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Auto/Economy
4:30 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

New microlending website helps Detroit's small biz owners

Kiva Detroit helps connect small business owners in the city with potential lenders
user penywise morgueFile

Several Detroit non-profits want to help potential small business owners get some much needed capital.

They’ve launched a microlending website called Kiva Detroit, an extension of the California-based Kiva.org. Small business owners post their idea online and anyone can give a loan for as little as $25. The site went live this Wednesday.

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Auto/Economy
4:12 pm
Fri July 1, 2011

GM and Ford sales rise in June as gas prices sink

GM says its Chevrolet Cruze compact led its sales gain for the month of June.
wikimedia commons

UPDATE:

General Motors and Ford both saw U-S sales rise more than 10 percent in June as lower gas prices brought more customers into its showrooms.

The fuel efficient Fiesta and Focus drove sales for Ford.

The new Chevrolet Cruze compact led GM's sales gain. Cruze sales were more than double those of the old Chevrolet Cobalt.

Don Johnson is the Vice President of U-S sales operations for General Motors. He says sales were led by smaller, more fuel-efficient models.

Original story:

General Motors says its U.S. sales rose 10 percent in June as lower gas prices brought more customers into its showrooms.

The Detroit car company says it sold 215,000 cars and trucks last month.

Don Johnson, the Vice President of U.S. sales operations for General Motors, says sales were led by smaller, more fuel-efficient models:

"What drove our success this month, as well as the last couple of months, is our ability to meet the needs of the consumers as they go looking for more fuel efficient vehicles," said Johnson.

The new Chevrolet Cruze compact led GM's sales gain. Cruze sales were more than double those of the old Chevrolet Cobalt.

GM's small-car sales were helped by earthquake-related shortages of Japanese cars.

Economy
6:21 am
Fri July 1, 2011

Borders agrees to sell itself for $215 million

Lornais Flickr

Borders has agreed to sell itself to private investment firm Najafi Cos. for $215 million, reports the Associated Press. The agreement, however, is tentative. From the AP:

Najafi, which owns the Book-of-the-Month Club, will also assume $220 million in debt.

The agreement is tentative and what is known as a "stalking horse" bid for a company under bankruptcy protection. The bid will open an auction for the bookseller and its assets, so a higher bid is possible.

A bankruptcy court hearing on the deal is set for July 21. If the court does not approve an auction process, Borders filed a separate motion to liquidate.

Najafi has been a speculative suitor for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company, although Borders has not previously confirmed any specific bidders.

Borders Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

Auto/Economy
4:54 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Convention Centers see more traffic

cobo carpet
User: Sorakirei Flickr

Convention Centers in Michigan are starting to emerge from the recession and see more traffic. The Kalamazoo County Expo Center and Detroit’s Cobo Center are also renovating their spaces and improving their services. Thom Connors is General Manager at Cobo Center. He says the convention industry took a hit in 2008, but he sees a new trend.  

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Economy
2:32 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Michigan's Broadband Divide

(courtesy of Connect Michigan)

There’s a bit of a disconnect for many Michiganders when it comes to logging onto  the internet.   A new survey shows 82% of Michiganders have a home computer.   But access to a broadband connection to the internet is another matter.

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Economy
1:10 pm
Thu June 30, 2011

Report: unemployment down in Michigan, but food assistance up

A chart from the Michigan League for Human Services showing Michigan's unemployment rate over the last four years.
MLHS

The Michigan League for Human Services (MLHS) released its "Economic Security Bulletin" today.

The report showed the unemployment rate dropping in 82 of Michigan's 83 counties when comparing the 1st quarter of 2010 with the 1st quarter of 2011 (Ontonagon was the only county that did not show a drop - going from 16.9% to 18.0%).

But despite the improvement in employment, the need for food assistance is rising.

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Auto/Economy
4:01 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Dozens of cities could contest 2010 census

Michigan Municipal League Flickr

Detroit is among a group of dozens of cities that could challenge 2010 census numbers according to the Associated Press.

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Auto/Economy
3:57 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Toyota recalls 82,200 hybrid vehicles in the U.S.

2007 Toyota Highlander SUV
Photo courtesy of Toyota

Toyota is recalling 82,200 of its hybrid vehicles made in the United States.

The recall involves 2006 and 2007 Highland and Lexus brand SUVS due to possibly faulty wiring. The problem could cause the vehicles to lose power or shut off entirely.

Bill Visnick, with Edmunds.com, says this recall is significant, given how few hybrids are sold nationwide in a year.

He says the recall is kind of a black mark on hybrids, since a lot of people are wary about them to begin with:

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Crisis In The Housing Market
1:39 pm
Wed June 29, 2011

Experts: Housing price rise isn't a trend, especially in metropolitan areas

Originally published on Tue June 28, 2011 11:54 am

Realtors are hoping an uptick in home prices reported on Tuesday is the beginning of a turnaround, but industry experts say it's too soon to tell if the improvement is anything other than a seasonal blip.

The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index reported that prices in April rose in 13 of the 20 cities tracked. Washington, D.C., saw the biggest price increases, followed by San Francisco, Atlanta and Seattle.

The index, which covers metro areas that include about 50 percent of U.S. households, rose 0.7 percent, the first increase since July 2010.

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Auto/Economy
10:23 am
Wed June 29, 2011

Lessons learned: Automakers, arts groups and philanthropy

The Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit used to get a majority of its corporate support from the auto industry.
Photo courtesy of Mosaic Youth Theatre

When the auto industry nearly collapsed a couple years ago, it had major ripple effect on the state’s arts and culture institutions. General Motors and Chrysler stopped contributing money to non-profit arts groups almost immediately. But now at least one of those auto companies is back in the giving game.

A look at how the ups and downs of the auto industry have affected Michigan's arts organizations.

The Detroit Three, aka the "Rocks of Gibraltar"

Up until a few years ago, it was hard to find an arts organization in southeast Michigan that didn’t rely on and receive generous amounts of money from the auto industry. We’re talking five or six-figure contributions.

Anne Parsons, president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, says for decades GM, Ford and Chrysler were the corporate giants of philanthropy:

ANNE PARSONS: "They had been the “Rocks of Gibraltar” if you will, certainly our corporate giving."

JENNIFER GUERRA: "...and now?"

ANNE PARSONS: "Well I think it’s very different. They’re absolutely engaged corporate leaders, but I certainly think the impulse to knock on the door of one of the auto giants to have your problems solved or challenges met, I think those days are over."

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Auto/Economy
10:14 am
Wed June 29, 2011

Toyota to recall 82,200 vehicles in the US

The safety recall involves some Highlander and Lexus brand hybrid SUVs from its 2006 and 2007 lines.
user anthonares Flickr

TOKYO (AP) - Toyota Motor Corp. says it will recall 82,200 hybrid vehicles in the U.S. due to computer boards with possibly faulty wiring.

The company's U.S. subsidiary said Wednesday it will conduct a safety recall that involves some Highlander and Lexus brand hybrid SUVs from its 2006 and 2007 lines.

Toyota said the recall covers just the vehicles sold in the U.S., and other models are not affected.

The car giant said in a press release that soldering in a control board in the vehicles' hybrid system is inadequate and could be damaged during high-load driving.

Toyota was recovering from recalls that eventually reached 14 million vehicles worldwide, when it was hit by production disruptions from parts shortages due to the massive earthquake that struck Japan in March.

Auto/Economy
11:00 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce is rebranding itself

Muskegon's downtown sits right on the water's edge.
BigMikeSndTech Creative Commons

President Cindy Larsen says they’ll now be known as the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce.

“It does seem simplistic in a way that a name change could make such a difference. But people put a lot of time and energy when they think about the names of their companies of their children, of anything that they name. So a name does make a difference.”

Larsen says they hope adding ‘lakeshore’ to their name will give people a positive visual image that better reflects the region’s identity.

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Auto
6:30 am
Tue June 28, 2011

Transportation Secretary LaHood to visit Flint, Bay City

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood plans to visit General Motors Co. plants in Flint and Bay City on Wednesday to discuss the Obama administration's manufacturing job programs.

The stops are in the morning at the Flint plant and in the afternoon at the Bay City plant. LaHood's office says he'll hear reports on GM's plans to expand its production at the plants.

GM recently announced a $109 million plan for engine production for fuel-efficient cars such as the Chevrolet Volt. That plan will add or retain about 100 jobs in Flint and Bay City. The Flint assembly plant is also added a third shift to increase production of Silverado and Sierra pickup trucks.

Auto/Economy
4:18 pm
Mon June 27, 2011

Auto dealer group responds to 56 miles-per-gallon efficiency goal

According to the Detroit Free Press, a spokesperson for an auto group is pushing back on a 56 miles-per-gallon efficiency requirement that the White House said may go into effect for 2025.

From the Detroit Free Press:

While Detroit’s automakers themselves are staying publicly mum so far on what they think of a 56-miles-per-gallon fuel economy target by 2025 floated by the White House last week, other interest groups are already weighing in.

Bailey Wood, a spokesman for the National Association of Auto Dealers, said that requiring an average of 56 m.p.g. for cars and light trucks would “mean a tremendous shift in the types of vehicles consumers would be able to buy,” and could price some consumers out of the market for smaller cars.

“To meet that goal, 55% of market share would be hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles, according to the Center for Automotive Research,” Wood said in a statement, noting that such vehicles made up less than 3% of what U.S. consumers bought last year.

-Brian Short, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Economy
9:21 am
Mon June 27, 2011

AAA Mich.: Gas prices down 16 cents in past week

A Suncor Energy refinery in Sarnia, Ontario. Problems with refineries are partly to blame for the recent spike in gas prices. AAA Michigan says prices are dropping again.
Suncor Energy

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - AAA Michigan says gasoline prices are down 16 cents per gallon over the past week to a statewide average of $3.56.

The auto club says Monday the statewide average is about 71 cents per gallon higher than last year at this time. But the price has fallen 56 cents in three weeks.

Of the cities it surveys, AAA Michigan says the cheapest price for self-serve unleaded fuel is in the Lansing area, where it's $3.41 a gallon. The highest average can be found in the Ann Arbor and Marquette areas at $3.62.

Dearborn-based AAA Michigan surveys 2,800 Michigan gas stations daily.

Auto/Economy
8:00 am
Sun June 26, 2011

Musicians flock to Michigan for 75th Carillon World Congress

One of the carillon bells at U of M's Baird tower
Jennifer Guerra Michigan Radio

The sound of carillon bells will fill the air this week as Michigan hosts the 75th Carillon World Congress.

A carillon is a set of tuned bells in a tower, which are hooked up to a keyboard played manually by one person called a carilloneur.

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Economy
3:32 pm
Fri June 24, 2011

Federal government to jumpstart manufacturing in Michigan

Michigan site of partnership to expand manufacturing
Dr_Bob MorgueFile

Michigan is playing a starring role in a new federal initiative designed to spark the creation of new manufacturing jobs as part of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. The federal government will spend $500 million to jumpstart manufacturing research and development projects.

President Obama says the government played an important role initially in projects that led to the creation of the internet, cell phones, and companies like Google.  He says this investment can do the same for manufacturing.

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Auto/Economy
4:45 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

What’s the worst thing about Detroit? Your answers

Kira Plotivrnkov

All week, we’ve been covering Detroit’s attempts to improve its image. We heard about plenty of things to celebrate, but Detroit also has plenty of real problems, ranging from its struggling education system to a huge loss of residents over the last decade.

Along with the city’s positive aspects, we also asked you to tell us: what’s the worst thing about Detroit? Here is a sample of your answers.

Hate. From racism to road rage, it is not a friendly place.- Carly Van Thomme, Guadalajara, Mexico

The legacy of Kwame Kilpatrick and Henry Ford. Drive, drive, drive everywhere. -Karen Dunnan, Grand Rapids, MI

That we do not promote the diversity of the people in Detroit and surrounding suburbs as we should. It’s the people that make any city. -Gordon Alexander, Detroit, MI

Suffocating overt and covert racism that serves as a shorthand for much more complex and difficult problems. -Brian Bowe, Saugatauk, MI

The lack of public transportation and urban living necessities to keep people in the city. -Dan Baker, Lancaster, PA

Excessively numbered and large freeways that ruin the continuity of neighborhoods and contribute to a sense of isolation in many cases. – Elizabeth Luther, Detroit, MI

Unfortunately, crime. -Joel Arnold, Flint

How empty it feels.  There is nothing worse than coming home to find the lights off and the family dispersed. -Jeffrey Jablansky, New Rochelle, NY

Lack of city-dwelling yuppies, you need them for economic purposes.- Matt B., Boston, MA

People who have never been there trashing the place. -Todd Doros, Durham, NC

You can still answer our questions here.

Tomorrow, check back to read peoples’ vision for the Detroit of 2020.

Auto
1:45 pm
Wed June 22, 2011

Smart cars not catching on in Michigan

Smart car sales fell 80 percent since 2008.
Robert W. Howington Flickr

The only Smart car dealership in Michigan will close next week.

Aaron Bragman is senior analyst with IHS automotive. He says Smart cars never caught on in the US.

“In this market if you’re going to offer a small car and have it be successful, it has to be small and something. It has to be small and cute or small and efficient or small and well built. The smart car unfortunately was really just,  small.”

Bragman says the fuel economy wasn’t what people thought it would be.

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