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Economy
6:29 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Whole Foods to open in Detroit in 2013

Fresh vegetables and fruit
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

Whole Foods is coming to Detroit.

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Michigan History
5:48 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

A look back: UAW, Detroit auto workers and labor relations

UAW History
Screenshot from UAW website www.uaw.org

Once again Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry unleashes his knowledge of Michigan history. This time we get a historical perspective about negotiations between the United Auto Workers and Detroit automakers.

Contract talks have already started between the UAW and General Motors, Chrysler and Ford. But these talks are a little different this time around.

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Economy
1:50 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

Delta profit falls, 2,000 taking buyouts

Delta Airlines is cutting back.
Andrey Belenko Flickr

Delta Air Lines says some 2,000 workers have taken voluntary buyouts. In a cost-cutting move in response to high fuel prices, it will scale back its flight schedule more than planned this year.

The high cost of jet fuel was the main reason Delta's second-quarter net income fell by 58 percent compared to a year ago. It earned $198 million, or 23 cents per share. Fuel costs were up 36 percent.

At the same time, revenue rose 12 percent as Delta raised fares to try to pay the increased fuel costs.

Delta would have earned 43 cents per share if not for one-time items including severance costs and reducing its facilities. On that basis, profit was below forecasts.

Auto/Economy
12:43 pm
Wed July 27, 2011

GM CEO says European division Opel is not for sale

GM sells the Opel Corsa GSi in Europe. General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson says the company's European car business is not for sale.
GM Europe Flickr

Reports have swirled that GM plans to sell its European division, Opel, for more than a month:

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Commentary
11:04 am
Wed July 27, 2011

State Employee Unions and Contract Negotiations

There are many fewer state employees now than there were thirty years ago, but the total is still nearly fifty thousand. Most of them are union members, and contract talks are now underway between their unions and the Snyder administration.

Negotiations aren’t likely to be easy. The governor wants a new contract that will save $265 million dollars, or about six thousand dollars per worker. The administration says we can’t afford to maintain the level of benefits they’ve been getting.

The unions sharply disagree. So -- who is right?

For many years, the great bargain has been that public sector workers traded high salaries for secure jobs with good benefits.  A few years ago, a former student of mine talked to me about her husband, who just then was getting an advanced degree in economics. He was a very intelligent and capable man.

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Auto/Economy
8:16 am
Wed July 27, 2011

White House says a deal on fuel economy is close

The Obama administration says it's close to a deal to boost fuel economy with automakers
Scott Ableman Flickr

The Obama administration says it's close to a deal with automakers to boost fuel economy.

Officials familiar with talks between the White House and automakers say recent changes to make it easier for light trucks to become more fuel efficient have lowered the proposal to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. Last month, the administration floated a 56.2 mile-per-gallon target.

Michigan lawmakers in a letter to the president last week called the higher proposal "overly aggressive." Automakers have said they'd work to get vehicles averaging 42.6 to 46.7 miles per gallon.

An administration official not authorized to speak about the negotiations said feedback from many manufacturers is positive and discussions are wrapping up.

In 2009, automakers agreed to raise fuel economy standards to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.

Changing Gears
8:00 am
Wed July 27, 2011

Ishpeming: Where iron ore built a city (Part 3 - with photos)

The Empire Pit began production in 1963.
Photo courtesy of Cliffs Natural Resources

Our Changing Gears project is on the road, bringing you stories of towns where one company still affects everybody’s lives. Today we head north, to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. That’s where North America’s biggest supplier of iron ore has been blasting the earth, and creating jobs, for more than 160 years. 

Our destination is the city of Ishpeming. It’s small.  Basically, you can’t throw a rock here without hitting a miner.

Take Steve Carlson. After high school, he worked 37 years for the mines.

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Economy
1:10 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

List of Post Offices in Michigan being studied for closure

The USPS says customer habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office.
DeWitt Clinton Flickr

UPDATE  1:45pm

The leader of thousands of rural mail employees says she’s worried about a U.S. Post Office proposal that could close many small town post offices.  The national postal officials say they need to make cuts to reduce red ink.  The postal service lost eight billion dollars last year.  

Cindy Opalek is the president of the Michigan Rural Letter Carriers Association.   She says closing small town post offices will hurt rural communities. 

“The people who work there get a little more connected…a little more bonded with the people that they serve.   That will be a shame if they lose that.    Does the (U.S.) Post Office care?   I couldn’t tell you." 

ORIGINAL POST: 1:05pm

The U.S. Postal Service has released a list of 62 Post Offices in Michigan that they're studying for closure.

The potential closures could affect smaller cities like Kingsford, Baron City, and North Star. And they could also affect bigger cities like Grand Rapids, Detroit, and Lansing.

In a statement, Postmaster General Patrick Donahue said closed offices could be replaced by "expanded access locations" - similar to how some pharmacies are now located in your grocery store:

“Today, more than 35 percent of the Postal Service’s retail revenue comes from expanded access locations such as grocery stores, drug stores, office supply stores, retail chains, self-service kiosks, ATMs and usps.com, open 24/7. Our customer’s habits have made it clear that they no longer require a physical post office to conduct most of their postal business.”

The U.S. Postal Service currently operates 32,000 retail offices (the largest retail network in the country). It's studying the potential closure of 3,700 offices.

The USPS suffered $8.5 billion in losses in 2010.

Is your city on this list? How would you feel if your local post office was closed?

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Economy
12:21 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Michigan businesses to receive boost from new public-private program

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce details of a public-private grant program aimed at small to medium sized businesses.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

One hundred thirty million will be available to Michigan businesses as part of a new grant program. The money is the first of the Small Business Association’s Impact Investment Initiative. The goal is to help grow and create jobs through public-private partnerships. The InvestMichigan! fund is a partnership between the SBA, Dow Chemical Company and state funds.

Karen Mills is with the SBA. She says Michigan was the perfect place to start the program.

“Michigan has great assets. It has one of the highest engineers per capita for any state. It has a well-trained workforce, it has great universities and it has extraordinary entrepreneurs,” Mills said.

The program will distribute 1-point-5-billion-dollars to businesses nationwide throughout the next five years.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

ORIGINAL POST: 12:21 p.m.

Details on a public-private grant program aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses in Michigan will be announced during a press call at 1 p.m. today.

Governor Snyder will discuss the new program along with Karen Mills of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, and Kelly Williams of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group.

Andrew Dodson of Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical's investment in the program is expected to facilitate investment from the federal and state government:

According to a source close to the information, the program's impact will be "quite substantial." Dow Chemical is expected to provide funds and help facilitate bringing federal and state funds to bear upon local markets."It's meant for businesses who need financing, but can't get loans or financing right now," the source said.InvestMichigan! is a group with a series of funds focused on growing the next generation of Michigan companies, according to its website, and is one of the partners involved in today's announcement. It's federal counterpart, ImpactAmerica, is also involved.

Amelia Carpenter in the Michigan Radio Newsroom will be on the call and will have more for us later.

Economy
11:00 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Talks fall through to buy 30 Borders stores

A deal to sell the leases and assets of 30 Borders Book stores to Books-a-Million has fallen through.
Ruthanne Reid Flickr

NEW YORK (AP) - Bookstore chain Books-A-Million Inc. says its last-minute talks to buy the leases and assets of 30 Borders bookstores out of bankruptcy have fallen through.

Borders Group Inc., which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, received court approval last week to liquidate its 399 stores. The chain said at the time it was talking to Books-A-Million about buying 30 store leases and inventory.

But Books-A-Million said Tuesday those talks were unsuccessful.

A group led by liquidation firms Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers Group are now holding going-out-of-business stores at all Borders stores.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Books-A-Million operates 231 stores in 23 states and the District of Columbia. Borders is based in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Commentary
10:49 am
Tue July 26, 2011

The UAW and the Changing Auto Industry

Most of us understand that the auto industry isn’t what it used to be. Especially, what we think of as the domestic auto industry. For one thing, it is much smaller, both in terms of market share and in number of people employed. Some time ago, the national media stopped using the term “the big three.“

Now, they mostly call them the “Detroit Three.” Technically, it would be more accurate to say, “the Detroit Two, and the Detroit-based subsidiary of an Italian firm.”  And one of the two, aka General Motors, sells more Buicks in China nowadays than in America.

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Changing Gears
8:40 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Road Trip: Decatur, The Heart of Illinois Agribusiness (Part 2)

Corn being grown across the street from Archer Daniels Midland Co. headquarters in Decatur.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears road trip continues. Yesterday, I was in Kohler, Wisconsin. Today, I went down state in Illinois to Decatur.

Driving south from Chicago, it only takes about 25 miles to hit the corn fields. For the next 150 miles to Decatur, it’s a sea of yellow corn tassels, a head tall.

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Auto
7:44 am
Tue July 26, 2011

Profits at Ford drop but beat Wall Street expectations

Toolshed4 Flickr

Ford Motor Company announced its second-quarter earnings this morning. And, although profits dropped slightly, the automaker did beat analysts' expectations. The Associated Press reports:

The company earned $2.4 billion, or 59 cents per share, down 8 percent from $2.6 billion, or 61 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2010. It was Ford's ninth straight quarterly profit. Worldwide sales rose, but the company spent more on materials and product development.

Revenue rose 13 percent to $35.5 billion. Analysts polled by FactSet had forecast revenue of $32.15 billion. Without one-time items, including $110 million for employee reductions, Ford would have earned $2.9 billion, or 65 cents per share. That beat analysts' forecast of 60 cents per share. Ford paid off $2.6 billion in debt during the quarter.

Economy
6:24 am
Tue July 26, 2011

State to receive small business funds

State and federal officials are expected to announce that Michigan will be the first place eligible for loans to small businesses investing in clean energy or located in economically distressed areas.

U.S. Small Business Administration head Karen Mills, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, Dow Chemical Co. chief Andrew Liveris and others are scheduled to announce the impact investment program in a Tuesday afternoon conference call.

The initiative will work with private institutional investors to help identify and provide money to private equity fund managers who invest in targeted companies. Federal funds also will be offered to small businesses that get a share of the private investments.

The program is part of President Barack Obama's Start-Up American initiative aimed at spurring high-growth entrepreneurship and the creation of more jobs.

Auto/Economy
5:06 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

16,000 employees offered cash incentives to move to Detroit

Five Detroit businesses hope to entice their employees to move downtown by offering them cash incentives.
user Bernt Rostad flickr

Several Detroit businesses are paying their employees to move to the city as part of a new incentive program called "Live Downtown."

Employees can get $20,000 dollars toward the purchase of a new home. Those who rent will get up to $3,500 for two years. Even employees who already live in the city can get money to make home improvements.

Here's a list of the 5 companies behind the new "Live Downtown" program:

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Auto/Economy
3:11 pm
Mon July 25, 2011

UAW begins new contract negotiations with automakers

From left - UAW President Bob King, UAW Vice President Chrysler Department General Holiefield, Chrysler Senior Vice President of Manufacturing Scott Garberding and Chrysler Vice President of Employee Relations Al Iacobelli.
UAW

The United Auto Workers formally kicked off negotiations today with Detroit automakers.

Current UAW contracts with Chrysler, GM, and Ford expire in mid-September.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that Chrysler Group LLC management and the UAW emphasized unity at the press event today:

Scott Garberding is a Senior Vice President for Chrysler. He says the company and the UAW worked together to get Chrysler through bankruptcy. Garberding says it’s important for the new contract to recognize the sacrifices Chrysler workers have made.

"And at the same time, establishing a legacy for our organization to ensure that we remain competitive long-term. And I can’t think of a better team that could collectively come together and craft that type of arrangement. "

Last week, UAW President Bob King said he wanted workers to see the benefits of increased profit sharing. The UAW is also expected to seek wage increases for entry-level workers, and job guarantees. After huge layoffs, King said remaining workers want to count on their jobs:

“They want stability,” he said. “They want to know they’ll be working next week and next year, and that they will be able to send their kids to college.”

Talks are expected to take at least a month, and if things don't go well in negotiations with Chrysler and GM, the UAW is compelled to enter into binding arbitration. The UAW cannot strike under the terms of the government bailouts:

This year, for the first time, the UAW is bound by an agreement that it reached with Chrysler and General Motors in 2009 that requires the two sides to enter into binding arbitration if they reach an impasse.

King said Chrysler and the UAW have formed a committee to set up the ground rules for arbitration, even though he said that is a last resort.

“If arbitration happens … then I would say we haven’t done our job,” King said.

The UAW can, however, strike against Ford Motor Company. Analysts are curious to see if UAW negotiators are able to secure better terms with Ford.

Changing Gears
10:38 am
Mon July 25, 2011

What company towns look like today: Kohler, Wisconsin (Part 1)

The name you see in many bathrooms around the country has its roots in Kohler, Wisconsin.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

From Pullman in Chicago to Firestone in Akron, these employers loomed large in everyone's daily lives.

But what does a "company town" look like today?

The Changing Gears team hit the road to find out.

All this week, we’re looking at how these places are coping with economic change.

For our first story, I visited the village of Kohler, Wisconsin.

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Bright colors in small cars
2:03 pm
Sat July 23, 2011

Small cars increasingly grab attention with color

Some car companies are rolling out brighter colors on their vehicles,  especially on small cars.   

These days, you can order a lime-green Ford Fiesta, a coppery-orange Honda Fit, or a sunshiny-yellow Fiat 500.

Mazda has probably pushed the color envelope the furthest, with an attention-grabbing color for the Mazda 2 called “Spirited Green.”

It’s really green. 

Teresa Stafford is a lead designer for color and materials for Mazda.

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Economy
11:04 am
Fri July 22, 2011

Borders says goodbye after 40 years

A going out of business sale at a Borders bookstore in Washington D.C.
Martin Kalfatovic Flickr

CEO Mike Edwards sent a goodbye note to customers today as going out of business sales start at Borders Book stores across the country.

In his note, Edwards explained why the company couldn't keep their doors open:

We had worked very hard toward a different outcome. The fact is that Borders has been facing headwinds for quite some time, including a rapidly changing book industry, the eReader revolution, and a turbulent economy. We put up a great fight, but regrettably, in the end, we weren't able to overcome these external forces.

Over the last decade, the company made many missteps that led to its demise. One of the most notable was the company's failure to invest early in online book sales. Analysts say other problems included being overextended in real estate holdings for the bookstores, and a lack of leadership.

The shuttering of the company means 10,700 will be out of a job. 400 here in Ann Arbor will lose their jobs at Borders Headquarters (a place that once had 1,800 workers).

We asked our Facebook friends what they will miss when the Borders bookstores are gone.

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Economy
5:11 pm
Thu July 21, 2011

Lemonade economics

The recession has taken its toll on the neighborhood lemonade stand.
Amelia Carpenter Michigan Radio

(Here's a version of the story that aired on Michigan Radio.)

Turns out even lemonade stands aren’t immune to Michigan’s economic recession.

Molly and Lucy Prochaska have been in the lemonade business for the past five years. They sell lemonade, iced tea, and Arnold Palmers (50 cents for a small cup, $1.00 for a large.)  They also sell popsicles at fifty cents a piece, which is a new addition this year.

They’ve got a cash register, lots of signage. They're also located close to downtown, so there's a good amount of foot traffic from the Ann Arbor Art Fairs.

But 12-year old Molly says business just isn’t what it used to be:

MOLLY PROCHASKA: The first year was really nice, we got lots of money. But after that, when the economy started to go down we didn’t get as much money.

JENNIFER GUERRA: You think it had to do with the economy?

MOLLY PROCHASKA: Probably. People didn’t want to spend as much. They wanted to save their money.

The girls made around $200 their first year. Molly is saving up her lemonade money to buy a camera; Lucy wants to buy an iPad.

But it's not all doom and gloom at the lemonade stand. Molly says business this year is picking up a bit. She says that could mean one of two things: the economy's picking up, or more people are coming because it's "super hot out."

Also, side note, it looks like Molly and Lucy might have to step up their game now that a new lemonade stand popped up a block away. Not only is the new stand charging less for a cup, but they also use fresh lemons.

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