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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder has announced a partnership designed to help skilled immigrants and refugees living in Michigan integrate into the workforce.

Snyder's office says the program involves the nonprofit group Upwardly Global and the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The governor says the department is issuing 10 online guides that explain Michigan's professional licensing requirements for individuals who were educated or have work experience overseas.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal court challenge is blocking a group of west Michigan bakers from forming a union.

A federal court is preventing the National Labor Relations Board from certifying local union elections, because three of the board’s five members were appointed by President Obama without congressional approval.

In 2012, Panera Bread bakers voted to form a union at 6 locations along I-94 in west Michigan. The NLRB certified the vote.  But because of the legal challenge to the president’s appointees, the issue remains in limbo. 

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A major union is disputing claims by Michigan’s home builders that there are not enough skilled workers to fill all the jobs in the state’s resurgent construction industry.

New home prices are up in Michigan this year. Building permits are also up.

But the Home Builders Association of Michigan released a survey last month claiming a deep gap between the number of skilled trades workers and the jobs available.

That’s not true, according to Mike Jackson.   He’s the Secretary-Treasurer of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan business owners say they still need answers to how the Affordable Care Act will affect their businesses.

About 200 people attended a seminar on "Obamacare" today in East Lansing.

The federal health care law takes effect January 1st.  Businesses with more than 50 employees will have to provide health care insurance to their employees or pay a penalty.

Ed Harden is the VP of Sales for McLaren Health Plan. He says business owners have just one question for him, “How much is this going to cost?”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Lansing bio-pharmaceutical company has opened a ten million dollar expansion at its Lansing facility.

Emergent Biosolutions produces an anthrax vaccine at its facility in Lansing.

“The government is purchasing as much as we can produce,” says Daniel Abdun Nabi, the company’s president, “So one of the reasons we have expanded here on the Lansing campus is to address the nation’s requirement for a broader stockpile of BioThrax.”

The company hopes to triple its Lansing production of the anthrax vaccine by 2015.

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For decades, the Weather Ball has been an icon in Flint. It perches atop the Citizens Bank headquarters at 328 S. Saginaw Street.

FirstMerit  bought the former Citizens Bank in September 2012. 

Today, FirstMerit unveiled its plans to renovate the Weather Ball. 

Jeremy Allen of MLive-Flint Journal covered the event:

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan farmers are waiting to see if Congress can reach a deal soon on a new Farm Bill.

The U.S. Senate passed its version of the nearly trillion dollar, five year Farm Bill on Monday. The U.S. House continues to work on its own version of the bill, which funds crop insurance and other programs for farmers, along with food assistance for the needy.

The Farm Bill has been stalled in Congress for more than a year. And that has made it difficult for Michigan farmers to plan for the future.

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Marketplace, a national radio show on business, economics, and money "for the rest of us," was broadcasting from our studios last night.

Host Kai Ryssdal and his team were here to report on the Whole Foods opening in Midtown, an up-and-coming neighborhood in downtown Detroit.

At the opening, Ryssdal had a chance to interview Walter Robb, the CEO of Whole Foods.

MICHIGAMME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Tunneling at an Upper Peninsula mine is expected to be completed less than two years after digging started.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reports that Redpath Mining Contractors and Engineers expect to finish their work Friday at the Rio Tinto Eagle Mine in Michigamme Township.

More than two miles of tunnels have been built since drilling started in September 2011. The operation will mine and backfill ore which contains nickel and copper.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s improving real estate market could actually lead to a new round of home foreclosures.

Michigan’s home foreclosure rate has been falling for the past few years. That's partly because banks were more interested in short sales. That's selling a home for less than what's owed on the mortgage.

Now Michigan’s real estate market is improving, with better prices and more interested buyers.

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says short sales started tumbling in Michigan during the first quarter of the year.

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Building permits are up by more than a third this year in Michigan.  Home prices are also rising.

These should be great days for Michigan’s homebuilding industry, which nearly ground to a halt during the recession.

But there’s a problem: not enough workers.

A survey finds a third of Michigan homebuilding contractors are having trouble finding enough workers to do the job. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s tourism hot spots are in the midst of their first big summer weekend.

Michigan State University’s annual tourism forecast predicts a three percent increase in the number of tourists this year. The forecast also predicts a five percent increase in tourism spending in 2013.

Brad Van Dommelen is the president of the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau. He says Traverse City-area hotels have seen an uptick in pre-bookings.

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It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for our weekly conversation with Daniel Howes, the Business Columnist at the Detroit News.

This week, he focused on the business community in Detroit, where companies like General Motors are trying to give back through programs like the GM Student Corps. From Howe's column:

By itself, the pilot program unveiled in the Wintergarden of GM’s Renaissance Center, isn’t front-page news in a city bursting with the good, the bad and the financially ugly on a weekly basis. What GM Student Corps signifies, however, is another example of a key player in the business community seeing a communal need and moving to fill it, quickly.

He joined us today to discuss the business in Detroit as well as the health of the auto industry.

Listen to the full interview above.

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You could soon be able to pick up a bottle of wine at your local farmers' market.

Tomorrow, the state House Regulatory committee will discuss legislation that would allow wine sampling and sales at farmers’ markets. The bills (SB 79 and SB 279) have already passed the state Senate.

Donna McClurkan is with the Michigan Farmers Markets Association. She says it’s a way to support another part of Michigan's agricultural industry.

“We see it as a potential growth opportunity for aspiring small wineries,” says McClurkan.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy meter readers may soon start making their rounds with a police escort.

The Jackson-based utility announced it is implementing a new aggressive dog policy.

Spokesman Roger Morgenstern says last year more than a dozen Consumers meter readers were attacked or threatened by dogs.

“The fact is this is the customer’s home. The customers have a right to have pets,” says Morgenstern, “So we’re hoping this would strike a right compromise.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Small Flint entrepreneurs are getting a boost from a new micro-lending program.

The group, KIVA.org, uses its website to link small business owners with individuals willing to loan them a small amount of money to get their business started.

Elizabeth Garlow is with Michigan Corps.   She says the future success of the KIVA Flint program depends on local people getting involved.

“It really will depend on how quickly the community rallies around this initiative…and takes action to go and nominate an entrepreneur and lend to them,” says Garlow.

Ted Van Pelt / Flickr

It's Thursday which means it's time for our weekly check-in with Detroit News business columnist Dan Howes.

Today Dan is hearing the roar of Indy cars and the "ca-chink" of money that will be flowing into Detroit with next month's Belle Isle Grand Prix.

We've talked in recent weeks about Dan Gilbert and what he's doing to re-shape downtown Detroit, and, in turn, pump up Southeast Michigan.

Today, we focus on someone else who's putting his money where his mouth is, so to speak, in boosting the Detroit area: Roger Penske.

Listen to the full interview above.

Tart cherries, the main cherry crop in Michigan.
Emily Fox / Michigan Radio

The weather may seem perfect to a lot us right now.

But not so perfect for farmers, many of whom have yet to plant their spring crops.

Michigan has been enjoying beautiful sunny skies during the month of May, but the state’s farmers are still waiting for their fields to dry out from April’s heavy showers.

Fields are so soggy that only about 5% of Michigan’s corn crop has been planted.  Compare that with 2012 when 42% of the crop at this time last year.

“I don’t think we’ve got a lot of nervousness right now,” says Ken Nye, with the Michigan Farm Bureau, “It does mean we’re ….going to compress this thing a little bit…and it does mean that we could be a little bit late before everything gets finishes up depending on the weather from here.”

Nye says by contrast Michigan’s fruit crops are doing well this year.  Especially compared with 2012.   More than 90% of Michigan’s tart cherry crop was lost after unusually warm weather in February led the trees to bloom early and more than a dozen freezes between March and May killed it.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A new Michigan State University survey finds a growing number of school lunch rooms, hospitals cafeterias and other institutions are interested in filling their pantries with locally grown food.

MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems has been asking institutions about whether they buy locally grown fruits, vegetables and other food staples since 2004.

Center director Michael Hamm says the number of school cafeterias buying local has tripled in the last decade. But he says there’s only so much more local farmers can produce now.

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Michigan lawmakers are looking at how to get online retailers to collect state sales taxes.

Currently, shoppers are supposed to report any sales taxes they owe on online purchases, and pay them with their income tax.

But most people don’t.

State Representative Eileen Kowall’s bill would put the responsibility on the online retailer.   She’s quick to say this is not a tax increase, just making sure that the taxes that are owed are being paid.

Kowall says the current system puts Michigan’s ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers at an unfair disadvantage.

Jackson National Life Insurance Company says it plans to spend $100 million on a new office complex in Lansing.

The life insurance and annuities company is headquartered in the capital city.

The expansion will add a thousand jobs of all types.

Mike Wells is Jackson National’s president. He says their growing business has outgrown the complex they built a decade ago.

“We now have twice the employees we had in Michigan,” says Wells, “we have outgrown our space.”

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Detroit and other cities in Michigan are turning to businesses to help pay for schools that provide a wide variety of services to students and their families.

Today JPMorgan Chase announced it will donate one and a half million dollars to pay for three “wraparound’ schools in Detroit.

Detroit schools emergency manager Roy Roberts says the idea recognizes that students won’t succeed without support at home.

“When we sat with students, one of the things students said to us was, can you help us teach our parents to be parents? Now you think deeply about that. That’s deep stuff. So we’re going to do everything we can. You’ve got parents with two jobs, two people working, broken families. We’ve got a lot of issues.”  

Roberts says the services can include parenting training, help finding a job, and counselors who are available around the clock.

Governor Rick Snyder was on hand for the announcement. Snyder says he wants businesses to become more directly connected to schools.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Whenever there's a conversation about looking for ways to generate ideas, business buzz and jobs, that conversation includes Grand Rapids.

Yesterday on Stateside, we noted that Grand Rapids was number four on a Forbes Magazine list of Best Cities in America to find a job.

In April 2012, Grand Rapids was in the news when ArtPrize founder Rick DeVos launched an "idea incubator" called Start Garden. The $15 million seed accelerator fund based in Grand Rapids was created to help launch more than 100 new business ideas each year.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A venture capital fund backed by the DeVos family has invested $2.3 million dollars in start-up companies in the past year. The money went to 106 different ideas or projects.

The fund is called Start Garden. It was created nearly a year ago by Amway co-founder Richard DeVos’ grandson Rick DeVos, who’s also an entrepreneur (and founder of ArtPrize). He gave an update on the fund this morning.

via Downtown Detroit Partnership

Exciting things are happening in downtown Detroit, and there’s a plan to keep up the positive momentum.

That’s the scenario the Downtown Detroit Partnership laid out at its annual lunch Wednesday.

The DDP outlined its vision for a dense, vibrant downtown Detroit of 2016.

The group is made up some of Detroit’s biggest business leaders. They’re putting money behind incentive programs and other projects to draw more residents and employees downtown.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Fraudulent loan activity declined slightly in Michigan at the end of last year.

Kroll Factual Data checks loan applications for phony buyers, attempts to misrepresent the value of homes and other fraudulent information.

Kroll president Rod Bazzani says there's been a surge in home loan refinancing, which may explain the decline.   He says refinancing more than doubled last year.

“When you understand that statistic, you realize you’re going to have much less fraud in a refinance environment than you would in a purchase loan environment,” says Bazzani.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) - The owner of Michigan's most famous summer hotel has died. R.D. "Dan" Musser Jr. was 80.

Musser owned the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. In a statement, the hotel says he died Saturday of congestive health failure at a Lansing hospital.

Musser started working at the hotel when he was in college in 1951. It was owned at the time by his uncle, W. Stewart Woodfill. Musser became president in 1960 and purchased the hotel, with wife Amelia, in 1979.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Lt. Gov. Brian Calley is leading a delegation of state and local officials, business people and economic development experts on a six-day investment trip to the Netherlands.

The group leaves today and returns next Friday. Other participants include Michigan House Speaker House Jase Bolger, state Sen. Arlan Meekhof and Michigan agriculture Director Jamie Clover Adams.

The lieutenant governor says Michigan's long-standing ties with Dutch companies have brought jobs to the state.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has recruited eight craft breweries in Michigan for a new campaign to promote clean water by supporting strengthening federal regulations like the Clean Water Act.

“When you talk about beer you have to talk about water,” said Jason Spaulding, co-owner of Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids. “It’s not as sexy as talking about malt or hops or things like that.”

Spaulding says about 90-percent of beer is made up of water. He says if you want a great locally brewed lager, IPA or pilsner; you need clean water.

“Doesn’t matter how many hops or how much malt you put in it, if your water is not good your beer is not going to be good,” Spaulding said.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s home builders are optimistic about the year ahead.

The recession walloped Michigan’s home building industry. Many builders went out of business. Others merged and focused on home remodeling.

But a new survey shows Michigan’s home builders are optimistic about getting back into the business of building new homes. They say pent up consumer demand, especially for more expensive homes ($200,000 to $800,000), is pushing up the Michigan Housing Index.

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