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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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Local Government
5:36 pm
Tue June 21, 2011

Transforming city government in Grand Rapids

Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Today elected officials in Grand Rapids adopted a budget for 2012. The plan closes a $6 million budget gap in the city’s general fund.

The plan includes money for a new ‘transformation fund’ – which can only be used for one-time investments in long-term structural changes.

Grand Rapids took a couple measure last year to keep their budget out the red…they laid off around 175 employees and voters approved a city income tax hike.

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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.

Read more
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.

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