Business

Business
1:31 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Chrysler adds to business presence in downtown Detroit

The Dime Building/"Chrysler House"
wikimedia commons

Chrysler will start renting office space in a downtown Detroit skyscraper later this year.

Chrysler’s CEO and other business leaders have already re-christened the building “Chrysler House.”

Chrysler will move only about 70 employees into the former Dime building in the heart of downtown Detroit. But CEO Sergio Marchionne says it reflects Chrysler’s commitment to “put down roots” in the city and the region.

Marchionne says the resurgent Chrysler sees its own fortunes tied to Detroit’s.

“The people of Detroit and this region have contributed to making our country great again with their talent, their commitment, and their sweat," Marchionne said. "Detroit is the place that we feel at home. That’s why we’re proud to say that from now on, this building is going to be known as Chrysler House.”

Marchionne also noted Chrysler’s plans to “substantially expand” its industrial presence in the city. The automaker plans to re-open one Detroit assembly plant, and up production at two others by next year.

The move is also another win for the city’s central business district, which has announced some major new tenants in the past few months.

Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert has been one of the key figures pushing to revitalize downtown with his Detroit 2.0 initiative.

“Together we are creating an urban core in downtown Detroit, that will be a spark of the entire region, that will have jobs, growth, and excitement,” Gilbert said.

Marchionne says Chrysler employees will move in once the space is refurbished, likely sometime this summer.

The Detroit Free Press also reports that Chrysler has now committed $3.3 million to help build a light rail project in downtown Detroit. The M-1 rail project will jumpstart with funds from private backers. It's still awaiting approval from city, state, and federal officials.

Business
3:37 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

Forget Silicon Valley: Can college students make Michigan a startup hub?

TechArb is a business incubator that encourages University of Michigan students to develop their business ideas.
Univ. of Mich. YouTube

What do you get when you put dozens of college students in the basement of a parking garage with some office furniture, a WiFi connection and free coffee?

Well, it turns out you’ll end up with some pretty innovative ideas - as long as those students all happen to have diverse interests and a passion for entrepreneurship.

That’s the idea behind TechArb, a University of Michigan program that aims to provide student entrepreneurs with the mentoring, workspace and, in a few cases, funding needed to start their own businesses.

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Business
1:59 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

"Start Garden" to use $15 million to grow ideas into businesses

Entreprenuer Rick DeVos explains how Start Garden works at a press conference Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapids entrepreneur is launching a $15 million venture capital fund to turn people’s ideas into successful businesses.

The DeVos family is backing the fund, called Start Garden. Richard DeVos started Amway, now the world’s largest direct selling company.

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Business
6:32 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

GE shareholders meeting met by protests

General Electric shareholders convened for their annual meeting at Detroit’s Renaissance Center Wednesday.

They were met by protesters who say GE and other big companies are not shouldering their fair share of the tax burden.

Thousands of people, calling themselves part of the “99% coalition,” shouted for GE to pay its “fair share.”

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Business
2:09 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Groups protest outside GE shareholder meeting in Detroit

user Bubba73 wikimedia commons

DETROIT (AP) - About two dozen people chanting "pay your fair share" were escorted from the General Electric Co. shareholder meeting in Detroit's Renaissance Center as more than 1,000 others picketed outside the downtown building.

Organizers said Wednesday morning's protest was part of the "99 percent" movement and a call for GE and others in corporate America to pay a fair share in taxes.

The crowd later marched onto nearby Jefferson Avenue, where traffic was temporarily blocked. Detroit police, including some on horseback, monitored the demonstration. No arrests were reported.

GE spokesman Gary Sheffer has said GE's 2011 U.S. income tax rate of 25 percent has been paid.

Business
11:51 am
Tue April 24, 2012

Marathon Oil offers more money in Detroit neighborhood buyout plan

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is expanding its facility.
Marathon Oil Company

The Marathon Oil refinery in southwest Detroit is in the process of expanding its facility to process heavier crude oil from Canada.

The expansion brings the company's new refining equipment closer to Detroit's Oakwood Heights neighborhood.

Marathon has been offering to buy homes in this neighborhood to create a buffer zone between the refinery and other residential areas.

Some homeowners in Oakwood Heights have signed on with the buyouts, others have stayed put.

The Detroit News' Jim Lynch reports Marathon has upped the amount it's willing to pay:

This month, Marathon officials said 86 percent of the owners have chosen to enroll in the buyout program — meaning they are willing to have their home appraised and see a monetary offer from the company.

Marathon is sweetening the pot, too, as it initially set a minimum appraisal price of $40,000 per home but already has bumped that figure up to $50,000.

The buyout plan is expected to head off lawsuits from those who live in this area. So far, the program has avoided legal entanglements, but it has generated plenty of hard feelings.

Oakwood Heights is an area surrounded by heavy industry. In addition to the refinery, there's the city's sewage treatment plant, a salt mine, a steel factory, and other industries.

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Business
11:45 am
Mon April 23, 2012

There's a new player in Michigan's electricity market

Brown michiganradio

A new energy company has moved into the residential power market in Michigan.

Glacial Energy has been operating in Michigan since 2008. But now they’re offering their services directly to households, too.

Glacial Energy regulatory affairs manager Derek Smiertka says the company only operates at the retail level—and that means they can generally offer cheaper rates than the big utilities.

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Business
1:39 pm
Mon April 16, 2012

Michigan could eliminate state oversight of 18 occupations, and 9 boards

Seems like something that could use some oversight. The ORR recommends eliminating the Board of Carnivals & Amusement Rides, but stepping up fees for inspection.
user lehigh valley, PA Flickr

It could be welcome news for all the ocularists, auctioneers, and acupuncturists out there.

The Michigan's Office of Regulatory Reinvention (yes, the agency was created by Gov. Snyder) has issued a report proposing the state should drop oversight of 18 occupations, and get rid of nine "occupational boards," while increasing inspection fees for ski resorts and carnivals.

More from the ORR's press release:

"According to a 2007 study, Michigan is the sixth most heavily-regulated state with respect to occupational licensing. This study found that for each occupation that a state regulated, that occupation would experience a decrease in the rate of job growth by 20 percent on average," said Steven H. Hilfinger, Chief Regulatory Officer and LARA Director. "Occupational regulations, while in many cases necessary to protect consumers and public health, operate as a barrier to entry into a given profession. This inhibits entrepreneurship and restricts competition, leading to increased costs and decreased levels of service for consumers."

Even though two of the boards they suggest cutting are the Carnival Amusement Safety Board and the Ski Area Safety Board, state officials say inspections for these operations should continue:

While the ORR recommends abolishing the Carnival Amusement Safety Board, the ORR recommends the licensing and inspections should continue and fees should be increased to be sufficient to cover administrative costs of regulation. Similarly, the ORR recommends that Ski Area Safety licensing and inspections should continue and fees should be increased to be sufficient to cover administrative costs.

Here's a list of the occupations officials recommended deregulating and the boards they recommend be cut:

The 18 occupations recommended for deregulation are:

  • Acupuncturist
  • Auctioneers
  • Community Planner
  • Consumer Finance Services
  • Dieticians & Nutritionists
  • Forensic Polygraph Examiner
  • Forester
  • Immigration Clerical Assistant
  • Insurance Solicitor
  • Interior Designer
  • Landscape Architect
  • Ocularist
  • Professional Employer Organizations
  • Proprietary School Solicitors
  • Respiratory Care
  • Security Alarm Contractors
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Vehicle Protection Product Warrantor

The 9 occupational boards recommended for elimination are:

  • Board of Acupuncture
  • Board of Auctioneers
  • Board of Carnivals & Amusement Rides
  • Board of Dietetics & Nutrition
  • Board of Occupational Therapy
  • Board of Respiratory Care
  • Board of Speech Language Pathology
  • Osteopathic Medicine Advisory Board
  • Ski Area Safety Board

The Office of Regulatory Reinvention was created in February 2011 within  the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

It's charged with overseeing current and proposed rules and regulations in the state and with "creating a regulatory environment and regulatory processes that are fair, efficient, and conducive to business growth and job creation."

On its website, the ORR boasts a "net reduction" of 363 rules in the state since April 23, 2011.
 

Politics
10:44 am
Fri January 20, 2012

Governor Snyder gives State of the State, business edition

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Rick Snyder for Michigan Facebook

DETROIT (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is offering a business-focused version of his State of the State address to a commerce-friendly crowd.

The Republican told business leaders Friday at a Detroit Regional Chamber-hosted event that the state made great progress last year. He says more must be done to fix transportation and more should be invested in fixing roads and bridges.

His remarks come two days after his State of the State speech.

The former businessman has praised business for helping improve Michigan's economy last year by adding 80,000 jobs. That helped push the unemployment rate to about 2 percentage points lower than when he took office last year.

He says the cost of doing business has been lowered, encouraging businesses. Democratic lawmakers say businesses have been helped at the workers' expense.

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Arts/Culture
12:05 pm
Thu January 12, 2012

Artpod: Work, reimagined

user ronnieb morgueFile

Today's Artpod is all about work...or rather, re-imagining what work can be.

Many people view Michigan as ground zero when it comes to job loss and unemployment. Yet despite the tough economy, some people are quitting their jobs in an effort to pursue their creative passions, which are often unpaid.

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Indictment
1:56 pm
Wed September 28, 2011

Three corporate executives indicted in compressor price-fixing case

A refrigerator compressor. The thing that makes your refrigerator cold. Three executives have been indicted by a Detroit federal grand jury on charges of conspiring to fix the price of compressors.
Dave Matos Flickr

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury in Detroit has indicted three former executives from a Whirlpool Corporation subsidiary, a Panasonic Corporation, and a Tecumseh Products Company subsidiary for conspiring to fix prices on refrigerant compressors.

The compressors are used in refrigerators and freezers.

From the DOJ's press release:

The indictment, returned today in U.S. District Court in Detroit, charges Ernesto Heinzelmann, former president and chief executive officer of Empresa Brasileira de Compressores S.A. (Embraco), a division of Whirlpool S.A.; Gerson Veríssimo, former president of Tecumseh do Brasil Ltda., a subsidiary of Tecumseh Products Company; and Naoki Adachi, general manager of global sales & SE group, refrigeration devices division at Panasonic Corporation, with conspiring to suppress and eliminate competition by coordinating price increases for refrigerant compressors to customers in the United States and elsewhere.

Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General from the DOJ's Antitrust Division said:

“Cracking down on international price fixing cartels has been and will continue to be among the most significant priorities for the Antitrust Division. Our investigation into the refrigerant compressors industry has already resulted in two companies – Panasonic and Embraco North America – pleading guilty and paying a total of $140.9 million in criminal fines. Our investigation is continuing.”

The three are being charged for price fixing under the Sherman Act. The maximum penalty they each face is 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

The DOJ reports that their investigation led to guilty pleas in 2010 from Panasonic and Embraco North America Inc:

On Nov. 15, 2010, Panasonic Corporation pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $49.1 million criminal fine, and on Dec.16, 2010, Embraco North America Inc. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a $91.8 million criminal fine.

Investigative
6:00 am
Mon September 19, 2011

A city 'reinventing' itself with less money from the state

The Michigan legislature and the governor are working to make Michigan a more business-friendly state by changing the tax structure.  But, while businesses are benefiting from already passed tax reductions --and anticipate more--  the change is costing communities. 

I went to one city to see how it was handling those changes.

When I visited, it was a beautiful day in downtown Monroe.  The city is situated on the River Raisin in the southeast corner of the state, right on Lake Erie.  It’s just 19 miles north of Toledo, Ohio.

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Investigative
6:00 am
Mon September 12, 2011

Another tax break for Michigan businesses?

Large corporations such as automakers and their suppliers say they need tax relief at the state level.
Lester Graham Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are considering eliminating the Personal Property Tax.  That’s a tax businesses pay on equipment.  The money goes directly to local units of government.  Businesses say it’s a complicated tax that punishes them for investing in equipment.  Cities, townships, counties and schools say if the tax is eliminated, that revenue has to be replaced. 

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Business
2:10 pm
Thu September 1, 2011

Stores in Michigan no longer need individual price tags as of today

No more individual price tags in Michigan stores as of today.
user walmart stores Flickr

Governor Snyder called for it last January during his first State of the State address, the law passed the legislature, and now it's in effect.

Individual price tags on each item are no longer in Michigan stores as of today.

From the Associated Press:

For the first time in decades, price tags no longer are required on most retail items in Michigan stores.

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Economy
1:01 am
Thu August 25, 2011

Michigan retailers turning more optimistic

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A new survey finds Michigan retailers are growing more optimistic that they will see their sales improve over the next three months.    

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retailers Association.   He says the survey’s results are the most optimistic state retailers have been about the economy since the end of last year.

 "I think we’re scratching our heads a little bit over why there’s so much optimism out there…given the mixed economic news we’ve been getting. "

Politics
10:56 am
Wed August 24, 2011

Governor Snyder, Going to China

The other day, Gov. Rick Snyder’s office announced he would be going to China next month. Actually, he will be going to both China and Japan, on a whirlwind, week-long trip that will begin with his attending a trade association meeting in Tokyo.

This will be a high-powered trip. Along with him, the governor will be taking Mike Finney, the director of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, known as MEDC; the state agriculture director, and four other economic development officials.

The reason for the trip, the governor’s communications director said, was to talk about why investment in Michigan is a good idea, and also to promote our state’s farm products.

Politicians often get criticized for taking junkets abroad -- sometimes rightly so. But not only is this trip a good idea, it is terribly necessary and way overdue.  In Toledo, just to our south, Chinese businessmen have spent millions to buy land along the Maumee riverfront, which they plan to develop for a variety of uses.

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Economy
1:52 pm
Sun August 21, 2011

Using "Pure Michigan" campaign to rebrand the state's business climate

MEDC President Michael Finney (left) listens as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder talks to reporters at the Michigan International Speedway prior to the start of the Pure Michigan 400
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign targeted a new audience over the weekend….NASCAR fans.   The state tourism marketing campaign sponsored the nationally televised “Pure Michigan 400” race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.   It's part of the state’s 25 million dollar tourism promotion budget.  

Michael Finney is the President the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.  He says the NASCAR sponsorship is part of an evolution of the marketing campaign.  

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Changing Gears
11:26 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Road Trip: Orrville, more than a company town (Part 5)

John Schmid vice president of Smith Dairy in Orrville, OH. The family adopted the business name Smith before World War I—a time when the German-sounding Schmid was not an asset.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

Our Changing Gears team has been on the road this week traveling to some of our company towns in the Midwest.

Changing Gears is a Michigan Radio project looking at the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest.

Our final stop is Orrville, Ohio: A place that seems like a company town, but there’s long been a whole lot more going on in Orrville.

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Changing Gears
10:16 am
Thu July 28, 2011

Road Trip: Norwalk saves its company (Part 4)

Saving Norwalk Furniture means about 150 locals have jobs again.
Dan Bobkoff Changing Gears

When a company bears the name of its hometown, it can be hard to separate the two. Such is the case with Norwalk Furniture and the town of Norwalk in Northern Ohio. Sue Lesch is the town’s mayor.

“It really is our flagship company,” said Sue Lesch, Norwalk’s mayor. “It’s the company we’re proud of. We’re known for furniture all over the country.”

For more than a hundred years, Norwalk Furniture made custom-order sofas and chairs in its Ohio factory. For a long time, it was the biggest business in town, employing about 700 in this town of 17,000.

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Economy
12:21 pm
Tue July 26, 2011

Michigan businesses to receive boost from new public-private program

Governor Rick Snyder is expected to announce details of a public-private grant program aimed at small to medium sized businesses.
Russ Climie Tiberius Images

UPDATE 4:30 p.m.

One hundred thirty million will be available to Michigan businesses as part of a new grant program. The money is the first of the Small Business Association’s Impact Investment Initiative. The goal is to help grow and create jobs through public-private partnerships. The InvestMichigan! fund is a partnership between the SBA, Dow Chemical Company and state funds.

Karen Mills is with the SBA. She says Michigan was the perfect place to start the program.

“Michigan has great assets. It has one of the highest engineers per capita for any state. It has a well-trained workforce, it has great universities and it has extraordinary entrepreneurs,” Mills said.

The program will distribute 1-point-5-billion-dollars to businesses nationwide throughout the next five years.

- Amelia Carpenter - Michigan Radio Newsroom

ORIGINAL POST: 12:21 p.m.

Details on a public-private grant program aimed at helping small to medium sized businesses in Michigan will be announced during a press call at 1 p.m. today.

Governor Snyder will discuss the new program along with Karen Mills of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Andrew Liveris, Chairman and CEO of Dow Chemical Company, State Treasurer Andy Dillon, and Kelly Williams of Credit Suisse's Customized Fund Investment Group.

Andrew Dodson of Booth Mid-Michigan reports that Dow Chemical's investment in the program is expected to facilitate investment from the federal and state government:

According to a source close to the information, the program's impact will be "quite substantial." Dow Chemical is expected to provide funds and help facilitate bringing federal and state funds to bear upon local markets."It's meant for businesses who need financing, but can't get loans or financing right now," the source said.InvestMichigan! is a group with a series of funds focused on growing the next generation of Michigan companies, according to its website, and is one of the partners involved in today's announcement. It's federal counterpart, ImpactAmerica, is also involved.

Amelia Carpenter in the Michigan Radio Newsroom will be on the call and will have more for us later.

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