The Michigan Economic Development Deal That Will Help An Ohio Company

Ohio-based Export Now will help sell MIchigan-made products on China's TMall.com. Credit: screenshot from TMall.com

China, as you’ve often heard, is the world’s fastest growing economy, and not just for its low-cost manufacturing. It’s also home to a rapidly growing consumer market. Big American companies like GM, Harley Davidson and Amway have made big bucks selling to Chinese consumers.

But for smaller American companies, breaking into the Chinese market can be difficult, confusing and expensive.

This week, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced a new program to help small businesses make that leap. It’s the first program of its kind in the country.

“The program will offer Michigan companies the opportunity to test their products in the China consumer market with limited risk,” MEDC President and CEO Michael A. Finney said in a release.

As part of the program, the MEDC is partnering with Export Now, a private company that specializes in helping businesses export their products to China. A hundred small Michigan companies will get a chance to take part. For them, the program could be a transformative opportunity.

But it’s also a sweet deal for Export Now, which is based in Ohio. And the owner of a Michigan-based export services company hopes he won’t be left behind.

Continue reading “The Michigan Economic Development Deal That Will Help An Ohio Company”

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”

Midwest Memo: Dow Downsizes, Romney’s Winning Streak And The Countdown In Detroit

Dow and out Dow Chemical says it will lay off 900 workers and close five factories worldwide. The Detroit Free Press reports the company wouldn’t say if any of those cuts would be in Michigan. Dow is based in Midland, Mich. One of the plants that will close is in Charleston, Ill.

Decision day It’s primary day in Wisconsin. NPR reports Romney is hoping to extend his winning streak in Great Lakes states.

Broken marriage The Federal Trade Commission has blocked a hospital merger deal in the Toledo area.

Fewer people on welfare Partner station WCPN reports Ohio’s welfare rolls dropped 18 percent in one year. One reason is the improving economy. But the station reports that a bigger reason is tighter welfare rules.

Clock is ticking Less than 72 hours remain for Detroit leaders to reach a deal with Lansing to avoid a state takeover.

Your Story: Different Ways To Measure Retraining Success

JoAnne Jachyra learned about the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program when she was laid off from her IT management job in 2009. TAA is a federal program that funds retraining for workers who lose their jobs to international competition.

Jachyra qualified for the funds and used them to go back to school, something she’s always wanted to do. “Ever since I graduated from Michigan State with a degree in astrophysics I had entertained the idea of becoming a teacher,” says Jachyra. “I had to do a process and say ‘OK well here’s what I want to do, here’s how long it’ll take, here’s how much it’ll cost.’ And part of that is they have a list and they say ‘these are the growing professions that you can get trained in because we feel that you will be able to find a job when you are done with that.’” Teaching was on that list.


Jachyra spent a year in an accelerated degree program – the cost was about $3,000 – that was paid for by the TAA. “It didn’t cost me anything other than time and a lot of effort,” says Jachyra.She got her certification to teach high school and middle school math and physics, but finding a job proved more difficult than she had expected. “I seriously thought being certified as a physics and math teacher I should be able to walk into any school in metro Detroit and have a job,” she says. Continue reading “Your Story: Different Ways To Measure Retraining Success”

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”

How We Think About Public Transportation Is Changing

Chicago is experiencing record ridership of the CTA, and it’s on a drive to spruce up 100 stations. Cleveland has high speed buses from downtown to the Medical Center. In Canada, Toronto has streetcars and every kind of transit you can imagine, including rental bikes.

Toronto rental bikes/photo by Micki Maynard

But Detroit? Well, besides the People Mover, public transportation has never been a big priority. However, mindsets may be changing, according to veteran journalist Rick Haglund.

In a column this weekend, Haglund says the environment for public transportation seems to be changing in Michigan. He cites two reasons: younger people aren’t as interested in driving or owning cars as they once were, and governments and business leaders are lending their support. Continue reading “How We Think About Public Transportation Is Changing”

Wisconsin, It’s Your Turn! Tell Us About Your Vote

Michigan, Ohio and Illinois voters have had their chance. Now, it’s Wisconsin’s turn.

Wisconsin State Capitol

Voters in the dairy state go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the Republican primary. We’d love to hear how you voted, and what’s the most important issue on your minds.

After you vote, take our survey (or if you’ve already voted early, let us know now). It will help us understand whether different topics are of importance to people in different parts of the Great Lakes.

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”

Midwest Memo: A Casino Gamble, Wisconsin Primary And Red Cross Workers On Strike

Taking a chance A group in Michigan wants to change the state’s constitution to allow more casino gambling. According to the Detroit Free Press, the group is proposing new casinos in eight locations, including downtown Detroit and Grand Rapids.

Two politicians, two views of the economy Wisconsin primary voters head to the polls tomorrow. The Boston Herald has a look at one campaign event over the weekend that featured both Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Though they shared a stage, they both offered different views on the state of our economy.

Still on strike It’s the eighth week of a strike for about 250 Red Cross Workers in Northern Ohio. The workers help run mobile blood collection units for the charity. Partner station WCPN Ideastream reports there’s still no sign of a deal in the strike that started in February.

Engineers in demand The Detroit Free Press reports on better job prospects for engineers. At a recent engineering conference in Metro Detroit, the paper reports open jobs outnumbered attendees nearly six to one.

Drill now, drill where? Some state-owned land in Michigan could be opened up for oil and gas drilling, according to partner station Michigan Radio.

Hello, tax revenue Bloomberg News reports cities in Michigan that collect income tax are seeing a windfall this year.