economy

Auto/Economy
1:27 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Chrysler CEO says two-class pay system is not viable

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne says he wants to eventually do away with the two-tier pay system.
user socialisbetter Flickr

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said the two-class pay system currently in place will have to be replaced with a single wage system in the next round of contract talks with the United Auto Workers.

The UAW and Chrysler just approved a 4-year contract with the two-class pay system in place, so the next opportunity to revise the system won't come until the next round of contract negotiations.

More from the Associated Press:

Negotiations for that contract start in 2015.

He says the current system creates two classes of workers. New workers in the bottom tier make about half as much money as longtime UAW members.

Marchionne didn't say how he would come up with one wage. But it's likely he'll try to reduce the pay of top-tier workers. General Motors and Ford could follow and pay could be cut for most of the UAW's 112,000 members.

UAW workers approved a four-year contract with Chrysler on Wednesday. It includes raises for bottom-tier workers.

More on what Marchionne said comes from Changing Gears reporter, Pete Bigelow:

The structure is, “not something that can go on for a long period of time,” he said on a conference call to discuss the company’s second-quarter earnings. Marchionne continued, saying, two-tiers is “not a viable structure on which to build our industrial footprint.”

Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson provided some insights into the two-class pay system in a piece she produced last year for Changing Gears.

At the time, the starting rate for a "two-tier" worker was $14 an hour. The new contracts have pushed the starting rate for "two-tier" workers above $19 an hour.

Economy
12:45 pm
Fri October 28, 2011

Whirlpool to cut 5,000 jobs to reduce costs

Whirlpool

Update 12:45 p.m.

Jeff Noel, a Whirlpool company spokesman, would not give Michigan Radio reporter Lindsey Smith a number. When pressed further about the job losses expected in Michigan, Noel said it would be “a commensurate amount."

10:06 a.m.

In a cost cutting measure, the Benton Harbor-based company Whirlpool says it will cut 5,000 jobs. There's no word yet on how many of those job cuts will be in Michigan.

Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith is following the story and will have more for us later.

From the Associated Press:

Appliance maker Whirlpool Corp. says it will cut 5,000 jobs in an effort as it faces soft demand and higher costs for materials.

The jobs to be cut are mostly in North America and Europe. They include 1,200 salaried positions and the closing of the company's Fort Smith, Ark., plant.

The company expects the moves will save $400 million by the end of 2013.

Whirlpool also says its third-quarter net income more than doubled to $177 million, or $2.27 per share, from $79 million, or $1.02 per share. Adjusted earnings of $2.35 per share fell short of analyst expectations for $2.75 per share.

The company, whose brands include Maytag and KitchenAid, has been squeezed by higher costs for materials such as steel and copper.

Bloomberg News reports that Whirlpool employs 71,000 people around the world "at 66 manufacturing and research sites.":

Whirlpool follows European rival Electrolux AB (ELUXB) with a more muted outlook for the year. The Swedish company said today that it will deepen cost cuts after lowering a forecast for growth in Europe and North America this year. Whirlpool said reductions in Europe and North America account for about 10 percent of all employees in those regions. The company has a global workforce of 71,000 at 66 manufacturing and research sites.

Auto/Economy
11:27 am
Thu October 27, 2011

Chrysler reports profits for second consecutive quarter

Ricardo Giaviti Flickr

On the heels of the approval of a four-year contract with the United Auto Workers comes news of a 3rd quarter profit from Chrysler.

The company reported a profit of $212 million for the 3rd quarter (July, August, and September). The company had reported a second quarter profit earlier this year ($181 million for the months of April, May, June).

From Chrysler's press release:

Chrysler Group LLC today reported preliminary net income of $212 million for the third quarter, compared with a net loss of $84 million a year ago, as the Company continues to increase sales and benefit from its alliance with Fiat S.p.A.

In the third quarter of 2011, net revenue was $13.1 billion, a 19 percent increase from the third quarter of 2010, driven by increased demand for Chrysler Group’s 16 all-new or significantly refreshed cars and trucks.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said these profits show the company is back on track:

"In the third quarter, Chrysler Group achieved increased sales and positive financial results, totally in line with the plan we laid out in November 2009. And in October, together with the United Auto Workers, we crafted a solid four-year contract that will support us in our growth plans and significantly reward our employees for their contribution to the revival of Chrysler," said Marchionne.

The Detroit Free Press reports the company "predicted it would make between $200 million and $500 million this year."

Economy
4:31 pm
Wed October 26, 2011

Governor Snyder wants more investment in Michigan's infrastructure

Governor Snyder said that every dollar invested in Michigan roads and bridges saves six dollars in the future.
user nirbhao Flickr

In a speech today directed toward the Michigan Legislature, Governor Snyder expressed his desire to improve just about every bit of infrastructure in the state.

Roads, bridges, airports, ports, rail, water lines, sewage pipes, and broadband Internet connectivity - it was all on the table, and the Michigan Governor said the state's infrastructure was suffering from a lack of investment.

The Governor said the state's economic recovery is tied to investing in all these bits of infrastructure, and that there is "no time to waste."

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Politics
4:36 pm
Tue October 25, 2011

Governor Snyder to speak on improving Michigan infrastructure

user ardee4 Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver an address in Southfield tomorrow on improving roads and other infrastructure.

Geralyn Lasher is the governor’s communications director. She said the address will touch on a wide variety of topics that are critical to improving the state’s economy and protecting public health.

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Changing Gears
3:43 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Recap: Everything you need to know about the Midwest economy's magic bullets

user jinglyjon Flickr

History is filled with searches for Magic Bullets.

Economically speaking, those are quick-fix endeavors that promise to fix sour economies, provide jobs and bring prosperity to communities and regions. Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson wrote earlier this week that, “Some have soared; many have backfired.”

Communities across the Midwest are employing a new round of Magic Bullets in attempts to rescue themselves from the Great Recession. All sound promising, but which ones stand up under further scrutiny?

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Auto/Economy
2:00 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

General Motors to invest $325 million at Warren transmission plant

General Motors officials said they will "create or retain" 418 jobs with a $325 million investment at a suburban Detroit transmission plant. The company says it will invest "in tools and equipment to support production of future electric vehicle components."

So which is it? Are they creating or retaining the jobs?

According this report in Crain's Detroit Business, 360 jobs will be created at the plant in Warren, Michigan as a result of the new UAW contract:

The company would not say how many of the 418 jobs will be new positions. But a summary of GM’s new four-year contract with the UAW said 360 jobs will be added at the plant for a new transmission that originally was to have been built in Mexico. The union said that the jobs were brought to the U.S. as part of the new contract.

At this point, GM is not revealing the timing for the project.

According to GM, 679 current employees at  the plant in Warren make transmissions for the Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, and the Chevrolet Malibu sedan.

From a GM press release:

“This investment in the future recognizes the excellent work force and operation of this plant,” said GM Manufacturing Manager Gerald Johnson. “While we aren’t sharing many details about this product, I can tell you that this investment demonstrates how GM, working with our UAW partners, continues to innovate and bring new electrification solutions to our customers.”

The 2.1 million square-foot plant, equivalent to the area of 15 city blocks, produced more than 338,000 transmissions in 2010.

“We are very proud of the membership of UAW Local 909 whose hard work and dedication to building quality products is why this new electric drive unit module is being built in the United States,” said Joe Ashton, UAW vice president representing the GM Department.  “These good paying, middle class jobs are very important for the State of Michigan and the Metro Detroit area.  It is the UAW’s goal to increase employment at GM and show the world that we can compete with anyone.”

Auto/Economy
1:16 pm
Fri October 21, 2011

Ford's credit rating gets an upgrade

 NEW YORK (AP) - Standard & Poor's is raising Ford Motor Co.'s credit rating two notches, saying a new contract with auto workers will allow for continued profits at the car maker's North American operations.

S&P said Friday it was upgrading Ford to "BB+" - one level below investment-grade - from "BB-."

Ford shares are up 45 cents, or 3.9 percent, to $12.15 in late-morning trading.

Changing Gears
11:28 am
Tue October 18, 2011

Magic bullets in the form of advanced battery manufacturing (Part 2)

General Motors Battery Lab in Warren, Michigan.
John F. Martin General Motors

Three years ago, the advanced battery industry in the United States existed only in the imagination.

Plenty of people believed electric cars would be the next big thing, and they would be powered by lithium ion batteries; the same kind of batteries that are in cell phones and laptops.

But in 2008, almost all of the lithium ion batteries in the world were made in Asia.

Randy Thelan heard that might be about to change.

Batteries come to Michigan

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Economy
2:47 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Boost in September home sales in Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit saw a boost in the number of home sales and home prices last month.

The Detroit Free Press reports the September increase came from an active summer selling season:

Sales rose 8.2% in September from 4,222 to 4,568 in metro Detroit, according to Farmington Hills-based multiple listing service Realcomp. The data includes sales from Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Median prices rose 10% from $68,000 last month to $74,900.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reported earlier this month about positive home sale numbers around the state, but housing analyst Alex Villacorta with Clear Capitol expected a decline this winter.

Changing Gears
12:49 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

Obama, werewolves and silver…er…magic bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.
Kate Davidson

While we’re on the subject of magic bullets, please indulge this brief sidebar.

Schisms happen.  There was once a tremendous split between the (now) Roman Catholic Church and the (now) Eastern Orthodox Church.  Today there’s also a Great Schism in the bullet world.

Namely, between those who say magic bullet and those who say silver bullet — both parties referring to an economic quick fix.

On one side, you have President Obama, who may be the highest profile proponent of the term silver bullet. While pitching his jobs plan to a recent joint session of Congress he said, “It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works.”

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Changing Gears
12:11 pm
Mon October 17, 2011

A very brief history of the Midwest magic bullet (Part 1)

Memorabilia from the now defunct AutoWorld in Flint.

History is full of the search for magic bullets, those quick tickets to jobs and economic prosperity. Cities across our region have put great hopes and resources into magic bullets.

Some have soared; many have backfired.

This week, we’re bringing you stories of magic bullets past and present. We start with this look back.

Magic bullets are kind of like imaginary friends. We all have them in our past, but most people deny they exist.

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Commentary
11:08 am
Mon October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street: Where does it go from here?

I drove into downtown Traverse City on Saturday afternoon, and to my surprise, found an Occupy Wall Street demonstration occupying both sides of Front Street, the town’s main drag.

Well, it was actually called an “Occupy Traverse City,” demonstration. The protestors, who numbered perhaps fifty or sixty, seemed more cheerful than angry. The weather was brisk but pleasant; it was a nice day to be outside.

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Auto/Economy
10:13 am
Fri October 14, 2011

Lansing's credit rating is downgraded

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Lansing's credit rating. The city's rating has gone from Aa2, Moody's third-highest rating, to A1, its fifth highest. City finance director Jerry Ambrose says the downgrade impacts the interest rate Lansing would pay to borrow money.

Changing Gears
11:49 am
Thu October 13, 2011

Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs

Woody Cook, Battelle National Security, next to a pool that is used to test underwater robotic devices.
Niala Boodhoo Changing Gears

(We're having technical problems with the "audio processing" file above. To listen, please click on the second file.)

Steve Job’s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products.

That’s because ideas need a push. In some cases, a big push from science to become reality.

It sounds obvious, but when we’re talking about actual products, that translate into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it’s worth exploring.

That’s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute.

Innovation can strike in a variety of ways.

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Politics
1:01 am
Wed October 12, 2011

Michigan Congressman is no fan of President Obama's jobs bill

Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI)
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Vice President Joe Biden will be in Michigan today to tout the President’s Jobs Bill. But Michigan Congressman Tim Walberg says the $447 billion bill will hurt, not help the nation’s economy.    

Walberg is a Republican. He says the bill would increase spending and raise taxes. And he says that’s not what the economy needs to create jobs. Walberg says the nation may be better off  if Congress doesn’t pass a jobs bill this year.   

"At the very least, if we hold some things back that would be hurtful to our economy, that’s getting something done.  Maybe that’s the process right now…if there isn’t a willingness to negotiate," says Walberg.   

Walberg says he hopes a compromise can be reached which will reduce payroll taxes and spur job growth.

Auto/Economy
5:00 pm
Thu October 6, 2011

UM economist expects slower job growth in 2012

A Ford assembly plant.
Ford Motor Company

In his economic forecast for Michigan released today, George Fulton, Director of the University of Michigan's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics wrote that Michigan's economy is recovering from hitting bottom in late 2009, "but it has not been a smooth climb, especially during 2011."

The Detroit Free Press writes that Fulton cut his jobs forecast for 2012.

...he expects just 33,000 new jobs next year, down sharply from his earlier forecast of 61,500 positions.

Fulton expects the total number of jobs created from late 2009 through 2013 to be 187,000.

From the report summary:

The continuation of the recovery is supported by steadily rising vehicle sales and an improved U.S. economy over the next two years. Manufacturing continues to grow through 2013, but the largest job gains are in the service industries, led by health services and professional and business services. Government continues to shrink over the period.

Changing Gears
12:16 pm
Wed October 5, 2011

Help Wanted: Why manufacturing temps are in demand

Becky Hall and Shannon Burkel of Staffing Inc. say hiring is off the charts.
Kate Davidson Changing Gears

Here are four very bad words you hear a lot these days:

There.  Are.  No.  Jobs.

But it turns out, that’s not entirely true.

Yes, the manufacturing sector lost six million jobs last decade.  But now, staffing agencies that place temporary workers in manufacturing say business is booming.

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Auto/Economy
1:03 pm
Tue October 4, 2011

Ford-UAW deal includes more jobs and U.S. investment

John Fleming, Ford executive vice president of Global Manufacturing and Labor Affairs discusses the UAW agreement with reporters this morning.
screen grab fordahead.com

Update 1:03 p.m.

More details of the UAW-Ford agreement emerged after the UAW's press conference. UAW vice president Jimmy Settles reports winning a "a $6,000 settlement bonus for workers and $7,000 in inflation protection and competitive lump-sum payments over the term of the agreement."

Settles said workers will receive a payment averaging $3,700 this year.

Entry-level wages for new Ford workers are similar to the GM agreement. Their hourly pay was raised to $19.28 over the term of the agreement.

The union details where the investments in jobs and upgraded auto plants will occur in the U.S. saying that "jobs, investment and product guarantees in the tentative agreement include":

  • Flat Rock, Mich., second source for the next generation Fusion and next-generation Mustang.
  • Kansas City, Mo., in-source Transit Commercial Van from Europe.
  • Louisville, Ky., new unnamed vehicle in addition to 2012 Escape.
  • Wayne, Mich., in-source C-Max from Europe in both hybrid and plug-in hybrid models.
  • Avon Lake, Ohio, in-source medium truck and frame assembly from Mexico, along with in-source Motorhome Chassis.

The agreement with Ford was recommenced to the union's larger membership. Now all UAW members will vote for or against ratification this week.

10:27 a.m.

The agreement reached between Ford Motor Company and United Auto Worker representatives will lead to more jobs and investment in the U.S., according to the Detroit News.

Alisa Priddle of the Detroit News reports that many of those jobs will be in Michigan:

The figure includes 7,000 jobs previously announced as well as 5,000 additional jobs - the majority of them new and paying the lower, entry-level wage. Ford officials declined to break down the exact split between new and saved jobs. Some the jobs are from in-sourcing of work that has been previously done in other countries, including Mexico, Japan and China.

The UAW says that "proposed agreement also includes $16 billion of investment to produce new models and upgraded vehicles and components by 2015, of which, $6.3 billion will be invested directly into retooling and upgrading plants."

Ford's union workers are demanding more from Ford compared to the workers at GM and Chrysler.

Part of it has to do with bargaining from a position of power. Ford's union workers could strike should an agreement not be reached. Chrysler and GM workers do not have that option. Both Chrysler and GM took loans from the federal government's Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). A condition of those loans stipulated that its workers could not strike.

Brent Snavely reports in USA Today on the other reasons workers at Ford hope to achieve more in their negotiations with the company.

Entering contract talks, the UAW and Ford had an unresolved grievance, signed by 35,000 of the automaker's 40,600 workers, alleging that Ford had violated equity of sacrifice promise by restoring merit pay to white-collar workers but not to hourly workers.

But Ford workers say they have more reasons to expect more than UAW members at GM. Ford has made $14.2 billion in profits since the end of 2008. Ford CEO Alan Mulally and Executive Chairman Bill Ford each made $26.5 million in 2010, an amount that many workers find excessive since production workers have gone eight years without a base wage increase. That high executive pay has become a rallying point for discontents in Ford's factories.

Comparing previous contracts, Snavely reports that "Ford pays $58 an hour for wages and benefits, which is about $2 more per hour than GM and $9 an hour more than Chrysler were paying..."

More details of the tentative 4-year agreement between Ford and the UAW will be revealed at an 11:30 press conference. The contract will not be ratified until the UAW membership votes on it.

Commentary
10:51 am
Tue October 4, 2011

Detroit sports teams doing well, what about Michigan politics?

If I were a politician and had something embarrassing I knew I would have to reveal, I know exactly when I would do it.

I’d wait to see if the Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees tonight, and if they do, I’d immediately make my confession.

Why is that? Because almost no one would notice. Everything in life is a matter of timing, and we can handle only so much news at once. Here’s something baffling about that.

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