From Every Cherry Tree In The Orchard, From Every Leaf And Every Trunk, Cold Snap Brings Worries

Just a few weeks ago, Midwesterners were reveling in temperatures way too high for March. Now, chilly spring days have returned, and the cold snap is raising fears for crops around the Great Lakes. 

That’s particularly the case in northern Michigan, which is known as Cherryland. Agriculture experts warned during the warm spell that there could be damage in the case of freezing temperatures, and that looks entirely possible.

“Every time we have temperatures in the 20s from here on out, there will be crop damage,” Phil Korson, president of the Cherry Marketing Institute, told the Associated Press. 

Korson, whose group is funded by cherry growers, said this year’s tart cherry crop will be in danger throughout this month, when cold nights are usual.

Trees developed blossoms during a weeklong heat wave in mid-March, when temperatures topped 80 degrees five days in a row and remained mostly above 60 at night.  Continue reading “From Every Cherry Tree In The Orchard, From Every Leaf And Every Trunk, Cold Snap Brings Worries”

Midwest Manufacturing Reaches Milestones For Autos And Steel

The Federal Reserve Board of Chicago is out with its Midwest manufacturing index for February, and the numbers are something of a milestone.

The comeback in steel is good for places like Gary, Indiana/photo by Micki Maynard

The Chicago Fed uses 2007 as a baseline, meaning 100 on its index, which the Fed calls “a composite of 15 manufacturing industries that uses hours worked data to measure monthly changes in regional activity.” (We like to think of 100 as basically full staff.)

In February, the manufacturing index, which covers Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, stood at 91.7. The number for automobile manufacturing was even better — 92.2 — while steel manufacturing stands a tad behind, at 90.5 percent.

But that’s an important number, as we’ll explain.

Since the index goes up about a half a percentage point to a point per month, you might extrapolate that the region will be back to 100 by the end of the year. Of course, there’s no way to really nail that, given high gas prices and other economic factors.

But the real story is in the historic numbers. Continue reading “Midwest Manufacturing Reaches Milestones For Autos And Steel”

The Prince Fielder Economic Effect In Detroit

Slugger Prince Fielder has only played one regular season game with the Detroit Tigers, but the team is reveling in his economic impact.

New scoreboard, new slugger/photo by Micki Maynard

The Tigers drew a record Opening Day crowd of 45,027 to Comerica Park, the second-highest single game attendance in the park’s 12-year history.

Many people were there simply to see Fielder, the former Milwaukee Brewer who signed a $214 million, nine-year contract with the club earlier this year.

Thanks to Fielder, the Tigers have seen an immediate impact on season ticket sales.

They sold 21,000 season ticket packages (six games or more) before the season started, guaranteeing them annual attendance of at least 1.6 million fans. That’s up 50 percent from the 14,000 season tickets the Tigers sold in 2011, when they won the American League Central Division title. Continue reading “The Prince Fielder Economic Effect In Detroit”

Measuring The Costs And Benefits Of Retraining

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Todd Debenedet is starting over. He's retraining in Jackson, Mich.

Measuring the success of retraining programs used to be straightforward. You just looked at how many people got better paying jobs. Now the emphasis is shifting from how job seekers benefit to how taxpayers benefit too. That’s because some federal funds for workforce development are shrinking, and local agencies have to do more to make their case.

In the Midwest, we hear a lot about retraining. A lot of the money for retraining and other job services comes from the federal government, through the states, to local programs like this one in Jackson, Michigan.

Sparks fly as Ron Waldon grinds the surface off a steel block. Soon he’ll learn to be a CNC operator– someone who can program computerized milling machines. It’s a hot skill for a guy who’s had a rough few years. Continue reading “Measuring The Costs And Benefits Of Retraining”

Hey, Consumers: You’re Paying Record Prices For Many Cars And Trucks

The auto industry reported strong sales in March, and for some auto companies, the news was even better.

Buyers at General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan and Hyundai paid record amounts for new vehicles during May, according to True Car.com, which tracks statistics about buying habits.

True Car bases its calculations on transaction prices: the final amount people pay, after incentives, bargaining and trade-ins. The numbers include the whole range of vehicles that the companies sell, such as  cars, sport utilities, pickups, and minivans.

Transaction prices are way up since the beginning of 2010. Take a look at this chart by Meg Cramer of Changing Gears, which shows the industry average and what consumers at major carmakers are paying.

Continue reading “Hey, Consumers: You’re Paying Record Prices For Many Cars And Trucks”

After Tough Times, Detroit’s Hotel Pontchartrain Is Set For A Comeback

Detroit's Hotel Pontchartrain. Credit: flickr user femaletrumpet02

For the past few years, the Hotel Pontchartrain in Detroit has stood shuttered and empty, a looming symbol of the city’s better days. But now, the Pontch looks like it is coming back to life, thanks to a Mexican developer.

The Detroit News reported this morning that the 25-story hotel was purchased by Gabriel Ruiz, a Mexican businessman, and that the hotel will become a Crowne Plaza once more.

Bill Bohde, a senior vice president of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the InterContinental Hotels Group, which runs the Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts chain, informed him of the sale last week.

Bohde says he understands the group has an agreement in principle to make it part of the Crowne Plaza chain, and restore it as a 416-room property.

The hotel, nicknamed “the Pontch” by Detroiters, has one of the premium locations in all of downtown, across from the Cobo Convention Center. But it has been shut since 2009, when its air conditioning system failed.  Continue reading “After Tough Times, Detroit’s Hotel Pontchartrain Is Set For A Comeback”

How A Law Meant To Protect Property Owners In Michigan Is Holding Detroit Back

Vacant land on Moran St. in Detroit, as seen on Google Street View.

Detroit has a lot of vacant land. That much, you’ve probably heard by now. On Sunday, the Detroit Free Press took a look at efforts to put that land to use, and along the way, the paper rounded up some eye-popping statistics you might not have heard:

  • There are more than 100,000 vacant residential lots in the city of Detroit.
  • If you include commercial property, nearly a third of the city is vacant.
  • If you put all of the vacant land together, the entire city of Paris could fit inside.
  • The vacant land could also fit 25,000 football fields.
  • Only 40% of the real estate parcels in the entire city have owners who pay their property taxes on time.
  • Over the past 30 years in Detroit, 10 residential structures were demolished for every one that was built.

There are plenty of people who want to put this vacant land to use. But that’s proving more complicated than it sounds, thanks especially to a law passed by Michigan voters in 2006.

Continue reading “How A Law Meant To Protect Property Owners In Michigan Is Holding Detroit Back”

Spring Has Sprung; 99% Spring Events Are Coming

Earlier this year, we told you about The 99% Spring, the protest movement sponsored by a variety of political and labor groups including MoveOn.org, the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters Union.

It’s part of a fresh wave of protests that are taking place across the country, in the wake of the Occupy movement.

The 99% Spring Protest Movement Gets Organized

Starting next week, 99% Spring events will be kicking off across the United States, and especially in the Midwest.

Supporters are vowing to train 100,000 people to “to tell the story of what happened to our economy, learn the history of non-violent direct action, and use that knowledge to take action on our own campaigns to win change.”

Over the weekend, the UAW sent an email to its members, encouraging them to take part. “We are at a crucial point in America where if we continue to ignore the opportunity to rebuild this great country, then we risk losing the very essence of what has made this country great,” the email said.  Continue reading “Spring Has Sprung; 99% Spring Events Are Coming”

Feagler & Friends: Reshoring

Reshoring – that’s a term meaning returning jobs to the U.S. that once were shipped overseas. It’s an apparently growing trend in Northeast Ohio. Hundreds of manufacturing jobs once located in China have been relocated to greater Cleveland because of rising employment costs in China and greater efficiencies at home. Mr. Feagler discusses reshoring with Daniel E. Berry, president and CEO and Bob Schmidt, Senior Business Consultant, both of MAGNET, the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network.

What Does The New Agreement On Offshore Wind In The Great Lakes Mean? Not Much, Yet.

An offshore wind farm in Denmark. Could this be the view in the Great Lakes soon? Credit: Scandia Wind

This morning, the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced that it’s reached an agreement that will speed up the permitting process for offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes. The agreement comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding with five of the eight states that border the Great Lakes.

On a conference call this morning, officials said the total potential for wind energy in the Great Lakes is about equal to building 700 nuclear power plants. They said wind on the Great Lakes could power millions of homes.

The MOU includes nine federal agencies, and the states of Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. Not included are Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, though they can sign on later.

But what’s actually in the memorandum of understanding? Very little, but what’s there could still make a difference.

Continue reading “What Does The New Agreement On Offshore Wind In The Great Lakes Mean? Not Much, Yet.”