31 March 2011


In a wake of new legislation, Detroit teachers’ union worry about the unmanaged changes proposed to the public schools.
The state-appointed manager of Detroit Public Schools identified 45 schools in the struggling district that could be turned over to private charter operators in a bid to improve student performance.
Wednesday's release of the target list comes as the manager, Robert Bobb, heads into a new round of talks with unions, armed with broad new authority to reopen labor contracts, cut costs and dictate curriculum.
Since his appointment more than two years ago, Mr. Bobb's efforts to stabilize the district's finances and bolster its academics have faced resistance from teachers unions and the school board. Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder changed all of that earlier this month, when he signed into law expanded powers for Mr. Bobb and other financial managers appointed to take over struggling cities and schools.
A Wayne County judge who earlier ruled that Mr. Bobb had improperly exerted control over academics stayed her order in light of the new legislation. School board President Anthony Adams stood behind Mr. Bobb's plan for charters. Mr. Bobb had already gained state approval for a last-resort plan to eliminate the deficit by 2014. It called for closing as many as half the district's 142 schools.
Detroit, whose population fell 25% in the past decade, according to the 2010 census, has seen an even faster exodus from its schools, with students fleeing to charter schools and the suburbs, and taking state funding with them. The district's deficit has grown to $327 million from $218 million when he arrived.
Under Wednesday's modified plan, 14 schools will close by 2012 and another 45 are charter candidates. Of these, 18 have been marked for closure or conversion to charter schools as early as this fall; the other 27 will stay open, but could be converted to charters if a plan is approved to lease the school buildings from the district.
The charters are expected to employ nonunion teachers at least initially, but unions could later try to organize their staff.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bobb is bringing his beefed-up powers to negotiations with unions to help close an estimated $100 million shortfall for next year. Under the strengthened financial-manager law, union contracts, which were cut a little more than a year ago and supposed to be in place for three years, could be slashed again by Mr. Bobb, with approval from the state treasurer.
The Detroit teacher’s union members are in an uproar. They are requesting a meeting to discuss cuts that could be devastating to their members.

25 March 2011


Available technology jobs in the Detroit area are requiring companies to be creative in their recruiting techniques to woo candidates away from California.

Currently Ford has been trying to lure engineers to the automaker to design software. They want to make Silicon Valley engineers feel at home in Detroit. They have also been going after recruits from Stanford University and Internet companies. Recruiting from local universities has also been a tactic; however, there are nowhere near enough graduates to meet the need. Detroit may be a hard win when compared to the pleasant location and climate of the Silicon Valley, which boasts itself as the technology mecca for the country. As Ford and General Motors participates in the war for talent they wine and dine their applicants and show a relaxed work atmosphere with options of telecommuting or working in jeans verses the Silicon Valley companies where suits are familiar work attire. The automakers are also challenged to get qualified candidates with their offers of salary, which are lower than California, but are quick to make clear the benefits of lower home costs and living expenses.
Expertise in cloud computing, Michigan SEO, mobile software applications and energy management are in demand in the Motor City as automakers replace car stereos with Internet radio and gasoline engines with motors powered by lithium-ion batteries. Technology job postings in the Detroit area doubled last year, making it the fastest-expanding region in the country.
Companies that work with automakers on in-car entertainment systems, such as online streaming music providers Pandora Media Inc. and Mog Inc., have opened offices in the Detroit area. Google Inc., based in Mountain View, California, has an office in Birmingham, Michigan, where it’s looking for sales associates to work with the auto industry.
With the onset of job and technology expansion in Michigan, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced in December that it will open its first satellite office in Detroit. The decision was made due to the region’s high percentage of scientists and engineers, as well as its patent output. Due to its 4,000 patents, Michigan was ranked the seventh highest patent-receiving state in 2010. The new office is likely to create about 100 new jobs to review patent filings.
Michigan lost about 413,000 jobs from December 2007 through December 2009, including 83,200 jobs in the Detroit area, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Things picked up last year, as jobs in the Detroit SEO field and Detroit area professional and business-services sector, which include many of the tech jobs, rose almost twice as fast in December as the overall Michigan job market, according to the bureau. An auto transport company may also be looking to expand with all the anticipated moves.
Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans Inc., stated that he plans on adding more jobs as well. Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team, moved 1,700 of Quicken Loans’ employees into Compuware Corp. headquarters in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park area, the center of the city’s tech industry, where he plans to add 2,000 more workers.
In the building, graffiti from local artists decorate many of the walls and floors, and mini kitchens on every floor offer free slushies and snacks. When the space is fully finished, Quicken also will have a basketball court for employees.
Gilbert’s venture capital firm’s goal is to fund social media, cloud computing and other software companies in Detroit. So far, Detroit Venture Partners has received more than 200 proposals for investments and has term sheets under consideration for six that may be signed in the next 30 days.
Gilbert also helped fund a planned light-rail project for downtown, formed a venture capital firm to invest in startups, and purchased a historic theater with plans to renovate it as an incubator space for budding technology companies. His objective was to improve Detroit’s downtown to draw people to move back to the area which helps both recruiters and candidates.

11 March 2011

Chief of Ford may set record compensation for an auto CEO

Ford CEO Alan Mulally earned record setting compensation for reviving the challenged auto maker. His earnings will likely exceed the previous auto industry record set by Ford's former chief Alex Trotman in 1998, who made $73 million, a sum that also reflects the total his stock and options.

Mulally banked $33.4 million in after-tax gains on incentive stock awards granted as part of his 2008 pay package, which is only a fraction of what he has earned for his recovery efforts in Ford.

In the upcoming weeks, the Michigan-based auto maker will report Mulally's 2010 compensation. Industry analyst say there is a good chance his earnings will represent the largest compensation package the auto industry has ever seen.

A spokesperson for Ford declined to comment on the exact amount of the CEO's pay, but noted the company's stock rose 68% in 2010. He also added that Ford cut its debt by $14.5 billion and could now fund the company's $7-billion obligation to the health care trust for UAW retirees.

Equilar, a financial risk management firm that aggregates data on executive pay, claimed Mulally's total equity-based incentives are worth roughly $313 million based on Ford's $14.01 closing price on Monday. According to the firm's analysis, that estimate does not include bonus and other benefits.

The CEO's grand compensation is expected to raise the question of whether his pay is excessive or an appropriate reward?

During the past few weeks, shares of Ford's stock have dropped 24% from their highest level of $18.97 in January. The slip comes with concerns of extreme oil prices that will hinder overall profitability for the company.

Many make the claim that Mulally's $313 million payout is just and fair, however several others are not so quick to agree. The CEO is raking in a grand compensation for achieving what his peers in the domestic auto industry could not - driving a successful recovery without the intervention of the federal government.

Ford's drastic turnaround over the recent years will fuel other industries in automotive. One type of company that is already seeing improvements is a producer of hard tonneau cover products and accessories.

Yet the debate begins over whether his reward was right or too much. Advocates of the "pay-for-performance" system claim it is fair and well-deserved.

Ford does not plan to release any information regarding its top executives' pay for a few weeks, however the recent release that Mulally is to receive a $56.5-million stock award for delayed compensation granted in 2008 has spawned an uproar from the peanut gallery.

With respect to the $6.6-billion profit Ford earned last year, the CEO's compensation is not considered "excessive", said Van Conway, a specialist and advisor in corporate recovery. "When you look at the stock award, it's about 1% of profits," he said.

Opponents argue that such compensation packages like Mulally's are excessive amidst a national unemployment rate of 8.9%. In addition, some say his heafty pay package could also stir up issues with the UAW.

The CEO of Ford has "done a fabulous job, but when they negotiate with the union later in the year it's probably going to come back and bite them in the butt," said a key Ford shareholder.

Ford's recovery is destined to help a number of related sectors, ranging from auto transport companies to manufacturers of parts and components.

Ford sees solar solutions with new DTE program

Ford and DTE Energy have teamed up to implement a more green energy source at the auto maker's manufacturing complex in Wayne. The duo recently installed solar panels that are expected to generate roughly 500 kilowatts of power.

The new solar panels were installed in front of Ford's Wayne Assembly Plant and will fuel production at the adjacent Michigan Assembly Plant.

The electricity supply manager of Ford said the solar panels will save the company about $160,000 annually. The entire energy-saving project totals about $5.8-million.

Although the new solar panels will render only a small portion of the 20 megawatts of electricity demanded by the plant on an annual basis, the supply manager is confident that the investment will save Ford money in the long run. Such savings will enable Ford to produce renewable energy and experiment with battery-powered parts for auto transport vehicles.

Additionally, the new panels will be feed a 750-kilowatt energy-storage system as well as contribute to 10 new electric-vehicle charging stations at Michigan Assembly. The charging stations will recharge on-site electrical vehicles that transport auto parts to and from various buildings at the manufacturing site.

"These new investments should help us cut overhead costs in a number of ways." said a spokesperson for the company. "Our reliance on auto transport companies being one of the major areas of savings," he added.

Ford's current project is part of DTE Energy's SolarCurrents program, and the newly installed solar panels are owned by the utility.

The overall goal of DTE is to work with various corporations throughout southeastern Michigan to install enough panels over the next five years to produce 15 megawatts of electricity. The utility provider is seeing opportunities with all sorts of business, ranging from microfiber cloth manufacturers to others in the auto industry.

04 March 2011

Go Green By Taking Advantage Of An Auto Transport Company

The movement to become more "green" is evolving at a rapid rate. One area that is not jumping on the green bandwagon quite as quickly is the automobile industry. New models for fuel-efficient vehicles are unveiled every year, however many of these hybrids are only considered "concept cars." However those small, gas saving vehicles that are available for purchase, are only affordable to those buyers who have the pockets to pay. A simple method to contribute to the trend of going green is to utilize auto transport services. United Road is one company that has pioneered the vehicle logistics industry and has made considerable efforts to help minimize carbon emissions.

The Department of Energy has released compelling data regarding the amount of carbon dioxide one gallon of gasoline produces. In addition, the Department calculated the average miles per gallon (mpg) used by a standard vehicle, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a single gallon of diesel, and the median mpg for a typical truck used for car shipping. In a matter of just one year, a auto transport company has the capability of preserving up to 2,926,000 gallons of fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions by an astonishing 38,216,000 pounds.

United Road has taken such statistics seriously and is implementing ways to make better use of these figures. The company utilizes highly-efficient flatbed trucks and enclosed car carriers for its car shipping services. In addition, United Road uses advanced OVISS technology to further improve transit efficiency and timely delivery.

Another strategy United Road has applied to help the planet become greener is using auto transport terminals. The company has built several designated pick-up and drop-off locations found in major areas all throughout the country. This helps to reduce the length of trips that car haulers must take to each destination. In addition, United Road logistics planners work directly with automobile manufacturers and dealerships to ensure auto transport trucks are loaded to their fullest capacity.

United Road offers some of the lowest auto transport rates in order to make car shipping more affordable for the average individual. The company also strives to increase the overall awareness and benefits vehicle transporting, one example being the companies ties to eBay motors. In fact, United Road was awarded 2009 "Carrier of the year" and preferred carrier of eBay motors. Learn more about United Road and the benefits of auto transport.

03 March 2011

Boeing contract to benefit Michigan aerospace industry

Boeing's plan to construct up to 200 refueling aircrafts for the U.S. Air Force, after being awarded a $35 billion contract, is expected to be an economic boost for Michigan's aerospace industry.

The Chicago-based airline said the state will benefit from roughly 450 new jobs and an estimated $25 million in annual economic impact from the Boeing NewGen Tanker, called the KC-X.

Currently, Boeing has connections with over 280 Michigan suppliers, contributing to about $551 million in annual economic impact.

As of now, four manufacturers in the state stand ready to supply components for Boeing's NewGen Tanker. One Livonia-based manufacturer, LaSalle Electric Supply Co., will provide electrical standards, lighting products and tie straps for the new plane.

LaSalle currently provides lamps for the airline's 767 aircraft, as well as other parts for Boeing. The company's new innovation, the NewGen Tanker, is a multi-mission aircraft based on the design of Boeing's 767 commercial airplane but offers highly advanced technology.

Jim Gatward, president of LaSalle Electric Supply, claims that there is great interest in the project. "It does two things for us: extends the lifeline of the Boeing 767 aircraft platform for many years and all ancillary product and support that go into that aircraft."

Gatward noted Boeing's KC-X is hybrid of the Boeing 767, but the supplies LaSalle plans to contribute will remain the same.

"The feeling of anticipation is gone," said Gatward, "and everyone from here is excited that we can continue with the 767 platform."

The first phase of the deal, valued at $3.5 billion, calls for delivery of 18 aircraft by 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Gatward is currently unsure of whether more man power will be needed to meet the production demands.

"If that accelerates or the Department of Defense wants them sooner," he said, "we definitely could see hiring more people."

As prospective suppliers contemplate the possibility of taking on a larger workforce, the consideration of ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) services are being evaluated. Keeping workers happy with the right type of benefits is crucial to sustaining long-term success.

Even vehicle logistics providers are taking an interest in the state's aerospace progression. Auto transport companies are delivering new vehicles designed to help facilitate that manufacturing process.

Gavin Brown, executive director of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, said that over the life of the Boeing NewGen Tanker contract, he forecasts $500 million in new business will go directly to aerospace companies in the state.

One Michigan company hoping to get into the mix is Sterling Heights-based RoboVent. The industrial company has just expanded its operations to support airplane spray booths for painting and finishing.

Brown projects the residual benefit for such suppliers to last up to 40 years due to the longevity of aircrafts and the demand for replacement components. The refueling tanker of the past, the KC-135, was commissioned all the way back to the era of the Eisenhower administration.

Boeing claims its NewGen Tanker to be more cost-effective to own and operate because it uses 24 percent less fuel than the competitor's plane. Such efficiencies could save U.S. taxpayers over $10 billion in fuel costs over the NewGen's 40-year service life.

"For every $100,000 to $150,000 in revenue a good aerospace manufacturing company receives in orders, a job is created," Brown said. "The tanker program will result in thousands of new jobs when you look at the financial impact — $500 million over the lifetime of the contract. — Aerospace manufacturing workers are amongst the highest paid in manufacturing."

Progression of the like will greatly aid those companies that have been working to become AS9100-certified, ranging from auto makers to suppliers of microfiber cleaning cloths.

One such company is Fraser-based Fairlane Tool Co., a supplier of aerospace landing gears and other related components. Fairlane supplies the landing gear for airplanes like the F-22 and F-35, to name a few.

Fairlane Tool, after waiting months for approval, just recently received its AS9100 certification.

Aerospace companies like Boeing and Northrop Grumman Corp., based in Los Angeles, are not even considering vendors that are not AS9100 certified, Brown added.

"This opens up the door for us to deal with Boeing and do contract work with them," said Fairlane Tool's quality manager Mike Gordon Jr. "You don't even get to talk to Boeing unless you have AS9100 certification... it's very crucial. It definitely could not have happened at a better time."

Until now, Fairlane Tool was working with the Tier 1 suppliers rather than directly with the original aerospace manufacturers. Without the middle man, the next step for Gordon and Fairlane tool is to "start placing bids with Boeing."

"If we win a bid, which could take three months or so, we would add about 10 people," he said. "And that's just us; it doesn't affect the other companies around us."

Gordon said his company is working with Michigan Works, a state agency that helps unemployed workers, to aid the recruiting process.

"This will definitely create an influx of a whole bunch of cash into the area," Gordon said. "It's a trickle effect — from Boeing, to people like us, to the steel companies and truck drivers."

Several other companies in Michigan are to benefit from Boeing's contract. Some of which include Honeywell Aerospace in Boyne City, Eaton Corp.'s aerospace division plant in Jackson, and the Grand Rapids plant of Evendale (Ohio-based GE Aviation Systems).

Tax credit supporters of Michigan's film incentive prepare for battle

By recruiting powerful lobbyists and gathering compelling economic data, advocates of the film tax credit are prepping for to battle the potential demise of Michigan's film industry incentive.

Supporters plan to convince Legislative and administrative officials, who are hinting at dropping a number of tax credits in an effort to improve the state's business tax structure, to maintain some of the film incentives.

Crain's Michigan Business News asked Lt. Gov. Brian Calley why the administration did not conduct a cost-benefit analysis of such tax credits before moving toward their potential cut. "The approach has been to first fix the environment for everybody before addressing special circumstances," responded Calley.

On the other side of the debate, tax credit advocates argue that they can create a powerful case.

Michigan Film First, a coalition of Michigan's film industry leaders, has hired Truscott Rossman LLC, a communications firm in Lansing to help in the fight to save film tax credits.

"We will have people contacting lawmakers, saying they were out of work, now have found a job, have training, and what that means is that they have a future," said the president of the firm John Truscott.

Truscott added that the team of advocates plan to utilize a recent study by Ernst & Young which discovered in 2010, for every $1 of film tax credit cost, $5.94 of sales by Michigan businesses were generated. Also of value from the study is that state film productions employed 5,606 Michigan residents in 2010, paying out $66.9 million in wages and salaries to these individuals. The study was commissioned by convention and visitors bureaus for Detroit, Grand Rapids, Ann Arbor and Traverse City.

"It's an extremely compelling case, and it represents the most recent numbers," Truscott said. "This is an industry that's been growing steadily ... and it has a lot of potential to help a lot of communities."

In addition to local communities, many key industries in the state benefit from more Michigan-based movie production. Some of which include companies in auto transport are benefiting from the increased need of vehicle logistics services. Also growing are small business near the areas of film production.

Tom McMillin, a state representative R-Rochester Hills, is a critic of the film tax credit. He claimed that the study fails to consider that money given as refundable tax credits "could otherwise have been used by all other Michigan businesses if we hadn't cut the checks."

McMillin added that "paying 42 percent of any industry will result in losing money for taxpayers."

The film tax incentive includes up to a 42 percent refundable tax credit of a production company's expenditures within the state. According to the Michigan Film Office, the state paid $95 million in film tax credits as of the end of 2010, in addition to $209.4 million approved but not yet disbursed for 2011.

The incentives Michigan put into place are responsible for attracting some $648 million in movie-making investments.

Screenwriter and coordinator of the screenwriting program in the University of Michigan Department of Screen Arts and Cultures, Jim Burnstein, and vice chairman of the state film office advisory council, both said the film tax credit helps Gov. Snyder's objective to "reverse the brain drain, revitalize Detroit, and help small businesses create more jobs."

Burnstein said, in the past, his MBA degree students left Michigan upon graduating, however the "migration stopped in its tracks" as students saw a burgeoning film industry in the state of which they wanted to be a part.

Burnstein, a top proponent of the film industry tax incentive, said parts of the tax credit can be reduced, but a proposed $25 million grant program to replace the film credits is "the death of that law."

House Rep Reverses Statement Of Possible University Closures In MI

The chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education ignited a heated controversy after mentioning that some universities in the state may be closing due to Michigan's large budget deficit.

However after Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck told Crain’s Detroit Business News that the potential shut down of one or two public universities was "a real possibility," he revoked his statement.

Rep. Genetski flipped is comments, telling Lansing's Gongwer News Service that he had no intentions of cutting the funds for any universities.

Prior to his backpedaling statement, on Monday the chair said to Crain's that some of the state's public universities, including Oakland University, Eastern Michigan University, University of Michigan-Flint, and Ferris State University, may be closing as Michigan follows through with budget cuts. "Unless the economy turns around big time, it's a very real possibility," he said.

Genetski added that the state's three research universities - Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University - are safe from closure.

"The research institutions have a bigger niche than everyone else right now and are pretty well-defined," the chair said. "We'd be looking at some of the regional institutions."

In the interviews conducted by Crain's Detroit Business News, Genetski said closing one or two regional universities would help to maintain minimal tuition hikes at the remaining colleges.

"Really, we're trying to buffer cuts to all schools by closing an institution or two," he said. "Otherwise, we're going to have a bunch of public universities that no one can afford to attend."

Eric Keldermen, a reporter for the Chronicle for Higher Education based in Washington D.C., thinks otherwise. Shutting down an institution would have the opposite effect on tuition, he said.

The closure of just one university would result in more students attending existing universities, which would force these schools to expand capacity and hire staff before increasing enrollment. One potentially optimistic outcome from a closure would be the efficiency of offering more opportunities in the way of online MBA courses.

"We want to reward colleges that keep tuition low, but what you're going to do is cause increased demand on other campuses, and what they are going to do is raise tuition," Keldermen said.

The communications officer at Ferris State University, Marc Sheehan, added that universities across the state are driving up enrollment and tuition costs across the board and closing a university would cause bottlenecks in education. Compounding the concerns are more limited professional programs that only select universities offer, like Michigan MBA degrees or PhD's.

Enrollment at Ferris has steadily grown 32 percent over the past decade for the mid-Michigan university, from 10,930 students in 2001 to 14,381 students in 2010. The university has also experienced tremendous growth in its MBA courses.

Shutting down any of Michigan's universities would lead to fewer graduates in the state, claimed Michael Boulus, executive director of the Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan.

In an email to Crain's, Boulus wrote "If we close colleges, we will have fewer graduates — there is very little room for expansion at the other schools. In other words, if Genetski wants to close two schools, then are we willing to tell students and the employers who depend on these regional universities for graduates that they will have to go elsewhere for education and training?"

Also weighing in on the topic was Gov. Rick Snyder. He shot down the idea of closing any universities in Michigan.

"We shouldn't walk away from our universities," he told Lansing's Gongwer. "I'm a big advocate, long-term, of, we need more students going through our universities. Higher ed's important in our state. ...We've got a great group of institutions, and I hope they all can successfully navigate through the challenging times we all face together."

In a series of hearings with university presidents, which is to stretch throughout March, a subcommittee plans to evaluate these as well as other budget-related matters.

Proposing to shut down a university would be opposed by community leaders because educational institutes are powerful drivers to the local economy, Kelderman said.

"I would argue that the legislators in those areas are going to be resistant because those are big employers in their region and students are big spenders in the region," he said.

Budget constraints have resulted in significant proposals in many states throughout the country.

Legislators in Texas have proposed shutting down four community colleges and cutting financial aid for incoming freshmen. Arizona's governor has proposed slashing funding for public universities by 20 percent and 50% of allocations to community colleges.

Fortunately, no public university in U.S. has been closed because of budget constraints, said Kelderman. The creation of a state public university system or a regional board of governance system, like those in California, is an option to aiding the deficit, he added.

"Michigan's campuses have more autonomy than any other state has," Kelderman said. "Combining some of the administrative campuses is a more plausible idea."

Genetski told Crain's that a current bill exists proposing a state system, but the bill is expected to see opposition by Michigan's research universities whose boards are protected under the Michigan Constitution.

Ferris State, UM, Grand Valley State University and Oakland University were scheduled to testify today in front of the House and Senate subcommittees on higher education.

02 March 2011

February automotive sales jump over 20%

February was marked one of the strongest months for auto sales in the past year. Aggregated data from major automakers formed industry estimates that February sales figures jumped 20 percent overall. That's almost 1 million more vehicles compared to last year.

"The consumer is back to the showrooms," said an analyst with Barclays Capital.

Big three car maker, General Motors, said that compared to 2010, U.S. sales for February increased nearly 46 percent to 207,028 vehicles.

General Motors added that its retail sales for the month were even better. According to the automaker, that is the highest year-over-year increase in the retail market in the company's history (a 70 percent growth over February 2010.)

"Our plan was to get off to a quick start this year, and we did just that," said GM's sales chief Don Johnson. "Having the right vehicles in inventory, combined with aggressive advertising and targeted consumer marketing, has been the key to our success in the first two months of this year."

The automaker's spike in sales was largely a result of "very large incentives offered by the manufacturer for the second month in a row," the analyst at Barclays Capital wrote in a report. He added that General Motors was offering better incentive to buy while the company's management "reiterated its commitment to keep its incentives in line with the industry for the year."

According to an analyst at TrueCar.com, the industry incentive averages were the lowest for a February since 2007.

Ford, another big three automaker, said its overall sales in February increased 14 percent to 156,626 vehicles compared to last year's February. Economy cars for Ford, such as the Focus and Fiesta, more than double. The company claimed high gas prices could be a result of the small vehicle sales.

In addition, low auto transport rates have helped minimize shipping costs for major industry players. This has helped dealerships carry more inventory for buyers to consider.

Toyota reported sales in February 42 percent (141,846 vehicles) better over last year. Barclays Capital analysts warned that the major spike in sales for Toyota was notably deceptive. The company suffered sales due to last year's safety issues which made February's year-over-year comparison appear over-inflated.

Officials at Toyota were still happy with the numbers: "After two months of improving sales, we feel good about the way 2011 has started," said a Toyota vice president.

Nissan North America's sales for the month rose almost 32 percent to 92,370 vehicles. This set a new record for February sales in the U.S. for the company.

Michigan's Chrysler Group reported a 13 percent increase in February sales (95,102 vehicles.)

This month's positive reports from the automotive market impact the bottom line for many other sectors tied to the industry. Auto transport companies, insurance providers, and select government organizations are also seeing sales improvements.


Associated Press
Close to 140 mostly Michigan moms who turned the clock back 20, 30, or in some cases, more, years in an annual get-together they affectionately call the Mom Prom.

Most prom, wedding, and bridesmaid’s dresses are stashed in a closet after it’s big night. But that doesn’t have to be the case according to the Detriot family lawyers at Chasnik and Graff Attorneys at Law who specialize in divorce law. What better way to say goodbye to your old life then to go out the way you came in by having a party and wearing that wedding dress. Ugly bridesmaids and old prom dresses are welcome too. These types of dresses were all worn again recently for an event that gives mothers a charitable excuse to squeeze back into their youth.

Now in its sixth year, the ladies-only gathering encourages women to dive into their closets and pull out prom, bridesmaid and even wedding dresses - that are decades old in some cases - for a night of dancing, drinking and reminiscing while raising money for worthy causes. The event has brought in thousands of dollars for cancer research and charitable groups, and is inspiring similar events in other states.

The cheering group of more than 100 women jammed to 1980s music and beyond Friday, proudly donning a metallic rainbow of chiffon, satin and sequins.

The event owes its origin to the puffy pink number that the event organizer wore to her senior prom. The 41-year-old was so amused by the gown when her mother gave it back to her several years ago that she wore it to her friends' Academy Awards watch party. It was a hit, and about a dozen friends agreed to don their tacky, dated dresses for a night of dinner and dancing designed to raise money for charity.

After a local newspaper columnist caught wind of the get-together, the event organizer was inundated with calls from women interested in attending the next outing. So in 2007, she held the Mom Prom in the gym at her church in Canton Township, and after women paid $10 each to attend, she dropped off an $820 check at a local homeless shelter.

Since then, she has consulted for an event in Seattle last year and one scheduled for April in Middletown, N.Y. She's also heard from mothers interested in hosting similar parties in Indiana,

Her event this year raised more than $3,000 for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and the HHT Foundation, which works toward finding a cure for a genetic disorder that causes blood vessel abnormalities. Past recipients include the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and First Step, a group working to combat domestic and sexual violence.

The crowned Mom Prom queen, donned the aqua-colored dress that her late mother wore to a wedding in 1991. "I really miss her," said the 46-year-old Canton resident who works in advertising.

Women boasted about the camaraderie and unique atmosphere of the event, and an added perk is you're not worried about your husband not wanting to dance.

01 March 2011

The future of Michigan Works relies on Senate's budget decision

Michigan Works, the statewide agency for work force development, could possibly be shut down if a proposed budget by the U.S. House of Representatives is passed, according to a story at the Lansing State Journal.

The budget proposal is awaiting the Senate's approval; both sides continue to seek a budget agreement to maintain the government's funding. In the instance that a measure is not passed within the next few days, the government's funding will cease as of March 4.

The proposal passed by the House would cut over $3.6 billion in funding for the Workforce Investment Act after July 1. In addition, the budget proposal will rescind $175 million for the current year. Michigan Works, which aids about 3 million residents in Michigan, relies heavily on that act for financial support. The agency assists all types of prospective employees and hiring organizations in sectors ranging from auto transport services to manufacturing and production.

So what direction could the state's unemployed residents take for work force development and retraining?

Currently, many of those individuals won't be able to rely on the Trade Adjustment Assistance program for help. This program, which offers extended training, additional unemployment benefits and health care assistance to workers who lost their jobs due to foreign competition, expired in January. As of now, Congress is deadlocked about the program's renewal.

"Democrats are pushing to restore funding, while Republicans want the White House to move on three trade deals before signing on." according to the Detroit News.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak) and Rep. Gary Peters (D- Bloomfield Township) are pushing a vote on the measure, however the vote has not been scheduled.

The states Governor, Rick Snyder, has signed a letter to the Senate inquiring that the Michigan Works program be extended.

In the case of federal funding cuts, continuing the program that partially funds retraining efforts under the state's No Worker Left Behind program "becomes a big challenge because of the budget situation we're in," Snyder told The News.