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The Next Idea

Among small business owners in Michigan, access to capital remains one of the most significant challenges, especially for people in underserved communities. This seems to be true even in places with improving economies, like West Michigan. The area has seen a strong post-recession recovery in recent years, and ranks highly in the prevalence of investors. WalletHub named Grand Rapids #2 in its 2016 rankings of “Best Large Cities to Start a Business,” yet it was ranked 43rd out of 150 cities analyzed in terms of access to resources.

The number of fishing licenses purchased in 2016 was up from a year ago, according to Travel Michigan
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Kids across Michigan got packed off to school today, which marks the end of the summer tourism season.

As we start to say goodbye to summer, we wondered how Michigan's travel industry fared this year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Officials are asking Michigan utilities to be ready in case there are any problems with getting enough electricity to consumers today.  

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator, or MISO, issued a reliability alert in Michigan after a fire at a DTE power plant overnight.

Detroit Horse Power

The Next Idea

I feel exceedingly fortunate to have grown up with horses as a big part of my childhood. I was brought up in suburban Westchester County, New York, about 20 minutes from prime horse country. I started regular riding lessons and showing when I was about 10. At age 14, I began competing in the Olympic sport of Three Day Eventing -- a horse triathlon that combines dressage, cross country, and stadium jumping. My thoroughbred, Rush, and I worked as a team -- training daily, building a partnership, testing our skills, persevering through disappointments and injuries. Horse people can describe at length the many valuable life lessons we learn from these amazing animals. Those skills and experiences hold the most weight for me as I look back on my international competitions and time spent working for top professionals.

Trevor Mays tells us Intermitten is all about bringing tech-savvy and creative types together.
Courtesy of Trevor Mays

Technology and creativity are not mutually exclusive. They go hand-in-hand.

That's the message of Intermitten. It's a conference happening this Friday and Saturday in Ann Arbor.

The conference will be exploring all the ways that successful business efforts contain a healthy mix of creativity and technology.

Courtesy of Better Life Bags

It all started as a hobby and a small online business. Today, Better Life Bags is a thriving business in the diverse community of Hamtramck that is changing the lives of the women who sew and make those custom-made bags. These women come from many different cultures.

After moving to Hamtramck with her husband on a whim from Georgia, Rebecca Smith was pregnant and made herself a diaper bag for her soon-to-be-born child. After posting a photo of the bag on social media, friends encouraged her to start selling them on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items.  After selling more and more bags, she reached out to friends and acquaintances for help. 

Now, Better Life Bags employs 16 women from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, including Smith's first employee, Nadia Alakil, an immigrant to Michigan from Yemen. This small business allows for women to work from home and earn some extra money for their families. 

Stateside 7.25.2016

Jul 25, 2016

 

Today, we hear from the Genius of the Year, who says autistic people like him are an "untapped resource." And, M I Curious question asker Don Williams hears an answer to his question: Why do mental health resources vary so widely across the state?

Garden Fresh

You may not know Dave Zilko's name, but you've probably seen his products in your grocery store.  Zilko is the former vice chairman of Garden Fresh Gourmet. He and business partners Jack and Annette Aronson took a scrappy little Oakland County company that was deep in debt and turned it into the number one brand of fresh salsa in North America, with revenues topping $100 million.  Last June, Garden Fresh was sold to Campbell Soup Company for $231 million.

Jeffery Allen Ford writes: "Psychological experts have determined that Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Michelangelo were all extremely high-functioning individuals with autism."
Courtesy of Jeffery Allen Ford

The Next Idea

We in Michigan usually take great pride in our state's natural beauty and precious resources. So, I find it incredibly disheartening that one of our state's most beautiful and precious resources – its autistic community – is largely misunderstood, marginalized and woefully under-valued.

Stateside 7.18.2016

Jul 18, 2016

Today, on The Next Idea, we hear how a competition stimulates entrepreneurs during the startup phase of their business. And, we talk with Laith Al-Saadi about life during, and after, "The Voice."

Mason County competition stimulates local business

Jul 18, 2016
The Momentum Business Plan Competition galvanized entreprenuer Andy Thomas's brewery, Starving Artist Brewing.
Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The Next Idea

For the last two years, Mason County has the Momentum Business Plan Competition, which awards $50,000 to entrepreneurs during the startup phase of their businesses. The project aims to boost entrepreneurship and small businesses within the county. Prize money is provided by local sponsors and organizations.

There is a growing trend of hackers using stolen data to blackmail companies and individuals.
hackNY.org / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

We hear so much about data breaches and hacked passwords, but what is it really all about? What does an attacker do with your passwords, credit card information and other hacked data?

Kellogg

Kellogg's of Battle Creek is taking cereal in a different direction.  A really different direction.

The company has opened a cereal cafe in Times Square, where for $6.50 (small) or $7.50 (large) you can order cereal from a menu that includes "Lemon Pistachio." 

That's a combination of Special K and Frosted Flakes, with pistachios and lemon zest and fresh thyme leaves on top.  With locally sourced fresh milk on the side, of course.

Detroit officials announce Paradise Valley redevelopment plans.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

More upscale development is coming to downtown Detroit.

These new plans are part of what’s being dubbed the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District.

It aims to revive the area’s past as a vibrant center of African American culture. The original Paradise Valley left a huge imprint as a hub of blues, jazz and vibrant entertainment culture on early 20th-century Detroit.

Detroit’s Downtown Development Authority bought five buildings in the current Harmonie Park area in 2006.

Dow sign on wall
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dow Chemical is cutting 2,500 jobs worldwide, including hundreds in Michigan and the Great Lakes Bay Region.

The layoffs come as the Midland-based company absorbs operations of Dow Corning and prepares for a merger with rival DuPont.

“We are moving quickly and effectively to integrate Dow Corning and deliver the synergies that will drive new levels of value creation for our customers and generate even greater returns for our shareholders,” said Andrew N. Liveris, Dow’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Is there a future for wine made in Detroit?

Jun 23, 2016
Courtesy of Great Lakes Vineyards

The Next Idea

Michigan’s northern and western regions are known for leading the state’s wine industry, but people over in the southeast could soon join in on the recognition. Blake Kownacki is a winemaker and vineyard manager at Great Lakes Vineyard, where he helps homeowners in the Detroit area make their own wine.

official portrait

A senior U.S. Senator is asking federal anti-trust officials to investigate the planned merger of Dow Chemical and DuPont.

Stockholders for Midland, Michigan-based Dow Chemical and Delaware-based DuPont vote on the merger next month.

The merger would create a company worth $130 billion, though eventually, the plan is to divide it into three different companies, one of which would be based in Michigan.

Lester Graham

Ever since Ed Welburn designed cars as a toddler, it seemed like destiny would lead him to working at General Motors. The first time he entered the company’s campus as an employee was an emotional experience he would never forget.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new grant program is giving a hand to 30 Flint businesses struggling to recover from the economic effects of the city’s drinking water crisis.

The businesses range from a Coney Island to a beauty shop.      

Anthony Artis is an art dealer. He says the grant will ‘breathe new life” into his business, which sells art as far away as Boston.

Courtesy of Cascade Engineering

For people who get out of prison, the chances of getting a job are often slim to none.

There are programs to help ex-offenders find work and transition back into society, but funding a company willing to hire former inmates proves a challenge.

Recently, though, some companies have been not just hiring, but recruiting ex-offenders.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

More than 50 top business executives are in Flint today, talking about finding solutions to the city’s problems.

The Moving Flint Forward Leadership Summit at the Flint Institute of Arts is invitation-only.

Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint/Genesee County Chamber of Commerce.  He says it’s important for business leaders from across the state to feel they can freely share their ideas.

We think it’s important to have this closed meeting…and be able to be open and honest…and let the participants be open and honest,” says Herman.

FLICKR USER MICHIGAN MUNICIPAL LEAGUE https://flic.kr/p/p5s8vE

 

University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University are putting traditional rivalries aside to pour some brain power and expertise into Detroit.

Combined, these schools create the University Research Corridor (URC). They use their expertise to lead research and innovation within Southeast Michigan.

Courtesy of Micheline Maynard/Forbes Media

Two-thirds of all restaurants will fail within three years of first opening their doors, a statistic that could be attributed to an owner’s desire for expansion only after a few months of profits.

“Hometown Holdouts” is a new e-book that breaks down the success of businesses that chose to stay local, despite nationwide recognition. Author Micheline Maynard says "hometown holdouts" benefit their communities, and resist the pressure to expand.

WARRENSKI / CREATIVE COMMONS

OTTAWA, Ohio (AP) - Whirlpool Corp. says it's installing wind turbines to help power two more of its factories in Ohio.

  The appliance maker based in Benton Harbor, Michigan, says it will spend $13.5 million to bring wind energy to its plants in Ottawa and Marion.

  Whirlpool says the 1.5-megawatt turbines are the same design as those built at its Findlay factory.

  The company says anticipates the wind turbine should help offset electricity consumption by 34 percent at its Ottawa plant that makes freezers.

FLICKR USER ALAN CLEAVER/FLICKR

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) - An Upper Peninsula city has won a key ruling in a legal dispute over how to value big-box stores for tax purposes.

Value has been a hot issue in Michigan, especially in the U.P. where communities have been forced to give refunds based on decisions by the Michigan Tax Tribunal.

But Escanaba successfully argued that the Tribunal used the wrong standard to determine the value of a Menards store. In a 3-0 decision released Friday, the Michigan appeals court sent the case back to the Tribunal for more work.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder has declared a "state of energy emergency" in Michigan.    

The governor issued the executive order in response to issues at a Detroit oil refinery and a Wisconsin pipeline.

The Marathon refinery in Detroit is currently experiencing an “outage” related to maintenance work.    

Michigan Oil and Gas Association

Leaders of Michigan’s oil and gas industry are optimistic their business is poised to rebound from a prolonged price slump.

Oil and natural gas prices are half of what they were in recent years. But just over the past few months, oil prices have jumped nearly 50 percent.

Allan Cleaver / Flickr

A new report says the tax burden on Michigan businesses has declined slightly.

The Anderson Economic Group report ranks Michigan’s business tax burden 20th in the nation, improving from 21st last year.

Jason Horwitz is a senior AEG consultant. He expects the trend line will continue to go down in the coming years.

“When you look where taxes are so high for businesses in Michigan, the reason to be optimistic is that even though it’s been going down for five years, we would expect it to continue going down over the next few years,” says Horwitz.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint restaurants and bars are hoping to lure back customers turned off by the city’s drinking water crisis.

Many of Flint’s restaurants and bars have seen their business dip since lead was discovered in the city’s drinking water last year.  

To fight back, owners installed water filters and added promotions. 

This week is Flint Restaurant Week, a promotion involving more than 2 dozen establishments.

Sitting in Flint’s Soggy Bottom Bar, organizer Ken Laatz is focused on the future.

wikimedia/creative commons

In 2007, Gordon Food Service of Wyoming, Michigan settled charges of sex discrimination in hiring for entry-level labor jobs at its Grand Rapids and Brighton warehouses.

This year, the company has agreed to pay $1.85 million in back wages and benefits to women denied jobs at those and other warehouses because they couldn't pass a strength test, which the government says was more stringent than the actual  job requirements. In addition, the department says at least one male employee who'd been working at Gordon Foods for over two years failed the test.

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