Sunday, October 31, 2010

Voters Overwhelmingly Support the Pure Michigan Campaign, Film Industry Incentives

In this day of a divided public, you'd be hard-pressed to find issues that enjoy such overwhelming voter support. Pure Michigan and our growing movie industry definitely make the cut.

Cue Tim Allen. The people have spoken: Pure Michigan = pure gold.

A Free Press-WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) poll shows that more than two-thirds -- 67% -- of Michiganders support continued funding for the tourism campaign touting the state's beautiful beaches, vast shorelines, urban entertainment and more. Only 25% were against it.

Funding for the campaign was cut in the state budget crunch this year, but it has become a much-discussed topic in this year's elections, with politicians saying they want to restore funding to a program that, by most accounts, has been a success.

One more time, let's go through the history here: Republicans in the Legislature have repeatedly insisted on eliminating Pure Michigan, obstructing any and all attempts to fund the campaign, and now Republicans are the ones talking about eliminating the film incentives. Besides Nancy Cassis' one-woman crusade against the industry, Rick Snyder's position has gone from "outright repeal" to a promise to "scale back" in an effort to avoid the appearance of taking an unpopular stand - but even reducing the credits may take us out of contention in the competition for permanent infrastructure, as studios will leave and take their jobs with them.

The voters will be displeased if we lose this business.

Meanwhile, the state's controversial film credit -- in which Michigan taxpayers pay to bring filmmakers to shoot and produce their movies in the state -- also enjoys widespread support, despite criticism that it has cost far more than it has brought in to date.

"Isn't that the whole concept of being in business, that you've got to spend money to make money?" said Detroit lawyer Ralph Richardson, a film credit supporter.

The poll shows that 58% of those surveyed support the film credit, while 33% oppose it. The rest said they didn't have an opinion.

The Senate Fiscal Agency itself admits that its "controversial" report is flawed, and that the credits are bringing us more business than is being reflected in their measurements of the state's bottom line. And can you put a price on the intangibles of keeping the young, creative people here, not to mention bringing all this good publicity (and free advertising) to Michigan?

The voters can see the benefits. Southern states with Republican governors can see the benefits. Why is it Michigan Republicans refuse to listen to the wishes of the majority of the voters?

So, that is something else to think about for this Tuesday: Not only have our Republicans tried to kill these popular programs that have brought us jobs and investment and visitors and excitement to the state - they aren't respecting your opinion on the matter either. Be sure and give that fact some consideration as you head to the polls.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Sunday Paper: October 31, 2010

In State. A shadowy figure strolls the second floor as Michigan's 1st Governor Stevens T. Mason is honored in the Capitol rotunda last Tuesday, one day before his 199th birthday and re-interment back in Detroit. Stevens was only 24 when he was elected in 1835, and to this day is the youngest governor ever to serve. He brought statehood to Michigan and the U of M to Ann Arbor. In his second term, the national "Panic of 1837" hit Michigan very hard, and he was blamed for the state's financial woes. Thus began a long tradition that continues to this day...

The scariest Halloween story ever leads off the news this week:

  • Paul Krugman looks into his crystal ball and sees the results of what may be a very bad decision by the American electorate this coming Tuesday.

    This is going to be terrible. In fact, future historians will probably look back at the 2010 election as a catastrophe for America, one that condemned the nation to years of political chaos and economic weakness.

    And why is that? Could it be that Republicans are promising war, Mitch McConnell proclaiming that the "single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president" and that there will be "no compromise" from here on out? Go on, Professor...

    In fact, if they get their way, we’ll get the worst of both worlds: They’ll refuse to do anything to boost the economy now, claiming to be worried about the deficit, while simultaneously increasing long-run deficits with irresponsible tax cuts — cuts they have already announced won’t have to be offset with spending cuts.

    So if the elections go as expected next week, here’s my advice: Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    If that column is not enough motivation to get out and vote, I'm not sure what would be. Better hope that recovery can stick in the face of DC gridlock, because the Bishop Playbook of total obstruction may be about to go national.

  • As part of the war on Obama, get ready for the war on the environment. The GOP has promised investigations into the EPA and climate scientists in an effort to eliminate regulations concerning emissions controls on coal, oil and other carbon fuels. Destruction of the environment in the name of big profits is one of the main goals of the Koch brothers, and they intend to get the Congress they paid for.

  • Gannet Washington reporters run through the possible scenarios of what happens if the Republicans bring "guerrilla warfare" to DC; doesn't matter how you add it up, all the various combinations of chamber control still end the same way. (See: Krugman, above)

  • Back in Michigan, the Freep reports that the Republicans are on the verge of a super-majority in the Senate, meaning that Democrats would lose the ability to use immediate effect on bills as a negotiation lever. Peter Luke writes of the reality of our fiscal situation and lays out the choices facing a new legislature and governor - but notice that no one is talking about the solutions he prescribes. Thanks for trying dude.

  • RIP Pontiac. The brand that brought you the birth of the muscle car officially comes to its end today, as GM agreements with dealers expire and the name passes into the annuals and junkyards of history. The last Pontiac rolled off the line nearly a year ago.

  • In lighter but stranger news: The Michigan Supreme Court ruled this week that "an Oakland County family had no legal right to a dead woman’s brain when her body was returned after an autopsy in 2006." Seems they can keep pieces of you for as long as they deem necessary. A new law passed this year will notify family members of that however.

  • A group of Michigan Tech students has solved the mystery of the UP's famous "Paulding Light". Geez, you couldn't wait until after Halloween to tell us?

  • You wanted that diverse economy: A Zeeland company has found its niche' in making life-like skeletal and body parts for surgical training and medical sales aids. Medical Accessories & Research Corp. Inc. makes skulls and skeletons and skin with tissue layers and bones that bleed when you cut into them - but the items run a little pricey as Halloween favors though; a glass skeleton that shows surgical implants recently went out the door for $20,000. The company made $4 million last year.

    That's all for now...

    Please, please, whatever you do, please get out and vote Tuesday, and take your friends and family and neighbors with you. If you read any of the first few links above, you'll understand how important this election really is. You have a choice between continued progress, slow but sure, or total chaos and the return of the Bush policies that brought us massive deficits, endless war, and the near destruction of the American economy. Hard to fathom that people would willingly choose to go back to that, but there it is.

    You can make a difference. Vote.
  • Meet Justice Alton Thomas Davis

    One of the things that has surprised me this year is that even at this late date, even after all the money that has been spent - there still is a huge lack of name recognition on the races down ticket. In light of that, here is a short bio on Justice Alton Thomas Davis:

    Some of the numbers on the last EPIC poll:

    The survey showed that over half of voters don't recognized the names of secretary of state candidates Ruth Johnson, the Republican Oakland County clerk, or Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat and Wayne State University law professor. In the poll, 44 percent favored Johnson, while 36 percent said they'd vote for Benson, with 6 percent choosing a third-party candidate. Fourteen percent remained undecided.

    Republican attorney general candidate Bill Schuette, a former Court of Appeals judge and longtime public official, was better known than his Democratic opponent, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton. Fifty-seven percent didn't recognize Leyton's name, while 42 percent didn't recognize Schuette's.

    That gap in name recognition is apparently helping Schuette. Forty-seven percent said they'd vote for him, compared with 37 percent who backed Leyton. Five percent said they'd prefer a third-party candidate and 11 percent were undecided.

    In the Supreme Court race, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth Kelly and Justice Bob Young, both GOP nominees, are leading the field of five candidates running for two seats. But the largest share of voters -- 37 percent -- are undecided.

    Twenty-four percent said they'd back Kelly, while 20 percent said they'd back Young. Among the Democratic nominees, Justice Alton Thomas Davis is backed by 10 percent, while Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris is supported by 7 percent. Attorney Bob Roddis got 2 percent.

    The healthy percentage of undecided voters in all of these races means a chance for everyone, and it might come down to the ground game. A salute goes out to the boots knocking on those doors and making those calls today. Get those names out there!

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    GE to Order "Tens of Thousands" of Electric Vehicles

    Biggest order in history. It may take a while to fill.

    General Electric Co. may jump-start the electric-vehicle industry with an order that Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt said will be the largest in history.

    GE, whose power-generation equipment provides a third of the world’s electricity, will order “tens of thousands” of the vehicles in about a week, Immelt said yesterday in a speech in London, without giving a total or identifying a manufacturer.

    “This is a huge step up,” said Brett Smith, a vehicle technology analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It’s the biggest order to date I’m aware of, by a lot.”

    Immelt wants half of the sales fleet of 45,000 to be electric. The Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf both have limited production through 2011, and are already looking at demand outstripping supply (with some price gouging occurring as a result). Ford has the Transit Van and is planning an electric Focus, but they and most major car manufacturers won't have full production until 2012. So, it may take some time before Immelt receives delivery on his order, but it's great to see the corporate demand.

    GE is investing in itself, of course, selling many of the products surrounding these cars and renewable energy in general, but isn't that the idea?

    GE is investing $10 billion over the next five years in clean energy across its business lines, including power- transmission software and so-called smart-grid technologies. Its products include lithium-ion batteries for cars and trucks via a venture with A123 Systems Inc. and sodium-based batteries for use in large vehicles such as locomotives.

    That spending creates jobs, Immelt told executives at an event sponsored by the University of Cambridge’s Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

    “GE has been one of the biggest players in this game and certainly has a lot to gain from the electric vehicle,” Smith said. “They’ve really truly tried to push this hard to get things going, and it seems to be a core corporate value.”

    Good for them. And us. Immelt has repeatedly said that he wants to see more manufacturing in America, and that we should concentrate on increasing our exports. And don't forget, GE has also invested in Michigan to the tune of a $100 million dollar tech center near Detroit that is doing R & D on next generation manufacturing of renewable energy, jet engines, gas turbines and other high-technology products, bringing some 1,200 jobs to the state.

    GE is certainly bringing some good things to our life. They have been guilty of the outsourcing problem in the past, but Immelt is helping to make up for that by putting the money back into us now. Kudos.

    I Feel the (Rare) Earth Move

    Like Bill said:

    "Whatever excuses you despots and tyrants are gonna use to explain your bad behavior, just throw those right out the window, she sees through all of them. There are only three words you are going to need for when Hillary shows up... I. am. sorry."

    A follow-up on China's rare earth embargo that I wrote about last week:

    The Chinese government on Thursday abruptly ended its unannounced export embargo on crucial rare earth minerals to the United States, Europe and Japan, four industry officials said.

    The embargo, which has raised trade tensions, ended as it had begun — with no official acknowledgment from Beijing, or any explanation from customs agents at China’s ports.

    Could this have anything to do with it?

    The Chinese shipments resumed Thursday morning only hours before Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton raised the embargo issue at a news conference in Honolulu, where she announced plans to visit China on Saturday to pursue the matter with Chinese officials.

    Mrs. Clinton spoke after meeting with Japan’s foreign minister, Seiji Maehara, and said that the suspension of shipments had been a “wake-up call” and that both countries would have to find alternative sources of rare earth materials.

    China will still have the export restrictions in place, limiting supply to 30,300 metric tons (in a world that wants 50,000 metric tons) of rare earth material. Not only has limited supply driven up the price, the export taxes serve to keep the supply that's available in China at a much lower price - in effect forcing companies to move there for production. But, as the NY Times article points out, businesses and countries don't appreciate being messed with like this, and perhaps the "alternative sources" route is the best idea.

    But China’s willingness to play economic hardball could yet have long-term drawbacks, if it prompts multinationals to reduce their reliance on manufacturing in China and spread their investments among more countries.

    Yes, let's do that. Rare earth mining is a nasty business for the environment anyway - let's start looking closer at synthetic or other replacements for these materials. In the meantime, best of luck to the SOS on her visit. Don't make us send her back there again.


    Talk about a dream; try to make it real.
    You wake up in the night with a fear so real.
    You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don't come.
    Well don't waste your time waiting...

    You gotta live it every day
    Let the broken hearts stand
    As the price you've gotta pay
    We'll keep pushin' till it's understood
    And these badlands start treating us good.

    Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    The Chevy Volt Hits the Air

    Not a bad ad, but GM seems to have picked up on the same problem that the Democrats have when it comes to advertising - one tag line makes it seem like they are apologetic of their product.

    Nice to have Tim Allen's narration, who is slowly but surely becoming the Voice of Michigan. He's comforting. Emphasizing the Volt's range is very important too, it's the strongest selling point of the car. But the tag lines at the end must go. "More car than electric" makes it sound as if the electric part is undesirable. Bzzz. Wrong message to send. "Chevy Runs Deep". Um, OK. If you say so. That ties into Chevy's history, but as a slogan, it's not very memorable or exciting.

    So, GM has some things to work out (just like the Democrats!), but they are getting there. This is only one of six ads that will run during the World Series, the others will feature a 60-second history of Chevy, along with a few 30-second spots that will feature baseball and hot dogs and apple pie and the "defining moments in American life" sort of thing. Perhaps those will tie it all together a little better.

    Just be grateful that corporations haven't resorted to attack ads yet. Perish the thought.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Schauer's Closing Ad: "Matter"

    Straight to the point. No nonsense. No outrageous lies. True statements that put the choice in front of you. Don't you wish they all were like Mark Schauer? I sure as hell do. And if he wins this election, he should be held up as a national model for other Democrats on how to get the job done.

    A new poll from MRG released yesterday shows Schauer with a 7 pt. lead...

    The numbers at this late date don't look good for Republican candidate Tim Walberg. He is down by seven points.

    Mr. Schauer is at 50 percent, Walberg at 43 percent.

    "Walberg's in trouble because he's not pulling the independent vote that all the other republican candidates are pulling this year," said Tom Shields, political pollster.

    While Republican candidate for governor Rick Snyder is doing well with voters who lean Republican, Mr. Walberg is not and Shields says he needs them to win.

    ... and as if to drive home that point, the AP has a story that included this revealing quote from a Republican voter.

    David Farley, a 71-year-old retiree from Albion who said he often supports Republicans, said he plans to vote for Schauer, in part because he doesn't believe Walberg's conservative views are in step with the 7th District.

    "If Satan was running on the other side of the ticket, I still wouldn't vote for Walberg," said Farley, a former Navy officer, farmer and executive director of a community foundation. "Walberg is not an outsider."

    So, if the choice is between Walberg and Satan, some Republicans have to stop and think about it - and Tim still comes up short. That can't be good. It could be why some prominent names formed "Republicans For Schauer" - folks like Joe Schwarz, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party Gary Reed, Kellogg Co. Vice President Joe Stewart, and former GOP state Sen. Hal Ziegler found Walberg lacking as well.

    No counting chickens though. The National Republican Congressional Committee has dumped $1.45 million on Timmeh in the past month alone, outside Republican special interest groups seem to come up with a new ad for heavy rotation every day, and when it's all added up in the end, I'm guessing that MI-07 is going to be one of the most expensive - if not the most expensive - race in the country.

    All for little 'ol us. Who would have ever thought that the hottest battle ground in the nation this year would be in places like Jackson and Battle Creek and the rural farmlands of southern Michigan?

    Get While the Gettin' is Good: Biggest MEGA Day Evah, Big 3 Are Here to Stay

    With all the Rick Snyder and Republican chatter about blowing up our economic development efforts at MEDC AND our business tax rates as well (because if there is one thing business loves, it's uncertainty, right?), it looks like the Big 3 and other companies are signing up for some deals while the deals are there to be had. Along with the major announcement from Ford yesterday, GM and Chrysler are getting in on the act as well today - bringing the grand total to over $2 billion invested and hundreds of thousands of jobs created and/or retained at the automakers alone.

    Yes, you read that right. Hundreds of thousands of jobs. Here. In Michigan. Why Michigan? Because we hustled for them and beat out other states. Oh, and Mr. Snyder? Might want to pay attention to these words from Ford and Chrysler. They are more than willing to pick "winners and losers" - and at this point, we are the winners.

    Auto officials said the $2 billion in investments wouldn't have happened without the tax incentives.

    "Without the tireless efforts of the state of Michigan, Chrysler could not have made this business decision," Chrysler's Brian Glowiak said.

    In come cases, Michigan was competing with other states for the same investment.

    "Red carpets are rolled out for manufacturing around the world," said Curt Magleby, director of state and local government relations for Ford. "Michigan understands that."

    If the state didn't make it financially attractive to invest here, "there are a lot of other red carpets," he said.

    Chrysler will be investing $850 million at Sterling Heights, once slated to be closed, and $150 million at the Dundee engine facility. That's over 90,000 retained jobs right there, with the economic activity surrounding these facilities predicted to retain another 72,000 indirect jobs. Without our incentives, they would have gone to Ohio.

    GM has to submit plans for a "successful, competitive business case", whatever that means. But when they do, they will be adding 900 new jobs at the Warren Tech Center, and they are also looking for more support at the Brownstone Battery facility - and that is expected to add another 150 jobs. This will support thousands of other jobs statewide. Thank the nice President for saving the company.

    Ford's investment of $850 million will create 1,200 new jobs, and the work will retain thousands more in plants across the state. This is where the major competition came into play. MEDC lists competing sites in India, South Africa, Europe and Asia as vying for the business - and keep in mind, Ford doesn't have any strings on them. They could pack up and go anytime. And they picked us.

    Other companies from today's announcement, job totals, and who got the beat down:

  • Cequent Performance Products, 115 jobs, Indiana (the Daniels magic in action)
  • Creative Foam Corporation, 144 jobs, Colorado
  • Dematic Corp. (GR news is going nuts on this) 910 jobs, Kentucky and Utah
  • Dokka Fasteners, 168 jobs, Missouri and Illinois
  • Dynamic Captioning, 56 jobs, New York
  • EnovateIT, 387 jobs, Ohio
  • Eovations, 64 jobs, Ohio (you're slipping, Ted)
  • Mountain Valley Recycling, 1,303 jobs, Oregon, Arizona and Nevada
  • P3 North America, 129 jobs, New Jersey (Chris Christie will be back to campaign for Snyder soon)
  • Powertrain Integration, 41 jobs, no state listed - niche automotive
  • Roush Clean Tech, 85 jobs, North Carolina, Florida, Nevada, Oregon, Minnesota, Texas, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin. Whew, they are popular. They do R & D for "alternative energy solutions to fleet vehicles"
  • Yanfeng USA Automotive Trim Systems, 466 jobs, Missouri. (51% Chinese owned. No "bashing" here)
  • County of Washtenaw, a brownfield development for Zingerman's!, 65 new jobs.

    Business leaders might find they have a problem with Snyder's attitude towards MEDC and our incentives. While they all admit that the process could be made better (even MEDC admits that), his plans to severely curtail the credits and not go after large companies doesn't sit well with some folks. Regional economic development officials got together in August to urge the retention of incentives, correctly stating that without them, we're toast. Low tax rates just won't cut it anymore - if they ever did in the first place.

    Birgit Klohs, CEO of The Right Place Inc. in Grand Rapids, says the present policy of targeting high-growth sectors, such as life sciences and alternative energy, is a proper strategy.

    “There is no state, there is no business, that doesn’t decide what sector it wants to compete in, and we have to decide what sectors are growth sectors and what can add to our economy,” Klohs said during a recent roundtable discussion with her colleagues from West Michigan.

    They say companies across the U.S., even when they consider states with a lower business-tax burden than Michigan, have come to expect some kind of incentives.
    “We cannot stop incentivizing companies that are looking to grow to protect companies that are looking to stay put,” Lakeshore Advantage President Randy Thelen said.

    And as far as targeting the big fish...

    Klohs says the state cannot turn away from recruiting large employers that can create jobs in greater volumes through a single win than small businesses.

    Why is it that Republicans are supposedly better for business? They have spent the past four years creating uncertainty, first by throwing out the SBT, then dragging their feet on the MBT, and now we are looking at changing both tax rates and incentives AGAIN, with no clear plan on how it would all work. John Engler tried this same trick with MEDC when he was elected, disarming us in the race for jobs, and he set us behind when the economy picked back up in the 90's. That could be why Blanchard ended up with a better jobs record than Engler did.

    Sure hope we don't have to learn that lesson again - but sure glad to see the automotive jobs stay here in the meantime. If the Republicans screw this all up, we are going to need them. Go Big 3!
  • Monday, October 25, 2010

    What Enthusiasm Gap? President Clinton Fires Up the Faithful in Battle Creek

    If you had been in the middle of a packed Kellogg Community College gym with 1000 screaming Democrats last night, you would never believe that there is a so-called "enthusiasm gap" out there right now. The Schauer supporters are ready to rumble, and I could tell by the genuine smiles coming from the speakers on the stage that the crowd's enthusiasm was fueling them - and they gave it back to us as they rallied the audience and implored them to get out the vote.

    I certainly could feel it, although I couldn't see it too clearly, as I was slammed up against the barrier in the front row and pinned in that one spot the entire time. Which was fine with me. The press photogs positioned themselves up front on the left and right of the floor, leaving the center for the cheering hordes that filled the place - and fill it they did. It reminded me of my general admission concert days at Wings Stadium, minus the smoky air and Bic lighters and bad drunken behavior of rock fans, of course. This crowd was well-behaved - but they certainly did cheer and wave their signs, and suddenly it was 2008 all over again. Full-throated support for them all: Speakers Representative Kate Segal, UAW leader Bob King, a quick wave and shout-out to Supreme Court Justice Alton Thomas Davis and 3rd CD candidate Pat Miles, roaring applause for Mark Schauer - and the place just erupted with thunder when former President Bill Clinton took the stage.

    The guy is a Rock. Star. If we could bottle and sell whatever it is that Bill Clinton has, we would never have to worry about losing an election again. He bleeds charisma, even after his third speech of the day, even in a very hot venue that just has to sap your strength when you are on that stage. But, you feel like he is talking directly to you when he speaks. It's almost as if you both are sitting on your porch, having a beer, shooting the breeze, and he's telling you, "Hey. These Republicans are terrible. You know they are. Just look what they did when they were in power. C'mon, get real here." And he proceeded to rattle off everything they did, from blowing the surplus to non-enforcement of trade agreements to abuse of power to... well, you know. You lived it. Clinton asks us if we want to live it again, incredulous at the thought.

    "Why is this even a race?" Clinton said, standing on stage next to Schauer. "This guy has been good."

    Clinton said he has spoken at 103 events for Democrats this election cycle, even though he's mostly given up politics to focus on philanthropy. He said he's decided the problems for Democrats stem from changes in voter interests and people's worries that the country is not recovering fast enough.

    "People only hire us when things are messed up," Clinton said. "The real problem is there is always a gap between when you start doing the things that make sense and when people feel it."

    And he is right. You can't expect all this to be magically fixed overnight. It took a few years to recover from the recession in the early 90's when Bill took office - and this last one was much, much worse than that. Clinton argues that house was on fire when the Democrats walked in, and they are putting it out as fast as they can. He pointed out the accomplishments so far, pointed out that the economy is starting to come back - and wonders why we would throw that all away.

    During his 34-minute speech, Clinton said President Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress' effort to tackle issues like unemployment, student loans and help for small business are the kinds of approaches that need to continue in Washington.

    "Go home and activate the social network," Clinton said. "Make sure every American knows this is a choice -- not a referendum."

    He urged the crowd to get on your Twitters and your Facebooks and your telephone and hit the pavement and get your friends and family out to vote. We have a choice in front of us. Do you want to go back to the Bush years of Republican abuse? Just look at the lies and distortions in the way they are running their campaigns. Do you want to see all progress in DC stopped, as the John Boehners and Michele Bachmanns of the radical right start a bunch of frivolous nonsense with "investigations" of the White House, as they ignore everything but their own agenda? Do you want to see the Republican plan of more tax cuts for the rich and privatization of Medicare and Social Security pass the House?

    Do you?


    As frustrating as the Democrats can be - just remember what the Republicans have in store. You think you are disappointed now, wait and see what happens should they take power. Much better to cast your lot with the Democrats, and keep pushing for progress, hard as that is at times.

    The people in Battle Creek are fired up. I love that town. And talking with the pols was great - Kate Segal and Pat Miles are raring to go, Miles even trying to recruit for volunteer efforts, asking me if I have everything I needed to get the word out up here. The 3rd district reaches down into Barry County, and I was surprised at the number of Miles signs along M-37. He has many supporters out in the rural areas, and if we get a good turnout - we might have a nice upset on our hands. Wouldn't that be sweet?

    And Mark Schauer has one of the biggest targets in the nation on his back. Republican interest groups are dumping a ton of money on Walberg, sad but true. Why? They know Tim would be a rubber stamp for their agenda. And the fact that the race with Walberg is sitting at 50-50 in a so-called "Republican wave" year is a testament to how just how hard Schauer has worked for the 7th - the people down there know it. They remember what Walberg was like, and they don't want that again. Schauer is so much better for them. It still will be close though, and it's going to come down to turnout.

    Vote. Make sure your friends vote. Make sure your neighbors vote. Make sure your family votes. We can't go back, we can't give up now. You know this.

    Don't make President Clinton have to come around here again in '12 and say, "I told you so".

    Ford Announces $850 Million in Investment in Four Plants, Adding 1,200 Michigan Jobs

    Remember the American auto industry that the Democrats saved? Well, you are looking at some of the happy returns of that action.

    Although Ford has been well-managed and didn't take any bailout money, they had borrowed to the hilt before the crash happened, and then they watched the bankruptcy proceedings of GM and Chrysler on pins and needles. Steve Rattner, in his book "Overhaul", explains how Ford management was rooting on the sidelines for everyone to succeed, because Alan Mulally "knew that the failure of GM and Chrysler would wipe out much of the supply base and make it difficult or impossible for Ford to produce cars".

    Difficult or impossible. Others may claim that they would have benefited greatly from the loss of GM and Chrysler, but Mulally certainly didn't see it that way at the time it was happening. And chances are, if we had suffered the big meltdown and were still picking up the pieces at this point, Ford would not be in a position today to announce this:

    Ford Motor Company announced Monday that the company plans to invest $850 million in four Michigan plants. They say their plans include the creation of more than one thousand Michigan jobs.

    It is expected that 1,200 jobs will be created in Michigan. Of those, 900 jobs will be hourly manufacturing positions. Another 300 will be salaried positions.

    The four plants are being upgraded as part of Ford's emphasis on six-speed transmissions.

    The company says the investment will come between 2011 and 2013 at the following plants:

    * Van Dyke Transmission
    * Sterling Axle
    * Livonia Transmission
    * Dearborn Truck

    Rattner imagined the fallout of a GM and Chrysler failure, describing it like this: "The manufacturing sector was in turmoil. The state of Michigan was insolvent. A million or so people had been added to the unemployment rolls. The economy has received a terrible shock and was spiraling rapidly towards depression." Does anyone seriously think that Ford would be making this announcement in 2010 had that happened in 2009? The economy wouldn't have recovered like this. Car and truck sales would have still been in the dumps.

    And most important, take note of where Ford is choosing to invest. Not Mexico. Not China. Not "down South", Mr. Shelby. Here. In Michigan. And yes, this is contingent on tax credits from MEDC, you know, the organization the Republicans want to tear down, apparently so other states can make these offers and steal the business from us. Seems kind of like crazy talk when you look at it that way, doesn't it?

    Ford also announced today that they are adding 250 jobs at the Dearborn plant due to increased sales of the F-150. The Freep reports that fewer than 200 Ford workers are on layoff nationwide - so you'd imagine that the 1,200 jobs above will be new hires, thanks to the Democrats and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

    Just something to keep in mind next week as you head to the polls.

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    The Sunday Paper: October 24, 2010

    Film incentive backers held an impromptu rally in GR on Tuesday, the timing and message aimed at critic Rick Snyder who was in town for a campaign appearance. Grand Rapids City Commissioner James White, Hopwood DePree of TicTock Studios, local business owners, and people now working in films sang the industry's praises and told the crowd of around 120 to call lawmakers and voice support for the credits. Should we count this as Rick's first protest?

    How goes the war? Nine shopping days left until the shouting stops...

  • 7.28 million voters are now registered in Michigan - 95.5% of the voting population. That's up from 7.18 million in '06. The SOS wants to remind you to bring your ID, and we certainly do too. You never know when one of those Republican lawyers will hassle you...

  • ... because Richard DeVos is putting up some bucks to make sure they do just that. Daddy Amway recently contributed $150,000 to the Republican National Lawyers Association, currently conducting what it calls an "unprecedented" series of election law training seminars for the midterms. These are the guys that target "districts and areas where voter fraud is a concern" (read: minority) and had their fingers in the ACORN and New Black Panthers nonsense as well.

  • Tim Walberg commits one of the most egregious examples of Photoshop image manipulation in this year's election, removing four people out of a photo to portray Schauer and Pelosi standing together. Gotta see it to believe it. Stalin would be so proud - but do the people in the 7th want a representative who would flat-out lie to constituents like that? Hope not.

  • A sleeper upset may be brewing in the 3rd CD race between Justin Amash and Pat Miles. The latest EPIC poll confirms that Amash is losing Republicans while Miles is retaining Democrats, Amash having higher unfavorables and running below 50% at this point. Miles released a 2nd list of Republican endorsements this week - and put 'em in a commercial as well. Sure would be fun to shock all the prognosticators on this one.

  • Peter Luke seems to think that we are heading for solid Republican control of government in Michigan, and I can't say I disagree with his assessment of Democratic strategy this year. I'm not going to get into that now; let's just say that after the election, some decisions need to be made about party direction and cohesion - and my guess is it won't be pretty.

  • Along that line, the Freep endorses Rick Snyder this morning. They think he will be able to be "independent" from his party's extremist goals. Stop laughing. It's not funny. But hey, I hope they are right. I hope he is able to stand up to all the craziness we are already starting to see, actions like Republicans passing more restrictions on reproductive rights and suggestions that the poor need to be legislated when it comes to spending money. And if the Republicans are a problem? Rick says he will hold town halls to bring "voter pressure" on legislators. Seems to me that has already been tried before...

  • An agreement has been reached setting up an environmental trust fund for cleaning up the "Old GM" sites; this largest-in-history fund of $773 million will be divided up between 14 states, with Michigan getting $159 million to scrub 57 sites. Nine sites in Flint and four in Ypsilanti will receive over half of the funds - $35.7 for Willow Run alone. Check the list for a site near you - but don't get the mops out just yet. This still has to clear bankruptcy court in NY, expected early next year.

  • Speakers at the Engineering Society of Detroit’s 2011 Economic Forecast for Design and Construction have a generally positive outlook on Michigan's recovery: "If there is a silver lining to the collapse of the auto industry . . . it has exposed that we do have other things here". Renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, the film industry (again!), bioscience, IT work, health care and education, all cited as ways we are diversifying and growing right now. And with the auto industry expected to keep adding jobs as car sales increase, the more the merrier. Good thing we had leadership that put us on this path, right?

  • One last political note: Thanks go to Bill Clinton for coming to the state to help with GOTV efforts today. Not one, not two, but three appearances will be held, starting at noon in Detroit with Bernero, followed by a 2PM in Ann Arbor with Dingell, and finishing up at 6PM in Battle Creek with Schauer. I'll be at the Battle Creek show, looking forward to seeing the President again. Gotta hand it to the Clintons - they are tireless troopers.

    Have a great day!
  • Dude, Where's My Strategy?

    Best ad of the season. There is a longer version out now that's even better - more angry seniors per second, and they throw in Medicare as well.

    "I NEED my Medicare, Mr. Walberg." Yeah!

    It's a thing of beauty because it shows people standing up for what is important. Now imagine that applied to other issues...

    "I NEED my fire department, Mr. Hilendbrand."

    ... and you'll see a strategy that should carry weight at the state level as well. I have seen the Republican cuts in a Pat Miles ad for the 3rd CD, but it was very minor and in a laundry list of other problems with Justin Amash (and there are many) - not highlighted as a feature.

    Pointing out the services cuts to schools and public safety is bound to resonate at more of a personal level than trade with China ever could. Everyone in Michigan has felt them to some extent - and there are more coming if the Republican plan for "more tax cuts" passes. So use it.

    Anyone out there seeing examples of state Republicans being held responsible for their local votes?

    And BTW, Schauer picked up the endorsement of the Lansing State Journal today:

    Walberg is an extreme conservative whose polarizing views won't serve mid-Michigan well. Schauer is a moderate fighting for jobs and an improved quality of life. He's the right choice.

    Given that "extreme conservative" with "polarizing views" is the main plank of the Republican Party this year, this admonishment could be applied to a whole bunch of folks, but you have to admit - Walberg is right up there, leading the pack.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Rendell Nails It

    Ed Rendell has this way of speaking that takes the complicated issues and boils them down to the plain and simple truth. You get the impression the guy is just being honest - no obvious attempts at spin, no putting on a show for the TV audience, as some tend to do. Although CNN, in their quest to become "FOX Lite", wants to play up his line about Dems being "wusses" for maximum effect, you have to hear the context in which it's said - and he's right (and give some points to Spitzer for leading him to it).

    The Democrats, as a general whole, do run from their strengths and principles - so much so that most people have a hard time discerning what it is they stand for. This not only allows the left to project all their hopes and wishes on the party, which naturally has led to disappointment, it allows the teanuts to define the Democrats in any way they choose and make it stick. And that hasn't been pretty.

    Not sure what the future holds for Rendell; like Granholm, he is term-limited out after this year, and like Granholm, he has paid the price for having a split legislature in a rough economy (the situation in Pennsylvania was nearly identical to ours - Dem House, obstructionist Repub Senate). Rumor has it he is interested in Rahm's job, which would be very interesting indeed. I would rather see him as the head of the DNC. Someone needs to herd these guys into a coherent platform and then be able to articulate it to the public - and Ed's pretty good at that. Watch and see.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Privatize the Mackinac Bridge? Snyder Says It's "On the Table"

    Selling off our state's assets so we can give big business more tax cuts? It's all on the table. There is a reason why Rick Snyder won't tell you how he will balance the budget - you probably wouldn't vote for him if you knew the truth.

    Seems Mr. Snyder is already counting this election in the bag, and has summoned up the usual Lansing suspects to fill him in on how this budget stuff all works. And since he refuses to raise revenue - it just might be time to have a big 'ol Michigan sale. First, we take care of those pesky state employees...

    In the discussion about reducing the deficit the idea of cutting the benefits of state workers was on the table. The head of the Senate budget office says that needs to be debated.

    "We have high levels, relatively, high levels of government compensation that I and many others have benefited from, but is that sustainable under the economic realities of the state?" said Gary Olson, Senate Fiscal Agency.

    Another item on the table was privatization of the lottery, the Mackinac Bridge and the freeway system. In the roundtable session Snyder did not tip his hand on what he would do, but it was clear to participants that he did not want to raise taxes. So that means, if elected, he will propose a budget with $1.6 billion in cuts or 20% of the overall state budget. Mr. Olson concedes drafting such a plan is the easy part.

    Hat tip to Skubick for breaking this story at WLNS, and he repeats it again today on his blog.

    The answer is you could find the buyers, but the ultimate question is, would you want to unload these historical assets in order to make a quick buck?

    The chief bean counter for the Michigan Senate suggests leaving the "For Sale" sign in the garage until more data is available. Gary Olson reports other states have gone this route. Indiana recently auctioned off its freeway system. Olson says it may be a "one time" money maker but long term, the state could actually lose revenue.

    The tolls have doubled in Indiana in the past few years. Literally twice as much now to travel on through to Chicago since they sold them off. Privatization of services is just another example of a back-door tax increase - you will pay, and most of the time you end up paying more than you would have had they simply just raised taxes. The asset is then lost to the state. The Michigan lottery brings in over $700 million to the schools, how would you replace that funding in the future?

    And weren't we done with these "one-time" solutions for budget problems? Must be OKIYAR.

    The Not-So "Secret Plan": Republicans Are Trying to Buy This Election

    Nice ad from the DNC:

    Yes, you have seen them here. The airwaves are being saturated with Republican ads. This will become the story of this election - and the Democrats better make it the story right now. This ad is a good start, hope to see it in heavy rotation soon.

    I counted the ads during the WOOD-TV morning news yesterday (5-7am): 22 Republican ads (two were the annoying food tax lady), 7 Democratic ads. They are running roughly 3-1 in the GR market at this point, perhaps even more at night - and all contain distortion and disinformation like I've never seen before. It's stunning. And unprecedented. Mark Schauer has the biggest bullseye on his back; I believe there are three separate "shadow group" ads running against him right now, and they running all the time. And have you ever seen so many ads for state-level candidates? In such frequency? In '06 and '08, you might have seen a few, maybe a couple of times. Now, they are dropping a fortune for Republican state legislators.

    Republicans mean to own the government, period - and they are doing it with a propaganda campaign that is pure deception on all levels.

    Greg Sargent at the WaPo, watching the national ads and the Chamber/Rove ads in particular, put it best:

    I've compiled a list below, and the totality is striking. Thus far the media focus has understandably been on the flap over the White House's foreign money charges. But there's another big part of the story that's going undercovered: The scope of the dishonesty and distortion that's flowing from the conservative side of this debate.

    Not only are the ads themselves getting widely debunked, but the justifications the groups are offering for the ad onslaught attacking Democrats (that liberals and labor do this too) are also demonstrably false or misleading. We're witnessing a massive disinformation campaign flooding airwaves across the country that could change the outcome of major races and shift the balance of power in Congress, funded by money from undisclosed sources, justified with still more falsehoods and disinformation.

    National races, state races, judges - they mean to take it all. And you'd better believe the word "bipartisanship" will be dropped from their lexicon if they are successful. Will this work though? After all, this is the same American public that isn't paying all that much attention to details in the first place - but even so, there has to be a subliminal effect from the constant repetition that cannot be denied.

    The only way to fight this at this point is to GOTV. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell everyone you know that usually votes Dem, that we need them more than ever - because if this works, you know the next stop is taking out Obama in 2012.

    The Koch brothers are already on that. Don't let them win.

    UPDATE: The Wesleyan Media Project has some very interesting numbers on the spending, keep in mind this count only runs through Oct. 7th. Here are the top ten special interest groups, amount spent, and party lean, and this includes all races. For the full table that includes ad count and other info, click here.

    Top 10 Interest Group Spenders (9/1-10/7)

    Republican Governor's Association $11,776,920 Republican
    US Chamber of Commerce $9,051,370 Republican
    American Crossroads $5,493,670 Republican
    Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies $4,981,160 Republican
    60 Plus Association $3,792,200 Republican
    American Future Fund $2,544,210 Republican
    Bay State Future $2,167,850 Democrat
    Americans for Job Security $1,918,430 Republican
    Citizens for Strength and Security $1,874,750 Democrat
    Club for Growth $1,821,070 Republican

    Among the top 10 interest group spenders, Republican- leaning organizations outspent Democratic ones by a margin of over 10:1. Furthermore, 4 of the top 10 group spenders are non-profit 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), or 501(c)(6) organizations, which are not required to disclose their donors.

    Any questions?

    China Quietly Retaliates Against US Trade Actions

    This is why we have to step lightly when it comes to dealing with China on trade issues - they already have us by the throat. Hours after the Obama administration indicated that they would be looking into the trade complaint filed by the US Steelworkers that China was illegally subsidizing renewable energy exports, the Chinese government swiftly retaliated by imposing an quasi-embargo on rare earth elements needed for advanced manufacturing.

    China, which has been blocking shipments of crucial minerals to Japan for the last month, has now quietly halted some shipments of those materials to the United States and Europe, three industry officials said this week.

    When did they do this? First thing Monday morning, after meeting over the weekend to denounce the US action. They had been tightening some screws previous to this, but these are "new restrictions", as of this week. And it's not really an embargo, you see; they are letting some shipments out for reasons known only to themselves, while tightening up "customs inspections" that are halting others. That makes it almost impossible to bring a case before the WTO because it is not a defined policy of the Chinese government.

    Despite a widely confirmed suspension of rare earth shipments from China to Japan, now nearly a month old, Beijing has continued to deny that any embargo exists.

    Industry executives and analysts have interpreted that official denial as a way to wield an undeclared trade weapon without creating a policy trail that could make it easier for other countries to bring a case against China at the World Trade Organization.

    Rare earth elements are used in the manufacturing of "broad commercial and military applications" such as cell phones, large wind turbines, electric car components (ahem), and - here is the big one, where we really may have screwed up - guided missiles. China has imposed steady reductions on exports of rare earth elements since 2005, has slapped a huge export tax on them as well, in effect forcing multinational corporations to manufacture high-tech goods in China. This is part of the investigation of the complaint filed with the Obama administration. Chinese officials are denying this slowdown has anything to do with trade though, oh no - it's all about protecting the environment! After capturing 95% of the world's mining operations in rare earth elements, it just now dawned on the Chinese that this is bad for the planet, and they have to impose restrictions on it. It has nothing to do with trade, you lackey imperialist Yankee dogs you. So get a grip.

    “With stricter export mechanism gradually in place, outbound shipments to other countries might understandably begin to feel the effect,” (Wang Baodong, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington) said in an e-mail. “But I don’t see any link between China’s reasonable rare earth export control policy and the irrational U.S. decision of protectionist nature to investigate China’s clean energy industries.”

    See? They are "reasonable", we are "irrational" and "protectionist". And we haven't even filed anything yet. Can't wait to see what happens if we do.

    And here is the kicker - we brought this on ourselves. "Rare earth" is not really rare at all; we just sold out all our mining and manufacturing capability for a quick buck.

    Despite their name, most rare earths are not particularly rare. But most of the industry has moved to mainland China over the last two decades because of lower costs and steeply rising demand there as clean energy industries have expanded rapidly.

    Congress is considering legislation to provide loan guarantees for the re-establishment of rare earth mining and manufacturing in the United States. But new mines are likely to take three to five years to reach full production, according to industry executives, although existing uranium mines may be able to move faster by reprocessing previously mined material, which often contains rare earths.

    Synthetic replacements for rare earth elements are a nice thought, but apparently we aren't there yet. Someday, we will have to figure it out, but until then - this is a glaring example of why we must keep manufacturing in this country. We give it all away, we are at the mercy of those who make the guided missiles. You would think that real conservatives would be throwing a fit about this.

    Selling out our national defense for cheap toys at WalMart is not in America's best interests. It's about time people realized that, if it's not too late already.

    Tuesday, October 19, 2010

    More Class Warfare From the Elitist Republicans

    When the Republicans say they want to "get the government out of our lives", they mean just that - they want the government out of their lives. They don't want to pay taxes, they don't want to have to follow laws and regulations, they demand personal freedom to do whatever they want regardless of the consequences to rest of us, for they owe nothing back to society. They are elitists of the highest order, and they prove that everyday.

    But you, average citizen of Michigan, you are a different story. If you are poor, if you are gay, if you are a woman, if you even remotely look like an immigrant, if you are the one in five on food assistance, well, you need more government restrictions in your life. Republican Tom McMillin has just the law for you - and don't try any funny business, because he can tell just by looking at you who is deserving and who isn't.

    If signed into law, the proposed legislation would prohibit a person getting welfare, food stamps or Medicaid from collecting a lottery prize of more than $600. If the prize were larger, the portion not paid to the winner would go to the state School Aid Fund, as does all unclaimed lottery prize money.

    House Bill 6534 was introduced Oct. 5 by state Rep. Tom McMillin of Rochester Hills and co-sponsored by House members Jim Stamas of Midland, David Agema of Grandville and Pete Lund of Shelby Township. All are Republicans.

    McMillin, a freshman legislator, said he introduced the bill because the concept had been on his mind and he wanted to "open up debate."

    "The lottery is a bad gamble for a lot of people," McMillin said. "Some people play it for recreation. One too many times, I saw people standing in line who appeared to be poor and they were buying tons of lottery tickets."

    McMillin said his goal is to keep people in need from wasting money.

    "They should save it and buy some clothes and food -- and make sure they're looking good when they go out for a job interview," McMillin said.

    You know Tom, maybe we should open this to debate. Let's talk about gambling. Legislators are a bad gamble for many people. Some people buy you for recreation. One too many times, I have seen people at the Capitol building who appeared to be rich standing in line, and they were buying tons of influence from lawmakers. My goal is to keep people of means from wasting their money on hypocritical demagogues such as yourself. They should save it and buy some intelligent and caring legislators instead - make sure they are spending it wisely when they purchase a lawmaker, one that doesn't waste money on legislation they admit is going nowhere.

    McMillin said he knows of no other state that has adopted such a plan but said a similar bill was considered -- and rejected -- in Tennessee.

    As for his own proposal, "I don't expect it to necessarily pass this year," McMillin said.

    But next?

    Elect Republicans, and you are going to get all kinds of crazy shit like this. Wait and see. But tell ya what, Tom - let's amend that bill to include ALL that receive "government assistance". Any wealthy individual or company receiving tax breaks should not be allowed to play the lottery. That includes the employees as well. It's only fair. They are wasting their money, right?

    No? Don't think that idea will fly?

    Neither do I.

    Oh, and by the way, where are all those anti-government teabaggers now? Once again, when Republicans suggest "more government", they are nowhere to be found. Funny how that works, isn't it?

    (h/t to Jackie Headapohl at MLive.)

    Governor Granholm to Receive Swedish Order of the Polar Star

    This is cool. And quite the honor.

    Governor Jennifer M. Granholm on Thursday will be recognized by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf with Sweden's Insignia of First Commander, Order of the Polar Star for her work in fostering relations between Michigan and Sweden to promote a clean energy economy. The honor will be bestowed on the governor at the Royal Palace in Stockholm during an afternoon ceremony.

    "In our pursuit to diversify Michigan's economy and create jobs we have forged a strong and fruitful relationship with Sweden, a country known for its leadership in clean energy," Granholm said. "Our mutual work to use clean energy technologies to create jobs is having a dramatic effect and so this award recognizes not just me, but everyone who is committed to making Michigan a leader in the clean energy economy."

    His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf will present Granholm with the honor at the Royal Palace in Stockholm, the king's official residence. Among those scheduled to witness the ceremony will be U.S. Ambassador to Sweden Matthew Barzun, the governor's parents Victor and Shirley Granholm, Swedish Consul General for Michigan Lennart Johansson, and Greg Main, President and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

    The Order of the Polar Star was created in 1798 and is now awarded to foreigners and members of the Swedish royal family for services to Sweden.

    About the award:

    The Order of the Polar Star (Swedish Nordstjärneorden) is a Swedish order of chivalry created by King Frederick I of Sweden on 23 February 1748, together with the Order of the Sword and the Order of the Seraphim.

    The Order of the Polar Star was until 1975 intended as a reward for Swedish and foreign "civic merits, for devotion to duty, for science, literary, learned and useful works and for new and beneficial institutions".

    Its motto is, as seen on the blue enameled centre of the badge, Nescit Occasum. This is Latin and means "it knows no decline". This is to prove that Sweden is as constant as a never setting star. The Order's colour is black. This was chosen so that when wearing the black sash, the white, blue and golden cross would stand out and shine as the light of enlightenment from the black surface. Women and clergy men are not called knight or commander but simply as Member (Ledamot).

    After the reorganization of the orders in 1975 the order is only awarded to foreigners and members of the royal family. It is often awarded to foreign office holders (such as Prime and Senior Ministers) during Swedish state visits.

    There are five degrees to the Order, Commander Grand Cross is the highest followed by Insignia of First Commander, which the Governor will receive.

    Hope someone gets some video!

    Manufacturing Employment Expands at "The Fastest Rate This Year" in Southeast Michigan

    Given all the doom and gloom media coverage concerning the economy in Michigan (or maybe it's the doom and gloom Republicans saturating the airwaves with their patented brand of buzzkill, one or the other), this report took me by surprise - so much so that I decided it deserved a post.

    The Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index is a leading economic indicator of manufacturing activity, measuring areas like production levels, new orders, inventories, deliveries - and the big one, employment. Modeled after the federal Purchasing Managers Index, it contains not only readings on the hard data, but on the confidence level of managers and buyers as well. Investors look to this index as it tends to set the tone for other economic reports as related to the GDP - in a nutshell, it indicates whether the economy as a whole is expanding or contracting.

    So, maybe you thought we were slowing down again? Think again. Watch what happened in September...

    The Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) expanded to 65.0 in September, rebounding from a score of 54.2 in August. This is the fastest expansion rate in the local economy since June, according to the monthly survey of purchasing managers. The three-month average is 58.6.

    The Southeast Michigan PMI is a composite index of local economic activity calculated from survey data compiled by Wayne State University School of Business Administration faculty and the local chapter of the Institute for Supply Management. Like the national version of the index, a score above 50 indicates economic expansion. The higher the score is above 50, the faster the growth rate.

    The local PMI showed faster growth in production, new orders and employment in September. Employment expanded at the fastest rate this year, coming in at 66.7.

    "The Southeast Michigan PMI shows local economic expansion for eight consecutive months, and the economy is still growing," said Nitin Paranjpe, an economist and supply chain faculty member at Wayne State's business school who analyzed the survey data.

    "Chicago's PMI also rebounded sharply in September, easing fears of a double-dip recession, at least in the Midwest."

    Nationally, the PMI for the manufacturing sector expanded for the 14th straight month in September, but at a slower pace than in August.

    About 86 percent of the local purchasing managers surveyed said they expect the local economy to improve or remain about the same over the next six months. Comments from survey participants suggested the sustained economic growth caught them by surprise.

    Respondents also pointed to "sudden increases in demand" leading to concerns about capacity and lead time for orders. They also are worried about health care, high unemployment, and federal tax extensions as well - but they see sustained growth as of now.

    Moral of the story? Don't believe the Republicans when it comes to descriptions of the economy. They want you to think that everything is bad, bad, bad - when in reality all the indicators are definitely pointing up, and they have been for most of this year.

    Sunday, October 17, 2010

    The Sunday Paper: October 17, 2010

    October in Eastmanville. Hope you have had the chance to get out and enjoy the spectacular show our state is putting on this fall season. Colors are peaking "around the knuckles" of the Mitten this week - check out some of the fall driving tours at for tips on where to travel.

    It's another beautiful day, enjoy it while it lasts! Some odds and ends to chew over:

  • Peter Luke notices that neither gubernatorial campaign will be specific on answering questions about the budget and taxation. And one of them isn't even on the playing field of reality:

    Snyder's repeated call to cut business taxes was the subject of the first ad of his general election campaign, launched Monday, that asserts that Michigan's job loss that began in 2000 is the result of a bipartisan business tax overhaul that took effect in 2008.

    The Michigan Business Tax has turned into everyone's favorite villain this year, but the facts are: a) it didn't exist until 2008 and b) it only accounts for 11.7% of taxes paid by Michigan businesses. It's one of the biggest canards in this campaign season, if not THE biggest canard of this campaign season, when it comes to state political races. Where do you possibly begin when the whole premise of the argument is false?

  • Governor Granholm was forced to veto the federal $316 million for the education budget when "legislative error" in writing the bill caused the United States Department of Education to warn us that we might have to repay the money if it's found that we violated the funding law. Naturally, the west-side Republicans then reacted to their own incompetence by accusing the administration of trying to give a "parting gift to Detroit", and hinting they might try to override the veto so we can... continue to break the law and put this funding at risk, I guess. And we are back to the "false premise" problem once again. Look for this to get pushed to lame duck or beyond - sorry to all those schools that were counting on this funding anytime soon.

  • Good GM News: The Chevy Volt has been receiving rave reviews from the lucky journalists that got to play around with them this week - read the impressions of Mark Phelan at the Freep here and Scott Burgess at the DNews here. Sounds like they are having big fun with the car. GM is hinting that it will increase production, perhaps as high as 60,000 vehicles by 2012. Hope they didn't underestimate the market - buyers may be frustrated with a long wait. Crank it up!

  • Not so good GM News: The automaker was picketed Saturday over their plans to move tier-one pay employees to Lordstown, Ohio, and offer others retirement - and then fill Orion and the small car division with tier-two employees. The conditions of bankruptcy allow GM to do this, but look for the issue to return when the next contract negotiations come up. Some tier-ones may be able to transfer to Dearborn-Hamtramck at 100% wages, and it appears that GM is counting on attrition and transfers to make this as smooth as possible. Good luck with that.

  • MLive has been running a great series on the question of a Constitutional Convention, which will be on your ballot this November. While the idea may sound good in theory, do we really want the same cast of characters running or in office now anywhere near rewriting our Constitution? The more I think about it, the more I think "no". Can't take the chance. Special interest money rules, reality doesn't (see item 1 on this list) and until that is settled (ha!), we better make these guys do this piecemeal. Sad, but true.

  • Public Service Announcement: Michigan has opened up the Adult Medical Program enrollment until Nov. 30th, and up to 58,000 Michigan residents who had been frozen out since the budget cuts in 2009 will be eligible to apply. This includes the optical and dental benefits restoration passed so we could receive matching federal funds. The program for low-income adults who do not qualify for Medicaid, check with your local DHS office for details - and be patient with them, because they are probably very busy.

  • One last bit of good economic news to share: Investment in Michigan companies by venture capitalists is up 15% overall for the first nine months of this year. Investment dropped nationwide by 7.7% in the third quarter, but our state numbers increased during the period - still below '08, but showing steady gains. That means new products and new businesses are getting the seed money they need to create new jobs. Hey, I thought that MBT was driving everyone away...

    Enjoy your day - silly season will be here when you get back. Get that sunshine in!
  • Saturday, October 16, 2010

    Oil Spill Update: K-zoo River Monitoring to Continue Until 2015

    Ceresco Dam

    Just a quick update on the cleanup efforts along the Kalamazoo River: During my southern getaway jaunt last week, I stopped at a few of the spots I shot last July to see how things were going. Happy to report they have done a good job at removing the visible oil that was up on the banks and on plant life, the water looks cleaner (but still has a no-contact advisory until next spring) and the fumes are definitely gone, of course. My thoughts were they would have to strip plants completely, but at both Helmer Rd. in Battle Creek and the 11 Mile bridge near Ceresco, everything was pretty much intact, and what wasn't will probably grow-in just fine next spring. It's looking good.

    My last stop was Ceresco Dam pictured above - that area still is seeing a lot of work, but it's so much better than it was. Chatted with a few of the guys as they were discussing how the would attack some of the pockets that remain; as you can see, they still have booms up and sections roped off as they get into the sediments in the river and other ground area around the bottom of the dam. Very nice guys, very gung-ho about the work, "we want to leave it looking better than it was", as they talked about maybe doing a little landscaping while they were at it. I left thinking we were in good hands - the boots on the ground want to get the job done right.

    The EPA/MDNRE held a meeting Thursday night to report on progress. The initial phase of the cleanup ended last week, clocking in at over two months after the original accident, and now we are into the long term, residual cleaning and monitoring of the river and groundwater. If anyone ever had a question on how toxic this stuff really is - that will go on for the next five years. Or longer.

    That goal includes a complete ecosystem recovery of the affected areas of Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River to “look similar” to how they were prior to the July 26 spill, when more than 1 million gallons of crude oil leaked into the creek then the river from a 41-year-old Enbridge Energy Partners pipeline.

    But getting the waterways to that point will be no easy task, (Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment Director Rebecca) Humphries said.

    “We still have a lot of work to do,” she said. “We will be monitoring for five, maybe 10 more years.”

    Work on the river will continue in a limited capacity through the winter, she said, with crews removing any oil that might leach into the river from trees and riverbanks that are still contaminated with oil residue. Groundwater monitoring systems will also be placed at several locations along the affected stretch of the river.

    Probably want to stick with bottled water for now; apparently Enbridge can be slow about posting testing results and processing claims (no surprise there). You can hunt in the area still, but officials think that any deer that had been hanging around have probably been spooked by all the activity and might be hard to find. And since you can't eat the liver or play in the water anyway, maybe it's best to head to other spots.

    Line 6B is up and running again at 20% reduced pressure - scary thought when there hasn't been any updates on repairing the dozens of identified problems along the entire line. Hope our officials stay on them to take care of it before we have to do this again somewhere else in the state.

    And for the political angle (cause everything is all about the political angle right now), Congressman Mark Schauer, after all his diligent work, stands in stark contrast to the cutthroat politics going on in Louisiana over the BP Gulf oil spill according to the NY Times. So far, he hasn't used this in his campaign, although apparently during a debate Tim Walberg tried to make hay out of... stopping the flow of oil? A quick clean-up? Reporting times? Something, not quite sure what Tim was getting at with his rant there. Did he not want Enbridge to respond to this disaster as quickly and effectively as they possibly could? Unknown. As far as Schauer goes:

    Asked why Schauer would choose to downplay the pipeline issue during his race, campaign spokesman Zack Pohl said via e-mail: "For Mark, this was never a political issue -- it was always about protecting the communities he represents and holding Enbridge fully accountable for its actions."

    What would Walberg have done? Also unknown - Tim Walberg would not return a request for his stance on pipeline safety. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

    Perhaps he would like some nice deer liver...

    Obama Administration to Investigate Chinese Subsidies to Alternative Energy Companies

    Put together the paperwork, we've got a case - and from what I've been reading, this is just one of the many areas we need to tackle when it comes to creating fair trade with China. Step one is underway...

    The Obama administration is launching a broad investigation into whether the Chinese government improperly supports its alternative energy companies, one of the sharpest challenges yet to Beijing's alleged efforts to seize world leadership in particular industries.

    U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk announced on Friday he had accepted a petition from the United Steelworkers union contending that the subsidies and other benefits China grants to its clean-energy companies violate World Trade Organization rules.

    "We take the USW's claims very seriously, and we are vigorously investigating them," Kirk said in a prepared release. "Green technology will be an engine for the jobs of the future, and this administration is committed to ensuring a level playing field for American workers."

    The administration has 90 days to research the union's claims and decide whether to advance the case with a formal complaint to the WTO.

    The NY Times has details on how the subsidies may be a violation in the eyes of the WTO. One example is Hunan Sunzone Optoelectronics, a two-year-old company, now exporting 95% of its solar panels to Europe - and planning on opening three offices in the US next year to push into our market.

    To help Sunzone, the municipal government transferred to the company 22 acres of valuable urban land close to downtown at a bargain-basement price. That reduced the company’s costs and greatly increased its worth and attractiveness to investors.

    Meanwhile, a state bank is preparing to lend to the company at a low interest rate, and the provincial government is sweetening the deal by reimbursing the company for most of the interest payments, to help Sunzone double its production capacity.

    Heavily subsidized land and loans for an exporter like Sunzone are the rule, not the exception, for clean energy businesses in Changsha and across China, Chinese executives said in interviews over the last three months.

    But this kind of help violates World Trade Organization rules banning virtually all subsidies to exporters, and could be successfully challenged at the agency’s tribunals in Geneva, said Charlene Barshefsky, who was the United States trade representative during the second Clinton administration and negotiated the terms of China’s entry to the organization in 2001.

    Between sweet deals like this, restrictions on imports into their market, and currency manipulation that keeps the price of its exports low, China is on track to produce more than half of the world's solar panels this year - and they will make nearly half of the world's wind turbines, planning on "large scale exports" for those as well. Alternative energy companies in the US and Europe are having a hard time getting loans at home (thanks, big banks!), and with the Chinese banks giving out these low-interest loans like candy to everyone, naturally the production jobs are starting to move there.

    Our trade deficit with China hit record levels in August - it's well past time to step up our efforts at addressing the problem. And no, this is not "China bashing" as some immature headline writers at the Freep would contend, this is an issue that affects the entire global economy.

    The question still remains: Do we want to manufacture in this country, or not? If so, we get going. Let's hope the administration does file something with the WTO, and then we will see what happens next. Just pray it's not too late.

    Thursday, October 14, 2010

    Granholm to Nation's Top Lenders: Suspend Michigan Foreclosures

    Uh, yeah. We'd better do that. When the NYT is running headlines like "Bankers Ignored Signs of Trouble on Foreclosures"...

    As the furor grows over lenders’ efforts to sidestep legal rules in their zeal to reclaim homes from delinquent borrowers, these and other banks insist that they have been overwhelmed by the housing collapse.

    But interviews with bank employees, executives and federal regulators suggest that this mess was years in the making and came as little surprise to industry insiders and government officials. The issue gained new urgency on Wednesday, when all 50 state attorneys general announced that they would investigate foreclosure practices. That news came on the same day that JPMorgan Chase acknowledged that it had not used the nation’s largest electronic mortgage tracking system, MERS, in foreclosures, since 2008.

    ... and stories of hairdressers robo-signing paperwork and indications are that this all has to potential to blow up into another TARP situation (which the taxpayers will NOT be happy about, to say the least), let's just take a timeout here and try and figure out the damage before we screw up the national economy again. Would that be OK with everyone?

    Governor Jennifer M. Granholm yesterday called on the nation’s top lending institutions that service mortgages in Michigan to suspend all foreclosures pending investigation of possibly fraudulent foreclosure filings. The governor also repeated her call for the nation’s top lenders to fully participate in the Michigan’s Helping Hardest Hit Homeowners Fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.

    “Given recent revelations by major lenders about possibly fraudulent foreclosure filings, I am calling on the nation’s largest lenders doing business in Michigan to immediately suspend all foreclosures, all sales of properties previously foreclosed upon, and all evictions of persons residing in homes foreclosed upon, pending an investigation by state officials,” Granholm said. “I am also calling on Ally Financial, Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, PNC, and Wells Fargo to step up to the plate and fully participate in Michigan’s Hardest Hit Homeowners Fund to help Michigan families avoid foreclosure.”

    In recent weeks, major lenders including Ally Financial, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America have acknowledged that certain employees, known as “robosigners,” had engaged in possibly fraudulent practices that may have been in violation of Michigan law. Examples of these practices include signing documents and affidavits used in foreclosure proceedings without proper review or personal knowledge of the facts, and filing documents that do not accurately reflect loan payments, charges, and advances.

    And yes, it would be nice if these guys would fully participate in the Hardest Hit Fund - initial press reports indicated that they were doing just that, but you know how that goes.

    Repeatedly, the governor has also called for the nation’s top lenders to participate in the Michigan’s Hardest Hit Homeowners Fund to help keep families out of foreclosure. In letters sent to Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, PNC, and Wells Fargo, the governor urged them to join with the over 100 banks, community banks, and credit unions who are participating in the Hardest Hit Fund.

    The governor also acknowledged JPMorgan Chase’s participation in one of three Hardest Hit programs, providing payment assistance to currently unemployed homeowners, but called on JPMorgan Chase to participate in the other two Hardest Hit programs. Those two Hardest Hit programs provide emergency rescue funds of up to $5,000 for homeowners who have fallen behind due to an involuntary inability to pay, such as a medical disability, and provide funds for principal reductions for homeowners who can no longer afford mortgage payments due to a reduced household income.

    “These disconcerting revelations deserve your immediate attention,” Granholm wrote in her letter to the banks. “Accordingly, I look forward to your response by November 1, 2010.”

    Perhaps they can't participate because they can't prove they own the homes in the first place? Who knows. Better hope that we can ward off what seems to be an impending disaster that will threaten the fragile economic recovery we are seeing. A double-dip recession at this point would be a horrible thing indeed.

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Michigan is No. 4 in Solar Jobs in the US, Jumps 7 Places in Energy Efficiency

    Woo hoo! Thank you Dow and Uni-Solar.

    Michigan has the fourth-largest number of solar energy jobs in the country, according to a report released today by the Solar Foundation.

    As of August, 6,300 workers in the state were spending at least half of their time designing, manufacturing, selling, installing or maintaining solar energy systems, the National Solar Jobs Census found. Only California, Pennsylvania and Texas had more workers employed in this booming sector.

    On the flip side, Michigan has only 76 solar energy businesses, far fewer than many other leading states in the industry. Many of Michigan's solar jobs are generated by two large companies, Hemlock Semiconductor Group in Hemlock and United Solar in Rochester Hills.

    Jennifer Alvarado, executive director of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association in Dimondale, said that Michigan's high ranking in the census reflects the state's numerous efforts to become a leader in renewable energy. She has seen an increase in solar system installations in Michigan this year.

    The Crash of '08 set everyone back a bit last year, but industry experts are predicting a record year for solar installation and manufacturing for 2010. Companies are struggling to fill the growing demand for qualified employees such as "solar panel installers, electricians and roofers with experience in solar installations and salespeople for solar equipment and installations". And although heavily-subsidized competition from the Chinese has slowed manufacturing across the country, there are still plans to bring manufacturing projects to Michigan. MLive's Job Search has a few examples, some we have talked about here before:

    For example, last month, Dow Solar Solutions began hiring 100 full-time manufacturing employees for its solar shingle plant in Midland.

    Ford Motor announced this summer that it would be joining with DTE Energy and Clairvoyant Energy to develop solar energy power systems for vehicles. Clairvoyant Energy is renovating an idled Ford plant in Wixom into a green energy park projected to create about 4,000 jobs.

    Last month, Brighton-based The Green Panel, announced that Evergreen Solar, a Massachusetts-based solar manufacturer with a manufacturing plant in Midland, had made it a regional distributor for Michigan and four surrounding states. And in other good news for Michigan's solar industry, an unidentified company is seeking to install a solar panel manufacturing facility at the former Tecumseh Products Co. plant in Tecumseh.

    As far as energy efficiency goes, Michigan is still in the middle of the pack at No. 27, but we have made great strides in the past year to jump up 7 spots for an honorable mention in this year's American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy 2010 Scorecard. The report focuses more on energy policy rather than hard numbers on job creation - but they also point out how good policy will lead to jobs and investment in construction and transportation, as well as how saving on energy costs frees up consumer money to spend in other areas.

    The green economy is here. No more denying that fact. Make some adjustments to trade policy and we can create even more jobs. You listening, Congress?