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Michigan home prices keep falling
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home prices are expected to tumble again next year.


 But, some parts of the state might see a slight increase in price.


 Home sale prices in Michigan rocked up and down this year. Government incentives helped boost prices in the first half of the year. When those incentives expired, prices dropped.


Alex Villacorta is with Clear Capitol. He says home prices in Michigan should get a boost in the Spring, but then should fall at the end of the year. 

The Salvation Army
Evan P. Cordes / Creative Commons

The signature red kettles may be packed away, but the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign is still underway.

Money from the kettles supports the Salvation Army’s programs; helping victims of disasters, low-income seniors, and running summer camps for kids.

Charge Point charging station for electric vehicles
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

West Michigan will get 50 free public charging stations through a program funded by the federal stimulus program. The first one in downtown Grand Rapids is now up and running. It’s one of only a handful on the west side of the state. The other two are in Holland and a fourth is set to come online soon in Muskegon.

Online sales are reportedly up about 12 percent this holiday shopping season. That could be bad news for Michigan tax collectors.  Michigan residents are supposed to pay sales tax on items bought online, but few do. 


 Caleb Booth is a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.  He says the state lost out on $328 million dollars in uncollected sales taxes on online purchases in 2009. 

The Fiat Multipla
user corvettec6r / Wikimedia Commons

The auto analysts have weighed in and the car that tops the list (all together now)... The Pontiac Aztek!

Former Car & Driver editor Csaba Csere says of the Aztec:

If you have ever heard that saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, the Aztek is the application of that concept to a car.

The Pontiac Aztek
IFCAR / Wikimedia Commons

We asked our Facebook friends to give us their picks for ugliest car of the past decade.

As Tanya M. says, "clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder."

That's true Tanya... except when it comes to the Pontiac Aztek (sorry Elizabeth C.!).

If our Facebook friends were stranded on a desert island with twelve strangers, and they were the last ones standing, clearly they would not appreciate being given an Aztek as a tribute to their survival skills.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

It’s not Christmas yet, but Michigan retailers are in the holiday spirit. There are signs this will be the best holiday shopping season in Michigan in many years. 

When the holiday shopping season was getting started a month ago, a survey showed a majority of Michigan retailers were optimistic that they would see increased sales compared to last Christmas. The latest data is backing up that optimism.

Sign of Flint Police Headquarters
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Police Department is closed on the weekends following the latest round of officer layoffs.

The Flint Journal reports new office hours took effect Saturday, the day after 20 police officers were laid off.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling laid off a total of 66 police officers this year to cope with a multi-million-dollar deficit. The city also made other cuts.

Homeless
SamPac / creative commons

The Livingston County United Way is doing a 1-day only fundraiser to try to alleviate the growing need in the area.

It's called Triple Money Monday: On Dec. 20, from 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., all donations made to nonprofit will be tripled, thanks to the Ted and Jane Von Voigtlander Foundation and two anonymous donors.

Boxed up child motorized ATV in trunk of car
Jenn Forman Orth / Flickr

Michigan retailers were optimistic that this would be a better holiday shopping season than they’ve had the last few years.

And so far, those expectations appear to be warranted.

The National Retail Federation upped its prediction for holiday sales from a 2.3% increase to a 3.3% increase over last year.

The Changing Gears team has put together a one-hour special Reinventing Our Cities.

It airs today at 2 pm eastern and 1 pm central. You can hear it on Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Radio and Cleveland's Ideastream, or, you can click this audio link to take a listen:

Here's how the team describes the one-hour special:

Foreclosed house
Damon Duncan / Flickr

Foreclosure filings in Michigan fell 20% between October and November, but most of the decline came in homes in the final stages of foreclosure according to data released by Realty Trac, a group that calls itself "the nation's leading online foreclosure marketplace."

The pace of homes entering the system remained relatively unchanged.

Blue Water Bridge
K.l.macke/Flickr

The Blue Water Bridge has been reopened. The bridge, which links Port Huron, Michigan and Sarnia, Ontario, was shut down Monday and Tuesday to commercial traffic as crews worked to clear snow from the week's severe winter storm.

As The Associated Press reports, the bridge's closing:

...forced several General Motors Co. plants in Michigan to interrupt production and caused long delays at the Ambassador Bridge crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Governor Granholm signed legislation today that will allow for lucrative tax breaks for businesses that want to locate near Detroit Metro Airport.

The project is called the “aerotropolis,” and supporters say it could ultimately create tens of thousands of jobs.

Granholm said:

"I  think people can really look forward from here to see what the build-out will be around this area.

"The communities that are going to take advantage of the warehousing and the movement of goods and the logistics and the technology that’s associated with it as well," she said.

The Pure Michigan advertising campaign is getting the money it needs.   Governor Granholm today signed the legislation authorizing funds to pay for ads promoting Michigan tourism.

The Associated Press reports: 

Gov. Jennifer Granholm has as expected signed a bill that will help pay for the Pure Michigan tourism advertising campaign. The bill that Granholm announced signing Wednesday transfers $10 million to the campaign from the state's 21st Century Jobs Fund.  The addition gives Pure Michigan more than $15 million for the current fiscal and will provide enough cash to pay for a winter and spring tourism campaign. The program would have been canceled if the extra money had not been approved. Pure Michigan advocates still are pushing to raise the annual budget for the program to about $30 million.

Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Michigan’s Economic Development Corporation has approved tax breaks for 17 projects in the state. The incentives are supposed to help companies create nearly 3,000 total jobs.

The expansion of an automotive supplier in the Detroit suburb of Redford will likely have the biggest impact on the job market. Piston Automotive LLC will create 467 jobs – albeit only 135 of those directly. The producer of electric batteries and car chassis was considering expanding in Kentucky.

A close second in terms of creating new jobs is a company that’s expanding in Kentwood, just south of Grand Rapids. Autocam Corporation makes precision parts for transportation and medical devices. They’ll hire 200 new employees and the state estimates the project will create another 265 jobs indirectly.

Eleven of the projects will help investors redevelop blighted buildings.

Inside the Packard Plant
Angelique DuLong

The state of Michigan will soon increase assistance to redevelop old industrial sites. 

The Associated Press reports:

Redevelopment projects in Detroit, Flint, Grand Rapids, Hamtramck and Lansing are getting a boost with statetax incentives. 

Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Tuesday the projects are in line for brownfield redevelopment assistance from the state. Granholm, who leaves office at the end of this year, made the announcement at her last scheduled meeting with the Michigan Economic Growth Authority board.

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.

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