Business

Business
11:17 am
Thu February 27, 2014

Michigan's winter weather also chilling business

46% of Michigan retailers report their sales were down last month, compared to January 2013. Only 30% said their cash registers were busier.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

The brutal winter weather is taking a toll on Michigan retailers.

A major ice storm just before Christmas resulted in poor overall holiday season sales for many Michigan stores.

The brutally cold January that followed was just as bad, according to a new report by the Michigan Retailers Association, which says 46% of retailers report their sales were down last month, compared to January 2013. Only 30% said their cash registers were busier.

The gloom created by slow sales may carry over into the rest of the year.

Stateside
4:22 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

More women are becoming farmers in Michigan

A Michigan farm.

The face of farming in America, and here in Michigan, is changing.

More and more often, that farmer raising crops or tending to a dairy herd is a woman.

As women move from a supporting role to a starring role on Michigan farms, how is this changing agriculture?

Sue Raker is the owner and operator of Cloverland Apiary and Farm on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula.

And Wynne Wright is a professor in community sustainability and sociology at Michigan State University. They both joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Business
2:00 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Hip hops: Growers needed to serve booming craft beer industry

Hops grown on a farm in Leelenau, Michigan.
Andrew McFarlane Creative Commons

A new non-profit association is trying to strengthen the supply chain of Michigan-grown hops.

Hops are one of the main ingredients in beer. The plants grow vertically, up to 25 feet or more, so you don’t need a huge farm to grow one of the main ingredients in beer.

Rick Chapla is vice president of business development at The Right Place, an economic development group based in Grand Rapids. He sees real potential for urban farmers to try growing hops.

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Business
1:51 pm
Sun February 23, 2014

Legislators back Lake Michigan barge proposal

The Michigan Agri-Business Association says 86 House members and eight senators have signed letters favoring the idea.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

MUSKEGON, Mich. (AP) - Supporters of allowing cargo barges to travel on Lake Michigan as far north as Muskegon say they've lined up significant backing from members of the state legislature.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association says 86 House members and eight senators have signed letters favoring the idea.

Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright says allowing barges to call at ports in Muskegon and elsewhere along the lake's eastern shore would give those areas a better shot at economic growth opportunities. Sen. Goeff Hansen says it would lead to infrastructure improvements.

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Business
3:43 pm
Fri February 14, 2014

Agri-business wants river barges to access Muskegon’s deep water port

Barge and ship traffic transport export cargo on the Mississippi River in the Port of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA on Sept. 9, 2005.
USDA Creative Commons

The Michigan Agri-Business Association wants to open the Port of Muskegon to river barge traffic.

The large, flat-bottomed boats already carry huge shipments from New Orleans up the Mississippi River to ports in Milwaukee and Indiana.

The Michigan Agri-Business Association wants the U.S. Coast Guard to allow the ships to come to Muskegon’s deep water port too.

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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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