Build Michigan! News Updates

Automation Alley rolls with the changes

Automation AlleyMichigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry interviews Thomas Anderson, vice-president and the senior director of Automation Alley about how the Southeast Michigan based organization is working to help businesses in the City of Detroit and Genesee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties meet a changing business environment. In a manner common to Jack’s guests, he tosses off interesting trivia such as “China has lost more manufacturing jobs per capita than the U.S.” and also talks about why they feel keeping a regional focus is an important strategy.

In his accompanying essay, Jack writes:

It’s often tempting to bash Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. He has taken cheap shots at Detroit for decades, and is our state’s number one unapologetic proponent of urban sprawl.

Yet he is a complicated man, and has had some good ideas. Automation Alley was one of the best. Even ten years ago, Patterson understood that we needed a different economic model. He told me then that he wanted to change the entire image of the region to that of a high-tech capital that could rival Silicon Valley or the research laboratories of Boston. That sounded fantastic – but Automation Alley has grown faster than most believed possible. Six hundred and fifty companies have joined, and the alley has spread to cover eight counties in Southeast Michigan, stretching from the Toledo border up to Flint and over to Ann Arbor.

Visit the Automation Alley web site.

An email from the Center

Bridge by Kathy

The Center for Michigan sends a weekly email newsletter that takes a look at Michigan’s problems AND potential solutions from a perspective that is neither Republican nor Democrat – ie. the approach that will probably be required to get our partisanly polarized political process back on the rails.

Rather than weigh you down with yet another list of reasons that we are doomed, Fresh Thoughts for Michigan Moderates offers brief summaries and great links for everything from a call by Nolan Finley to make Michigan a Right to Work state to some no-nonsense recommendations by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network:

Michigan’s State government is lurching from one political crisis to the next. Imagine better politics. Imagine a better functioning democracy where every voice has equal standing, and every citizen feels the full responsibility of citizenship. Better politics should lead to better public policies and a clearer, more purposeful course for our future.

A Case for Political Reform in Michigan includes rationale for 33 political reforms in the areas of campaign finance, lobbying, ethics, term limits, redistricting, election administration, judicial independence and enforce.

This is quite simply the best email I receive and I cannot recommend it enough – register right here.

New Faces, New Futures: Immigrants, women change Michigan farming

By Julie Hay, Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

Old Mission farmer Leo Ocanas
Leo Ocanas photo by J. Carl Ganter

There is an ease in his heavily accented voice. Neither his accent nor his modesty, though, masks the smile in Leo Ocanas’s voice when he speaks about the Hispanic tradition in farming.

“The legend of the Hispanic people is work. Our ambitions come from farm labor,” Mr. Ocanas said recently. “It’s in the blood of migrants since they were little. We love farming because that’s all we know.”

Mr. Ocanas’s life perfectly illustrates his words. As a youngster, he came to the United States from Mexico with his family, his green card, and a readiness to harvest crops. Three decades, countless farms, and thousands of miles later, he became a U.S. citizen. He used $29,000 he had somehow saved while working for farm laborer wages as a down payment on 22 acres of farmland on Traverse City’s Old Mission Peninsula. Today he owns the largest apple orchard on the peninsula.

But Mr. Ocanas’s story also illustrates a brand-new phenomenon: the face of American agriculture is changing. While Mexicans form the largest group of what’s come to be called “new farmers,” others are also spurring the transformation—immigrants from Asia and Europe, women, retirees, even baby boomers looking for new careers. Together, these newcomers are gradually recasting the image of American farmers.

Many are helping to change how farming is done, too. Some use more labor-intensive, sustainable farming methods; some engage in community-supported agriculture, selling season-long shares of their produce to a limited list of customers; and ever more are tapping into local markets whenever they can…

New Faces, New Futures continued at »

Also see: With These Hands: The Ocanases (multimedia)

Alternative energy makes economic sense for Michigan

Quixote by Lantern Waste Studios

Right now, only 3% of Michigan’s electricity comes from renewable resources. Michigan Public Service Commission Chairman J. Peter Lark says that raising the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) is a good first move:

“A required RPS is a win-win proposition. It will encourage the creation of in-state jobs, reduce pollution and dependence on fossil fuels, diversify Michigan’s fuel mix, and provide a measure of protection from potential expensive emissions regulations.”

This is just a bit from a truly excellent article in the Metro Times that looks at the economics of alternative energy from the $18 billion that Michigan sends to other states and countries for coal, oil, natural gas and uranium imported to the sad fact that although Michigan is ranked as the 14th windiest state and California 17th, California has thousands of wind turbines while Michigan has exactly three. The Washington-based Renewable Energy Policy Project has estimated that if Michigan’s potential for wind power were fully developed, more than 8,000 jobs would be generated.

Read Power in Play in Metro Times Detroit and also check out Michigan’s 21st Century Energy Plan.

Selling Michigan … to Michigan’s youth

U-M North Campus Computer Science
Building by meanmustard1982

Phil Power writes that he recently had dinner with a group of bright, enthusiastic young people, all about to graduate from college and excited about their future … and all planning to leave Michigan. He suggests that finding, attracting, nurturing and retaining talent is the single most important thing we can do – more important than any economic policy. He adds:

We’re urging out-of-state businesses to locate here, which is perfectly fine. But when our greatest resources of all – our talented young people – are choosing to leave, we’d do well to begin by selling them on our future.

We need to sell them on what we’ve got to offer internally before we can convince the outside world, and we need to do so soon, before a steady trickle of young career professionals going elsewhere turns into an unstoppable flood.

Read Phil Power: Michigan Needs to Keep its Young Talent Here in the Enterprise Forum.

Van Andel Institute & Spectrum for Center for Molecular Medicine

GVSU Cook-DeVos Center for
Health Sciences by docksidepress

The Great Lakes IT Reports says that the Van Andel Institute and Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids have formed a new joint venture, the Center for Molecular Medicine. The Center will offer molecular technologies for investigation of complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, mental illness and other conditions at the DNA, RNA and protein levels.

Daniel H. Farkas, Ph.D., a nationally respected leader in the field of molecular diagnostics, has been named Executive Director of the CMM. Richard C. Breon, President & CEO, Spectrum Health said:

“The Center for Molecular Medicine is an investment in the future of health care. It accelerates the drive toward personalized medicine – the tailoring of treatment based on molecular make-up. We are very fortunate to have an individual of Dan Farkas’ caliber on board as we work to offer physicians and their patients the most advanced diagnostic treatment options available – options typically offered only at the nation’s largest academic medical research centers.”

More information at the Center for Molecular Medicine web site (also check out the news release).

Michigan’s political gridlock is bad for business

Traffic Jammed by Paul Hitz

The Lansing State Journal reports that the inability Michigan’s governor and lawmakers to come to an agreement that solves the state’s budget crisis is not playing well on Wall Street. Standard & Poor’s Rating Service lists Michigan is the only state with a negative credit outlook due to massive shortfalls in its current and upcoming budgets and a failure to pass a replacement for the expiring Single Business Tax. S&P Managing Director James Wiemken says:

“Michigan’s credit outlook could be revised to stable if the legislature passes a tax reform package and addresses the remainder of the structural imbalance in the fiscal 2008 budget. From a credit perspective, this is probably the most important legislative session in more than a decade.”

The report (not available on the Standard & Poors site) also notes that notes that the state has not been downgraded further in the face of a $900 million shortfall in the current budget and a $1 billion deficit in the next because the Granholm proposal addresses the state’s structural deficit in the next budget year and “moves the state’s revenue base over a broader and more stable part of the economy.”

Read Analysts call on Michigan to solve budget crisis soon in the LSJ. The article includes links to Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, and that seems a very good place to begin.

Today is Great Lakes Day … What is Michigan doing about that?

Miners Castle by James Phelps

Clean Lakes Mean Good Jobs from the Michigan Land Use Institute alerted us to the fact that today is Great Lakes Day (I was unaware that there even was such a thing). MLUI’s Andy Guy says…

…when Washington lawmakers will be hearing from supporters of the proposed $20 billion Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes. Governor Granholm needs to be there, pitching hard for the proposal. If passed, it would quickly generate thousands of short-term jobs for workers across the Midwest, accelerate the rejuvenation of Rustbelt cities, and permanently position the greater Great Lakes region to compete and win in the 21st century global knowledge economy.

Restoring the Great Lakes ecology will have at least five very positive economic effects including leveraging needed private urban investment, guaranteeing long-term job retention, giving our entire region a competitive edge and spurring new industry. It would generate immediate (and critically needed) short-term job opportunities. A federal investment of $7.5 billion in sewer repairs could, all by itself, generate some 350,000 jobs in the regional construction industry and fully funding the $20 billion restoration strategy would generate thousands of additional jobs for blue collar workers and also scientists, contractors, skilled laborers, technicians, and an unknown number of related support staff.

Visit the Great Lakes Commission’s site for Great Lakes Day. You can also view the Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes and a report by Healing Our Waters about the positive economic impacts of Great Lakes restoration.

Comment on Governor Granholm’s Town Hall Meetings

Jennifer Granholm by C.A. Carrigan

WJRT-TV 12 Flint has complete video coverage of the first of Governor Jennifer Granholm’s live town hall meetings and also video of the Republicans “counter-offensive” on the budget.

The Freep has an article that includes a schedule on these invitation-only events:

We’re interested in any comments you have about how Michigan should attempt to surmount our economic crises.

Michigan Electric Cars, Revisited

Chevy Volt Concept by GM Blogs

Here’s a couple of nice articles that follow up on some past features on Absolute Michigan. The first, Getting a Jolt from Volt on the GM Fastlane Blog revisits the Chevy Volt (Detroit Auto Show: Chevy Volt an early darling). GM Chairman Bob Lutz writes:

…some cynics accused us of pulling a PR stunt, saying the Volt is simply an attempt by GM to “greenwash” the public and would never be a real vehicle. The truth is just the opposite — we are treating Volt just like any other vehicle we do, giving it a dedicated development team and designating resources for it. With that in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to update you on the program so far.

He proceeds to do exactly that and provides a nice update on the actions GM is taking to bring this plug-in hybrid to market.

The second (hijacked from Black Bear Speaks), AutoblogGreen visits the American Electric Vehicle factory – where the Kurrent is made (Spartan Edge test drives the Kurrent Electric Car). They take a tour of the Ferndale factory and also take a lot of great photos!