Michigan Business & Economy

Tom Carr

  Getting around Northern Michigan's hottest tourist destination has become a strategy for board game enthusiasts. Mackinac Island Treasure Hunt is not in stores yet, but IPR followed along one day as students at The Greenspire School had a chance to play it.

In the game, players collect photo cards about sites like Fort Mackinac. Cards also represent the island's native plant life, such as lady slipper, and local animals like the red fox.

One state lawmaker says it's "like controlling very large purse strings with very little accountability."

Since 2011, more than $65 million in state money has been awarded to businesses all around Michigan, all on the signatures of just two individuals.

Is this a worrisome lack of transparency? Or a good effort by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to be nimble, to be able to get state incentives into the hands of businesses to help them grow and strengthen Michigan's economy?

Chris Gautz reported on this for Crain's Detroit Business.

*Listen to full interview above. 

An Upper Peninsula Indian tribe has taken a major step toward building a casino in Lansing.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Tuesday formally asked the U.S. Department of the Interior to take land surrounding Lansing’s downtown convention center into trust.

The tribe bought the land for a $245 million casino. But before the casino can be built, the federal government must first take the land into trust.

Tribal officials say the Interior Department could act on the request in a few weeks.

Transcript

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

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The car industry is required to raise the average fuel efficiency of its vehicles to 54.5 miles a gallon by 2025. But consumers have been reluctant to adopt hybrid technology that'll get the industry there quicker.

That means the car companies have to find other ways to get fuel savings.

If you were to guess, how important would you say fuel economy is to the car business? How much of the research and development is going into making cars more efficient?

You may have noticed a trend clinking around on the shelves of your local liquor store: More and more fancy craft beer is showing up in aluminum cans.

Linus Henning/Flickr

This story is the first in Michigan Public Radio’s occasional series “Migrating to Michigan.” We will explore Gov. Rick Snyder’s efforts to attract immigrants, as well as issues facing immigrants living or wishing to live here in Michigan.

Silverio Lopez and his son Antonio run their Tequila Cabresto brand out of their house in Southwest Detroit. They say about 60 restaurants in and around the city carry their brand of small batch, craft tequila. They also own a rim and tire shop just down the street. In total, they employ close to ten people.

As Detroit's bankruptcy trial inches closer, groups are contributing funds to what's become known as the "Grand Bargain" — the effort to protect retired city workers' pensions and the Detroit Institute of Arts from creditors. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler just announced they will pitch in, too. But, as Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton reports, the entire Grand Bargain could unravel if the city's retirees reject the deal.

It was a big win for Detroit's bankruptcy struggle when the state Senate approved that $195 million rescue package earlier this week. That vote "sealed the deal" on the state's piece of the so-called "grand bargain."

But is the complicated and precarious deal a reality yet?

As Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes explained on the show today, the answer is "no."

*Listen to the full interview above. 

What do the people who run Michigan's towns and cities think about the prospect of high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking" in or near their communities?

A new report from the University of Michigan's Center for Local, State and Urban Policy looks into that question.

In Michigan, only a handful of communities report some type of high-volume fracking operation. It's the controversial process used to extract natural gas by drilling into shale deposits.

The center’s program director, Tom Ivacko, joined us to talk about the results.

*Listen to the interview above.

David Cassleman

Work crews are busy repairing the damaged Red Ginger restaurant in downtown Traverse City. A support column collapsed in the building last Friday, shifting the second and third floors and causing them to drop. Workers spent Thursday using hydraulic jacks to try to raise the floors back to their original place and stabilize them. 

Thom Darga, a construction manager for Red Ginger, says it varies from floor-to-floor how much each level needs to be raised.

"We failed."

That was the painful self-assessment from General Motors today, as CEO Mary Barra unveiled the findings of an internal investigation into the automaker's ignition switch crisis.

The defective switches are linked to at least 13 deaths and 47 crashes over more than a decade.

Today Barra spoke to GM employees at a town hall meeting broadcast around the world.

Michigan Radio's auto reporter Tracy Samilton was at the town hall, and she joined us on today’s Stateside.

*Listen to our conversation with Tracy Samilton above. 

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has accused an energy company of scamming some northern Michigan landowners out of oil and gas lease payments. The attorney general’s office filed criminal charges today in Cheboygan.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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New Berry In Town

Jun 5, 2014
Peter Payette

An unusual berry should be widely available at farmers markets in northern Michigan this summer. In fact, the region has become the center of saskatoon growing in the United States.

Most people who grow saskatoons around Traverse City were not farmers until a few years ago, but the berry could have a bright future up north.

Saskatoons look almost identical to a blueberry, but they’re dark purple. The plant is actually related to an apple tree, but grower Jim Dixon says its appearance causes people to think saskatoons taste like blueberries. He thinks that's a mistake.

Detroit “Grand Bargain” Clears Legislature

Jun 4, 2014
Laughlin Elkind/Flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder has vowed to sign legislation contributing almost $200 million to Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement. The state Senate gave the bills final legislative approval Tuesday.

The so-called “Grand Bargain” would help prevent huge cuts to retiree pensions and the sale of city-owned artwork at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The DIA and foundations have also pledged to contribute a few hundred million dollars toward the settlement. 

The governor says it’s a historic agreement that’s good for the entire state and its future.

traversecitymi.gov

Parking spaces in downtown Traverse City could be used for outdoor dining this summer. The plan is to allow businesses to use designated parking spaces from May to October. The city commission gave preliminary approval on Monday. 

The proposal still needs a final vote. If approved, so-called “platform” seating could be in place by the end of this month.

The Downtown Development Authority supported the plan in a unanimous vote. 

The United Auto Workers union is currently holding its constitutional convention in Detroit, at which delegates are expected to vote on a controversial dues hike.

At the same time, there have been voices asking the question "Is the UAW dead?"

Iin the 1970s, the UAW boasted a formidable membership of 1.6 million members. Today, the union has fewer than 390,000 members.

Earlier this year, the union poured much effort into organizing workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But more than 53% of those workers said, "no thanks." It was a gut-blow to the union, which first announced it would challenge the vote and then quietly withdrew.

Marick Masters, director of labor, professor of business, and adjunct professor of political science at Wayne State University,  joined us to discuss the relevancy of the UAW in 2014.

Michigan Radio’s political analyst  Jack Lessenberry joined the conversation as well. 

*Listen to interview in link above. 

Michigan's Increasing Ties To China

Jun 3, 2014

China is quickly becoming a key export market for Michigan businesses, and not just for large manufacturers.

“They are looking for supplies of cherries, blueberries and wine. And they are even interested in buying vineyards,” says Jack Segal.

The retired diplomat is co-chair of the International Affairs Forum. The group is hosting a business and education conference this Thursday and Friday in Traverse City.

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration says it will ask for a lot of flexibility to meet new federal clean air goals. The federal government wants to cut carbon emissions by 30 percent over 15 years.

Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, says the goal attainable if the federal government lets Michigan figure out how it’s going to get there.

Today we got an update on Detroit’s bankruptcy.

It has been a busy few days in Detroit's bankruptcy journey. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr and Mayor Mike Duggan were on Mackinac Island last week making their collective cases to the state's lawmakers and business leaders.

At the same time, the city's pensioners have begun to vote on the plan of adjustment, even as opponents of the “grand bargain” are seeking new ways to get their hands on the city's art.

Detroit News Lansing reporter Chad Livengood and Michigan Radio's Zoe Clark joined us today.

*Listen to the interview above.

It's called the EB-5 program. It's based on the employment-based 5th preference visa program, which allows foreign investors and their families to get their green cards – get permanent residency – by investing in an enterprise that creates at least 10 direct or indirect jobs in Michigan.

Private companies have been using the EB-5 program to bring immigrants into the country, but Michigan has become only the second state – after Vermont – to create a state EB-5 program. It will be staffed by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Scott Woosley is the MSHDA Executive Director.

*Listen to the full show above.

Michigan has been cutting taxes for the past 20 years. The key selling point has been that slashing taxes will create economic prosperity.

A new report by the former head of the state Treasury Department's Office of Revenue and Tax Analysis, Douglas Drake, says these tax cuts have instead drained Michigan of economic life, with our per-capita income rank tumbling, and our unemployment rate way above the national average.

Charles Ballard is an economist from Michigan State University.

*Listen to the full show above.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

Republican leaders in the Legislature say they can see adding civil rights protections in housing and employment for lesbian, gay, and transgender people happening before the end of this year. That’s after Governor Rick Snyder said last week that he’d like lawmakers to take up the question.

State Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he also thinks it’s time.

Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr is warning there will be dire consequences if the city’s bankruptcy settlement falls apart. He told a crowd on Mackinac Island that pensioners who live all across the state will suffer the most if the deal fails. 

Orr was addressing a Detroit Regional Chamber conference. He said he’s very concerned that misinformation is being circulated about the so-called “grand bargain” as the state Senate is getting ready to vote on it. He says pensioners are also being misled by opponents of the deal.

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