Business

Business
6:00 am
Tue February 11, 2014

High stakes for Michigan's pilot apprenticeship program

An engineer works with a student apprentice at Toyota.
Toyota UK Flickr

Tracy Samilton's report on apprenticeships in Michigan.

Michigan imports a lot of things from Germany, from craft beer to high-tech appliances.

Now, the state's trying to import Germany's highly successful apprentice system.

The hope is that employer-paid apprenticeships could address two problems: high-skilled jobs that go unfilled – and four-year college degrees that are becoming unaffordable.

One such program is already underway, teaching students how to manage automated assembly lines.

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Business
6:45 am
Mon February 10, 2014

Today is the deadline for business owners to apply for a major state tax exemption

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan.
A123 Systems Inc. Facebook

Michigan business owners have until the end of the day to file a form that could potentially save them lots of money on their 2014 tax bill.

Michigan’s personal property tax applies to all kinds of things. Carmakers pay the tax on heavy machinery; restaurants pay it on new ovens and dishwashers.

But in order to qualify, business owners have to file a form with their local government.

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Business
11:49 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Could German-style paid apprenticeships work in Michigan?

A professor works with students on mechantronics programs.
UC Davis College of Engineering Flickr

Tracy Samilton's report on apprenticeship programs.

In the United States, high school students are often told they need a four-year college degree to get a good job. That can mean racking up a lot of debt.

But in Germany, students can choose a paid apprenticeship. Now, Michigan officials hope to import the system here.

The apprentice system in Germany is extensive. You can become a land surveyor, a bank clerk, a robotics technician... so it's not hard to find someone who's done it.

When Sophie Stepke was 16, she was a typical teen. She had no idea what she wanted to do for a living.

She could have postponed a decision by staying in high school. Instead,

I went for an apprenticeship as a professional land surveyor. So for three years, I worked with an employer, I went to school, and I basically became a professional land surveyor. So I was staying out there building streets and building houses and all that kind of stuff.

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Agriculture
1:18 pm
Sun February 9, 2014

Deadline nears to comment on blueberry farming in wetlands

Michigan dominates blueberry farming in the United States.
Andrew Malone Flickr

Nobody grows more blueberries in the U.S. than Michigan. In the past, many growers were exempt from wetland regulations. But the federal Environmental Protection Agency is making Michigan tighten its wetland regulations and blueberry production is a part of that.

The state will have to prove to the EPA that the proposed changes will follow federal laws, including the Clean Water Act.

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Business
2:02 pm
Mon February 3, 2014

How Detroit Manufacturing Systems hired hundreds of workers in the city

Detroit Manufacturing Systems has hired 729 workers in the last year-and-a-half. Two-thirds of the employees live in the city of Detroit. A federally-funded non-profit helped DMS find qualified candidates.
Credit Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Listen to how Detroit Manufacturing Systems has hired hundreds of workers in the city.

Detroit's unemployment is high, really high. It's nearly 18%. That’s almost double the Michigan rate of unemployment and Michigan is among the worst in the nation.

So, when a manufacturer hires hundreds of Detroit residents, it gets attention.

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Business
6:17 am
Mon February 3, 2014

Winning Super Bowl TV commercial picked by Michigan State University professors

MSU professors thought this Budweiser ad was the clear winner last night
Budweiser

The Seattle Seahawks trounced the Denver Broncos in Sunday’s Super Bowl.

But a group of Michigan State University advertising and public relations professors says the real winners were a dog and horse. 

Companies paid about $4 million for each 30-second spot during the big game in hopes of reaching 100 million viewers. 

For 17 years, MSU professors have been picking the big game’s best TV ads. Last night, their pick for the best commercial was a Budweiser ad featuring a puppy and Clydesdale horse that develop a special relationship.

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Business
6:45 am
Sat February 1, 2014

Propane shortage drawing interest in Washington

Propane prices in parts of Michigan have nearly doubled this winter
Propane Pro

Michigan Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow sent a letter this week to President Obama to deal with the propane shortage hitting the Midwest.

Propane is in short supply this winter for several reasons. Prices have doubled in some parts of Michigan.

Joe Ross is the spokesman for the Michigan Propane Gas Association. Ross says new propane supplies are coming from as far away as Texas.  

“There’s a huge supply chain. It involves hundreds of different companies,” says Ross, “It’s not like turning on your water so you can get more.”]

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Business
11:59 am
Thu January 30, 2014

Consumers Energy puts Genesee County power plant project 'on hold'

Consumers Energy is shifting away from coal-fired power plants to natural gas.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy is suspending plans to start building a $700 million power plant in Genesee County.

The utility announced today it will instead buy an existing Jackson County power plant for $155 million.

“You know, frankly, we can look out our windows at our headquarters at Consumers Energy, look east, and see the steam when that plant is operating, which is quite often,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers spokesman.

The Jackson County power plant has been generating electricity for a decade. As a merchant power plant, it sold electricity on the wholesale market.

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Business
1:45 pm
Sat January 25, 2014

Christmas week ice storm knocked out holiday sales for Michigan retailers

Last minute Christmas shoppers in Jackson, Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new report shows the major winter storm that knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of Michiganders last month also hurt late Christmas sales.

About a half million Michiganders spent part of Christmas week in the dark after an ice storm cut a swath through the state.

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association.  He says the Dec. 22 storm robbed many stores of last-minute Christmas shoppers.

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Business
11:16 am
Thu January 23, 2014

Leaders call for immigration reform to help save Detroit

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaking in support of the immigration plan with Gov. Snyder looking on (left).
screen shot from LiveStream

Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit leaders announced their immigration reform plan this morning at the Hispanic-owned Ideal Group in Detroit.

The plan calls for federal changes that would allow immigrants to live, work, and hopefully create jobs in the city of Detroit.

More from Gov. Snyder’s press release:

Detroit must harness the power of skilled immigrants to grow its economy, increase its tax base and reverse its population decline, Gov. Rick Snyder said today as he urged federal action on his proposal that increases employment-based visas for immigrants.

“We want the world to know that Detroit is open for business,” Snyder said. “Legal immigration helped to build this great city and is just as critical to its comeback. Immigrants create jobs and Detroit is a great value opportunity in terms of business costs and overall quality of life.

The plan calls for the federal government to secure 50,000 employment-based visas for skilled immigrants (employment-based second preference visas, or EB-2 visas).

The visas would require that the visa holders reside and work in the city of Detroit.

Gov. Snyder's office cited the following statistics in support of the plan:

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Business
11:22 am
Tue January 21, 2014

Activist investor wants changes at Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical Co., Midland, Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A major hedge fund is making waves for Midland-based Dow Chemical.

Third Point Management announced today that it has upped its position in Dow Chemical.

The hedge fund now has a $1.3 billion stake in Dow. That makes the hedge fund a significant shareholder in the company.  

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Business
8:32 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Wisconsin shutdown worsens propane shortage in UP

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

MARQUETTE, Mich. (AP) - Michigan utility regulators say Upper Peninsula residents whose supplies of propane already are running short face new challenges this week with the closing of a Wisconsin facility for maintenance.

The Michigan Public Service Commission says that inventories in the region are 43 percent below their level of one year ago.

Commission Chairman John Quackenbush says "propane customers in the Upper Peninsula should use their propane supplies wisely in the coming weeks by reducing usage and avoiding energy waste."

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Business
6:34 pm
Sun January 19, 2014

Palisades nuclear plant taken offline to refuel

Mark Savage/Entergy
The Palisades Nuclear Plant sits on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan.

COVERT TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Operators of southwestern Michigan's Palisades Nuclear Power Plant say it's now offline for refueling and maintenance.

New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. says operators took the plant out of service at 11 a.m. EST Sunday. It's located on the shore of lake Michigan in Van Buren County's Covert Township, about 55 miles southwest of Grand Rapids.

Plant spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says workers will replace 64 fuel assemblies in the reactor as well doing maintenance, tests and inspections.

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Business
1:29 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

The end of 'net neutrality' and what it might mean for you

Erik Hersman Flickr

State of Opportunity's Kimberly Springer tells us how "the specter of an exclusive, our boutique, access internet looms" after the recent U.S. Court of Appeals decision striking down many of the FCC's "net neutrality" rules.

For the privileged, the demise of net neutrality might mean paying even more for broadband access to Netflix or YouTube---no more buffering...buffering...buffering? But for the less privileged, losing net neutrality puts all of the world's information further out of reach and condemning some to "pay to play" deals. 

Go here to read more.

Business
10:18 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Lansing's mayor orders review of BWL's handling of last month's major power outage

Thousands of Lansing Board of Water & Light customers sat in the dark for more than a week waiting for their power to be turned back on last month.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing’s mayor wants an independent review of how the city’s utility handled a major power outage last month.

The Lansing Board of Water and Light has been criticized for the long wait many of its customers had before their electricity was restored after the Dec. 22 ice storm. About 40% of BWL’s customers lost power after the storm. Many had to wait for more than a week to have their lights turned back on.

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Business
10:10 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

Lansing BWL officials face critics of last month's major power outage response

Lansing Board of Water and Light officials, including General Manager J. Peter Lark (far left), heard from critics and supporters alike during the meeting
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Lansing Board of Water and Light officials are defending their heavily criticized response to last month’s major power outage.

BWL customers like Alice Dreger are livid over having to wait more than a week for their power to be turned back on.

"Let me tell you, when you have live wires down for nine to 12 days, safety is not job one,” Dreger told a packed meeting last night at BWL’s headquarters.

But a majority of those taking the podium praised the work of BWL employees. Most were BWL employees and officials, though a few were BWL customers.

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Business
9:00 am
Tue January 7, 2014

Lansing BWL officials to discuss what went wrong after December's ice storm

40% of BWL customers lost power in the Dec. 22nd ice storm. Many had to wait up to 11 days to have their power turned back on.
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

In the midst of the current weather crisis, Lansing utility officials plan to spend time tonight trying to figure out what went wrong during the last weather crisis in the capitol city.

Two weeks ago, an ice storm knocked out power to 40% of Lansing Board of Water and Light customers.

Many customers grew very angry as they waited for more than a week to get their electricity turned back on. That anger only grew worse when it was learned that the man in charge of the city’s utility left town during the outage to spend time with his family in New York.

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Business
1:32 pm
Sun January 5, 2014

Michigan utilities closely monitoring today's big snow storm

Oh Snow, Not Again
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Heavy snow is blanketing parts of Michigan that just recovered from an ice storm two weeks ago.

Hundreds of thousands of utility customers spent days, in some cases nearly two weeks, without electricity.

“At this point we’re monitoring, and ready to respond, depending on what weather may come,” says Dan Bishop, a Consumers Energy spokesman.

Statewide, utility officials are closely watching to see if weather conditions may threaten to undo the repair work done over the past few weeks.

Business
8:37 am
Sun December 29, 2013

Most power restored in Michigan, LBWL still has work to do

Linemen for Consumers Energy work to restore power.
Credit Consumers Energy

Power has been restored for most homes and businesses in Michigan after a massive ice storm hit the state last weekend. But there are still thousands who have been without power for a week now.

Last weekend’s ice storm left half a million Michiganders in the dark. Around the clock work by line crews, including help from other states, has much of the power restored for DTE and Consumers Energy customers.  

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Business
1:21 pm
Sat December 28, 2013

Lansing's BWL adding storm repair crews

The Lansing Board of Water and Light says it's getting some help from other utilities and contractors as it continues to repair damage from an ice storm that hit the region a week ago.

The utility says about 3,000 customers are still without power.

BWL spokesman Stephen Serkaian says the crews are working on circuits in the following areas:

Grand River/Edgebrook

W. Saginaw/Carey

Pattengill/Barnes

Chieho/W. Saginaw

St. Joe/Canal

Cavanagh/Pennsylvania

Mt. Hope/Sunnyside

Northeast/Community

Old Lansing Rd/E. Libby

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