Business

Business
4:01 pm
Sat May 5, 2012

Crop insurance now a top priority for many hard hit Michigan farmers

Many Michigan farmers are spending this May focusing on their insurance needs.

The sporadic spring freezes and frosts that followed the unusually mild winter devastated Michigan’s apple, cherry and peach crops.     Most farmers have access to some form of crop insurance.   But according to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the insurance only covers about 60 to 70 percent of the loss.

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Business
5:18 pm
Thu May 3, 2012

DTE shareholders meeting met by protests

DTE Energy shareholders were met by protesters at their annual meeting in Detroit Thursday.

Hundreds of people demonstrated outside the company’s Detroit headquarters.  And inside, several interrupted CEO Gerard Anderson as he tried to run the meeting.

Protesters shouted for DTE to “Pay its fair share!”

They were talking about the fact that DTE was named as one of the nation’s “Dirty 30” companies in a recent report—one that paid more in lobbying expenses than federal income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

Demonstrators also protested the utility’s shutoff policies. The utility shut off service to 200,000 in its southeast Michigan service area in 2011.

That number has more than doubled over the past five years.

Demonstrators also criticized DTE’s continued reliance on coal-fired power, rather than renewable energy.

Protester Thomas Reinke said renewable power sources are now both cleaner and less expensive than coal.

 “We’re getting poorer and poorer every day, and we’re being forced to pay high costs of utilities that could be offset by wind and solar, or other types of renewable energy,” said Reinke, who says he owns a small, residential renewable energy business.

DTE officials announced Thursday that they’re looking for more wind energy suppliers.

“DTE Energy is seeking approximately 100 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy from Michigan-based wind projects that will be operating by the end of 2013.  This solicitation is part of DTE Energy's plan to meet Michigan's renewable energy goals,” the company said in a written statement.

By state law, they must provide 10% of their power from renewable sources by 2015.

As for the tax-dodging accusations, a DTE spokesman counters that the utility has paid more $1 billion in taxes since 2008, mostly to state and local governments.

News Roundup
9:20 am
Thu May 3, 2012

In this morning's news headlines...

Morning News Roundup, Wednesday, May 2nd
Brother O'Mara Flickr

Big profit for General Motors, Chrysler plants to stay open

General Motors beat predictions and posted a profit of $1 billion for the first quarter of 2012. That's down more than 68 percent from the company's first quarter profit from last year, according to the Detroit News.

The Detroit Free Press reports it's the company's ninth straight quarterly profit:

“It’s a long-term path that we’re on to get to the profitability levels that we want,” Dan Ammann, GM’s chief financial officer, told reporters this morning. “This is a solid quarter: revenue growth, profit growth, margin growth, cash flow improvement.”

And with more signs of a humming auto industry, Chrysler says it plans to keep three plants it typically idles during the summer open. From the Detroit News:

Chrysler Group LLC is canceling the traditional summer shutdown at three more of its factories to keep up with demand for its hot-selling cars and crossovers.

The Toledo Supplier Park in Ohio, the Belvidere Assembly Plant in Illinois and Chrysler's plant in Toluca, Mexico, will join Detroit's Jefferson North plant in working through the summer.

Auction for drilling rights coming up

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says it's holding an auction in Lansing next week for oil and gas drilling rights on about 108-thousand acres in 23 counties. The DNR says it holds the auctions twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall. The proceeds from state-owned mineral lease rights go to buy land for public use, maintenance and improvements of state and local parks, and care of state fishery and wildlife habitats.

Cherry retailers look elsewhere for fruit

The bizarre warm weather coupled with a late freeze wiped out a good portion of Michigan's cherry crop, as Bob Allen reported for the Environment Report.

Lizzy Alfs at AnnArbor.com writes that retailers are searching for another supply:

With the majority of Michigan’s expansive cherry crop destroyed by this weather, Cherry Republic President Bob Sutherland said he was forced to think outside the box in order to continue selling his variety of cherry products.

His solution: Ordering millions of cherries from the Lublin region in Poland.

Business
1:56 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Huntington Bank plans to open branches in Michigan Meijer stores

Ohio-based Huntington Bank says it plans to open branches in dozens of Meijer stores in Michigan. The bank and the Grand Rapids-based retailer have announced a 10-year partnership.

They say this will add 500 jobs for Huntington Bank in Michigan. The branches will operate with extended hours, giving shoppers time to conduct business on evenings and weekends. Huntington has partnered with another Grand Rapids based company, Steelcase, to design the branches.

tax code
1:36 pm
Mon April 30, 2012

Stabenow wants to stop businesses from writing off moving expenses overseas

Senator Debbie Stabenow unveiled the "Bring Jobs Home Act" at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids Monday morning. GVSU student senate president Jack Iott is to her right.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow will introduce a bill next week to prevent companies from getting tax write-offs for moving overseas.

Currently businesses can write off moving expenses on their taxes if they’re moving within or out of the country.  But no such break exists for businesses moving into the U.S.

“That makes absolutely no sense,” Stabenow said at a press conference Monday at Grand Valley State University.

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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. "

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