economy

screen grab of YouTube video

Columbus Dispatch videographer Doral Chenoweth III says he filmed Ted Williams on a whim.

"We run into these guys at the exit ramps and we pretty much ignore them," said Chenoweth, who was en route with his wife to the grocery store when he first saw Williams. "This guy was using his talent."

Ted Williams was standing on a street corner near a highway exit ramp in Columbus, Ohio holding a sign that said "I have a God-given gift of voice. I am an ex-radio announcer who has fallen on hard times. Please any help will be greatfully (sic) appreciated..."

And when you hear his voice, it's uncanny. It sounds as if you've just stepped into a commercial radio or television broadcast. It almost sounds fake. Listen for yourself:

The state’s new economic development chief says the “Pure Michigan” tourism campaign should also be used as a tool to grow and attract businesses. Rick Pluta, Michigan Public Radio Network's Lansing Bureau Chief sent us this report from the Capitol:

Michael Finney was confirmed as the new CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation by its board of directors. Finney was Governor Rick Snyder’s choice to lead the agency.

Finney says the “Pure Michigan” campaign is already a success story in selling the state as a tourist destination:

So we want to find ways to use that as a brand that will represent both tourism and business in our state. We think it’s a great brand and we intend on exploring that further as we go about our business of effectively marketing Michigan as a desired place to grow a business.

Finney says that can be done using free media and without increasing the Pure Michigan ad budget. He also says there will be a shift in the focus of the state’s economic development efforts toward helping entrepreneurs who are already in Michigan grow their businesses and hire more workers.

Online sales are reportedly up about 12 percent this holiday shopping season. That could be bad news for Michigan tax collectors.  Michigan residents are supposed to pay sales tax on items bought online, but few do. 


 Caleb Booth is a spokesman for the state Treasury Department.  He says the state lost out on $328 million dollars in uncollected sales taxes on online purchases in 2009. 

Sign of Flint Police Headquarters
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint Police Department is closed on the weekends following the latest round of officer layoffs.

The Flint Journal reports new office hours took effect Saturday, the day after 20 police officers were laid off.

Flint Mayor Dayne Walling laid off a total of 66 police officers this year to cope with a multi-million-dollar deficit. The city also made other cuts.

(Written by Eliot Johnson, and Zoe Clark)

Every Michigan resident is familiar with the economic challenges facing the state. From job losses to foreclosures. The challenges we face are daunting. No single person can fix all the broken pieces of the state. But Michigan Radio has been on a quest this year to learn about the little things each of us can do to make a difference.

All this year, Michigan Radio's Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley has been talking to people from across the state about ways to improve Michigan. We call it the Three Things Series because we asked each person for three ways that ordinary Michiganders could help the state.

The response has been amazing, generating hundreds of ideas for each of us to consider and act upon. From recycling to community organizing to drinking more Michigan beer, the ideas we've received have been a diverse collection of potential ways to improve both the state and our attitudes towards it.

Today, we concluded the Three Things Series with an hour-long call-in show. It will air again tonight at 8 p.m., or you can hear it here:

Boxed up child motorized ATV in trunk of car
Jenn Forman Orth / Flickr

Michigan retailers were optimistic that this would be a better holiday shopping season than they’ve had the last few years.

And so far, those expectations appear to be warranted.

The National Retail Federation upped its prediction for holiday sales from a 2.3% increase to a 3.3% increase over last year.

Foreclosed house
Damon Duncan / Flickr

Foreclosure filings in Michigan fell 20% between October and November, but most of the decline came in homes in the final stages of foreclosure according to data released by Realty Trac, a group that calls itself "the nation's leading online foreclosure marketplace."

The pace of homes entering the system remained relatively unchanged.

sign in Flint, Michigan
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Just a day after tying a record set in 1986, Flint recorded its 62nd homicide of the year. The body of a man was found slumped over in a car parked on a city street.

At a news conference this morning, before the latest murder victim was found, Flint Mayor Dayne Walling blamed the spike in violence in his city on the loss of jobs.

Michigan Governor-elect Rick Snyder
wikimedia commons

Governor-elect Rick Snyder told a crowd in Detroit today that Michigan will beat analysts’ economic growth expectations in the coming years.

Snyder spoke to a group of accounting students at Wayne State University. He recounted an experience at a recent National Governors Association meeting.

Snyder says the investment firm Moody’s ranked each state for projected job growth. He described what he saw when he opened the folder for Michigan.

"The first number from 2009 to 2011 was 47," Snyder said. "The number from 2009 to 2014 was 50."

But the governor-elect called those projections "a piece of fiction."

"We’re going to beat the living daylights out of that number."

Snyder added that he plans to use his background as a CPA to put Michigan’s finances in order.

Downsizing Detroit

Dec 9, 2010
City of Detroit
Pablo Costa - picasa user

Detroit is a city built for 2 million people, but now has around 800,000. It's ruins have become famous. And some people, like artist Lowell Boileau, have said the problems Detroit faces are like a "slow moving Katrina."

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is leading a plan, called the Detroit Works Project, to shrink the city down to size. To make the city's 139 square mile footprint more manageable for city services like police, fire, sanitation, and water.

Jennifer Granholm
flickr user auberon

3 million jobs in 3 years. That's what soon-to-be-former-Governor Jennifer Granholm called for in her article in the Huffington Post.

Granholm calls for a "Jobs Race to the Top" modelled on the education "Race to the Top" program.

Dangle large sums of money in front of cash strapped states and see if you can get them to change their policies.

Colorful used cars
Zelda Richardson

Perhaps another sign that the 'Great Recession' is thawing. Lending to people with a so-so credit score is on the uptick - at least in the car market.

The Associated Press reports "the percentage of loans going to subprime buyers rose 8% in the third quarter, their first year-over-year increase since 2007, according to a report issued Tuesday by Experian, a credit reporting agency."

Cranes life a wind turbine blade
Stephanie Hemphill / MPR

The Detroit Free Press reports that a large scale wind turbine manufacturer plans to locate in Saginaw.

Northern Power Systems of Barre, Vt., intends to use a facility in Saginaw to manufacture its next-generation large wind turbines, expected to be the first ones built in the U.S. using 100% American-made parts.

Building wind turbines has been touted as a way to diversify a manufacturing base built around the automobile. Many auto suppliers in the state are also building parts for wind turbines. No report yet on how many jobs will be created.

But the future of wind power is uncertain. Tax credits and grants to develop wind energy are expiring at the end of the year. And with an ethic of austerity moving into Washington, there are little signs that they'll be renewed.

Photo courtesy of www.governorelectricksnyder.com

Governor-elect Rick Snyder will talk about economic issues at Wayne State University later this week, according to The Detroit Free Press.

Snyder will deliver the annual George R. Husband Distinguished Lecture Series keynote address on Thursday from 1-2PM.

The Series' website says the lecture is open to the public but reservations are required.

The runways at Detroit Metro Airport
travelpod.com

The current lame-duck Michigan legislature passed a tax incentive package this morning to encourage the development of a Michigan Aerotropolis. 

So what is it? Here's how the Detroit Region Aerotropolis explains the idea:

An Aerotropolis is an emerging type of urban form comprised of aviation-intensive businesses and those businesses that need to be readily connected to their customers. These businesses, and related enterprises, extend outward from a major airport.

Striking workers' sign
Steve Rhodes/Flickr

Michigan Radio has been covering stories from across the state regarding labor and contract disputes. From the strike of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra to the dispute between the City of Flint and its Firefighters Union, it seems that workers and management are having a difficult time finding common ground these days.

So, we wondered, do strikes increase during a down economy?  We assumed they did.  Well, as they say, that's we get for assuming.  As it turns out, the struggling economy may have actually reduced the number of labor disputes resulting in strikes. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were fewer work stoppages affecting 1,000 or more workers in 2009 than in any other year since 1947, when the collection of this data began.

The White House is ramping up its efforts to get Congress to approve extended unemployment benefits for out-of-work Americans. Michigan's unemployment rate in October was the second-highest in the nation, at 12.8%.

The president's Council of Economic Advisers released a report that touts the need for extending benefits. The report says for the typical person getting unemployment, the benefits make up a third of the household income.  As Presidential adviser Cecilia Rouse noted:

And in those 42% of households where the unemployed person was the sole wage earner, it's about 90 percent of the income. So it's quite an important source of income for these families.

The report says about 620,000 people in Michigan received benefits through October.

Republicans in Congress say the cost of extending the benefits is too high. They want to look at budget cuts and tax cut extensions first.

Job search seminar in Ohio
flickr user Daniel Johnson / Flickr

We all know Michigan has been going through tough times. An unemployment rate of nearly 13%. Jobless benefits expiring for tens of thousands of people. Deep spending cuts coming to state and local governments.

But it may be tougher than you've thought.

 The Detroit New reports:

Michigan’s economy stumbled in October. 

Comerica Bank’s monthly gauge of Michigan’s economic activity shows a slight dip in October.   The state’s economy spiked up in September. 

Comerica Bank chief economist Dana Johnson says Michigan’s economy has essentially been flat for the past four months.  Johnson says:

 As has been the case in the national economy over the second half of the year, growth in Michigan has been sluggish and uneven. Looking ahead, the Michigan economy is poised to make modest gains in coming months, against a background of gradually accelerating national growth.

The Michigan Economic Activity Index weighs nine, seasonally-adjusted indicators of real economic activity.

These indicators reflect activity in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors as well as job growth and consumer outlays.

Willow Run Factory and B-24 bombers
U.S. Army Signal Corps

It was ground zero for the "arsenal of democracy" in the 1940s. Henry Ford built the giant Willow Run factory to manufacture B-24 bombers in World War II. Later GM took over the building making everything from Chevy trucks, the Caprice, the Nova, Corvairs, and transmissions.

Today, the materials inside the plant are being auctioned off as part of the "Old GM's" bankruptcy reorganization (old GM is now known as the Motors Liquidation Company).

Car lot
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Ford sales are up 24%, Chrysler sales are up 17%, and GM's are up  11%. It's been a good news week for the "Big Three" (can we still call them that?). Chrysler and GM also announced they plan to hire more workers in Michigan, and the Brookings Institution says Metro Detroit is recovering.

Here are some figures from a number-laden Detroit News article on auto sales:

  • Sales for Chrysler's Jeep brand were up 58 % for November compared to a year ago
  • Ford's year-to-date sales total 1.74 million vehicles - growing at a pace double the industry average
  • Ford's F-Series trucks were up 26 %
  • GM's big brand Chevrolet was up 18 % for the month compared to a year ago, its sales strengthened by the new compact Cruze and popular Equinox and Silverado
Chrysler headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan
flickr user fiatontheweb / creative commons

Today executives at General Motors announced they plan to add 1,000 jobs in Michigan.

Now, Chrysler executives have announced they also plan to add 1,000 jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

Kyle Norris / Michigan Radio

In the basement of a church in Grand Rapids, there's a rehearsal for the Beginners Swing Band.

Most of the musicians here are in their sixties and seventies.

Michigan retailers have been busy this weekend with the beginning of the holiday shopping season. But Monday could be a very big day as well.

The National Retail Federation coined the term ‘Cyber Monday’ five years ago to describe the growing trend of holiday shoppers flooding store websites on the Monday following thanksgiving.  A recent survey found more shoppers planned to shop online  Monday than stand in line on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  

Volunteers serve Thanksgiving at DeVos Place
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

More than 600 volunteers served people in need a hot Thanksgiving meal today in Grand Rapids. Thousands of homeless, elderly, sick and downtrodden came for the feast.

Michigan retailers are optimistic that holiday sales will be better this year.

The first real test comes this week. 

 Thanksgiving is such a pivotal time for Michigan retailers many aren’t waiting for their customers to finish their turkey dinners.

K-Mart, Sears and other retailers plan to be open on Thanksgiving day.   Many other stores, like Banana Republic and the Gap will open their doors Thursday night.

Unemployment line in California
Michael Raphael / Flickr

The Associated Press reports that the state "will stop taking new extended unemployment benefit applications after Saturday because Congress has failed to renew the program."

RMS Titanic at the docks
author unknown / creative commons

Chris Knape has a piece in the Grand Rapids Press about hedge fund manager and bar owner, Mark Sellers.

Sellers moved back to Grand Rapids around three years ago where he owns the bars Hopcat, Stella’s Lounge and Viceroy.

Monument to steel in Gary, Indiana
Michael Puente / Changing Gears

By Michael Puente, Changing Gears

All this week, Changing Gears has been looking at reinventing Pittsburgh. We recently heard how Detroit has borrowed some of its ideas. In its final report, they head to Gary to see if this smaller Steel Town can learn from its industrial mother, Pittsburgh. They found old habits are hard to break.

Detroit entreprenuer Judy Davids
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

All week we’ve been looking at the reinvention of Pittsburgh. Now, we move west to see whether the ideas that worked there can work in other places. One such city is Detroit.

Like Pittsburgh, Detroit has always faced a challenge in convincing its talented citizens to stay. Many business owners try to buck the odds and keep their businesses in the city, only to find the hurdles too high. Others find it is simply too daunting to head out on their own.

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