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Thursday, February 28, 2013

Share Michigan History

Below is a press release from DNR about an opportunity for those who love history.

Contact: Maria Quinlan Leiby, 517-373-1685 or Christiana Hanson, 517-241-6852

Michigan Historical Museum invites you to share Michigan’s history

Do you have a passion for Michigan or an interest in our state’s history? If so, the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing needs you. On Wednesday, March 6, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. the museum, located at 702 W. Kalamazoo St. in downtown Lansing, will host an informational meeting for those interested in becoming volunteer docents.

The event will include information about the museum, the docent application process and the types of work docents do.

Docents welcome visitors in the museum galleries, answer questions and share their own interest and knowledge of Michigan’s past. The most successful docents have an interest in Michigan history, a desire to share their enthusiasm with the public, the ability to speak clearly before a group and a willingness to lead tours and programs for children and adults.

I really enjoy working with the third-graders, and when we hit it off it’s a good experience for both them and me,” said docent Dick Hinshon. “Volunteering has turned out to be way more fun than I expected.”

Michigan Historical Center Director Sandra Clark appreciates the docents’ role. “Our docents are essential to making every visit an enjoyable learning experience for children and adults,” said Clark. “We hope many people will take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about a great way to give back to our community and work with a wonderful group of people.”

Scheduling is flexible and can include weekend hours. Docents who complete training are expected to fulfill an annual time commitment. Docents also receive a museum store discount, free parking and special training opportunities.

Docent training begins on Wednesday, March 20, and consists of five weekly sessions, plus a later sixth session. In addition, trainees work with experienced docents who help guide them as they begin to work with visitors.

To learn more about the program or to R.S.V.P. for the March 6 meeting, please call 517-373-1359 or docentguild@gmail.com.

For more information on the Michigan Historical Museum, go to www.michigan.gov/museum or call 517-373-3559.

Admission fees for the Michigan Historical Museum are $6 for adults ages 18-64, children through age 5 are free, youth ages 6-17 may pay an optional $2, and seniors 65 and up are $4. Annual passes are available, and there is no admission charge on Sundays.

The museum and visitor parking are on the north side of Kalamazoo Street, two blocks east of M. L. King Jr. Boulevard. Weekend parking is free.

The Michigan Historical Center is part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Its museum and archival programs help people discover, enjoy and find inspiration in their heritage. It includes the Michigan Historical Museum, 10 regional museums, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and Underwater Preserve, and the Archives of Michigan. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/michiganhistory.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Crain's of Detroit Reports on Michigan Economy

Below is a very important article from Crain's on the state of Michigan's economy.  Rogers City continues to see signs of economic recovery and looks to a "bright future."
Originally Published: February 27, 2013 3:01 AM Modified: February 27, 2013 4:06 PM

Michigan has built a foundation for economic growth

Michigan will soon have a major economic summit to discuss both business conditions and prospects for future growth. Encouragingly, Michigan has been experiencing its best economic performance since 2000, both on an absolute basis and when measured in comparison to the national average.
As of the fourth quarter of 2012, prosperity, simply defined as job growth plus personal income growth, has meaningfully rebounded from levels three years ago, and has now matched or exceeded the same measure for the US for eleven consecutive quarters. Michigan has not exceeded the US growth average for job and income growth for this long since early 2000. In the period since then, we have seen one normal recession (2001), and one "Great Recession" (2008/2009).
Concurrent with Michigan's improved economic performance, has been a much discussed manufacturing rebirth in many parts of the country, notably in the Midwest. To be fair, Michigan has not resolved the cyclical ups-and-downs of its pro-cyclical economy yet, but the state's potential for longer-lasting secular growth will likely be enhanced due to the following:
  1. The tax climate has made steady improvements as supported by Michigan's significant improvement in the Tax Foundation's State Business Climate ranking, which most recently ranked Michigan 12th among the 50 states.
  2. The improved prospects for lower energy costs and greater efficiency of energy consumption, which naturally benefits Michigan.
  3. A more competitive motor vehicle industry, which includes improved profitability and usage of cash to enhance shareholder value, when compared with the previous15 to 20 years.
  4. The prospects that both inflation and interest rates should remain lower for a longer time period, benefiting Michigan's capital sensitive industries.
  5. The improved geographic balance in Michigan between not only the east and west Michigan economies, but also the tourism related areas of northern Michigan.
  6. The corporate profit performance for Michigan's non-auto business sector has also been witnessing stronger earnings, cash flow, and stock price performance in early 2013. For example, year-to-date through early February 2013, the average Michigan publicly traded, headquartered company is up over 7 percent, outpacing the Standard & Poor's 500.
To be sure, there is more Michigan can and must do to improve its long-term ability to compete and enhance prosperity. Encouragingly, the economic performance of Michigan over the last three years, and our prospects for continued growth in 2013, has a stronger foundation than anytime in the last 15 years.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Oakland Press Article Says Michigan Moving Forward

While there’s still a long way to go to reach prior levels, Michigan’s economy is showing signs of a resurgence.

For the second consecutive year, the state showed a modest increase in payroll jobs in 2012.

Michigan had 3,983,000 jobs in 2012, is up nearly 50,000 from the year before and more than 100,000 from 2010, Michigan’s worse year for total payroll jobs in quite some time, according to a graph from Michigan Labor Market Information.

The number is still well down from a peak of 4,676,000 jobs in 2000, but is approaching the 4,162,000 jobs the state had before the stock market crash of 2008 and the 2009 bankruptcy of Chrysler and General Motors.
“Michigan’s employment trend continues to be upbeat,” reads a recent blog post by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. The SEMCOG blog post focused on the Michigan Labor Market Information numbers.

The private sector is driving the numbers upward, with manufacturing and professional services leading that charge, the post states.

Construction jobs have decreased, but that could change in the coming year.

“Michigan communities are showing up on national lists of improving home markets,” the post reads.

“A housing recovery will stimulate job growth in the construction industry eventually. Furthermore, many economists are predicting an overall healthy economy for 2013.”

SEMCOG’s economic development strategy lays out many assets that the region can use to build economic prosperity. 

“The Detroit automotive industry continues to be the brain center for the global automotive sector, leading the way in research and development and advanced manufacturing,” the report states.

“We have a uniquely talented labor force containing twice as many engineers as the national average.”

The report touts “world-class” airports, universities and medical centers, “one of the busies international trade corridors in the world,” and “abundant, attractive natural resources.”

Another key? Innovation. Michigan was ranked in the top 10 for total number of patents granted in 2011, prompting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to open its first satellite office in Detroit in 2012.

Contact staff writer Dave Phillips at 248-745-4631 or dave.phillips@oakpress.com. Follow him on Twitter @dave_phillips1.
Rogers City is also participating in the state-wide economic recovery with new local businesses and expansion of existing businesses.  Go Michigan!  Beat Illinois...(on the athletic fields, that is).

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Three Michigan Companies in Top 100

Here is a report from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation:

Three Michigan companies earn spot on national “100 Best Companies to Work for” list

Three of the 100 best companies to work for in the United States are right here in Michigan, according to Fortune magazine in its 16th annual survey of top-rated workplaces in the United States.
Quicken Loans, Plante Moran and Stryker are featured in Fortune’s “Top 100 Best Companies to Work for” list, the magazine’s benchmark study, the most extensive employee survey in corporate America.
“These three world-class companies – Quicken, Plante Moran and Stryker – are great employers in our state and have clearly earned their place on this list,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “We applaud their corporate leadership in workplace satisfaction and as stewards of our state’s business culture. These companies demonstrate what makes Michigan a great place for growing businesses and our continued efforts for more and better jobs.”
About the companies:

Quicken Loans, Detroit – Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online home lender and third largest retail mortgage lender, is no. 10 on Fortune’s list. Quicken Loans offers its employees many perks, including Razor scooters, pinball machines, gaming systems and Ping-Pong tables.  This is Quicken Loans’ 10th consecutive year on the list.


Plante Moran, Southfield – Plante Moran, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, came in at no. 25. Plante Moran provides its staff with volunteer opportunities that increase the well-being of individuals in their communities, giving employees a sense of accomplishment through contributions of time and talent. This is the 15th consecutive year Plante Moran has been named to Fortune’s list.


Stryker, Kalamazoo – Stryker is one of the world’s leading medical technology companies. According to Fortune, Stryker is a great place to work because it keeps things light by offering Ping-Pong tables on-site and having "pie-your-manager" competitions. Coming in at no. 61, Stryker has earned a spot on the Fortune list for three consecutive years.
Fortune’s survey looks at attitudes about management's credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. It also includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, training, recognition programs, and diversity efforts.
To choose the top 100 companies, Fortune partners with the Great Place to Work Institute to conduct the most extensive employee survey in corporate America. This year’s survey looked at 259 companies and included responses from more than 277,000 employees.
Any company that is at least five years old and has more than 1,000 U.S. employees is eligible. The deadline for applying for next year's list is July 1, 2013. For an online nomination form, visit the Great Place to Work Institute.
Rogers City has some companies that are reputed to be great employers; although, based on the criteria above, none are eligible to apply for this list.

Here is a list of some great companies to work for in Rogers City:  Carmeuse Lime and Stone (Rogers City Plant),  Plath's Meats, Rogers City Rehab Hospital, Rogers City Area Schools, and--dare I say it--the City of Rogers City. 

I wish the City could employ more workers because I think City jobs are good jobs, the workers are productive, and we do important work.  However, the City must live within its means so that the community will be prosper for decades to come. 

Of course, Moran Iron will be opening a Rogers City operation in the near future--they too are a company that has a reputation as a great employer.

If you feel I have left off a company in Rogers City that deserves recognition as a great place to work, please let me know.  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Status of Mail Delivery

Here is an article about the future of mail delivery in the U.S.:


Postal Service to say goodbye to mail delivery on Saturdays

United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Lakesha Dortch-Hardy loads her van with mail at the Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago, Nov. 29, 2012....
© John Gress / Reuters / REUTERS
United States Postal Service Letter Carrier Lakesha Dortch-Hardy loads her van with mail at the Lincoln Park carriers annex in Chicago, Nov. 29, 2012.
It's been debated for months and months, but on Wednesday the United States Postal Service finally will announce it's not going to deliver first-class mail on Saturdays anymore.
The postal service's announcement, planned for about 10 a.m. EST, is expected to say that packages, mail-order medicine, and express mail will continue to be delivered on Saturday, but not letters, bills, cards, and catalogs. Post offices which are now open on Saturdays will continue to be open on Saturdays.
The move is meant to save the financially struggling agency about $2 billion annually as it wrestles with the rising popularity of email and social media eating away at its core business of delivering mail, and with the climbing costs of providing health benefits to its workers.
In January, the USPS' board of governors directed management to accelerate the restructuring of postal service operations in the face of declining revenues. It said that the USPS could no longer afford to wait for legislation to salvage its business.
The agency reported an annual loss of a record $15.9 billion for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, triple the prior year's loss and capping a year in which it was forced to default on payments to a health benefit trust fund managed by the Treasury Department. The rising costs for future retiree health benefits accounted for $11.1 billion of the losses.
The USPS is an independent agency of the government. It does not get tax money to fund its day-to-day operations, but it is subject to congressional control, and congressional foot-dragging.
On Jan. 27, the USPS raised postage stamp prices by one cent to 46 cents to help raise revenues. “We are currently losing $25 million per day,” Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe warned in January.
The move is another milestone in the long-running political dance between Congress and Postal Service managers over how to finance the delivery of mail to 151 million addresses, nearly 40 percent of the world's "snail mail" volume. Though its Capitol Hill critics complain that Postal Service should be made to operate “more like a business,” Congress has created a set of rules that all but guarantee billion-dollar losses.
Those losses are almost entirely the result of the now-defaulted “pre-funding” requirement for retiree health insurance and other accounting charges.
The Postal Service faces other constraints. It's banned from setting up retail outlets, for example, that could generate profits to help subsidize delivery costs. Worse, it is barred by Congress from charging the full cost of providing the service it is required to deliver.

The Associated Press and NBC News' John Schoen contributed to this report.

Mail delivery, like any government service, should to be able to sustain itself.  If we can't afford it, it is better to not do it.  Half measures are often an organizational "death knell."  We shall have to wait and see if the reduced services are enough to bring about sustainability.  Many people uses text messages and email to replace the "old fashioned" letter in the U.S. mail.  This has reduced the volume of U.S. mail and cut revenue, but many still "send it in a letter."  I hope Congress will remember those of us who depend on the U.S. mail to deliver our letters.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Roads Need Repair

Here is a great article from Bridge Magazine  By Ted Roelofs:
There is no shortage of fancy electronic charts, graphs and statistics to document the crumbling state of Michigan’s streets and highways.

Grand Rapids auto repair shop owner Jay Ziomkowski, though, charts it by the customers who walk through his door.
He recalled a recent winter, when “the roads were just horrific. Certain sections were like a bomb went off. You would get bent rims, blown tires. The struts would actually break off where they were mounted.”

Of course, from his perspective, that might not be all bad.
“I don’t mind. It brings work. We do a ton of wheel bearings and I think that’s related to the condition of the roads.”

For nearly everyone else, however, there is a price to pay for a state transportation grid in decline.  According to a 2011 state report, 13.6 percent of 85,000 lane miles on roads eligible for federal funding needed structural repair in 2004. By 2011, that figure had more than doubled to 35.1 percent.
In 2004, nearly 88 percent of those roads were considered in good or fair shape, according to the Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council. That declined to 64.9 percent by 2011.

Michigan has another 80,000 miles of roads not eligible for federal aid, mostly streets and little-traveled rural roads. The news there is no better.
Of some 10,000 miles of such roads that were rated, 44 percent were in poor condition, 46 percent in fair and just 10 percent in good condition.

Michigan annually pops up near the top of lists that only confirm what frustrated drivers often say.
In 2010, Michigan’s roads were ranked second worst in the nation by trucking publication Overdrive Magazine. In 2009, they rated third worst.

In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers in Michigan gave Michigan roads a grade of “D” and state bridges a “C.” It also noted that some 10,000 miles of primary roads slid from “good” to “fair” condition between 2004 and 2007.
According to the Michigan Department of Transportation, the condition of the state’s 10,000 bridges showed slight improvement from 2004 to 2011.

But it also noted that Michigan topped another dubious list, leading Great Lakes states in 2012 in percentage of structurally deficient bridges on all roadways with 11.8 percent.
At Capitol, calls for new funding

Gov. Rick Snyder is calling for an extra $1.2 billion in annual transportation funding. That could be could be raised through legislation to install a wholesale gas tax and increase registration fees or a voter referendum to increase the state sales tax by 2 cents. Both options would scrap the 19-cents-per-gallon tax paid at the pump.
Snyder also has proposed a local option under which counties could approve additional vehicle registration increases to fund local road improvements. Michigan has about 120,000 miles of paved roadway, including nearly 10,000 miles of state trunkline, 90,000 miles of county roads, and just over 20,000 miles of city and village streets.
The added funds are to compensate for a decade of declining revenue to fix roads and bridges.

Fuel efficiency disrupts repair system

As cars get more fuel efficient, revenue from the gas tax – the primary funding source for transportation infrastructure – declined from more than $940 million in fiscal year 2002-2003 to $846 million in fiscal 2008-2009. According to the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency, the amounts to a drop of 42 percent when adjusted for inflation. It calculated that overall transporation transportation revenue, including vehicle license and registration fees, the gas tax and 15-cent diesel fuel tax, declined by 39 percent allowing for inflation during that period.
At the same time, the cost of everything from asphalt to paving trucks has only gone up.“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Jon Rice, managing director of the Kent County Road Commission.“We’ve got a huge investment (in roads and bridges) in Kent County and to see that investment deteriorate and knowing that we can’t do what the public expects us to do is very frustrating.”
Rice said the county netted $29 million in state transportation fund revenues for fiscal 2012 — same amount it received in 1999. Adjusting for inflation, that represents a funding drop of $11 million. Rice estimated during that same period that basic maintenance costs increased by at least 80 percent.  The cost to road quality has been considerable. In 2004, 18 percent of county roads were rated in poor condition. That nearly doubled to 35 percent in 2010.  “As the years go on, the deterioration keeps getting ahead of us,” he said.
In the long run, that means it will cost even more to upgrade roads to acceptable standards. MDOT estimates the cost of returning a poor road to good condition is four to five times greater than the cost of returning a fair road to good condition. 
And the price paid by the motoring public is more than a bone-jarring ride. Michigan transportation officials estimated in 2009 that bad roads cost state motorists $370 a year in extra vehicle operating expenses. Business advocates say it costs millions of dollars more in added expenses to the manufacturing and agriculture sector while undermining growth in tourism.
State officials say that if funding remains static, it will cost $25 billion in added repair bills over 10 years for the state road system.
MDOT Director Kirk Steudle compares road and bridge maintenance to the basic hygiene needed to keep a set of teeth. Neglect either and the result is not pretty.  “You are born with a nice set of teeth, but if you don’t brush them and go to the dentist, when you get to about 40, you can go get a new set of teeth.”

Ted Roelofs worked for the Grand Rapids Press for 30 yeas.
Rogers City need road repairs as well; however, we lack the funding to make a dent in this serious problem.

Monday, February 4, 2013

More Good News for Northeast Michigan

Here is an article from CBS Detroit containing more good news about economic growth in Northeast Michigan:

Consumers Energy Helps Northeast Michigan Company Grow Operations, Jobs

mattroushReporting Matt Roush
JACKSON – Consumers Energy Friday signed a $19 million contract with Moran Iron Works, a manufacturer in Onaway in the northeast Lower Peninsula, for fabrication of clean-air equipment for the utility’s power plants.
The agreement is part of Consumers Energy’s participation in Pure Michigan Business Connect, a public-private initiative developed by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., which connects Michigan companies with opportunities to help them grow and expand.
Consumers Energy’s decision to hire a Michigan supplier for this work has allowed Moran Iron Works to expand its metal fabrication operations and create up to 75 new jobs. This work has helped cultivate the only Michigan fabricator capable of supplying components of this magnitude to the energy sector. Moran Iron Works, which currently has 98 employees, previously received contracts from Consumers Energy and its vendors totaling about $43 million for other clean-air equipment projects.
“Moran Iron Works is a Michigan manufacturing success story. Their metal fabrication craftsmanship on clean-air equipment is second-to-none,” said Jack Hanson, senior vice president of energy resources for Consumers Energy. “Our Promise to Michigan includes supporting homegrown companies like Moran and working together to bring value to our customers and our state.” Hanson noted that Consumers Energy is Michigan’s second-largest investor and seventh-largest employer.
“We are very proud of our ongoing relationship with Consumers Energy and this contract demonstrates its commitment to our company and our state,” said Tom Moran, founder and president of Moran Iron Works. “This project provides stability and growth to a region with a workforce that is earnest and able to respond to their needs. Moran Iron Works considers it an honor to be a part of the Consumers Energy team.”
The new contract covers flue gas duct work for Consumers Energy’s J.H. Campbell Complex Unit 3, the utility’s largest coal-fired generating plant located in West Olive. Moran Iron Works has previously provided clean-air equipment for J.H. Campbell Units 1 and 2, and for D.E. Karn Units 1 and 2, near Essexville.
As a result of significant investment, Michigan’s air quality is the best it’s been in more than 20 years, according to a recent public statement by the state Department of Environmental Quality.
“Moran Iron Works is a great story about how MEDC programs can help a Michigan company to grow here,” said Michael A. Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. “Consumers Energy has been a driving force behind our PMBC initiative from the start and we commend the company for its commitment to growing its business with Michigan suppliers.”
Consumers Energy has doubled to $500 million its commitment to purchase Michigan-made goods and services over five years, from 2011-2016. The utility’s commitment to increase its business contracts with Michigan companies is in addition to the $2 billion annually it now spends in the state. These investments are in customer service, electric and natural gas operations, energy efficiency, renewable energy and environmental stewardship.
Companies interested in learning more about Pure Michigan Business Connect are encouraged to visit the MEDC’s Web site, www.michiganadvantage.org/Business-Connect, or Consumers Energy at www.consumersenergy.com/puremichigan.
Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.