Michigan Business, Economy & Tourism

From classic cars to travel, energy and food, we bring you the stories of the people who fuel our economy and the policies that shape it.

Katrina Watkins stood on her front porch in Detroit’s McDougall-Hunt neighborhood staring at the vacant, overgrown stretch of land across the street.

“I have been trying to get the city out here to cut this for years,” she said.

Eighty years ago, Franklin Delano Roosevelt paid a visit to the city of Hamtramck, an enclave within the city of Detroit. There, the 32nd president cut the ribbon on a new sports stadium, one of the many construction projects being carried out across the country to help the United States dig out of the Great Depression.

Eight decades later, the Detroit City Football Club (DCFC), a minor league soccer team with one of the biggest followings in the country, is looking to turn Keyworth Stadium into its new home.

Food inspectors used a warrant signed by a judge to visit a farm near Cadillac last week. State police troopers were also on hand for the inspection of Bakers Green Acres last Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Jennifer Holton, called the inspection “routine.”

But the farmer, Mark Baker, characterized it on his YouTube channel as a “raid.”

“They pulled in like it was a raid,” he says. “Like we were going to run the other way or flush drugs down the toilet.”

David Cassleman


Throughout this series, we’ve heard from a number of listeners concerned about the cost of housing in northwest lower Michigan.

 

Almost nothing is happening that would improve the situation for people struggling to find an affordable place to live.

 

Builders and developers are building new homes in the region. But they’re more expensive homes, and they’re being built in or near Traverse City, where land is the most costly.

But a developer named Bryce Gibbs has a new house on the market for $89,000, and his future plans include building historic replica homes that are affordable.

Paul Maritinez/Flickr

Last week Governor Rick Snyder signed off on a long-awaited roads funding deal. The laws will raise more than $1 billion a year by 2021. The money will go towards repairing the roads and bridges in Michigan that have been neglected for years.

"This is the largest investment in transportation in Michigan in the last 50 years," Snyder said this month.

But many in the state are not happy with the final product, which includes a gas tax hike and higher car registration fees.

Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta explains the mechanics of the deal:


Aaron Selbig

Soon it will cost more to go to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In January the entrance fee will go from $10 to $15, and the annual entrance pass will increase from $20 to $30. Camping fees will also increase. 

Merrith Baughman, ​park ranger and chief of interpretation and visitor services, says the National Park Service wants more consistent fees across the country. 

Fiat Chrysler Automotive's UAW members vote this week on whether to ratify the second contract put before them. The first tentative contract agreement went down to resounding defeat, forcing the union and FCA to try again.

Much of the opposition to the first deal was fired up on social media. At the same time, the union was widely viewed as having stumbled badly on its social media presence defending the deal.

They're not letting that happen this time.

David Cassleman

There aren’t many businesses left in Thompsonville, and one of the few that remains is closing.

Paul’s Party Store is a place to grab a gallon of milk or buy a pack of cigarettes. But you can also find a more hard-to-find item, like balsamic vinegar.

The store is a small, blue pole barn. It used to be a fishing shop — you can still find fishing gear for purchase — and it’s retained the feel of a tackle shop, dark with a concrete floor.

Wine grape harvest may be at all-time low this year

Sep 30, 2015
Peter Payette

It’s harvest time for wine grapes. But after one of the worst growing seasons in northern Michigan, there aren’t many grapes to make into wine.

Duke Elsner, the small fruit educator for Michigan State University extension, says, "It’s really the worst season we’ve ever seen since the mid-70’s when they started growing wine grapes in northern Michigan."

He says the extreme cold winter wiped out about 50 percent of the grape buds. Then roughly 50 percent of remaining buds were damaged in a late spring frost in May.

Peter Payette

One of the phrases sometimes used to describe what is great about life Up North is “small town character.” What that means is a little vague, but the real estate market generally proves it is valuable: homes in many villages and cities up here are worth more every year.

Acme Township is a rural community that has no village. In fact, it is not much of a destination at all, unless you are going to the Grand Traverse Resort. Acme is mostly farmland with a few businesses along US-31 and M-72 and, of course, that glass tower reaching 17 stories into the sky.

Jeff Henley says it’s too bad people think of Acme as a gateway to Traverse City.

“Why can’t we make Acme a place to stop?” he wonders. “Instead of having to go through a gateway to get to something. Maybe you’re already there. Just look around.”

The Next Idea

All it takes is one new innovation or successful company to change the economic fortunes of an entire city or region.

More often though, it’s the cumulative effect of many new innovations and successful companies that create lasting economic change.

Regardless if it’s one or 1000, new tech companies have an arduous path to success. Yet because of their potentially huge payoffs, competition to host them and their talented workforce is fierce.

Which Way to Paradise: Goodbye Mexico (and leisure)

Sep 23, 2015
Peter Payette

Not many people move to northern Michigan so they can work more. But Adolfo Mendez did, and he works all the time. He has started three businesses in Traverse City.

When he arrived six years ago from Mexico, his friends told him he had a problem: he was a workaholic, they said. But he had no idea what that was.

“So I scared” he recalls. “What is that? That’s cancer? That some problem? I check. I go to my computer. What that? That one is the people they only work, work, work.”

Community Newspaper Holdings

The executive editor of northern Michigan’s largest newspaper has been ousted. The publisher of the Traverse City Record-Eagle, Paul Heidbreder, confirmed that Mike Tyree is no longer with the paper. Heidbreder would not discuss the situation further.

Last year, the Record-Eagle’s owner, Community Newspaper Holdings, had honored Tyree by naming him to its President’s Circle.

Aaron Selbig

Do you live in Paradise? How’s it going?

Those are questions we want to explore this fall on IPR News Radio in our series, Which Way to Paradise: Struggle and Promise Up North.

Parts of northern Michigan are booming and we are constantly told Traverse City, in particular, is a top 10 place to live, work and play. Who is coming here and why? How has the region changed and what is missing?

Our first two stories illustrate both sides of the coin. Ken Daniels just moved his family to Texas. He says he can’t make a living at $13 an hour with no benefits.

Bob Allen

Drilling for oil and gas in Michigan is down to levels not seen since the Great Depression.  And there is no reason to expect the industry will get a boost anytime soon.

Mark Snow handles permits for new oil and gas wells at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and says they are on track to issue about 120 permits this year. That would be the lowest number since 1931 when 111 were issued. As recently as 2008, more than 900 permits were issued.

    

For artists, making work they are proud of is only the first step. They still have to market their art, and themselves as artists, to attract potential buyers.

Painter, sculptor and dean of instruction at Wayne County Community College Jocelyn Rainey will be a panelist for The Business of Art. She also founded a non-profit community arts program called Finding Mona Lisa.

Rainey says she hopes the event will help artists understand how to become self-sufficient.

A legal dispute between an Elk Rapids food processor and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is headed back to court. Burnette Foods filed the lawsuit in 2012, claiming an administrative board that controls the cherry industry is antiquated.

Owner Bill Sherman says the cherry board has had a negative effect on his business.

“We have huge amounts of imports coming into the U.S. of tart cherry products and at the same time, we are not allowed to sell our products under the threat of severe financial penalties," says Sherman.

Could low-alcohol wines that still pack full, rich flavor be on the horizon for Michigan?

HOUR Detroit Magazine's chief wine and restaurant critic Chris Cook says Michigan's flavor patterns do better with less alcohol, but balancing the two can be difficult.

DE-STA-CO manufacturing company has announced it will be closing its Charlevoix facility. DE-STA-CO makes parts for assembly lines. The company will begin laying off workers in early 2016, leaving over 100 people out of work.

Darren Greene, DE-STA-CO’s global marketing director, says the business is expanding and has decided to relocate to Tennessee.

TC's farmers market may get a makeover

Jul 16, 2015
Downtown Development Authority

The Downtown Development Authority has plans to renovate Traverse City’s farmers market. The goal is to make the market a more comfortable and efficient space for customers and vendors. 

On Saturday mornings, Sara Hardy Downtown Farmers Market can be so crowded it’s hard to navigate, especially with a stroller or wheelchair. Some customers avoid the busy hours or skip out on the market altogether if they can't make it in the early morning. Plus rainy days mean fewer customers for vendors.

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