economic development

You may have never heard of Joseph Schumpeter, an eccentric Austrian economist who taught at Harvard in the 1930s and '40s. But to those of us who study the strategic and financial dynamics of innovation, he is far more influential than his peers John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman. Schumpeter is the guy who made the entrepreneur the engine of growth for an economy, and several Nobel Laureates since have suggested that he was right on most counts.

The abandoned Packard Automobile Factory is emblematic of the financial stress of many minority Michigan communities.
Albert Duce / Wikimedia Commons

Which areas of Michigan are bouncing back from the Great Recession?

As our next guest has discovered, the economic "report card" for Michigan is, as they put it, "a grab bag of the promising and the troubling."

Ted Roelofs dug into those numbers for Bridge Magazine.

Listen to our conversation with Roelofs below.


Allyson Limon / Flickr

Oakland County is launching a new initiative to help grow tech companies. It’s part of the county’s larger effort to diversify its automotive-dominated economy.

Irene Spanos directs economic development for Oakland County. She says it's already home to nearly 2,000 IT and communication firms that employ more than 42,000 people.

“Oakland County goes on these trade missions around the world and we talk about some of the work that some of our tech companies are working on globally – they don’t think that it’s coming from Michigan,” Spanos said, “We need to change that.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a new effort underway to make smaller Michigan cities more attractive to young professionals.

After college, many up and coming young professionals are drawn to the big cities where the nightlife is livelier and there's more diversity. But several smaller Michigan cities are trying to change that perspective.

Jackson recently launched the Anchor Initiative.  More than a dozen of the city’s largest employers are joining forces to make Jackson’s downtown more attractive to young professionals looking for a place to live and work.

Tory.me / Creative Commons

You know Spartan Stores – Family Fair, D & W, VG’s – they’re known by different names.

This week the grocery store chain merged with Minneapolis-based grocery distributor Nash Finch. It’s a lot bigger than Spartan. It’s the largest food supplier to stores on military bases.

The new company, now known as SpartanNash, is worth more than $7 billion.

Birgit Klohs is President and CEO of The Right Place. The economic development group worked with the state to offer almost $2.75 million in grant money to keep the headquarters in Michigan.

A123 Systems Inc.'s battery manufacturing facility in Livonia, Michigan. The company filed for bankruptcy on Tuesday.
A123 Systems Inc. / Facebook

Sometimes we all do it. We over-promise on what we can actually get done.

That is especially true for some people seeking money or investments. And it appears to be the case with some companies that received state money designed to create jobs in Michigan.

But some legislators in Michigan were left in the dark about that lack of performance, according to an audit by the Michigan Office of the Auditor General.

One of the goals of the Michigan Strategic Fund is to diversify the state's economy by giving out grants to companies, research groups, or start-ups. The goal is to support entities that can create jobs in the state. Job creation numbers can be part of the evaluation of a given grant's effectiveness.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 There are a number of multi-million dollar development projects happening in and around downtown Detroit these days.

But according to the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, black-owned businesses feel left out of the boom.

Black and other minority-owned businesses have effectively been locked out of the process of re-developing Detroit, says Chamber CEO Ken Harris.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

What’s being called an ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is paying off for people trying to revitalize Flint’s downtown.

Many downtown buildings in Flint are empty. But local economic development leaders say they are making progress by attracting educational and medical investment.

The ‘Eds and Meds’ strategy is intended to not only bring in jobs, but also create activity and excitement, in a downtown in need of all three.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An insurance company’s planned $100 million expansion in Ingham County took an important step forward Monday night.

The Lansing City Council approved an agreement with a neighboring township which allows the city to collect taxes from the new Jackson National Life headquarters expansion. In exchange, the township would receive some city services.

“This puts us in a position where we can start construction in the fall,” says John Brown, the company’s vice president for government relations,  “And we are very excited about the continuation of the project.”

Bob Jagendorf / Flickr

There seem to be two types of stories emerging from Detroit these days: one bleak and one optimistic.

Both can be spun wildly out of proportion, but the two – seemingly contradictory – narratives paint the same city in a very different light.

Detroit’s bankruptcy has garnered attention from around the world – from the U.K. to India. The bankruptcy, the underperforming school system, the lack of public services, the high crime, the dysfunctional local governments: they all contribute to the bleak narrative.

At the same time, there have been a number of reports that have highlighted a more optimistic narrative in the city.

A recent boom in population and economic activity in Midtown and downtown has completely changed those areas of the city over the last several years.

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.

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.”

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

Who doesn't love that quintessential story of the underdog who battles and claws his or her way out of some apparently impossible challenge. David and Goliath,  Rocky Balboa, the 'Miracle on Ice' are all great underdog stories that never cease to captivate the minds of people.

Will Detroit be the next great underdog story to make the list?

Kate Sumbler / Flickr

The Detroit Future City plan, released by Detroit Mayor David Bing's Detroit Works Project, offers both short term action and long term plans to rebuild the city.

The report, created over a two year period, intends to improve the quality of life and business in Detroit and also sets goals for the future.

What could cities facing similar situations learn from Detroit? And what has been done in cities outside of Michigan?

June Manning Thomas and Margaret Dewar are professors of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan and are editors of the book "The City after Abandonment," a collection of essays from top urban planning experts.

Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty spoke with Thomas and Dewar about the next steps outlined in the plan for Detroit and what its future will hold.

You can listen to the full Stateside interview above.

Commonwealth of Belle Isle: The world's next city-state?

Jan 16, 2013
commonwealthofbelleisle.com

Belle Isle inspires big dreams.

First there was the state’s attempt to photoshop Belle Isle into a "Pleasantville"-style utopia of dog walkers and picnics.

Now, a group of wealthy investors want to buy Detroit’s island park for $1 billion, secede from Michigan, and develop the 982 acres into the Commonwealth of Belle Isle, a Singapore-like city-state with its own laws, customs, and currency.

Recovery Park is a project hoping to revitalize the city of Detroit and get people working. 

Gary Wozniak is the President and CEO.  

He has big plans for Recovery Park involving everything from growing Tilapia, to processing foods, and establishing a 30-acre farm scattered throughout the city.

“So the models that we’re looking at are a combination of the community gardening that’s happening in Detroit, the indoor agriculture that’s being promoted by Michigan State University and then a lot of the larger indoor models in Europe, predominately in the Netherlands,” Wozniak says.

A new urban agriculture ordinance will certainly play a big in making this redevelopment project a reality.

The idea started with Self Help Addiction Rehabilitation or (SHAR), a Detroit based substance abuse treatment program. 

SHAR’s mission is to transform individuals with addiction and those recovering a chance at a new life.

Wozniak has a very personal mission as well.


Stateside: When body parts become commodities

Nov 28, 2012
Gray's Anatomy

For some, the idea of body parts functioning as units of exchange is unsettling.

But for Dr. Adam Lutzker, the concept is one worth investigating. Lutzker teaches at the University of Michigan- Flint, where he recently gave a lecture entitled “Human Body Parts as Commodities.”

Born from a teaching strategy used to spark his students’ attention, the lecture challenges what we view as viable commodities.

“A commodity is anything that is produced for profit and bought and sold. With a commodity, we tolerate the fact that not everyone will get them. This was the debate- should things be treated as commodities? Should they be treated as rights?” said Lutzker.

Gender-based income inequality by county.
screenshot / Slate/New America Foundation

Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment from the second presidential debate became an instant Internet meme, but it also brought attention to the issue of income inequality based on gender.

It’s an issue with particular relevance for Michigan.

The state ranks fourth in the country for the largest pay gap between men and women.

user andrea_44 / Flickr

Detroit has the third highest average annual income out of the 51 largest metropolitan areas in the country.

Shocked? Let me explain.

Forbes Magazine and the Praxis Strategy Group re-ranked the incomes in these 51 cities after adjusting for cost of living. Not surprisingly, it turns out a dollar goes a lot farther in Detroit than in, say, New York City or Boston.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Developers have until late this afternoon to submit their ideas for what to do with a former Lansing city golf course.  

The twelve acres of the old Red Cedar golf course rests on the border of Lansing and East Lansing.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint business and civic leaders sat down with Governor Snyder today to discuss possible solutions to the city’s problems.

The closed-door session focused on crime, education, economic development and other urban issues.

Changing Gears

The recession has played havoc with personal finances all over the Midwest, whether you’re starting from scratch, or trying to stretch your budget to get through these hard times.

It can be hard to get good advice on what to do.

Rest easy. We’re offering some Midwest Money help.

Two of the country’s leading experts on personal finance issues — CNN’s Ali Velshi and Christine Romans– are teaming up with Changing Gears to provide some answers.

Each week, Ali and Christine tackle pressing financial dilemmas on their CNN program, Your Money, and they’ve compiled their tips in the new book, How to Speak Money: The Language and the Knowledge That You Need Now.

Here’s your chance for Midwest Money advice.

Send us anything that’s on your mind, from retirement, to job hunting, to your mortgage and more.

We’ll pose your questions to Ali and Christine, and publish their answers every day during the week of Dec. 19. And, if they pick a question that you sent in, you’ll get an autographed copy of their new book.

Post your questions here.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A proposed expansion plan for Lansing’s airport took a big step forward Monday night.  

The Lansing city council and DeWitt Township both approved a deal to share tax revenues from the airport.  

 Some city council members say they’re concerned Lansing is giving up control as part of the deal.   

Bob Trezise is the city’s economic development director.   He says the deal shows what must be done to make regional cooperation work. 

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Lansing voters will decide in November if the city can sell 12 acres of city parkland for future private development. A divided city council last night agreed to put the question on the ballot. There's no developer or actual plan on the table yet for the Red Cedar golf course land. 

Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation. He says the making the land available will help the city market it to potential developers.  

“It strikes us as a great area to try to develop."  

Several city council members questioned whether the city should focus on getting previous economic development plans working before starting new ones. Councilman Eric Hewitt voted against moving the parkland sale before the voters. He says the city's track record in similar projects is not good.  

"We’ve had all these other ‘visions’…we’ve had lots of ‘gateways’…but none of them have seemed to come about.”

Mayor Virg Bernero says the proceeds of the sale of the Red Cedar land could be channeled into improving Lansing's other city parks.

(courtesy of the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

The Lansing city council may agree tonight to ask voters to decide if part of a closed city golf course can be sold.   The land is being eyed for future business development. 

The proposal to sell part of the closed Red Cedar golf course has been stuck in a Lansing city council subcommittee since last spring.    Some council members said they wanted more information. 

City Council President A’Lynne Robinson is optimistic the council can get it unstuck this week.  

(Courtesy the Lansing Economic Development Corp.)

Lansing city council members tonight will discuss whether to ask voters to approve the sale of 12 acres of city park land for a future economic development deal.  The mayor’s office wants to include the Red Cedar golf course as part of a multi-million dollar development along US 127.  

The development is just speculative as this point, since the city has not settled on a developer or a specific plan.  Bob Trezise is the president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation.  He supports making the land available for development.

“This is very neglected that shouldn’t be the way it is.  Its many vacant properties.  It’s a golf course that’s not a golf course anymore....nor is it even a park.”

The city council is being asked to put the potential sale of the old golf course on  the ballot in November.

Here's an artist's conception of future development along Michigan Avenue in Lansing from the Lansing Economic Development Corporation:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Two economic development groups, one from Grand Rapids and another in Muskegon are asking the state of Michigan to approve a regional economic development corporation. It could provide marketing and tax incentives for a narrow purpose; to attract businesses that need property with two or more modes of transportation.

Rick Snyder said the Michigan Business Tax was bad for business. 

 “I propose replacing it with a flat six-percent corporate income tax.  Let’s take a job-killer environment; let’s start creating jobs.”

He said it on the campaign trail.  He made the point to business leaders.

Rising gasoline prices threaten to take some of the optimism out of a rosy new forecast for retail sales in Michigan.  A recent survey of Michigan retailers finds 76% expect to see their sales improve this spring. 

  Good holiday sales are lifting many business owners expectations for the year ahead. 

Tom Scott is with the Michigan Retail Association. Scott says the survey was taken before gasoline prices spiked this week.   He says high gas prices could be a problem for retailers.

 “But the bigger concern, more than just their own delivery trucks, is generally the effect on consumers.  And of course, every dollar a consumer puts in his or her gas tank is a dollar that can’t be spent at the store.”

Scott says a few years ago when gas prices reached four dollars a gallon, retail sales dried up.  But he says pent up consumer demand may keep the customers coming, even with high gas prices.

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