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Daniel Howes

A dive team works on Line 5 under the Straits of Mackinac.
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

It’s been a steady drip-drip-drip of revelations from Enbridge Energy about its Line 5 — the oil and gas pipelines running beneath the Straits of Mackinac.

The latest revelation is that there are more spots where the protective coating has worn off — lots more spots, even though a year ago we were told there weren’t any coating gaps.

The latest admission from the Canadian energy company drew a quick response from a plainly exasperated Governor Snyder, who called Enbridge’s “lack of transparency” to be “deeply troubling.”

But what are we hearing from Michigan's business leaders?

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Mayor Duggan cruised to re-election on Tuesday. 

Now comes the hard part.

During the city's bankruptcy, heavyweights used the city's dire economy to do what the mayor couldn't do in his first term. 

That included restructuring the city's budget, retiring debt, and renegotiating labor contracts with the city’s unions for the first time in decades.

Now, the mayor has to sustain the momentum behind Detroit’s reinvention. He needs to work with his departments — and persuade business investors — to broaden the redevelopment push into the city’s neighborhoods.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

The United Auto Workers may be facing a crisis of credibility.

Credit the justice department. What started as an investigation into corruption at Fiat Chrysler’s union training center is now broadening to General Motors and Ford Motor. As my dad would say: This is no joke.

For decades, the UAW enjoyed a reputation mostly free of financial scandal and corruption allegations. Now many of its ranking leaders and their charitable non-profits are part of subpoenas seeking records and raising one big question:

Who’s benefiting?

UAW-GM Center for Human Resources
Bill VanderMolen/flickr / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Four months ago, corruption charges were filed against a former Fiat Chrysler labor executive, and the wife of the late UAW vice president General Holiefield. They're accused of funneling millions intended for training UAW workers into their own pockets.

Today, the Detroit News reported that federal agents have broadened this corruption investigation to include a member of the General Motors board, plus the head of the UAW's GM department. The feds are also looking into the UAW training centers funded by GM and Ford.

Flint only has one choice for its water supply

Oct 28, 2017
Daniel Howes / Detroit News

This week's boil-water disaster in Oakland County may not instill much confidence in Flint City Council members.

They’re being pushed to green-light a deal with the Great Lakes Water Authority. But they should consider the alternatives.

There aren’t any.

Not for a place marinated in the politics of water, bureaucratic incompetence at all levels of government, and the high cost of bad decision-making.

University of Michigan Professor Rosina Bierbaum says scandals like Flint's water crisis have eroded public trust in the safety of drinking water
Courtesy of Raiz Up

There's a political and legal battle happening over Flint's drinking water.

U.S. District Judge David Lawson ordered Flint's City Council to choose a long-term source of drinking water, scolding the council for taking so long to green light the city's deal with the Great Lakes Water Authority.

The Council punted this week, okaying a short-term deal with the GLWA. But the tug of war between Flint's Mayor Karen Weaver, the council, the state, and Judge Lawson continues.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Governor Rick Snyder says chasing jobs in the global economy isn’t all about pushing incentives. But that’s not entirely true.

Michigan offered Foxconn Technology Group more than $7 billion in tax breaks, savings and cash for three different projects, according to state documents detailed this week.

And the state is a partner in the regional bid to land Amazon’s second North American headquarters – a competitive interstate free-for-all certain to include whopping incentives.

What’s changed? The game.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

It’s good to be Elon Musk.

The chairman of Tesla, the electric car maker, cops to, quote, “production hell” for its new Model 3 compact. And the response from Wall Street? Mostly just yawns.

Parts of the car are being “hand-built,” – for now, anyway – and Tesla’s stratospheric shares take only a slight hit. Seriously?

Yes, it’s good to be ol’ Elon – often wrong, never in doubt and seldom punished.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Not since Henry Ford and General Motors founder Billy Durant put America on wheels has the auto industry faced the disruption it does right now.

Not because oil prices are skyrocketing. And not because consumer demand is plummeting.

Forcing the change are two inexorable forces: technology and government regulators. They’re converging quickly. And the combination is pushing the likes of GM and Ford Motor into making seemingly contradictory bets.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Heard about America’s new parlor game? Global corporations are playing regions and taxpayers off one another to land the richest deal. And Michigan is in the game. So far, anyway.

Earlier this week, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed legislation obligating his state’s taxpayers to pay Taiwan’s Foxconn Technology a cool $2.85 billion in cash. That’s billion with a “B.”

What for? To offset its payroll and capital costs to set up shop in the southeast corner of that state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Don’t let the opening days of another school year, or another Michigan win at the Big House, fool you: public education in this state is in steep decline.

Out of the 50 states, Michigan ranks 37th in eighth-grade math and 41st in fourth-grade reading, says the nonpartisan Public Sector Consultants. Strip out the state’s lowest-income students, and fourth-grade reading slips to 48th.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

The advancement towards autonomous vehicles got a boost from Congress this week. Bipartisan action in the House of Representatives led to approval of a bill that could help the auto industry with its transformation to turning out self-driving vehicles.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says the bill the House approved Thursday allows automakers to test up to 100,000 self-driving cars on American roads. The bill also bars states from passing laws to stop automakers from testing autonomous vehicles.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Forget the notion that the Chinese are coming to the auto industry near you. They’re already here.

Geely has controlled Sweden’s Volvo for seven years now. Tencent Holdings owns a five percent stake in Elon Musk’s Tesla. Pacific Century Motors acquired Delphi’s Saginaw-based steering division to create Nexteer Automotive Corp. And Chinese companies spent $140 billion last year on mergers and acquisitions, second only to the United States.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Detroit is rightly seen as the center of the U.S. auto industry. But looking ahead into the years to come, the Motor City can expect to see competition from an increasingly influential player in the industry: China.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Chinese companies are approaching U.S. markets slightly differently than other foreign companies that have built on American soil.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Rising profits and record sales are no protection from predators – or a boss trying to extract value before it’s too late.

Just ask the fine folks at Fiat Chrysler. Their company is in play for the fifth time in roughly 20 years.

From independence, it went to the Germans, then back to the Americans. They drove it into bankruptcy, and then to the Italians of Fiat and Ferrari fame. Then they tried to entice General Motors and Volkswagen into deals nobody wanted.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Don’t buy the White House spin: President Donald Trump didn’t abandon his two panels of corporate CEOs. They abandoned him.

Equating neo-Nazis and white supremacists with counter-protestors, as the president did this week, will do that.

Within hours of his comments, leading CEOs – including General Motors’ Mary Barra – worked the phones to look for a way out, preferably without incurring the wrath of the Tweeter-in-Chief.

The answer: hang together to avoid hanging separately. What’s he gonna do? Denounce en masse the corporate CEOs he wooed to his business forums?

Foxconn goes to... Wisconsin

Jul 29, 2017
Daniel Howes / Detroit News

So the maker of Apple’s iPhone pledged to pump ten billion dollars and as many as 13,000 jobs into southeast Wisconsin.

But, don’t despair, Michigan. This thing ain’t over.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

These are tricky times for the United Auto Workers.

The guy in the White House says he wants what they want: more manufacturing jobs in the United States. But he’s actually not in charge of making that happen. Instead, the opposite is unspooling – from Harley Davidson cutting production to Detroit automakers shipping assembly of once-revered nameplates overseas.          

Cars sales are tanking, prompting the union that is synonymous with Detroit to start fretting in the halls of its hometown automakers.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

After a year of dithering, a bipartisan bloc of state lawmakers scored this week for competition.

You see, Michigan is an economy that’s been riding a seven-year expansion in auto sales, corporate tax reform and smarter fiscal management. But it hasn’t been enough to compete against fellow industrial states and then some.

Not against Ohio, for example, where economic development incentives are financed partly by booze. Buy a bottle of whiskey, and a slice of your buck goes to wooing corporations to the Buckeye state.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Whoever thinks consumers are driving the market for electric cars isn’t paying attention.

Countries are driving it, and investors know it. The latest? France, which said this week it plans to ban the sale of all gas and diesel-powered cars by 2040. Yes, all.

The government of French President Emmanuel Macron joins a growing list of nations prepared to use mandates to achieve what stubborn consumers operating in open markets will not. And that’s to drive what regulators and environmental activists think they should.

It’s all so Big Brother.

GM headquarters
Mark Goebel / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? In this case, the "old dog" is the Big Three automakers.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes thinks we're about to find out, for better or for worse.

He says auto sales are down for six consecutive months over last year. One critique of the Big Three automakers is that they are not able to manage a downturn in sales.

The Ford Focus
Ford Motor Company

In the rhetorical battle between President Donald Trump and Ford Motor’s investors, the president is losing.

The Blue Oval is moving American production of the Focus to China – presumably because shipping it to Mexico from Michigan wasn’t sufficiently controversial.

For the first time, a Detroit automaker will, quote, “globally source” an established model and use Chinese labor to assemble it for sale to American consumers. Let the tweet storm commence – or not, as it turns out.

CREDIT Joe Ravi / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

You may have missed the biggest news of the week – at least here in the Motor City. For the first time ever, Apple’s CEO confirmed the tech giant is hot for self-driving cars.

Buckle up, folks.

CEO Tim Cook says there’s “a major disruption looming” as self-driving technology, electric vehicles and ride-sharers like Uber and Lyft converge into one big ball of change. He says autonomous systems are a “core technology” for Apple and “the mother” of all artificial intelligence projects.

It’s seldom politically correct in this town to say one of our automakers is lagging the competition. But there are exceptions — and right now Ford Motor is one of them.

The Blue Oval shocked the auto world when it replaced CEO Mark Fields a few weeks ago with Jim Hackett, the former Steelcase boss turned University of Michigan athletic director. It pulled another one when it shuffled its global leadership team in a shakeup the Glass House hasn’t seen in a long time.

What’s going on here? Plenty, and it begins with a simple sentence: profit today is not enough for tomorrow.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes says Ford could stand to refresh its model lineup, and should invest more in connected vehicles.
Ford Motor Company

The automakers who'll survive and thrive in the 21st Century are the ones making the biggest strides in mobility and connectivity – the keys to the self-driving vehicles of the future.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes believes Ford has a lot of catching up to do, and there's a rough road ahead for new CEO Jim Hackett and his team.

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The party’s over on Mackinac Island.

If that’s what you insist on calling the Detroit Chamber’s annual policy conference on this island frozen in time — complete with its high-end hotel prices and tony wine bars. The only thing that moves fast here are the cash registers and welling nostalgia.

That’s a problem. Michigan and its largest city do their best work in a crisis. But as 1,700 or so of the state’s business movers and political shakers descended on the Grand Hotel this past week, there is no real crisis to rally the collective mind.

Steve Shotwell / Flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Nine years after Ford Motor recruited an outsider to save it from itself, the automaker’s doing it again.

This time, the savior is more familiar. It’s Jim Hackett. He's the guy who wooed Jim Harbaugh back to the Michigan sidelines once prowled by the legendary Bo Schembechler. Harbaugh says Hackett’s all about teamwork, about making the team better, and the football coach says the new Ford CEO is, quote, “tougher than a two-dollar steak.”

Ford Motor Company's headquarters in Dearborn.
Ford Motor Company

Slumping stock was the undoing of Mark Fields as CEO of Ford Motor Company.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes said Fields’ successor Jim Hackett must rally his team to full battle mode, even though times are good and profits are fat.

Daniel Howes / Detroit News

Another week in the Motor City and you get buyouts at Ford Motor and news of General Motors bolting yet two more foreign markets. What’s going on here?

Simple: this ain’t your father’s auto industry anymore.

These are pillars of the American industrial economy. They're companies worth rescuing with taxpayer money and the biggest home improvement loan ever. And they're vying for relevance.

Photograph of Downtown Detroit
Ifmuth / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Detroit's re-invention continues to gather momentum, according to a new survey.

The Kresge Foundation survey painted a rosy picture of Detroit's economic future.

Local respondents had a more positive impression of the city’s business potential than national leaders, but both groups were optimistic.

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