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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.

Car lot
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Ford sales are up 24%, Chrysler sales are up 17%, and GM's are up  11%. It's been a good news week for the "Big Three" (can we still call them that?). Chrysler and GM also announced they plan to hire more workers in Michigan, and the Brookings Institution says Metro Detroit is recovering.

Here are some figures from a number-laden Detroit News article on auto sales:

  • Sales for Chrysler's Jeep brand were up 58 % for November compared to a year ago
  • Ford's year-to-date sales total 1.74 million vehicles - growing at a pace double the industry average
  • Ford's F-Series trucks were up 26 %
  • GM's big brand Chevrolet was up 18 % for the month compared to a year ago, its sales strengthened by the new compact Cruze and popular Equinox and Silverado

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A contract dispute between Flint's mayor and the city's public safety unions escalated Tuesday.

Tuesday, the city of Flint sent layoff notices to 20 police officers. The city and the police unions have not been able to agree on major contract concessions to help reduce a projected budget deficit.

Also on Tuesday, Flint firefighters rejected a proposal to slash their current contract by nearly 10 percent. Union president Raul Garcia says Flint firefighters were upset that agreeing the concessions would not protect them from future layoffs.

Nurses at Lansing's Sparrow Hospital overwhelmingly approved a new contract with the hospital.

The contract approved Tuesday came after a sometimes contentious negotiations between the two sides.

"There was a very diverse opinion about the details of the contract about what was good and what was bad," says Robert Kolt, a spokesman for the nurses union, "They had to agree...that patient safety was a top priority."

The contract contains a modest wage increase for the nurses and other support staff.

Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
flickr user fiatontheweb / creative commons

Today executives at General Motors announced they plan to add 1,000 jobs in Michigan.

Now, Chrysler executives have announced they also plan to add 1,000 jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

GM to hire 1,000 in MI

Nov 30, 2010

General Motors has just announced that it will hire 1,000 engineers to work on battery technology in Michigan. The jobs include helping to develop batteries for hybrid, electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Most of the jobs will be at a technical center in Warren.

The Detroit Free Press reports the jobs come as GM:

…prepares to deliver the first Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric cars next month… GM plans to build 10,000 Volts by the end of 2011 and at least 45,000 in 2012. Initially, the Volt will sell in California, New York City, Washington, D.C., and Austin, Texas. Next spring, those markets will expand to include Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and the rest of New York and Texas. Within a year and a half, GM plans to sell the Volt nationwide.

Jobless benefits will expire for tens of thousands of unemployed Michiganders this week unless Congress approves an extension.

Many of those losing their benefits are expected to turn to Michigan food banks and other non-profit groups.

"Those safety nets are really not prepared to take on all of these extra families," says Judy Putnam, with the Michigan League for Human Services."

Salvation Army
elstudio / creative commons

Over the next couple of weeks, chances are you’ll find lots of letters in your mailbox asking for charitable donations. That's because nonprofits across Michigan are doing their annual end-of-year holiday push for financial donations.

Kyle Caldwell is with the Michigan Nonprofit Association. He likes to call the holiday season the “giving season.”

Michigan retailers have been busy this weekend with the beginning of the holiday shopping season. But Monday could be a very big day as well.

The National Retail Federation coined the term ‘Cyber Monday’ five years ago to describe the growing trend of holiday shoppers flooding store websites on the Monday following thanksgiving.  A recent survey found more shoppers planned to shop online  Monday than stand in line on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  

Michigan congressman Dale Kildee expects congress will approve extending jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed next week. 

An extension would allow people who’ve been receiving jobless benefits for more than 26 weeks to continue to receive financial aid.   The current extension expires next Wednesday.    Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Michiganders will stop receiving unemployment checks unless an extension is approved. 

General Motors formally announced today that it is investing more than 160 million dollars in plants in Flint, Bay City and in Defiance, Ohio.

 The three plants produce components for the Chevy Volt, Cruze and a third unnamed Chevrolet small car.

 Bill Jordan says GM’s announcement is an early "Christmas present.”   Jordan is the president of United Auto Workers local 599.    He says GM’s investment shows workers are doing the job right. 

 

The city of Flint has started sending out layoff notices to city employees.
But so far, none of the notices have gone out to those who work in public safety.
The city of Flint is wrestling with an estimated 5 million dollar short fall in this year’s city budget.    The mayor wants the city’s unions to absorb about half of that deficit with double digit wage and benefit concessions.

Michigan retailers are optimistic that holiday sales will be better this year.

The first real test comes this week. 

 Thanksgiving is such a pivotal time for Michigan retailers many aren’t waiting for their customers to finish their turkey dinners.

K-Mart, Sears and other retailers plan to be open on Thanksgiving day.   Many other stores, like Banana Republic and the Gap will open their doors Thursday night.

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

The Associated Press reports that the state "will stop taking new extended unemployment benefit applications after Saturday because Congress has failed to renew the program."

Monument to steel in Gary, Indiana
Michael Puente / Changing Gears

By Michael Puente, Changing Gears

All this week, Changing Gears has been looking at reinventing Pittsburgh. We recently heard how Detroit has borrowed some of its ideas. In its final report, they head to Gary to see if this smaller Steel Town can learn from its industrial mother, Pittsburgh. They found old habits are hard to break.

Businesses in Hamtramck, Michigan
Ian Freimuth / creative commons

The city of Hamtramck is ratcheting up the pressure on the state to allow it to file for bankruptcy.

Hamtramck’s city attorney has sent a letter to Governor Granholm urging her to issue an executive order allowing the city to seek federal bankruptcy protection. The letter also says appointing an emergency financial manager would not give the city the tools it needs to correct its financial problems.

General Motors (GM) stock returned to trading on Wall Street yesterday for the first time since the company collapsed, declared bankruptcy, and was rescued by an infusion of fifty billion taxpayer dollars.

While Michigan has been focusing on diversifying its economy to make up for the loss of jobs in the auto industry, GM's return to public trading suggests that the auto industry in Michigan will continue to be a major economic player in the region.

Detroit entreprenuer Judy Davids
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

All week we’ve been looking at the reinvention of Pittsburgh. Now, we move west to see whether the ideas that worked there can work in other places. One such city is Detroit.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit has always faced a challenge in convincing its talented citizens to stay. Many business owners try to buck the odds and keep their businesses in the city, only to find the hurdles too high. Others find it is simply too daunting to head out on their own.

The New York Stock Exchange
Roland Weber / Creative Commons

Update: 5:10pm

The New York Stock Exchanged closed.  AFP News reports "GM stocks closed at 34.19 dollars, up 3.6 percent from GM's initial sale price announced on Wednesday, but below session highs of 35.60 dollars a share."

Update: 3:00pm

The Detroit News reports the GM executives who attended the opening day for GM stock on the New York Stock Exchange bought hundreds of shares in the company themselves.

GM North American chief Mark Reuss called it an emotional day, saying he was proud to work for GM and thanking taxpayers for giving GM "a second chance."

The News reports the GM execs will head back to Detroit "after today's events in order to attend a private employee celebration at the company's Renaissance Center headquarters."

Update: 11:04pm

GM  executives rang the bell and played a recording of a Chevy Camaro revving its engine to open trading at the New York Stock Exchange this morning. As of this writing, the stock, bought during the IPO at $33 per share, has jumped to $35 per share in trading. Here's how it's tracking next to Ford's stock (F): 

Jobless
Photo by Khalilshah/Flick

Michigan's jobless rate continued its slow, but steady, decline in October.  The state's unemployment rate in October was 12.8%.  It's the first time the jobless rate was been under 13% since March 2009, according to the Associated Press. The state's jobless rate in October of 2009 was 14.4%.

The national unemployment rate for October was 9.6%.

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