Business Services

Sponsor Callout: Corporate Leadership and Sustainability Summit (CLASS)

The first annual Corporate Leadership and Sustainability Summit (CLASS) will be held October 23rd and 24th, 2008 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City.

The summit is sponsored by The Utopia Foundation, the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce and Northwestern Michigan College. It’s designed to provide for-profit and non-profit business leaders, managers and social entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn practical methods of turning good ideas and intentions into solutions that support corporate values and address global economic, social and environmental challenges in our communities and around the world.

CLASS will lead off with Chris Laszlo, Ph.D, whose topic is “Sustainable Value: How the World’s Leading Companies Are Doing Well by Doing Good!” Other presenters include author James C. Hunter, Chandran Nair, CEO of Global Institute for Tomorrow, Matthew Neagle (the Community Affairs Lead at Google) and Evan Thomas, NASA Aerospace Engineer and founder of the Engineers Without Borders – Johnson Space Center chapter.

Utopia Foundation Chairman Paul Sutherland says “We believe the first annual Utopia Foundation CLASS will set the stage for decades of profitable and humanitarian collaboration, investment ideas, opportunities and charitable activities. This seminar will be profitable for corporate and social leaders who want to ensure that they have their fingers on the pulse of opportunities that yield both profit and humanitarian good.”

About our Sponsor Callouts

The work we do on Absolute Michigan is supported by our sponsors, and we like to highlight what they are doing when we can. We hope you’ll check out what they have to offer and patronize them when you can. If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, please email!

Creative Cities Summit 2.0 in Detroit

.cadillac buildings-detroit. by tEdGuY49
.cadillac buildings-detroit. by tEdGuY49 ®

Note: they have a special “no frills” registration for $100 – amazing deal!

Detroit will host the Creative Cities Summit 2.0 (CCS2) on October 12-15, 2008 at the Renaissance Center. CCS2 is an interdisciplinary conference on the economic, social, cultural and environmental aspects of what makes great cities.

I could talk on and on about the eye-popping agenda they have created and amazing speakers who will attend – headlined by Dr. Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class, John Howkins, author of The Creative Economy, and Charles Landry, author of The Creative City. I could muse about how all the attendees from all over the world might influence the conversation about the re-invention of Detroit and Michigan. I could say that if you can’t make it during the week, you might want to check out the Unconference on Sunday @ MOCAD.

However, I think it’ll be enough to ask you to watch the videos in our Creative Cities 2.0 playlist below (including a little Detroit easter egg) and tell you to register now! See you there!

Michigan’s Small Business Advocate … and cider

cider by yodraws
cider by yodraws

Crain’s Detroit has a neat “Small Talk” series of videos. One of these is a Q&A with Michigan’s Small Business Advocate, Chris Holman. His job is to connect small businesses with services and programs. I had no idea there was even such a position (Chris’s page can be found at

Chris is (was?) the host of “Business Today with Chris Holman” on WILX-TV, “The Chris Holman Morning Show” on WILS AM radio and publisher of The Greater Lansing Business Monthly. He says that he’s a small business guy and is holding a series of roundtables across the state. I thought it might be cool to have folks in places he may not be able to visit ask him their questions. So, ask away in the comments and we’ll pass them along to him!

On an unrelatedly related note, Crain’s latest is a video on Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill. It’s an interesting look behind the scenes at a business that makes most of its revenue in just a few weeks. Click to visit Parmenter’s website, and from there to make cider Michigan’s state drink. Works for me.

Service Tax repeal appears certain

Capitol, Landing MI by Irina Vasiliu

Below you’ll find a news release from Governor Granholm regarding an agreement to add a 21.9% surcharge to the new Michigan Business Tax to replace the 6% Michigan Service Tax.

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News have details on the agreement as well.

The Eleven Seconds to Midnight Gang rides again

Carousel by jnhkrawczyk

“We’ve got a shift starting in 36 hours that we’ve got to charge 6% more on … and I don’t know how to do it.”
-John Evans, president of Evans Distribution

Welcome to Michigan, where we somehow seem to be stuck in the Reality TV version of Groundhog Day: Your Government inAction. With just hours remaining before a confusing, unexplained and really random 6% Service Tax goes into effect, everyone who might have to pay the tax is watching the clock and wondering what Lansing will do. Read on for much more…

Five things you need to know for Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganThey said it: Dana Johnson, chief economist for used-to-be-Detroit-based Comerica Bank in forecasting modest 1-2% growth for Michigan’s economy in 2008. We’ll finally have the sense, after four years of a downturn, we’re on a rise again. Roy Williams, on the I don’t want it, you take it NFC playoff race: Yeah, we’re in this playoff hunt now. We’re looking at teams, wondering what they’re doing … If we can win three, I think we’re in. The Traverse City Record-Eagle responding to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling that only political parties could get lists of who voted in which primary: At least we know where we stand vis-a-vis the Supreme Court: in second place.

Tayshaun by radiospike

If you can’t afford a hybrid, go PB&J

Via Michigan-based blog Scientific Ink, I learned that A PB&J will slow global warming, reducing your carbon footprint by saving the equivalent of 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions over an average animal-based lunch like a hamburger, a tuna sandwich, grilled cheese, or chicken nuggets. That’s about 40% of what you’d save driving around for the day in a hybrid instead of a standard sedan and it also saves water, land and the fats in PB&J aren’t as bad as you might think!

Prince Kicks Down

Sports Illustrated reports in A prince among men that last week Pistons’ star Tayshaun Prince and his wife Farah purchased and redecorated a luxury suite at the Palace to donate to Kids Kicking Cancer, a Detroit-based charity that uses martial arts techniques to empower hundreds of children and help them cope with their illness. Great article about a great guy and a program that really looks special (be sure to check out that link – they have an excellent video on their site from TV-4 as well).

Radiospike, Courtside

If you live in Detroit, you might know Spike aka radiospike from Mojo in the Morning. I’m not sure if these awesome courtside seats at the were a perk from that or just from living right, but he sure got some great shots in his Pistons 11-23-07 set like this one of Tayshaun Prince and this one of Chauncey Billups. The cheerleaders seem to have gotten in his way in a lot of the other photos, but I guess that’s a hazard of being courtside.

Foreclosure Madness and the Motor City

Easy money, risky loans drive area home losses in the Detroit News is an excellent, in-depth feature probing the causes for the sky-high foreclosure rates of Michigan (particularly Metro Detroit) has as much to do with the mortgage industry as the auto industry in that money remained “incredibly easy to borrow.” The result was a very high percentage of subprime loans – 55% in the region and 2 out of 3 in Wayne County. According to the article, the root of the problem (if indeed there is one) is the fact that loans became a Wall Street commodity, and it didn’t matter if some loans went bad when the yield was that high. But as Bill Matthews, senior vice president of the Conference of State Bank Supervisors notes: “What the hedge fund manager is missing, is it’s destroying communities.”

Video from YOUR Town

The Absolute Michigan group on YouTubeThere’s no way that I’m going to feature any Michigan city or town after that story. Instead, I’ll call out our new Absolute Michigan group on YouTube. We’d like you to share your videos about all aspects of the Great Lakes State – your hometown, history, fun things to do, good eats, great businesses and places to visit. We’ll feature videos from the group here on Absolute Michigan!

Absolute Michigan at TC Business Expo

Grand Traverse Resort by

Hey there, if you happen to be in the Traverse City area tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov 6) Absolute Michigan will be in the “Tech City” area for the Traverse City Chamber of Commerce Business & Technology Expo from 9 – 5 at the Grand Traverse Resort.

We’re be giving away a $500 Absolute Michigan sponsorship, so drop by, say hello and enter to win!

(and if for some reason our posts tomorrow are late, you’ll know why!!)

Five things you need to know for Thursday, October 18, 2007

Five Things You Need to Know About MichiganWelcome to the “We don’t need costumes to scare you, we’re politicians” edition of Five Things you need to know about Michigan.

Legislation to Repeal Service Tax Introduced

The Freep reports that although the ink is barely dry on the package that averted a governmental shutdown, legislation was introduced yesterday in the Senate to repeal a key component: the 6% service tax on a strange mix of businesses. The tax, which has drawn fire, is expected to raise about $725 million a year and legislative leaders (including Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop) oppose the repeal as they have no idea how the revenue would be replaced. The Michigan Chamber of Commerce has been vocal in their opposition, and Jack Lessenberry has an interview with the chamber’s director of tax policy and economic development, Tricia Kinley.

Shutdown II: Jason Returns

Meanwhile, the “new look” Detroit News writes that lawmakers have made no visible progress on hammering out $440 million in budget-balancing cuts as the state is closing in on another shutdown deadline – appropriately scheduled for Halloween. At the present time, the largest “cut” is actually a rollback in promised increases to public schools and universities from 2.5% to 1.5%. Perhaps “cost of living” isn’t in Lansing’s vocabulary. Read Another shutdown of state looming in the Detroit News.

Richardson All Wet

Proving that he has mastered the art of political speech, New Mexico Governor & Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson executed a quick U-Turn from his statement that there should be a national water summit to find ways water-rich northern states could help the West, issuing a statement that “Richardson believes firmly in keeping water in its basin of origin and of the rights of states to oversee water distribution.” Read the rest of the article in the Freep … and also consider that although he took it back, there’s no doubt that other folks in the chronically dry West are eying Great Lakes water. I guess a silver lining of a water-hungry south and west is that there might be some national attention (and funding) for Great Lakes environmental projects.

The Cap by Mario Q

This photo was taken on June 5, 2007, with storm clouds blowing through. Mario lives in the Lansing area and has a number of photos of Michigan’s Capitol building and lots of other cool shots. Here’s a link for a slideshow of photos of the Michigan Capitol from the Absolute Michigan pool!

Hell, Michigan

It seems cruel to associate any Michigan town with such a gallery of horrors, but there’s one Michigan town that glories in such things. According to The Really Long History of Hell from, Hell was settled by George Reeves, a man who required a bit more elbow room than most. Reeves owned the mill and made the whiskey and when asked on October 13, 1841 by the State of Michigan what to name his town, he purportedly replied, “Call it Hell for all I care, everyone else does.” Heck, there’s even a Hell, Michigan comic book! Wikipedia’s entry on Hell, Michigan lists the population as 266 and the list an alternate and not nearly as colorful reason for Hell’s name.

6% of x? Untangling Michigan’s Service Tax

Half Staff by Apocaplops

UPDATE Oct 25: Carol of writes:

I actually have the entire list of services descriptions covered by the law, on my blog at When the law came out, I cross-referenced the NAICS codes (which are incorporated into the new law specifically by reference) with the section numbers from the bill and the expected new numbers for sections in Michigan Compiled Laws. If you want to see this to determine whether your business services are covered, go to (it’s a big list!)

Political analyst George Weeks writes that in decades of following how Lansing deals with financial crisis, I have never seen enactment of such a bizarre, crazy quilt, irrational, inexplicable, unfair and — most of all, confusing to taxpayers — tax.

Crain’s Detroit Business goes further, calling this The best tax plan lobbyists can buy. Law and accounting services are not taxed, but the broad category of management advice, strategic planning and financial planning and budgeting will be taxed. Hmmm. So a company buying consulting services to help it keep its doors open is making a “discretionary” purchase?

Like many in Michigan, we’re wondering which of the services we provide like online publications (probably not), internet consulting (probably so) or graphic design & marketing (who knows??!!) would be subject to the service tax.

Assuming that movements to repeal or change the tax fail, mLive’s blog gives some idea of what services might be subject to the tax come December 2007. The nebulous “consulting services” is made a whole lot clearer when you click over to see businesses classified under 5416 Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services. It’s surprising to find that in addition the list includes items that are absolutely essential to the development of new businesses in Michigan like site selection, start-up consulting, marketing, and a host of science and technical services.

We invite you to add your thoughts, comments and suggestions for making some sense out of what looks like a fiscal nightmare for Michigan.

Blogs We Dig: Michigan Innovators

Moon Patrol by powerbooktrance

Each post at Michigan Innovators is a video podcast interview with innovators who can or have had an impact on Michigan’s economy. Two professors at the College of Business at Eastern Michigan University, Diana Wong and Bud Gibson, started the site with hopes that it would become a “highly visible repository of stories that showcase the modern, innovate spirit lurking in the Michigan economy” and also to provide material for their classes.

Their features look at the entrepreneurs and companies working in cutting edge technology such as Aaron Crumm’s Adaptive Materials (making fuel cells that provide a 10x improvement over battery power, “technology concierge” Bruce McCully of Dynamic Edge, and Linda Girard, who explains how to Find & Convert Web Customers with her company Pure Visibility.

In addition to searches by industry (web communications to medical research) and by people and place, the blog also allows allows searching by themes like Defining New Markets or Technology & Culture, where you can delve into issues the technological and cultural divide between the US & China.