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Auto/Economy
11:27 am
Wed July 6, 2011

Dow Chemical teams up to make battery electrolytes

Midland, Mich. (AP) - Dow Chemical Co. and Japanese chemical company Ube Industries Ltd. said Wednesday they've agreed to form a joint venture to manufacture electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries
which are increasingly being used in cars among other things.

The 50-50 joint venture, named Advanced Electrolyte Technologies LLC, is expected to be finalized later this year pending regulatory approval.

Dow said the joint venture will allow it to expand its alternative energy offerings.

"The growing demand for alternative energy production and energy storage systems places technologies such as advanced batteries for electric/hybrid vehicles and power generation at the very center of the global mega-trends," said Heinz Haller, Dow executive vice president and chief commercial officer.

The joint venture's first manufacturing facility is expected to be built at Dow's home base in Midland, Mich. for startup next year.

Economy
10:43 am
Wed July 6, 2011

When an inch means a ton (or 267 tons, to be precise)

Chart courtesy of the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force

Who knew an inch could make such a difference?

In our piece this week on the Great Lakes dredging backlog, we introduced you to Mark Barker, president of The Interlake Steamship Company.  I called him “a man who measures revenue with a ruler.”

To see what that really means, check out the nifty chart from the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force (above).

It shows how much cargo a ship can hold for every inch of water it occupies. For the biggest vessels – the “thousand- footers” – one inch of draft corresponds to 267 tons of cargo. That’s why every bit of clearance matters to shippers trying to get the most bang from every trip.

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Auto/Economy
5:39 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Car leasing makes comeback

The availability of car leases practically disappeared during the recession.

But LeaseTrader.com says customer credit is recovering - and so is car leasing. 

John Sternal is Vice President of Marketing Communications for LeaseTrader.com.  He says more than 20 percent of new vehicles are now leased, including many small cars.

He says car leasing is more popular than ever before, because of a shifting attitude toward car ownership.

"Gone are the days when the majority of people will buy a car and hold onto it for fifteen years," says Sternal.

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Ford sued over Sync
5:33 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Company sues Ford Motor, alleges Sync patent infringement

A technology company has sued Ford Motor Company over patent infringements related to some of Ford’s hottest new products, including Sync.

The lawsuit says Eagle Harbor Holdings met with Ford starting in 2000 to discuss using Eagle Harbor’s voice command software and other patented technology. 

Eagle Harbor's General Counsel, Jeff Harmes, says Ford’s hands-free phone system, Sync, uses some of that technology.   But he says Ford broke off talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008.    

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Auto/Economy
5:09 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Lawsuit says GM failed to fix thousands of Impalas

The AP reports that the class-action lawsuit against GM says the automaker authorized repairs and reimbursements to 2007 and 2008 Chevy Impala police cars (like this police car in Montreal), but not to others.
user bull-doser wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - A lawsuit claims General Motors Co. fixed a defective part on police versions of the Chevrolet Impala but didn't correct the same problem in hundreds of thousands of other
Impalas.

The class-action lawsuit, filed last week in Detroit, says 2007 and 2008 model-year Impalas have defective spindle rods, which connect the suspension to the rear wheels. The defect misaligns the wheels, which makes the tires wear out faster.

According to the lawsuit, GM told dealers to replace the spindle rods and tires on affected police vehicles. It also authorized dealers to reimburse police who had purchased replacement tires.

But the suit says GM didn't offer the same remedy to non-police owners. The company sold 423,000 Impalas from those model years.

A GM spokesman was not immediately available to comment Tuesday.

Economy
1:41 pm
Tue July 5, 2011

Gasoline prices heading higher

Gasoline prices are expected to take another big leap this week in Michigan.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan gasoline prices are getting closer to four dollars again.  GasBuddy.com predicts prices will increase by another 5 to 10 cents during the next few days.  That’s on top of a 20 cent jump the week before the Fourth of July holiday weekend. 

Jason Teows with Gas Buddy says increasing demand is fueling the price increase at the gas pump. 

Changing Gears
10:27 am
Tue July 5, 2011

Great Lakes harbors threatened by dredging backlog

The Great Lakes form a sprawling ecosystem of nature and industry.  In a strong economy, ships can transport up to 200 million tons of cargo across these waters each year.  But now the shipping industry has declared a state of emergency.  The cause is a region-wide dredging backlog.  Shippers worry sediment buildup threatens to choke some navigation channels.

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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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