Auto

GM's Renaissance Center
Santosh Krishnan

GM is offering some of its employees a buyout this Christmas. The buyout offer will target at 8 assembly plants in Michigan. 

The Associated Press reports:

General Motors is offering buyouts to several thousand skilled trades workers at 14 plants around the U.S. 

The automaker will pay eligible workers $60,000 to retire with full benefits. Younger workers will have the option to take the $60,000 in exchange for giving up retiree health care and other benefits.   GM spokesman Chris Lee didn't know how many workers will get the offers.

High speed rail
Creative Commons

Efforts to raise enough money to bring a high speed rail project to Michigan aren’t over just because this legislative session is. Bills were introduced last month to sell bonds in order to raise $45 million in support of the project. The matching money is needed to secure a little more than $161 million in federal grants. But state senate did not take action on the bills before ending the lame duck session last week.

Thousands of DTE Energy customers came to Detroit’s Cobo Hall looking for help today (Monday). The utility hosted its third “customer assistance day” there.

DTE Vice President Joyce Hayes Giles says the event is a “one-stop shop” to match customers with government and non-profit utility assistance programs.

Hayes Giles says the high turnout isn’t surprising. 

“It speaks to the need in our community. But it also speaks to the fact that we’re going to help a number of customers and we’re really pleased to be able to do that.”

 

Hayes Giles says DTE also raised more than a million dollars for its own customer assistance program. That money will be refunded to qualified DTE customers as credits on their monthly bill.

Toyota Sienna minivan
Ian Westcott - flickr user

Toyota is recalling Sienna minivans.   This is just the latest recall that Toyota has issued in the past year.

The Associated Press reports:

Toyota says it will recall nearly 100,000 Sienna minivans from the 2011 model year to replace a switch bracket on the brake lamp.

The Japanese automaker says a driver's foot could hit the switch bracket and deform it while applying the parking brake pedal. Toyota says there have been no accidents or injuries related to this issue.

Village hopes a private prison brings jobs, money
Flickr user Still Burning / Creative Commons

The tiny village of Baldwin is hoping a private prison contract bringing thousands of inmates from California to Michigan will help revitalize the area. Baldwin is 65 miles north of Grand Rapids.

UPDATE: 3:30pm


 The Michigan Liquor Control Commission is loosening up its interpretation of the state’s new Sunday morning liquor sales law. 


The new law includes a provision allowing local governments to prohibit alcohol sales on Sunday mornings.  But the commission had said that any town or city doing so would be outlawing liquor sales ALL DAY Sunday.  That left many communities with a very uncomfortable choice.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Dan Akerson, General Motors' CEO, told the Economic Club of Washington D.C. this morning that his company was humbled by its "near-death experience" during its 2009 bankruptcy.

(courtesy of Borders Group/photo credit: Laszlo Regos)

Borders Books reported the company lost $74 million dollars in the 3rd quarter. That's about twice as much as Borders lost in the 3rd quarter of 2009. The Ann Arbor based book seller continues to struggle in a competitive market.

In a written statement, Borders Group CEO Mike Edwards conceded his company's struggles:

Amtrak train near Chicago
Steven Vance - Flickr

UPDATE 12/9/2010 3:33pm:

Michigan's been left off the list of state getting more federal money for high speed rail projects.  The New York Times reports:

The biggest winners of Ohio and Wisconsin’s money were California, which will receive another $624 million on top of the nearly $3 billion it has received so far toward the construction of a high-speed train from Los Angeles to San Francisco, and Florida, which will get another $342 million on top of the roughly $2 billion it has received to build a high-speed train between Orlando and Tampa.

The other states that will get Ohio and Wisconsin’s money will be Washington, which will get up to $161 million; Illinois, which will get $42.3 million; and Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Oregon and Vermont, which will all get less than $10 million.

Michigan home prices continue their downward slide and the trend shows little sign of stopping.

Home prices in Michigan declined about 9% in the third quarter, a downward trend that started in April as government buying incentives began to dry up.

(BWL)

The Lansing Board of Water & Light has gotten a key state permit clearing the way for construction of a new $182 million cogeneration power plant


The Department of Natural Resources and Environment granted the permit.   


A Lansing BW&L spokesman says the utility will now move to issuing bonds to pay for the project. The utility hopes to begin operating the new power plant in 2013.


The power plant will rely on natural gas to produce electricity. Lansing utility officials say it will eventually replace an aging coal-fired power plant.

A glitch in the new Sunday morning liquor sales law might be forcing Michigan communities to choose between opening the bars or going dry ALL DAY on Sundays.

When state lawmakers passed the Sunday morning liquor sales bill in the waning days of the legislative session, they made a small mistake. Lawmakers allowed communities to ban the sales, but the bill didn’t specify the time. 

So now,  if a community says it wants to ban liquor sales between 7am and noon on Sundays, the state Liquor Control Commission says the local government is banning all Sunday liquor sales.

Andrea Miller is with the Liquor Control Commission. She says the way the law is written  it gives the commission no choice. 

"Basically if they send in the resolution stating that they are banning the Sunday sales (of alcohol), they are banning Sunday sales completely."

Miller says the commission has heard from more than 30 communities confused about the new law and its implications.

The Liquor Control Commission plans to put a hold license applications by businesses in those communities until the legislature has time to fix the law next year.

George Erickcek is Senior Regional Analyst at Upjohn Institute
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Researchers at the Kalamazoo-based Upjohn Institute predict Michigan’s economy is stabilizing, but caution it will be a long road to a full recovery.

“We have to realize that what Michigan is coming out of is not a transformed economy, although all of us would like to think that’s true. We’re coming out a leaner economy, a little bit meaner and little bit more advanced but in fact just kind of a smaller version of what we were before, in my opinion.”

Senior Regional Analyst George Erickcek says full recovery will depend on the state’ ability to meet the demand for trained workers in growing industries. In a presentation to leaders in Grand Rapids Wednesday, Erickcek said 25 to 34 year-olds are not achieving the same education levels as the generation before them. That’s the case in Michigan and the nation.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

Perhaps another sign that the 'Great Recession' is thawing. Lending to people with a so-so credit score is on the uptick - at least in the car market.

The Associated Press reports "the percentage of loans going to subprime buyers rose 8% in the third quarter, their first year-over-year increase since 2007, according to a report issued Tuesday by Experian, a credit reporting agency."

Governor Granholm says she’s happy to leave office at a time when there’s good news about Michigan’s economy.

The Governor celebrated the addition of a second shift at Chrysler’s Sterling Heights Assembly Plant Monday.

Granholm says the announcement shows the domestic auto industry “is back.” She also cited recent economic data showing an uptick in manufacturing.

The Governor did bemoan the State Legislatures’ failure to approve a new international bridge crossing between Detroit and Ontario.

Inside Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant
Barack Obama's Flickr photostream

Update: 3:20pm:

The Detroit Free Press reports on what we expected from the announcement at Chrysler's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

Chrysler will add a second shift in early 2011 of about 900 additional workers. Many of those workers will be workers who are called back from temporary layoff.

Ildar Sagdejev / creative commons

Update: 2:12pm:

Since we posted this story we found this analysis piece by Sarah Weinman of Daily Finance News. She also calls the notion that Borders Books could buy Barnes & Noble a story that has "entertainment value" not much more. Weinman says of Borders Books:

"If a merger was its plan for saving itself, expect B&N's rejection of the deal to accelerate its downward spiral -- an end that, sadly for the publishing industry, is likely to come sooner rather than later."

Ben Alman

I just spoke with a food industry analyst who says Kellogg's next CEO will face challenges right from the start. 


 Erin Swanson is a food industry analyst with Morningstar Financial.  She says the challenge is to speed up development of new Kellogg products.



“Kellogg has been challenged over the past several months, or year by intense competitive pressures.”  


 


 


Battle Creek's big employer is undergoing a big change. David Mackay is stepping down as Kelloggs CEO.

The runways at Detroit Metro Airport
travelpod.com

The current lame-duck Michigan legislature passed a tax incentive package this morning to encourage the development of a Michigan Aerotropolis. 

So what is it? Here's how the Detroit Region Aerotropolis explains the idea:

An Aerotropolis is an emerging type of urban form comprised of aviation-intensive businesses and those businesses that need to be readily connected to their customers. These businesses, and related enterprises, extend outward from a major airport.

Car Lot
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

At a presentation to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit yesterday, Michael Robinet, director of global production forecasters at IHS Automotive, said U.S. auto sales could reach 17 million in 4 years. Robinet predicts sales will exceed 12.8 million next year and 16 million in 2013.  As the Detroit Free Press reports

That would be a huge reversal from the historically low sales levels that brought the industry to its knees during the recent recession. The last time industry sales exceeded 17 million was in 2001.

U.S. car sales were up by 17 percent last month. The country's most popular automakers in November were:

  1. General Motors
  2. Ford
  3. Toyota
  4. Honda (American)
  5. Chrysler
Striking workers' sign
Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Michigan Radio has been covering stories from across the state regarding labor and contract disputes. From the strike of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to the dispute between the City of Flint and its Firefighters Union, it seems that workers and management are having a difficult time finding common ground these days.

So, we wondered, do strikes increase during a down economy?  We assumed they did.  Well, as they say, that's we get for assuming.  As it turns out, the struggling economy may have actually reduced the number of labor disputes resulting in strikes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were fewer work stoppages affecting 1,000 or more workers in 2009 than in any other year since 1947, when the collection of this data began.

One economist says the end of jobless benefits for thousands of Michiganders should not have a big effect on the number of jobs being filled.

 More than 180 thousand people in Michigan will see their unemployment benefits expire between now and April, unless Congress agrees to grant another extension. 

Kenneth Goldstein is with the Conference Board, a business research group.   He says there are few real new job options,  either full or part time for the ‘hard-core’ unemployed.

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The push to build a new bridge connecting Detroit and Windsor appears dead. 

The Associated Press reports: 

A final effort to pass a measure this year that could have cleared the way for a second bridge connecting Detroit and Canada has failed.

Democrats in the Michigan Senate wanted a vote on the issue Thursday, likely the final day of the Legislature's 2009-10 session. But a motion to discharge the legislation and send it to the Senate floor failed, getting only 11 votes in the 38-seat Senate dominated by Republicans.

Job search seminar in Ohio
flickr user Daniel Johnson / Flickr

We all know Michigan has been going through tough times. An unemployment rate of nearly 13%. Jobless benefits expiring for tens of thousands of people. Deep spending cuts coming to state and local governments.

But it may be tougher than you've thought.

 The Detroit New reports:

Michigan’s economy stumbled in October. 

Comerica Bank’s monthly gauge of Michigan’s economic activity shows a slight dip in October.   The state’s economy spiked up in September. 

Comerica Bank chief economist Dana Johnson says Michigan’s economy has essentially been flat for the past four months.  Johnson says:

 As has been the case in the national economy over the second half of the year, growth in Michigan has been sluggish and uneven. Looking ahead, the Michigan economy is poised to make modest gains in coming months, against a background of gradually accelerating national growth.

The Michigan Economic Activity Index weighs nine, seasonally-adjusted indicators of real economic activity.

These indicators reflect activity in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors as well as job growth and consumer outlays.

Willow Run Factory and B-24 bombers
U.S. Army Signal Corps

It was ground zero for the "arsenal of democracy" in the 1940s. Henry Ford built the giant Willow Run factory to manufacture B-24 bombers in World War II. Later GM took over the building making everything from Chevy trucks, the Caprice, the Nova, Corvairs, and transmissions.

Today, the materials inside the plant are being auctioned off as part of the "Old GM's" bankruptcy reorganization (old GM is now known as the Motors Liquidation Company).

Fewer people bought formerly foreclosed homes in Michigan in the third quarter of the year. 

Federal home buyer tax credits spurred home sales in Michigan and the rest of the country during the first half of the year.  Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says July through September home sales slumped without those incentives.  He says Michigan’s foreclosed home sales dipped 26%.

Bloomquist says:

Some of the sales you would have seen in the third quarter were pushed forward to the second quarter.  So, there was a little artificial inflation in those numbers. These numbers in the third quarter are a little bit lower than normal.

People who bought one of the 95 hundred formerly foreclosed homes that sold in Michigan in the third quarter of the year got a good deal.  The average sale price was about 41% cheaper than similar homes sold at the same time.

Nikonmania/FLICKR

The city of Pontiac is one step closer to shutting down its Police Department and having the Oakland County Sheriff's Office take over the city's patrols.

Pontiac faces a projected $9 million budget deficit and Michael Stampfler, Pontiac's state-appointed emergency financial manager, has asked the Oakland County Sheriff Department to take over policing the city.

The Detroit Free Press reports:

A committee of the Oakland County Board of Commissioners voted 4-3 Wednesday to approve the $10-million contract. The county's Finance Committee will consider the plan today, and the full board is to vote on it Dec. 9... Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the department is expected to hire more than 60 of the Pontiac department's 70 employees and operate out of the city's headquarters in downtown Pontiac.

If approved, the Oakland County Sheriff Department would takeover on January 1st, 2011.

Pages