Michigan Business & Economy

When your biggest customer talks, smart companies listen. For car makers, that customer is China.

So when China recently announced it's preparing to ban vehicles powered by fossil fuels, auto executives around the world quickly took notice.

Russell Padmore, a BBC business reporter, joined Stateside to talk about the future of the auto industry, and he says China’s not alone.

David Cassleman

A group of Michigan lawmakers has introduced legislation in Washington, D.C. to authorize building a new lock at Sault Ste. Marie. 

Supporters of the project say a new lock is needed as a backup for the Poe Lock. 

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.

More and more people in northern Michigan are collecting disability checks. 

In some northern Michigan counties, nearly 20 percent of working-age adults are enrolled in disability insurance through Social Security. That’s according to a report published by Bridge Magazine this month. 

Nationwide, the average is about five percent. 

“We have in northern Michigan disability rates that are mainly seen in the deep South and in Appalachia,” says freelance writer Chad Selweski, who reported the piece for Bridge Magazine.

 


Tyler Bevier with the Bay Area Transportation Authority

The Bay Area Transportation Authority is asking for more money to expand its bus system in Grand Traverse and Leelanau Counties. BATA has put a millage proposal on the ballot May 2. 

If it passes, the millage rate would go up from .3447 to .5 mill for five years. BATA officials say the tax would raise an additional $1.1 million next year. People who own a home worth $200,000 would pay $16 more per year than they do now.

David Cassleman

Advocates for a new Soo Lock have been trying to get Congress to fund the estimated $600 million project for decades. Congress first authorized the construction of the lock in the 1980s but has not come up with the money to pay for it. 

Child care is hard to find in northern Michigan. Parents face year-long waiting lists to find someone to take care of their infants while they’re at work, and some are resorting to illegal providers they find on Facebook or Craigslist.

David Cassleman

Some supporters of building a new Soo Lock are hopeful that President Trump could finally be the one to deliver the goods.

Groups like the Lake Carriers’ Association have been trying to get a new lock built at Sault Sainte Marie for decades. 

New Hope Shelter

Efforts to expand a homeless shelter in Cadillac have been put on hold after public opposition. New Hope Shelter has five locations in the Cadillac area, including shelters for men, women and families.

The organization was planning to move its men’s shelter to a larger building near the downtown to meet growing demand for beds, but opponents had a number of complaints. Among them, opponents said the location would negatively affect Cadillac’s downtown revitalization efforts and was not in line with Cadillac's master plan.

In the early 1980s, Larry Bell worked at Sarkozy Bakery in Kalamazoo. There he became interested in grains and yeast, and began experimenting with beers in his basement.

“My home brewing was getting a little out of control,” Bell said.

Bell, founder and president of Bell’s Brewery, pioneered Michigan’s reputation for making some of the nation’s boldest brews.

Hunting Works for Michigan

Hunting boosts the Michigan economy by $2.3 million annually, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. And Hunting Works for Michigan estimates 34,400 hunting jobs are created in the state.

Federal Communications Commission

Many people in northern Michigan live without access to broadband internet. Others have high-speed fiber connections. In this special call-in hour, IPR tackles the future of broadband in northern Michigan.

 

In Kalkaksa County, 60 percent of residents lack access to high-speed internet. That’s according to data from the Federal Communications Commission, which increased its standards for speed in 2015. 

More than a third of rural residents in the United States do not have access to broadband service, according to the FCC. 

The U.S. auto industry came into the crosshairs of President-elect Donald Trump's Twitter feed this week. Trump aimed a Tweet straight at General Motors, grumbling about GM's building of the Chevy Cruze in Mexico.

David Cassleman

The Soo Locks will be closed for several hours Tuesday morning while workers remove a sunken hazard from the water. 

Last week, a 100-foot-long section of sheet metal piling fell into the channel just west of the locks. The sheet metal wall is part of a pier that is under construction. The accident happened when a ship’s propeller wash broke temporary anchors on the wall and knocked it over.

Classic rock will soon sound different on northern Michigan radios: WKLT has a new owner.

Blarney Stone Broadcasting, which operates rock station WQON (Q 100.3) in Grayling, has bought several stations from Northern Broadcast, Inc., including WKLT.

Blarney Stone intends to simulcast WQON on WKLT. 

“We believe that listeners in northern Michigan have a vast musical desire to hear more than just the same 300 songs over and over again,” says Sheryl Coyne, the president of Blarney Stone Broadcasting. “So we are going to transition [WKLT] … into a larger music library focused on listener requests.”

David Cassleman

There’s a good chance that the car you’re driving is made from American steel.

Steel comes from iron ore, and American car companies rely almost exclusively on the kind that’s mined in Minnesota and Michigan called taconite. It’s carried down the Great Lakes in 1,000-foot-long iron boats to the steel mills.

That supply chain relies on a critical piece of infrastructure at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: the Soo Locks.  

If there was a major problem there, the effects could send the entire nation into recession. And that has advocates saying it’s time to build a new lock – but they’ve been saying that for decades. 

 

  

Morgan Springer

The family-owned restaurant Hofbrau Steakhouse and American Grill in Interlochen is changing its name after being asked to do so by a German company. The German beer maker Staaliches Hofbräuhaus says the Hofbrau is violating its trademark.

The restaurant owners considered fighting it, but decided the best thing to do was to pick something new. So they're holding a public naming contest. People can propose names for the restaurant, and the winner gets a prize.

Peter Payette

Jerry Coyne was bored with classic rock on the radio. As a teenager in the 1970s, he saw bands like Led Zeppelin and The Rolling Stones when they were in their prime and he listened to WABX, a rock station in Detroit that introduced a lot of the music that came to define his generation.

Jerry says it changed the entire culture in the U.S.

“Rock ’n’ roll was revolutionary,” he says. “It stopped the Vietnam War.”

So often we hear people say, "Our immigration system is broken." But what exactly does that mean? 

In this State of Opportunity special, we hear answers to that question from various angles.

Bill Marsh Automotive Group

Bill Marsh Sr., the founder of Bill Marsh Automotive Group in Traverse City, has died. He was 80. His family confirmed that he died in Leelanau County on Wednesday from Alzheimer’s disease.

Marsh Sr. built a single dealership with 12 employees into an automotive group with multiple dealerships and 250 employees in northern Michigan. He sold the company to three of his sons when he retired in 2006.

A proposal to reduce salmon stocking in Lake Michigan has upset some sport fishermen. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is polling members of an advisory committee to see how strong opposition is to the plan.


Peter Payette

Tom Doak thinks most new golf courses are “way too hard.” He says designers are driven to match the abilities of players you see on TV.

“Nobody who pays to play golf plays anything like that," he says, "but that’s where all the attention goes.”

Doak’s firm, Renaissance Golf in Traverse City, has built courses around the world, and he says they strive to make them enjoyable for all players. If his team gets carried away creating obstacles like sand bunkers, Doak says it’s only to make the course pretty.

Peter Payette

Fruit growers have a new problem: they can’t buy enough young trees to plant in their orchards.

This is especially true for cherry farmers in Michigan who depend on nurseries in the Pacific Northwest. It could get worse, and some farmers are preparing for a day when they can’t buy any trees.

Ben LaCross was supposed to be planting 6,000 sweet cherry trees this spring at his farm near Maple City. He ordered the trees from a nursery in Oregon three years ago, but there was some unusual weather there that fall.

Aaron Selbig

Costco is coming to Traverse City, but even before ground is broken for the big box store, city officials are worried Costco might try to get a so-called “dark store” tax assessment.

That’s when big retailers argue that the value of their stores is only equal to an empty – or “dark” – store. They’ve been winning these disputes all over Michigan.

Opponents are fighting back, saying dark store assessments are hurting communities.

Wikipedia

Officials in Traverse City are concerned that if Costco comes to town, it will take advantage of so-called “dark store” tax assessments. That’s when businesses argue for lower tax rates based on what their stores would be worth empty – or “dark.”

Retailers like Target, Meijer and Costco have appealed their assessments in Michigan, hoping to pay less money in taxes. They say if they turned around and tried to sell their stores, not many companies would want to buy them. The Michigan Tax Tribunal, which decides tax appeals, has been ruling in favor of retailers.

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