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.

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.

Peter Payette

Traffic over the Mackinac Bridge last year was down more than 20 percent compared to the late 1990s, and there is no single explanation for the trend. But there is one region where residents say they know what happened to their tourists and have a plan to rebuild.

Susie Keirns has been coming to the Les Cheneaux Islands area her whole life. She’s sitting next to a cabin on the beach in Hessel that her mom stayed in 70 years ago when she was expecting Susie’s sister.

“My sister’s 70 now,” she says. “So that tells you how many years we’ve been coming up.”

Peter Payette

For many families in Michigan, high summer means a trip to the Upper Peninsula. But the number of people who cross the Mackinac Bridge has been declining steadily for almost twenty years.

It looks like that trend could turn around this year. But it also appears that many longstanding ties between visitors and the U.P. have been lost along the way.

Taleen and Marshall Jackson live in Mt. Pleasant but their hearts are in the U.P.

“We try to get up here as much as we possibly can,” says Taleen at the end of a June weekend in St. Ignace.

Peter Payette

Michigan residents have a new potential roads fix to consider, after the state Senate passed a series of bills last week. State lawmakers have been debating how to pay for fixing Michigan's crumbling roads for years. The initial plan, Proposal 1, was voted down by voters last May.

The Senate plan promises to raise $1.5 billion using a combination of tax increases and budget cuts. But as the Michigan Public Radio Network's Rick Pluta explains, the bills are controversial for both Republicans and Democrats.

DRust / Flickr

The state Senate has approved its $1.5 billion plan to boost road funding.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley cast two tie-breaking votes on bills to gradually raise Michigan’s gas tax by 15 cents over three years. Calley says those votes were meant to move the process along toward reaching a final compromise on road funding.

“I think this was a positive step toward actually getting our roads fixed,” Calley told reporters shortly after casting the rare tie-breaking votes.

Max Chang/Flickr

Michigan’s film incentives could soon end with the stroke of Gov. Rick Snyder’s pen.

The state House and Senate approved a bill to phase out the film credits on the last day before lawmakers go on an intermittent schedule for the summer.

Supporters of House Bill 4122 say the level of economic activity generated by the program doesn’t justify its cost. And they say the film industry has never taken hold in Michigan.

UPDATE 5:15 pm: State lawmakers have sent Gov. Rick Snyder a bill that would ban local minimum wage and benefit laws. The bill does not apply to ordinances adopted before this year. 

Local minimum wage and benefit ordinances in place before this year would no longer be preempted by a controversial bill in the state Legislature.

A federal appeals court says a northern Michigan Indian tribe does not get to set its own labor rules at the casino it operates near Manistee.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians claimed tribal sovereignty allowed it to adopt its own laws that ban strikes and discourage union organizing by casino employees. The Teamsters challenged the tribal act, and the union won before the National Labor Relations Board.

But the Little River Band says the board has no jurisdiction in this instance.

Traverse City Whiskey Company

Small distillers in northern Michigan would get a big tax break under a bill introduced in the U.S. Senate last week by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI).

He visited Traverse City Whiskey Company on Tuesday to promote the legislation, which would lower the federal excise tax on liquor from $13.50 per gallon to $2.70.

Cost trumps doctor choice in Michigan insurance market

May 20, 2015
Emily Orpin/Flickr

In Michigan, people shopping for health insurance are likely to pick cost savings over the chance to keep their current doctor, according to new research from the Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation.

Center Executive Director Marianne Udow-Phillips says comparison shopping has gotten easier for people with the healthcare exchange.

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon hand down a ruling that may decide whether thousands of Michiganders can afford health insurance.

The court could strike down insurance subsidies offered under the federal health care law. That’s in states like Michigan where the federal government runs the health care exchange.

The ruling is expected this summer. But some state lawmakers are already debating whether to set up a state-run health exchange.

Northwest Michigan Horticulture Research Center

May 17th, 2002 was the official date when tart cherry trees reached full bloom in northern Michigan that year. The orchards looked normal but most of the cherry buds had been destroyed in April by freezing cold.

The Leelanau Enterprise ran a headline that summer that said “No Cherries.”

Ben LaCross is a second generation grower on a farm north of Cedar. He says nobody could recall a cherry crop failing so completely.

S.S. Badger sets sail to a greener future

May 15, 2015
S.S. Badger

A Lake Michigan icon sets sail today with a new lease on life.

The Ludington-based car-ferry S.S. Badger will still give passengers the experience of riding a historic, coal-fired vessel. But the largest coal-fired passenger ship operating in the U.S. will no longer dump its coal ash into the lake.

Ken Bosma

The deer herd in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is so depleted the state is even talking about closing the firearm season this year. It’s just one option listed in a report to the Natural Resources Commission about possible responses to the situation.

Wildlife biologists estimate the population of deer in the UP is at its lowest level in 30 years. Extremely cold winters, particularly in 2014, are to blame, according to the report.

Things are going to be brighter in Warren. Literally.

The Macomb County city plans to swap out all of its streetlights to LED. DTE Energy Co. says this will be the largest collaborative municipal LED conversion yet.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said that in total, the city has around 11,000 streetlights. Of those 11,000 , 6,329 are mercury vapor lights.

Spring has a lot of faces around the country, like the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., and the sap run in Vermont. On one Michigan island, it's horses that are the harbinger of the season.

Mackinac Island draws a million visitors a year for its scenery, fudge and horses. Cars aren't allowed on the island, and every spring, hundreds of horses are ferried from their winter hiatus in the Upper Peninsula for a good grooming and harness fitting, before beginning their summer jobs pulling carriages.

The "Question Mark Building" in Honor, is coming down.
Daniel Wanschura

If you’ve ever driven through the town of Honor on U.S. 31, you’ve likely seen the “Question Mark Building.” 

It’s a dilapidated old structure that had a bright pink facade with a large question mark painted on the front. 

Well, the building is finally coming down. 

Talk to the locals in the town of Honor, and you’ll realize that there is a bit of a love - hate relationship with the building on the corner of Henry and Main Street. 

 

We've heard about all the progress made towards autonomous cars.

The idea is: you get in, sit back, and let the car do the driving.

However, research suggests that not everyone will be able to enjoy this new-found freedom from the wheel.

Automobile insurance rates are expensive in Michigan. The state regularly places in the top ten for highest rates in the country.

But Republicans in Lansing say they have an answer that could lead to lower premiums. The state Senate passed a bill last week that would overhaul Michigan's no-fault insurance system by targeting the way insurers deal with healthcare providers, among other changes.

Rick Pluta, the capitol bureau chief of the Michigan Public Radio Network, explains how the plan would work:


Timo Newton Syms/Flickr

The Michigan Senate has taken an initial step toward overhauling Michigan’s no-fault auto insurance system.

The legislation would set limits on what hospitals could charge insurance companies. It would also cap what insurers can be charged for in-home care for people severely injured in car accidents.

“The best approach to bringing down insurance rates in Michigan is to get costs out of the system – to get costs out of the system,” said state Senator Joe Hune (R-Fowlerville), who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee,

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