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Is Pontiac the model for blight removal in Michigan?

The city of Detroit's fight against blight is well documented, but it is not the only city in southeast Michigan dealing with this issue. Pontiac, too, is getting aggressive when it comes to the remediation of problem properties, particularly vacant homes, in distressed neighborhoods.
According to a recent opinion piece for Crain's Detroit Business by Bill Pulte, founder of the Detroit Blight Authority and managing partner of Bloomfield Hills-based Pulte Capital Partners LLC, Pontiac is a shining example for how cooperation across sectors can effectively combat blight and increase property values in distressed neighborhoods.
Writes Pulte:
"I have been invited to visit great cities, large and small, across the United States to present time-tested experience, guidance and solutions for their blight challenges. When I am there, I always share the Detroit success stories from the original pilots, but the story that I tell most is that of Pontiac's politicians and leaders working together to solve the problem and put the credit aside. From the beginning, the question in Pontiac has been: How do we quickly and completely remove all blight from our neighborhoods and our city to create a blight-free, truly prosperous city?"
To date, Pontiac has removed over a third of the 905 homes identified as blighted during a 2014 survey of the city's residential properties.
Read more: Crain's Detroit Business

Former GM facility converted to high-end car condos in Pontiac

Don't just garage your car – condo it. Area residents are spending well north of six figures to house their cars in a swank new development that could contribute to Pontiac's revitalization.


"Half of the units at M1 Concourse have sold since sales  began earlier this month  for private car condominiums at the $40 to $60 million automotive development.

The garages will be finished spaces that can house between two and five cars at a  project that includes plans for a 1.5-mile performance track, restaurants and automotive retail on a historic former 87-acre General Motors property."

More here

Ghost tours add life to Pontiac's redevelopment

At The Artist Lounge in downtown Pontiac, take a ghost tour along with your painting class.


"The Artist Lounge, which moved into 31 N. Saginaw about a year ago and has locations in Grosse Pointe Woods and Madison Heights, is part of what more than 50 private investors plan as a $40 million to $50 million revitalization of the historic but underutilized downtown area. Fournier said that’s part of what drew her to open a new location in Pontiac in the first place: the opportunity to help rebuild a downtrodden downtown. The ghost tours are just a small part of that, she said."

More here.

Pontiac's Erebus no. 6 on America's Best Haunts list

The Miami Herald's travel section gave a shoutout to Southeast Michigan's Halloween attractions, which are always included among the nation's best places to get your ghost on. 


"There’s no doubt Halloween attractions are getting scarier and more extreme,” said Larry Kirchner of HauntWorld.com, a website devoted to haunted attractions. With high-tech special effects, including video, animation and Hollywood-quality sets, “they are more sophisticated. They have gone to another level."

...In the Midwest, check out Wisconsin FearGrounds in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and Fear Fest, Flint, Michigan."

And the perennially scary Erebus was also mentioned. 

More here

Defunct Pontiac community center remade into Wessen Lawn Tennis Club

The city of Pontiac may be sporting the latest and greatest new training grounds for Wimbledon, with the recent opening of a new grass-court tennis, social, and swim club.


"The Wessen Lawn Tennis Club, a recently opened 24-court private outdoor grass-court center, is the creative reinvention of a closed community center and its grounds by Bill Massie, a local architect and the owner of the club...

Mayor Deidre Waterman of Pontiac is happy to see the dormant land in the heart of her 59,000-resident city come back to life. Pontiac, like Detroit, has been under state control because of financial problems. It emerged from a five-year run under an emergency manager in 2013.

“We’re working on recreating ourselves with a new spirit and vision, and this dovetails perfectly with the new Pontiac,” Waterman said. “We want to bring things that are unique and special to the city.”
Massie, who has invested $1.5 million in the club, has committed to keeping it connected to the community, pledging to hold junior lessons, donate equipment and host open swims next summer....

[Massie] is also developing the building into a bar and reception area, pro shop and offices, and, in the near future, a full-service restaurant for members and guests. The pool is being refinished and will open this summer. A few hardcourts and clay courts are in the plans.

Massie would like to bring an ATP-level tournament to Wessen and have junior and pro players train there for grass tournaments like Wimbledon."

More here.

Metro Detroit home prices climb 20% in June

The spring home-buying season proved to be a bountiful one for regional property values as buyer confidence increased.


"The median selling price in Metro Detroit rose on an annual basis for a 16th straight month in June, according to figures released Monday by Farmington Hills-based Realcomp, the multiple listing service for southeast Michigan and a small portion of northern Ohio.

The median selling price in Metro Detroit climbed 20.2 percent year-over-year to $149,000 in June. Realcomp defines Metro Detroit as Oakland, Wayne, Livingston and Macomb counties."

More here.

Batman V. Superman film to spend $131M shooting in Michigan

Hollywood's latest caper? Spending some powerful bucks on filming superheros in our neck of the woods.


"The Michigan Film Office reports the highly anticipated BATMAN V. SUPERMAN blockbuster will begin shooting in Michigan next month. The MAN OF STEEL sequel will have a Michigan budget of $131 million – out of a total estimated budget of $250 million - making it the largest production shot in Michigan to date, a title previously held by OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL."

More here.

Amtrak, state on board with higher speeds, Wi-Fi on Michigan trains

High-speed, wifi, and bike storage to boot are coming to Michigan 's trains.


"Amtrak and the state of Michigan plan to invest millions of dollars over the coming years to improve service on the state's three passenger train lines, resulting in quicker trips and more amenities for  travelers.

Upgraded tracks between Kalamazoo and Dearborn will allow trains to travel up to 110 mph in that area...

Most passenger trains through Michigan travel at a top speed of 80 mph, so the track improvements between Kalamazoo and Dearborn will be  noticeable.

To draw passengers, Amtrak opened up space for bicycle storage on its Blue Water line. Packing a bike costs a passenger an extra $10. The  Michigan Department of Transportation  also will spend about $1 million to bring Wi-Fi to the three lines by  January."

More here

'Transformers 4' film shooting underway in Metro Detroit

This summer, Detroit and Pontiac are transforming into a set for big-budget action. 


"Let the Transformers 4 action begin.

The Michael Bay-directed film is clearly making its presence felt in Detroit and other Michigan cities and has led to some interesting videos and reports online.

If you want to catch some of the action in Detroit, check out the small town for the film that appears to be  under construction at Washington Boulevard at Clifford Street...

A bulk of the film is expected to be shot at  Michigan Motion Picture Studios in Pontiac."

More here.

Oakland County's job market is healthiest in years

This is the best it's been in years for job seekers in Oakland County, economists say. And the jobs pay well above the minimum wage.


"On the heels of its strongest two-year job growth in almost 20 years, Oakland County's economy will add nearly 42,000 jobs through 2015, say University of Michigan economists...

In their annual forecast of the Oakland County economy, Fulton and colleague Don Grimes of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy say that high-wage industries—with average pay of more than $62,000—accounted for more than half of the new private-sector jobs created during the recovery, a trend that will continue throughout the forecast horizon...

Overall, Fulton and Grimes say that Oakland remains among the better local economies in the nation, ranking 10th among 36 comparable U.S. counties on a series of measures that indicate future economic prosperity."

More here.

Downtowns say no to blank walls, yes to active facades

In Oakland County's downtowns these days, businesses that want to put a blank face to the street have to keep walking.


"Last fall, a developer approached West Bloomfield trustees asking for a zoning change in order to place a storage unit business at Orchard Lake and 14 Mile. Then, a business owner approached asking for approval to open a fitness club in a former dealership on Orchard Lake Road.

"The new businesses didn’t conform to our (zoning)," said Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste.

The requests were for properties in the township’s "town center" — defined back in 2007 as Orchard Lake Road between 14 Mile and Maple roads. In the area, zoning rules require active first floors, not blank walls, which was intended to make that area more appealing to people walking...That desire is enthusiastically echoed in communities across Oakland County."

More here.

Metro Detroit ranks 14th nationally in percentage job growth

In a good comeback story, Metro Detroit is no. 14 in the country in terms of percentage job growth from 2011 to 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More here.

Post-industrial? Detroit needs a new word

Detroit's economy is facing forward. Now it just needs some new verbiage.


"Former heavy manufacturing hubs around the Great Lakes like Pittsburgh, Detroit, Cleveland, and Milwaukee often get roped together under the heading of "post-industrial" (when, that is, we're not otherwise identifying them by their prevalence of rust). The term poses at least two problems, though: Industry still exists in many of these places, and the very notion of defining them by their relationship to the past can hamstring us from planning more thoughtfully for their future.

"You've got the 'post-war,' you've got 'post-modern,' you've got 'post-9/11,'" says Paul Kapp, an associate professor in the school of architecture at the University of Illinois and an editor of the book SynergiCity: Reinventing the Postindustrial City. He was speaking Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Planning Association (hosted in what's often considered the post-industrial city of Chicago). "You get to a point," Kapp says, "where you've got to say, 'When does post-something end and you do something new?' I think with 'post-industrial,' we're at that opportunity now. I think it's now time to come up with a new term."

More here.

Atlantic Cities maps Metro Detroit's creative class

A great, comprehensive article on how the 7.2-square-mile greater downtown Detroit is growing posher by the minute, it seems, and how and why its deindustrialized metros (and certain Detroit neighborhoods) are landing the creative class.


"Two of the top 10 creative class tracts are in Birmingham; two are in Bloomfield Township, and another is in Bloomfield Hills, home to some of the priciest real estate in the U.S. and the Cranbrook educational community. Designed by Finnish architect  Eliel Saarinen, the architecture critic  Paul Goldberger  called Cranbrook "one of the greatest campuses ever created anywhere in the world." University of Michigan's  Little  points out in an email to me: "Cranbrook graduates have added to the cutting edge design and creative communities of Detroit and the nation for decades."

Another top creative class tract is in nearby Troy, a sprawling middle-class suburb with excellent public schools, and the site of a high-end mall, the Somerset Collection. Two are in Huntington Woods, a leafy neighborhood that boasts such notable amenities as the public golf course  Rackham and the Detroit Zoo. Two more are in the "Grosse Pointes" — Grosse Pointe Farms and Grosse Pointe Park — the communities of choice for many of Detroit's old industrial magnates, whose lakeshores are lined with sprawling Gilded Age mansions."

More here.

Pure Michigan Singalong shows off Metro Detroit, becomes a web sensation

Come on, you gotta have a heart of stone not to be touched by this clever Pure Michigan promotional. And at nearly 2 million views in less than 2 weeks that's a helluva successful campaign.
Let's see if I caught all of our region's reps. There's the Erebus' ghouls (Pontiac), a high falutin' toast in Rochester, Royal Oak's polar bears, a Southfield weatherman, The Henry Ford (Dearborn), Ann Arbor's Big House, Detroit's Comerica Park, Lions, DIA, and Fox Theater, an ice rink in Novi, and the Ypsilanti Water Tower. Did I miss any?
Check out the video below.

Water-skiing squirrel hits metro D

What's better than a rodent on water skis? Why, nothing, of course. Twiggy, the water skiing squirrel sensation will be featured at the Home & Garden Show (March 9-11) at the Silverdome in Pontiac. Be there or be sorry.


"Aside from performing, Best said the Twiggys’ other important duty is promoting water and boat safety.

Best said her squirrels have performed all across the world, in the U.S., Canada, Bermuda, Paris, France and Germany. She has appeared in numerous books, magazines, newspapers, and on television shows all over the world."

Read and watch the rest here.

International soccer tourny comes to Pontiac

There's a double threat of indicators in what would otherwise be just another sporting event in Metro Detroit. (1) An International Soccer showdown will be taking place at the Pontiac Silverdome, showing that the new owners are working hard to revitalize the venerable venue and (2) there's enough of an international community in Metro Detroit to attract such an event.


"This International Soccer Tournament features four international teams to compete in Detroit. The soccer teams are: River Plate of Argentina; UNAM Pumas of Mexico; Ferencvarosi FC and Vasas FC of Hungary. The teams will fly to Detroit for this special match tournament from European matches.

The tournament schedule begins with the teams arriving on February 2 and playing warm-up and practice games at the Silverdome on February 3."

Read the rest here.

Royal Oak's Bruce Campbell comes home, hangs with Sam Raimi

Metro Detroit's most famous chin, Bruce Campbell, returned to his old stomping grounds for this past weekend's FanFare convention. He then dropped in with director Sam Raimi, who is filming Oz: The Great and Powerful in Pontiac at Raleigh Michigan Studios. He took a few minutes to answer five questions from the Freep.


"We always hold out hope to film in Michigan, but there are other places, other countries, that make it very appealing. We've done so much work in New Zealand, that's where we may end up doing it, ironically.

Michigan and the film business and the incentives -- that's been interesting. Seems like that big welcome mat has been taken away. It's been fun to see that resurgence of the industry there -- with people like Clint Eastwood and Drew Barrymore and now Sam working there. We'll see what happens when the dust settles.

The thing is, I think Detroit -- and Michigan -- is a viable place to shoot for other reasons than the money. But it's also hard to justify why one industry is getting such a big break."

Read the rest here.

Oakland County surfs for new ideas via crowdsourcing site

Lots of politicians pay lip service to listening to their constituents' ideas and even implementing a few here and there. Oakland County is looking to take that a step further with its new online crowdsourcing initiative.


Every city, county and state these days is faced with hard decisions about budget cuts and reorganization — and even harsher feedback from residents after the cuts are made. Oakland County, Mich., has found a way to use technology to spark that citizen-to-government communication during the decision-making process. County officials launched an online public forum so residents can be an integral part of making tough budget decisions.  

The website, http://oakgov.ideascale.com, gives citizens the opportunity to respond to questions, make suggestions and post comments. Citizens can also rank the county's proposals by voting for the ideas they like best on every issue, from technology to parks and recreation.

"Since we are using social media in so many different ways here, we thought … what is the next wave of how we engage our citizens in the process?" said Phil Bertolini, Oakland County's deputy county executive and CIO. "In a focus group, you put 20 people in a room, you ask the idea and you get 20 opinions. If you use crowdsourcing, you put out an idea and you get thousands of opinions. More minds and more ideas make for a better product."

Read the rest of the story here.

Soviet invasion in Pontiac!

In 1984, still a number of years from the end of the Cold War, the film Red Dawn hit theaters with the story of a group of kids fighting against the invading forces of the Soviets and Cubans. It starred a young Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Jennifer Grey, Lea Thompson, and C. Thomas Howell. Well, it's coming back... and it's in Pontiac. Except this time it's not the Cubans teaming up with the Soviets. It's the Chinese, and there's no Swayze.


A southeastern Michigan community will be doing its best Spokane, Wash., impression next month.

That's when crews will be in Pontiac to shoot scenes for the upcoming remake of the classic 1980s film "Red Dawn." The city is about 20 miles north-northwest of Detroit.

Downtown Development Authority director Sandy McDonald tells The Oakland Press filmmakers will be in Pontiac for two weeks at the end of September and a few days in October.

Read the entire article here.

Life skills grow in Pontiac garden

Child gardeners in Pontiac are cultivating not only land, but life skills as well. The program is part of the Cities of Promise that is aimed to curb poverty in blighted areas with decreasing population.


The project began this spring after the Oakland Livingston Human Service Agency and Lighthouse of Oakland County -- both based in Pontiac -- received a $10,000 grant from the Cities of Promise initiative.

Officials from both organizations also contributed a combined $6,000.

Employees of the human service agency supervise eight children taking care of a garden on North Johnson Street, and Lighthouse has 20 children maintaining a garden in the middle of the city's Unity Park neighborhood.

The children are receiving help from Michigan State University Extension volunteers to create 4-H clubs and business plans for how they will sell the produce. The children will use the proceeds to reinvest in their gardens.

Read the entire article here.

From one industry to another: Pontiac film studio purchases one of GM's Pontiac buildings

Michigan is in a bit of a transition, as you may have already noticed. But what better way to illustrate this than when Pontiac's new movie studio buys one of GM's Pontiac Centerpoint buildings for its new home. From one industry to another, right? Of course film won't replace autos, but it shows that there's something else... besides cars.


The group of investors planning a $75 million movie production and training facility in Pontiac has closed on a land contract to purchase one of the Pontiac Centerpoint buildings from General Motors Corp.

It's a benchmark in a project that's been in the works for more than a year -- which started, oddly enough, when its driving force considered leaving Michigan.

Linden Nelson, an entrepreneur turned real estate developer, was ready to move out West, he said. What stopped him was a conversation with Alfred Taubman, founder of Bloomfield Hills-based Taubman Centers Inc.

"He said, 'You're not leaving Michigan,'" Nelson said. "He said 'Michigan's been good to you, you need to be a leader.'"

Read the entire article here.

Students skip the beach for spring break to help out metro Detroit

Not everyone goes to Cancun for spring break. Some people don't go anywhere. And some other people stick around and volunteer their time to improving metro Detroit. It's called Alternative Spring Break. And instead of sunscreen and sand in the shorts these kids have a hammer and nails and toolbelts.


Alternative Spring Break participants not only give up potential time in the sun relaxing, they also forego trips to volunteer in hurricane-damaged areas along the Gulf Coast. Instead, they perform service projects to help those in need elsewhere. Detroit is one of several non-disaster locations.

About 50 students are working in metro Detroit, building wheelchair ramps in Detroit and Warren and performing service projects at Vista Maria in Dearborn, the Lighthouse Path in Pontiac and Franklin Wright Settlements in Detroit.

The student volunteers are from several different states. Many were here last year for the inaugural program and are returning this year as project site leaders.

Read the entire article here.

Pontiac resident moves into metro areas first eco-friendly home

A Pontiac resident just moved into the metro areas first "green" house. No, not where you grow tomatoes and tulips, that would be just too cold during the winter. Camisha Byrd now lives in a "green" built, eco-friendly, energy-efficient 1,200 sq.-ft. home.


Earlier this year, Byrd and more than 200 volunteers built the single-story house, the first environmentally friendly home Habitat for Humanity has erected in southeastern Michigan.

With all the low-energy features, Byrd will cut her use of utilities 30 percent to 50 percent, saving her up to $1,000 a year.

"We are embracing greenness to the fullest of our capacity," said Sally LePla, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County. "We're demonstrating you can build attractive, affordable green homes."

With the help of the Clawson-based building and design firm Gontina, the 1,200-square-foot dwelling was constructed according to the strictest standards set by the U.S. Green Building Council.

The building is awaiting LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from the federal agency.

Read the entire article here.

Oakland County receives $26 million in neighborhood stabilization funds

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, through a new Neighborhood Stabilization Program, granted Oakland County more than $26 million in assistance.


Oakland County and three Oakland County communities hit by a high rate of property foreclosure and delinquencies will receive more than $26 million in assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) new Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). The NSP will provide targeted emergency assistance to state and local governments to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties that might otherwise become sources of abandonment and blight within their communities.

“In a county hard hit by foreclosures, coupled with a terribly strained budget, these funds are a welcome addition,” Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said. “Hopefully, we will soon get our hardest pressed residents back in affordable homes.”

The City of Pontiac will receive $3.5 million, Southfield will receive $3.2 million, Waterford will receive more than $2 million and Oakland County will receive almost $17.4 million.

Find more Oakland County info here.

Blog for a dollar at this year's Arts, Beats & Eats

Ten years ago saying the word 'blog' would have gotten snickers and rumors that maybe you had a few too many after lunch. Now everyone and their grandma is blogging.

In fact, you can catch this movement at this years Arts, Beats & Eats festival in Pontiac at the Blogin Café. There will be 50 computer stations up for festival goers to get in on this blogging and make a few bucks. Well, actually one buck. If you show up and blog at the Café you'll get $1 of Chrysler Arts, Beats & Eats food and beverage tickets.


The Blogin Café will be located on Saginaw Street in front of and inside Oakland Community Colleges Downtown Pontiac Campus at 17 S. Saginaw, 48342.  Sign-up for a station and collect your tickets at the Oakland Community College Booth on Saginaw directly in front of their campus. 

Hours for the Blogin Café are as follows:

Friday         5pm-10pm
Saturday    11am-10pm
Sunday       11am-10pm
Monday       11am-6pm

For more information visit here.

Metro Times releases annual 'Best of Detroit'

As they wont to do each year, the Metro Times has released its annual "Best of Detroit" awards.

Check them out here.

Metrotimes publishes area-wide food guide

The Metrotimes annual restaurant guide runs the gamut: from coneys to caviar, from haute to simply hot.

Categories include eggs, buffets, steaks and vegetarian-friendly. Check it out here.

Go Solar headed to Oakland County

The Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association is bringing its Go Solar program to Oakland County, utilizing bulk purchasing methods to lower to cost of solar products for homeowners.


Program options include a solar domestic hot water system or a one-kilowatt photovoltaic solar electric system or both.

The systems in the Go Solar program are standardized. Therefore, as the contractor continues installing identical systems, they are able
to reduce labor costs. All of this translates into savings for the homeowner.

During 2007, federal tax credits are available to homeowners installing solar electric and solar water heating systems. In addition to savings, program participants get the satisfaction of working with a local business.

Read the entire article here.

High school robotics competition returns to Oakland County

The Oakland County Competitive Robotics Competition pits high schoolers against one another in the design and assembly of robots.


OCCRA generates enthusiasm for technical and academic disciplines such as design, engineering, physics, and electronics. These competitions provide recognition and encouragement for students who devote their energies to these areas of studies. OCCRA participants will also have the opportunity to learn more about the diverse technical career options available in our county and state.

Read the entire article here.

Woodward Avenue's 200th birthday celebrations kicks off July 19

This year marks Woodward's 200th birthday -- and the party starts July 19 at Detroit Historical Museum at 10 am.

More events can be found at Woodward Avenue Action Association's website.

metromode publisher Brian Boyle talks about retaining the region's talent in the Detroit News

Brian Boyle, metromode's founder and co-publisher, talks about Detroit Renaissance's efforts to retain the region's creative talent in the Detroit News.


Unfortunately, our creative community is scattered in pockets throughout the region, making it difficult to showcase the true depth of talent and "energy" evident dense creative hubs like Brooklyn, Austin or Seattle.

With creative density as a driving theme, the Road to Renaissance task force will work with the creative community to document and interactively map all creative-related assets in the region.

Visually showing the world the depth of advertising agencies, music venues, video production facilities, architectural wonders and more is an important tool in substantiating our claim as a creative hub.

Read the entire piece here.

"Dump the pump!" on June 21

Thursday, June 21 is the second annual "Dump the Pump" day that calls for the parking of cars and the riding of public transit as a way of calling attention to the environmental and economic benefits of using public transit.

A transit fact:

From 1995 through 2006, public transportation ridership increased by 30 percent, a growth rate higher than the 12 percent increase in US population and higher than the 24 percent growth in use of the nation's highways over the same period.

Find out more here.

Oakland Land Conservancy hosts native plant sale

The Oakland Land Conservancy will host its annual native plant sale on June 3 in Auburn Hills and in Oxford.

A special purchase is a 32-plant balanced butterfly and bird garden, which is available as a package for $64.

Find out more at oaklandlandconservancy.org

Michigan tourism website busiest in nation

Michigan's tourism website, Michigan.org, was the busiest in the nation in April, according to web trackers at Hitwise.


"We view this as a clear and important signal that people are looking to Michigan for their leisure travel," said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan. "We know from independent research that 65 percent of consumers who use Michigan.org for tourism information, then travel to and within Michigan. So more web traffic means more business at Michigan destinations. We believe our efforts inside and outside of Michigan are making a substantial difference."

Read the entire article here.

MDOT offers public chance to review its transportation plan

The Michigan Department of Transportation has released a draft version of its long-range transportation plan for the state and is requesting public input.

A link to the plan and to the questionnaire can be found here.


Oakland County luncheon to talk job forecasts

Today, the 22nd Annual Oakland County Economic Outlook will feature University of Michigan economists George Fulton and Donald Grimes discussing the county's job prospects for the coming years.


Last year, the pair predicted that Oakland would add 14,000 jobs through 2008.

Their forecasts in the last six years, however, have been overly optimistic for Oakland County as the auto industry has shrunk.

The county lost 53,000 jobs during 2000-04, led by significant losses in the automotive industry, but gained 1,900 jobs in 2006.

Read the entire article here.

10 local nonprofits net $900,000 from McGregor Fund

The McGregor fund has donated a total of $900,000 to be shared amongst 10 local non-profits including the Michigan Opera Theatre and Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The other awardees are:

Plymouth-based First Step, Detroit-based New Urban Learning, Detroit Parent Network, Central United Methodist Church, United Negro College Fund and Freedom House, The Baldwin Center in Pontiac, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and the Lansing-based Michigan League for Human Services.

Read the entire article here.

Environmentalists call for expansion of bottle deposit law

Environmentalists are calling for an expansion of Michigan's bottle deposit law to account for water and juice containers.


By most measurements, Michigan's law has been an unqualified success. Folks return more than 97 percent of the 4.3 billion bottles and cans of carbonated beverages sold here each year, according to state records. That tops the return rate of all other states and ranks Michigan's as America's No. 1 bottle recycling program.

Read the entire article here.

State launches first-ever tourism industry plan

A team working on behalf of the 9,000 businesses, attractions and groups that comprise Michigan's tourism industry have devised a strategic plan.


The plan's recommendations include:
  • Marketing the state nationally with a $30 million tourism promotion budget.

  • Boosting relationships with policymakers.

  • Promoting collaboration.

  • Expanding tourism-related research.

  • Improving hospitality training.
Read the entire article here.

Immigrants positive force for Metro Detroit's economy

Immigrants to the area are positively contributing to Metro Detroit's economy.


A study [director of research for the United Way of Southeastern Michigan Kurt] Metzger conducted in 2000 showed that about three-quarters of Asian Indians had graduated from college. More than 60 percent of Chinese and Japanese had received four-year degrees, and almost 50 percent of those of Korean descent had.

“We are getting this educated, young immigrant group that can provide that base that businesses are looking for,” he said. “They’re educated and talented enough to start new businesses.”

And they are coming at a time when Detroit’s native-born are leaving.

Read the entire article here.

Regional Chamber to host economic climate forum

The Detroit Regional Chamber will host a forum on the region's problems -- and proposed solutions -- on March 27.


Neal Peirce, chairman of The Citistates Group and a frequent guest on "Meet the Press," National Public Radio and "The Today Show," will offer a keynote address on the region’s challenges.

A panel, including Kramer, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer and New Detroit Inc. Chairman John Rakolta, will lead an interactive exchange.

Read the entire article here.

State's green energy future has potential to do more than just clean the air

With everyone talking about what direction Michigan's energy future should go, many are pointing out that the greener it goes, the better for the economy.


"We could become the alternative energy state," says Mark Beyer, spokesman for the Detroit nonprofit NextEnergy.

When the facility opened, with its 80-seat auditorium and offices and research labs, the goal, said CEO James Croce, was to position both Detroit and Michigan at the "focal point of the emerging alternative energy industry."

Much of NextEnergy's efforts are focused on working with the Big 3 automakers to develop alternative fuels such as biodiesel, hydrogen and ethanol. But it offers alternative energy companies of all stripes research facilities, office space and access to government funding sources and private venture capital.

Read the entire article here.

Oakland County to host 22nd Annual Economic Outlook Luncheon

Oakland County will host its 22nd Annual Economic Outlook Luncheon on April 26.


The report is provided to Oakland County Planning & Economic Development Services by the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relations at the University of Michigan.

Make reservations early, as the event has sold out for several years in a row.

Find out more here.

Oakland County officials recognized in top 25 tech execs

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Deputy County Executive and County CIO Phil Bertolini were named to the list of the top 25 government tech execs in the nation by Government Technology magazine.


Said Steve Towns, editor of the magazine: "Mr. Patterson and Mr. Bertolini were selected to be in the Top 25 because of their track record of successful, high profile information technology projects that not only create better service for Oakland County residents, but also lead to more efficient government operations."

read the entire article here.

Granholm heads to Germany to court business

Governor Jennifer Granholm heads to Germany and Austria to encourage international investment in the state.


Granholm said Michigan is competing with other states and countries for business investment.

"We've got what no other state has — this incredible footprint of automotive suppliers, research and development, engineers," she said.

Read the entire article here.

Michigan sports and leisure monthly to debut in April

Michigan in Play, a monthly sports and leisure magazine, will debut this April.    

The magazine promises to cover everything from basketball, football and baseball to dogsledding, wrestling and boating.

Locations where Michigan in Play can be picked up are listed here.

Find out if your company is venture capital-worthy at upcoming Crain's event

Crain's will host "Following the Money: Where Angel Investors and Venture Capitalists See Opportunity" on Mar. 19 with panelists Ian Bund of Plymouth Venture Partners and
David Weaver of Great Lakes Angels.


Is your Company venture-worthy? Find out what panelists Ian Bund, chairman of Plymouth Venture Partners and David Weaver, president of Great Lakes Angels, look for in a company- and which sectors they think show the greatest opportunity in metro Detroit.

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State's plan to raze abandoned homes is raising hopes in cities

Cecelia Smothers-Reese stood on her porch Thursday and looked at the burned-out shell of a home next door to her on Benson Street on Detroit's east side.

It's been like that for two years -- an all too common sight in Smothers-Reese's neighborhood and others throughout Detroit.

The previous owner, an elderly woman, moved, and a fire shortly afterward destroyed the house. Looters stripped the remains for scrap metal.

"Most of us that own the homes that we're in try our best to keep up the properties," said Smothers-Reese, 55, who has lived there since 1959. "It really adds to the deterioration of the neighborhood. They're dangerous, too."

Smothers-Reese would be among those helped by Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to tear down 5,000 blighted and abandoned homes in eight cities, including Detroit, over four years.

The $25-million plan, announced last month in her State of the State address, would be Michigan's most aggressive anti-blight initiative.

Read the entire article here.

Transit plans gain momentum

Mass transit initiatives gain speed, momentum as  the public and local officials get behind efforts. The Establishment of a commuter rail line between Ann Arbor and Detroit and north of Ann Arbor is moving forward.


From proposed commuter trains to regional bus service, the long-failed effort to establish mass transit in car-crazy Metro Detroit is building steam, officials say.

Bringing the issue to the forefront are increasingly congested roads, soaring gas prices and the fact that Democrats -- who historically have championed public transportation -- now control the state House, governor's office and Congress.

Advocates say city after city has benefited from building a transit system, creating jobs and economic development along the routes. With the possible exception of Los Angeles, Detroit is the only major U.S. city without effective mass transit, critics say.

"I think it's really important that we develop an effective and efficient public transportation system if we're going to move ahead with economic recovery in this state," State Rep. Marie Donigan told a standing-room-only crowd at a public transit meeting last week in Royal Oak.

"We think there's an urgency in our work. We know the status quo's not working."

Read the entire article here.

Amtrak ridership increases statewide

Increased gas prices and airfare have increased the number of people in Michigan riding Amtrak trains.


Amtrak's popularity in Michigan is soaring. State ridership, which hit a record last year of nearly 665,000, has jumped 47 percent since 2002 -- far outpacing the nationwide increase of 12 percent.

read the entire article here.

New Metro Times columnist calls for regionalism

Larry Gabriel, former editor at Metro Times, debuts his new bi-monthly column for the publication with a call for regionalism with regard to the proposed Cobo Hall expansion.


"You might be able to make the case that the auto show in and of itself is a special reason why a convention center matters more for metro Detroit than other reasons. That's a sensible argument," says Lou Glazer, president of Michigan Future, Inc. "The region and the state really benefit for making the auto show work as a premier event. ... Oakland County needs to help, not be a roadblock. Brooks is being shortsighted that the auto show isn't a regional asset. It's an example of how the region works against itself. ... The auto show is really important both symbolically and also strategically. ... If we were to lose the auto show, it would be a big black eye for the area."

Read the entire column here.

Transit subcommittee formed by State House

The Michigan House of Representatives has convened a subcommittee devoted to public transit.


The committee is designed to address transit issues including the improvement of bus systems, funding issues, accessibility and the development of public transit systems in communities around the state.

Read the entire article here.

E85 becoming more cost-effective as price of gas rises

As the price of gasoline continues to increase, ethanol blends are becoming increasingly cost-effective at the pump.


In Michigan, ethanol is gaining momentum as a viable alternative to conventional gasoline. There are three stations already pumping out ethanol with one currently under construction.

Meanwhile, Gov. Jennifer Granholm recently announced plans to build 1,000 ethanol and biodiesel pumps across Michigan by the end of next year.

Read the entire article.

Automation Alley added 39 members in January

39 new members joined Automation Alley, the tech trade group based in Troy, in the month of January - a single month record for the organization.

The sectors with the biggest gains were IT, with 15 new members and manufacturing, with six.

Read the entire article here.

Local professionals passionate about careers with non-profits

The non-profit sector - including health care and education - accounted for 62% of new jobs created in Michigan in 2005 and local professionals are finding themselves rewarding careers.


The non-profit sector - including health care and education - accounted for 62% of new jobs created in Michigan in 2005 and local professionals are finding themselves rewarding careers.

Read the entire article here.

Ficano working towards Cobo compromise with Patterson

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is confident that a compromise can be reached with Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson over the funding of the proposed expansion to Cobo Hall.


"We need to get our staffs working together on this outside of the public forum," [Ficano] said. "We all agree Cobo needs to be expanded for the benefit of the entire region. We need to move forward and soon."

Red the entire article here.

Patterson addresses Cobo Expansion, promotes Wireless Oakland

At his annual state of the county address, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson proposed 5 ways to fund a Cobo expansion and discussed progress with the installation of Wireless Oakland.


The other major topic of Patterson’s speech was Wireless Oakland, the plan to make wireless Internet access available to all 910 square miles of the county.

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we speak tonight, the wireless trucks are out on the streets of our pilot communities starting with Troy and Birmingham, and the installation of Wireless Oakland is now underway,” he said.

$400,000 awarded to arts community to establish Cultural Alliance of SE Michigan

The Cultural Alliance of SE Michigan has received $400,000 in start-up funding from the Community Foundation of Southeastern Michigan along with the McGregor Fund and the Hudson-Webber Foundation. The Alliance will work to increase collaborations between and visibility of arts and cultural organizations in the seven-county SEMCOG region.

The Cultural Alliance will represent the arts and culture community in regional planning efforts and will market the programs and amenities of member organizations to a diverse group of audiences.

The chairman of the Cultural Alliance’s board will be Steven K. Hamp, former president of The Henry Ford and Chief of Staff of Ford Motor Co. “The Cultural Alliance represents a new era for the arts and culture in our region,” he said in a release. “It embraces all dimensions of the cultural community: performing arts, visual arts, history and historic preservation, community cultural activities, arts education, science and nature, libraries and literature. Our goal is to foster innovation and creativity and enable our many and diverse cultural resources to contribute more dynamically to the people and communities of southeastern Michigan.”

All participating parties stress the Alliance’s inclusiveness, as organizations both big and small, fledgling and established, will have access to the collective’s resources and expertise.

More than 60 organizations from across all seven counties participated in an 18-month planning process to develop the Cultural Alliance, and several hundred will be invited to participate.

Source: CFSEM
Writer: Kelli B. Kavanaugh

D-Rod, to be built by local company, will promote Detroit as travel destination

DMCVB has tapped Holly-based Detroit-muscle to build a custom hot rod, the D-Rod, to showcase Detroit's appeal as the Motor City and as a travel and leisure destination.


Rick Dyer, Detroit Muscle project manager for the D-Rod, said the company's extensive knowledge and technical ability allowed Detroit Muscle put to put together, with passion and style, a street legal vehicle that represents the best of Detroit's past and future to prospective visitors.

Read the entire article here.

United Way CEO urges regional solutions to area's problems

United Way for Southeastern Michigan CEO Michael Brennan discusses the agency's survey process that has led them to begin working on solving the region's major problems in three key areas: educational preparedness, economic stability and basic needs. He urges the region to work together in a collaborative manner to acieve success.


During the course of our research at United Way for Southeastern Michigan, we collected more than 20,000 comments from 7,000 residents, and one theme reverberated consistently: This region aspires to be a place where all people have the educational and economic opportunities needed to succeed and to thrive.

Read entire editorial here.

Scholarships, stipends available for tech-savvy women

Women pursuing IT careers can apply for over $50,000 in scholarships and technology stipends from the Michigan Council of Women in Technology.

Read more at MCWT's website.

Local music gets spotlight on new weekly PBS show

Local PBS station WTVS has started a new weekly hour-long music series focusing on top independent talent in Metro Detroit.

The whole idea began with footage that metro Detroiters James McGovern and Greg Sharrow originally produced for www.canyouhearmetv.com, an online platform the two created to showcase select indie artists from around the country. Ultimately, Detroit Public Television picked up the Detroit episodes and packaged them for the series.

"Detroit is known for its music scene -- it's Motown," says McGovern. "It's our hometown and there's so much respect we have for the city. We hope to create a better image for it by bringing music here and promoting the local scene."

Click here for the full story.
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