off

Teen deaths are on the decline in Michigan. That’s according to an annual report that compares indicators on the wellbeing of children.

According to the report, Michigan ranks better than the national average for the death rate among teens. Jane Zehnder-Merrell is the “Kids Count” project director at the Michigan League for Human Services. She says teens are getting into fewer fatal car accidents. But she says Michigan is experiencing a national trend toward more teen murders. 

“It’s troubling to see that as we push down one rate another rates starts going up; the homicide rate. Suicide rate has remained relatively stable, but we may see increases in that as well with the stress.”

There has been a 64 percent increase in the child poverty rate in Michigan over the past decade, according to the report.

Zehnder-Merrell says increases in unemployment and home foreclosures affect the wellbeing of children.

 “Very stressful, very difficult times for families, even though in Michigan I think part of it too is we’re used to having a lot more people living a middleclass life and having access to housing and good jobs and good health insurance, and the world is changing.”

Zehnder-Merrell says many budget and program cuts and made in the Legislature have exacerbated child poverty issues. That includes a proposed four-year cap on cash assistance that is set for a final vote when lawmakers return to Lansing next week.

Auto/Economy
2:15 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Growing West Michigan auto-supplier hiring big, again

Gentex’s rear-view mirror display is one of it's newer technologies that's in demand. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering federal regulations that would require all new vehicles to have back-up camera displays by 2014.
Gentex Corporation

Zeeland-based Gentex Corporation is the world’s largest supplier of auto-dimming review mirrors. The company has hired 1,200 people in the last two years. Now it’s looking to hire another 1,100 people in the next five years. That’s a 65 percent increase in its workforce since 2008.

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Economy
1:21 pm
Tue August 16, 2011

Creating a master plan for Ecorse

Ecorse has received $40,000 in private grants to help the city develop a master plan for its future. The city is under state control because of its deficit. Partners like the Michigan Municipal League, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, and C.S. Mott Foundation are investing in the project called Envision Ecorse.

Joyce Parker is the emergency manager for Ecorse.  

"Part of what we would like to do is, as we move forward towards eliminating the deficit and getting the city stabilized, to work with elected officials and the community to sustain that success."

Parker says some of the money will help develop a plan for the city’s greenways. The planning project could serve as a model for other cities under emergency managers.

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Economy
11:07 am
Tue August 16, 2011

"For the People" Jobs Fair comes to Detroit

Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, announcing the jobs fair and town hall meeting on YouTube
screen grab from YouTube video

The Congressional Black Caucus' five-city "For the People" Jobs Fair is on its second stop in Detroit today. The fair kicked off in Cleveland last week and will end in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek will head over to the fair at the downtown campus of Wayne County Community College and give us an update.

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Auto/Economy
6:30 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Some Detroit brands slip in customer satisfaction

Customers were less satisfied with some Detroit car brands this year, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Satisfaction declined from last year for Chrysler, Lincoln and Buick.

Claus Fornell is with the University of Michigan Ross School of Business.  He's the founder of the index.

Fornell says the decline is especially worrisome because satisfaction with most Asian brands rose.

He says Detroit could be in trouble again if the trend continues.

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Ann Arbor may ban car idling
6:16 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Ann Arbor wants to end polluting practice of car idling

Ann Arbor may soon hand out tickets for leaving a car idling. 

Proponents of the ordinance say car idling adds to pollution and wastes energy. 

The ban wouldn't apply to cars sitting in traffic.  But Ann Arbor Energy Commission Chair Wayne Appleyard says a lot of times, people are idling their cars unnecessarily.

Economy
1:11 pm
Mon August 15, 2011

Lansing city council to discuss the future of an old golf course tonight

In this artist's conception of future development along Michigan Avenue in Lansing, buildings on the south side of the road will take up a portion of the Red Cedar golf course
(Courtesy the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

Lansing city council members tonight will discuss whether to ask voters to approve the sale of 12 acres of city park land for a future economic development deal.  The mayor’s office wants to include the Red Cedar golf course as part of a multi-million dollar development along US 127.  

The development is just speculative as this point, since the city has not settled on a developer or a specific plan.  Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.  He supports making the land available for development.

“This is very neglected that shouldn’t be the way it is.  Its many vacant properties.  It’s a golf course that’s not a golf course anymore....nor is it even a park.”

The city council is being asked to put the potential sale of the old golf course on  the ballot in November.

Here's an artist's conception of future development along Michigan Avenue in Lansing from the Lansing Economic Development Corporation:

DTE adds electric vans to fleet
11:55 am
Mon August 15, 2011

Detroit Edison adds electric vans to its fleet

Transit Connect Electric Van
staff media.ford.com

Detroit Edison is taking the next step toward an electric car future. The electricity provider will power some of its own fleet using electricity.

Some of Detroit Edison's service calls will now be made by technicians driving Ford Transit Connect electric vans.

The van's range is about 80 miles - that's enough for an average day's worth of calls, says Detroit Edison President Steven Kurmas.

 Kurmas says more of the vans may be added to the fleet later.

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Auto/Economy
5:25 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Detroit Police and businesses launch new downtown security initiative

Detroit Police and local businesses are teaming up for a new downtown security initiative.

Project Lighthouse involves more than 20 businesses in the city’s central business district. They’ll give police access to more than 300 private security cameras in the area.

Rick Fenton, Vice President of Corporate Security for Ilitch Holdings, says the initiative evolved out of private sector collaboration with federal agencies and police to monitor big downtown events.

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Economy
12:03 pm
Fri August 12, 2011

Heating assistance for low-income Michiganders might be in trouble

(flickr sgreech)

Thousands of Michiganders could lose access to tens of millions of dollars in home heating assistance this winter. Last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Consumers Energy no longer has to collect money from its natural gas customers for a low-income energy assistance program.

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Auto/Economy
5:46 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

President Obama talks economy, political gridlock in Holland

Obama toured a Saft-Johnson Controls joint venture in Holland before speaking to an invitation-only crowd of about 200 people.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

President Obama toured an advanced battery manufacturing plant in Holland Michigan this afternoon. The newly retooled plant will produce batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles.

The facility is one of two new advanced battery plants in Holland that recieved money from president Obama’s stimulus package. The president called the plant “one the most advanced factories in the world.”

He says the new plant is leading the way in the advanced battery industry.

“That just doesn’t mean jobs in Michigan you’re buying equipment and parts from suppliers in Florida and New Mexico and Ohio and Wisconsin and all across America.”

Listen to Obama's full 25 minute speech here.

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Auto/Economy
5:12 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

A-123 may hire more in Livonia after getting big GM contract

More jobs building batteries could be on the way at A-1-2-3’s factory in Livonia.  The company just won a big contract with General Motors. 

A-123 builds batteries for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles.  

The company recently hired its thousandth employee at the Livonia plant, and the new contract will likely mean more jobs in the future, perhaps hundreds more jobs.   

But General Motors is not revealing anything about the kind of vehicles it will put the A-123 batteries in, or where those vehicles will be sold. 

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Economy
4:25 pm
Thu August 11, 2011

Port Huron parachute maker to hire 275 people

GMA Cover Corp. of Port Huron is has an urgent military contract to make about 20,000 parachutes, and needs workers who know how to sew.
jusben MorgueFile

Business is about to get much better for a Port Huron Company -- and it needs about 275 workers, fast.

GMA Cover Corp. makes cargo netting and parachutes.

The company just got a big military contract to make about 20,000 parachutes in the next six months, so GMA needs people with sewing experience.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu August 11, 2011

Foreclosure filings down in Michigan, analyst gives some credit to government programs

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan’s foreclosure rate continues to fall. A new report shows another month with a sharp decline in foreclosure filings in the state. RealtyTrac reports home foreclosure filings in Michigan declined by 15% from June to July. The filings were down 42% compared to July 2010.   

A foreclosure industry analyst says one reason for the decline is banks are taking advantage of government programs designed to keep people from losing their homes. Government anti-foreclosure programs have been the target of critics who say the programs have not kept people from losing their homes.  

But Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says this year’s downward trend in home foreclosure filings is probably due at least in part in part to the much maligned anti-foreclosure programs.  He says banks and other lending institutions are becoming more interested in taking part in those programs. 

“A short sale…a loan modification….is looking a lot better in their eyes than it was even last year.   It’s looking like a much better alternative than foreclosure to them.”

Bloomquist says the glut of repossessed homes will continue to depress home sale prices through probably 2015. He says keeping more homes from being repossessed may help reduce the glut of homes clogging the housing market.

Auto/Economy
8:58 pm
Wed August 10, 2011

Holland hopes to become leader in advanced battery manufacturing

Graphic demonstrating Michigan's 'smart coast'.
Michigansmartcoast.com

LISTEN HERE

Thursday President Obama heads to Holland, Michigan. Mr. Obama will tour a new plant that will make lithium-ion batteries for electric and hybrid cars.

Michigan’s newly-branded “smart coast” welcomes Obama for the second time in 13 months. Last summer he came to the ground breaking of a different battery plant.

Randy Thelan is president of the non-profit, economic development group in the region, The Lakeshore Advantage.

“We are the advanced energy storage capital of all of North America and we see this as a great opportunity going forward.”

Advanced energy storage is a fancy phrase for long-lasting lithium-ion batteries.

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Economy
5:18 pm
Wed August 10, 2011

Upton, Camp named to debt panel

imelenchon Morguefile

Two Michigan lawmakers have been named to a powerful committee that will work on a plan to reduce the nation’s budget deficit.

Michigan Congressmen Dave Camp and Fred Upton -- both Republicans -- will be on the 12-member bipartisan panel charged with creating tax and spending policies.

The panel was created from a compromise reached by last week’s debt-ceiling legislation, and it has to come up with a plan by November 23.

Rep. Camp admits it’s a huge undertaking:

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Economy
1:01 am
Wed August 10, 2011

Treasury Dept: state retirement funds sound, despite stock market decline

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The people who manage more than 50 billion dollars in state retirement funds say the recent stock market drop should not be a serious long term problem.    More than 400 thousand former state employees, teachers, state troopers and  judges receive checks from the state managed retirement funds. 

Terry Stanton is with the State Treasury Department.   He says the retirement fund  is managed to absorb the changes in the financial world. 

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AUTO
6:21 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

GM is less complicated and less wasteful, investors told

General Motors executives says the company is becoming less complicated, and less wasteful, than it was in the past.   

GM CEO Dan Akerson says that simplicity -- along with a "fortress" balance sheet, and a lower cost structure will help GM break even in bad times, and make money in good times. 

Akerson and other top executives gave investors an in-depth briefing of the company's post-bankruptcy progress and plans for the long-term future.

GM has reduced its brands in the U.S to four, will focus on Chevrolet and Cadillac as its primary global brands, and will use regional brands such as Opel to help the company compete in specific markets like Germany.

GM's drastically reduced debt load also frees the company to follow through with product plans.  In the past, the company had to abandon car programs during recessions because of the pressing need to make debt payments.

"We think, just on cancelled product programs, we’ve probably blown a billion dollars a year in the last few years, as a result of having to pull back from things we’d already started," said Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann.

GM regained its number one global sales position in the first six months of this year.  But Akerson says being number one is not the goal.

He says GM must make the customer the first priority.  And GM will focus on profitability, not market share.

GM's head of global marketing Joel Ewanick said GM will also set its sights on a new "stretch" challenge: being the first automaker to get one of its brands on the list of the top twenty-five most recognized global brands. 

That list includes a number of U.S. brands, including Apple and Coca-Cola.  But no car company's brand has yet made it onto the list.

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Economy
1:09 pm
Tue August 9, 2011

General Electric hopes to hire 1,100 technology workers by 2013

User: ismh flickr

General Electric hopes to bring 1,100 jobs to a Michigan technology center by 2013. The 2 year old center is located outside of Detroit.  GE is developing new software and other technology.

Deia Campanelli is with GE’s Advanced Manufacturing and Software Technology Center.  

"Michigan has an exceptional number of talented experienced professionals, and the state has some strong advanced manufacturing capabilities and information technologists that are really just on the forefront of where industry is headed. So it makes putting jobs in Michigan a really easy decision."

Campanelli says the center has hired 660 workers to date. 90% of those hires are from Michigan.

-Traci Currie, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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