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Economy
11:57 am
Mon June 20, 2011

Borders hoping for sale by end of July

Borders filed for bankruptcy protection in February.

Bankrupt Borders Group may have an interested buyer. The Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain plans to name a bidder by July first.

In a motion filed Friday at the United States Bankruptcy Court Southern District of New York, Borders says the sale process has "gained significant momentum in recent weeks," and that the bookseller is "encouraged" that a successful buyer will emerge.

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Auto/Economy
1:33 pm
Sun June 19, 2011

Teens have tough time finding summer jobs

Slinging coffee is one option for teens looking for work
Creative Commons/capl@washjeff.edu

The summertime blues have arrived for thousands of Michigan teenagers, who face a tough job market this year. That’s despite some improvement from last year.

Teens face a 30% unemployment rate this summer. That’s a 4 percentage point drop from 2010. A spokesman with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget says much of the improvement is because fewer teens are trying to find work this summer.

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Auto/Economy
3:18 pm
Sat June 18, 2011

Half-off amnesty offered for unpaid parking fines

Flickr/Chris Moncus

People who have unpaid parking tickets in Detroit will be able to take advantage of a special program and pay only half the amount of money they owe. The program is called "All or Nothing Amnesty" and starts Tuesday and ends July 1st.

It also applies to people already in payment plans over parking debt, but does not apply to people whose vehicles have been clamped with a boot.  

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Auto/Economy
12:18 pm
Sat June 18, 2011

Mopeds more popular as gas prices rise

Moped ownership has more than doubled in Michigan in the past decade.
taliesin MorgueFile

From The Associated Press

With gasoline prices in the state swinging back and forth around $4 per gallon, more Michigan motorists are riding mopeds.

The low-horsepower machines can cruise 100 miles on a gallon of gas.

The secretary of state's office says 17,064 mopeds were registered in Michigan in 2000, and by 2010, that number had risen to 40,978.

The price of gas is a major reason Kim Jackson of Dearborn has been riding a moped for the past two years.

The Two-Way
1:41 pm
Fri June 17, 2011

International: 'Turmoil' In Europe Continues To Trouble Markets

Originally published on Fri June 17, 2011 7:15 am

While Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou struggled to bring calm to his country today by shuffling his cabinet, The New York Times warns that:

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Changing Gears
4:11 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago

The shelves at Open Books. The Chicago nonprofit is working to improve literacy rates in the city.
Open Books

In Chicago, literacy rates are pretty grim. More than one in three adults cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Many are working toward improving literacy rates in Chicago, among them, the nonprofit Open Books. In the second story in our series on nonprofits, I took at look at Open Books, mostly because of the organization’s funding structure.

At Chicago International Charter School’s Bucktown campus, second grader Jayla Mercado is reading a book about dinosaurs. They’re her favorite topic, but she’s having a hard time sounding out some of the bigger words.

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Auto/Economy
1:00 pm
Thu June 16, 2011

Chrysler to reopen part of plant in Trenton, Michigan

Increased demand for Chrysler's Pentastar V6 engine helped to reopen part of the Trenton North engine plant.
Greg Mason Flickr

Chrysler says it will invest $114 million in the Trenton North engine plant and save about 268 jobs.

From Reuters:

Chrysler will repurpose about one-fifth, or 400,000-square feet, of the Trenton North engine plant to make parts for the Pentastar engine made at the Trenton South plant.

The plant was closed last month, but the need for these parts has increased as Chrysler replaces seven V-6 engines with the new Pentastar V-6 engine, Brian Harlow, head of powertrain manufacturing said in a statement.

"This investment has also given Trenton North, which has been building engines for nearly 60 years, a new lease on life," Harlow said.

The city of Trenton gave Chrysler some tax breaks in exchange for investing in and reopening part of the Trenton North engine plant.

Crain's Detroit Business reports the tax break as a "50 percent tax abatement for Chrysler for 12 years."

Trenton Mayor, Gerald Brown, said he's happy Chrysler has given the plant a new lease on life. From the Detroit News:

Trenton Mayor Gerald Brown said the city is thrilled Chrysler is reopening the plant...

On Monday, the Trenton City Council approved a tax break for the $114 million project.

"My administration worked very hard to come to an agreement that will provide the city with long-term stability at the site, additional jobs and tax base improvements while further enhancing the relationship that Trenton and Chrysler have enjoyed since the 1950s. Trenton truly is Chrysler Town and we are proud of it," Brown said.

Auto/Economy
4:45 pm
Wed June 15, 2011

Detroit dog day care gets go-ahead to expand

Liz Blondy will be able to expand her growing dog day care business onto land where the Birdtown garden now sits in Detroit's Cass Corridor.
Sarah Cwiek Michigan Radio

A contentious land dispute between a Detroit small business and a community garden has been resolved in the business’s favor.

The Detroit City Council voted this week to allow Canine To Five, a dog day care facility, to buy adjacent property to expand its business.

That land is currently occupied by the Birdtown Community garden.

Liz Blondy owns Canine to five. She says she’s disappointed that the dispute was framed as a “business versus gardens” issue.

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Changing Gears
8:33 am
Wed June 15, 2011

Late government payments strain nonprofits

Amelia Cummings celebrates her new room ... and four months clean.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

DETROIT — Nonprofits are a vibrant part of the Midwest economy. They employ a lot of people and the need for their services has grown. But charities that contract with governments to provide social services also depend on those governments for payments. When promised payments are late, the results can be crippling.

Here’s the story of two non-profits — one old and one new — and their fight to survive the effects of late payments in hard times.

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Auto/Economy
5:21 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Fastest growing job market in the nation this summer? Grand Rapids

Downtown Grand Rapids
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

According to Manpower’s survey Grand Rapids has the best employment outlook of any other metro area in the country.

That’s not really news to Bill Benson, principle at WilliamCharles. He helps companies in the area find talented workers.

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Economy
4:25 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Snyder says New York trip first step in credit upgrade

Governor Rick Snyder (right) traveled to New York yesterday. He wants bond rating agencies to reevaluate Michigan's credit ratings.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder says a visit to Wall Street was an important first step toward winning a credit upgrade for Michigan, but there is still more work to be done.

The governor says he talked about the start of Michigan’s economic comeback in meetings with bond-rating agencies.

"I could give them cases of auto plants in Michigan adding second and third shifts that we’ve seen recently, plus the fact all the auto companies have in fact gone and have been hiring lots of engineers lately so it’s a great story," said Snyder.

The governor says he invited the firms to send people to Michigan and he plans more discussions in the future.

The state will likely have to show a longer trend of stable tax collections and more money in its emergency savings before it can return to its pre-2003 Triple-A credit rating.

That would reduce interest payments and the cost of building roads, schools, and hospitals.

Auto/Economy
4:03 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Marchionne reluctant to buy autoworkers' stake

Rosh Sillars Flickr

The CEO of Fiat and Chrysler, Sergio Marchionne, says he is not in talks to buy the Chrysler stake held by a trust for retired autoworkers.

Marchionne told reporters on the sidelines of a new Fiat car launch Tuesday that the "easiest route" for the trust to convert its stake into cash is when Chrysler goes public. He said that the IPO would not be this year because "the market is not there."

Fiat raised its stake in Chrysler to 52 percent with a deal earlier this month to buy the U.S. Treasury's 6 percent interest in Chrysler for $500 million. Fiat hopes to raise its stake to 57 percent by the end of the year. Marchionne says he is in talks to buy the Canadian government's remaining stake.

Auto/Economy
4:00 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

GM, other companies get Michigan state tax credits

The GM Headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit
Brandon C Flickr

A state board has approved tax incentives for projects connected to General Motors and other companies in Michigan.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority on Tuesday approved an amended brownfield tax credit valued at $10 million for GM's Van Slyke complex in Flint. The new project is expected to retain up to 185 jobs.

HP Enterprise Services is a subsidiary of Hewlett-Packard and was awarded a tax credit valued at $3.5 million over the next seven years. The credit will support a project in Pontiac expected to create up to 250 jobs.

Magna Exteriors and Interiors USA will receive a $1.5 million tax credit over the next three years connected to facilities in Howell, Benzonia and St. Clair County's China Township. More than 300 new jobs are connected to the projects.

GM War Room
1:30 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Saving GM - inside the company's "War Room."

When a massive quake struck Japan on Friday, March 11th, Bill Hurles was up north with his sons on a snowmobiling trip.  Hurles is head of supply chain for General Motors. 

After he saw the first footage of the tsunami slamming into the northern coast, Hurles cut his trip short and returned to Warren.   By early Sunday morning, he and his team were in the War Room, desperately trying to get information.

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Economy
1:29 pm
Tue June 14, 2011

Michigan ranks thirteenth in the nation for teen unemployment

The Employment Policies Institute issued a report that shows Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is around 28 percent, compared to around 24 percent nationally.

Michael Saltsman is with the Employment Policies Institute. He says the rise in teen unemployment over the past two years is a result of employers moving toward automation and self service.

I think you see other businesses sort of moving in that direction where maybe they have waiters and waitresses bus their own tables instead of having a bus boy do it.

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Auto/Economy
10:28 am
Tue June 14, 2011

Honda profits plunge as it seeks to recover from earthquake

The remodeled Honda Civic was supposed to be a big sales driver, but Honda has had to scale back its release. Reuters says the company won't go back to "full production of the best-selling model until after summer."
Honda

The Japanese automaker saw profits fall sharply as it struggled to reorganize in the wake of the earthquake and tsunamis that struck the island nation last March.

From the Associated Press:

TOKYO (AP) - Honda says profit for the fiscal year through March 2012 is expected to plunge 63.5 percent as vehicles sales slipped amid a parts shortage caused by the quake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Honda Motor Co. gave the forecast Tuesday, more than a month later than usual. Like other Japanese automakers, the maker of the Odyssey minivan and the Fit compact needed more time to assess the
aftermath of the March 11 disaster.

Honda is projecting a profit of $2.4 billion for the fiscal year ending March 2012, down sharply from the previous fiscal year.

Reuters reports that Honda released the numbers later than usual:

Honda, like other Japanese automakers, had delayed providing financial forecasts because of uncertainty over when parts supplies would recover after the magnitude 9.0 quake in Japan's northeast. In late April, it announced a 52 percent drop in January-March operating profit after production came to a virtual halt in the second half of March.

"These figures are pretty bad," said Koichi Ogawa, chief portfolio manager at Daiwa SB Investments in Tokyo, adding they could temporarily push Honda's stock lower.

Fumihiko Ike, Honda's chief financial officer, said the company plans to ramp up production in the second half of the year to make up for losses - that includes boosting production at its U.S. facilities in Indiana and Alabama "to achieve a more than 20 percent output rise beyond autumn."

Transportation
9:57 am
Tue June 14, 2011

A slow train to Chicago, Amtrak ordered to cut speeds

Amtrak traveling between Chicago and Detroit.
user amtrak_russ Flickr

On the heels of the federal government's announcement that it plans to increase the speed of Amtrak trains traveling between Detroit and Chicago, comes a slow-down order from the freight company that owns much of the track.

Norfolk Southern railroad says Amtrak trains will have to travel at speeds of 25 m.p.h. on some parts of the line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo.

More from Annarbor.com's Nathan Bomey:

The decision means that travelers on Amtrak's Wolverine line may experience 90-minute delays on the trip from Kalamazoo to Dearborn, Amtrak said. Passengers need to check with Amtrak before heading to the station for their trips.

A 90-minute delay is a big deal for trains working to improve their on-time performance, which has been notoriously bad in Michigan.

Amtrak Train number 351, for instance, travels between Chicago and Grand Rapids/Port Huron/Detroit - Pontiac. In the last twelve months, it's been on-time only 17.1% of the time.

Last month, officials from the federal government announced plans to invest $196.5 million to improve the 135 miles of rail line between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. The improvement, officials from the government say, will allow trains to reach speeds of 110 m.p.h., cutting 30 minutes off the time it will take to travel between Detroit and Chicago.

The freight company who owns the line, says they won't be responsible for maintenance on the improved track. Rudy Husband, a Norfolk Southern spokesman, was quoted in Annarbor.com:

"If they want to make the Michigan line a passenger route with higher speeds than what freight trains run, then someone other than Norfolk Southern is going to have to pay for the increased maintenance costs," Husband said. "We have been trying to work out a solution to this for a very long time now. But in the meantime we're doing what needs to be done to be responsible to our customers and our shareholders."

So before the trains speed up, they'll have to slow down.

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Economy
5:28 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Snyder meets with Wall Street to reduce cost of borrowing

Governor Rick Snyder and members of his budget team visited New York to meet with the agencies that set the state’s credit rating.

The state’s rating suffered due to the effects of the decade-long recession.

It's bond ratings are not that bad, but they could be better.

Governor Snyder traveled to Wall Street with state Treasurer Andy Dillon and Budget Director John Nixon. They made the case that Michigan deserves an upgrade because it’s overhauled its business tax and wrapped up its budget months ahead of schedule without resorting to accounting gimmicks and one-time fixes.

Sara Wurfel, the governor’s press secretary, said “one change in a state’s bond rating can actually mean millions of dollars in lower payments.”

The governor’s itinerary included meetings with Moody's, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's. The meetings only opened the discussions with Wall Street, and Wurfel says there will be further negotiations as the governor tries to reduce the cost to taxpayers when Michigan borrows money.

Economy
3:14 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Snyder trying to improve Michigan's bond rating

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is meeting with bond rating companies in an attempt to improve Michigan's rating.

A higher or improved rating would save Michigan money because it would be cheaper for the state to borrow for new construction projects.

Snyder is expected to promote the state's improved economic outlook and fiscal restraints imposed in the recently approved state budget during Monday's meetings in New York City.

The state lost its top AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor's in 2003. Years of bad economic news  as limited Michigan's ability to improve its ranking with any of the three major agencies that rate state debt.

Michigan still has investment-grade bond ratings from the three agencies.

Economy
12:51 pm
Mon June 13, 2011

Grand Rapids LipDub creators launching PR firm

A screen shot of the Grand Rapids LipDub.
youtube.com

The creators of the Grand Rapids LipDub video are using the buzz they've created to launch what they call an "international brand awareness firm."

Rob Bliss, Jeffrey Barrett, and Scott Erickson say their new firm, Status Creative, will build upon the success they had with the Grand Rapids LipDub video (which has had more than 3 million views since its release on YouTube).

From their press release:

“We’re not going to shy away from the spotlight that the Grand Rapids LipDub is shining on us,” said Erickson, referring to the worldwide media coverage and over 3 million YouTube views the video has generated in just two weeks. “But we want people to know that our experience and capabilities go far beyond that single project.  We envision taking the same creative energy and applying it to everything from political campaigns to consumer product launches.”

They say they'll limit their work to 10 campaigns in 2011.

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