Experts say new international bridge won’t cost Michigan taxpayers

From the Detroit Free Press
September 23, 2012
By: John Gallagher

Claims that have bombarded Michigan voters for months that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for a multi-billion dollar bridge to Canada are not based in reality, said three independent law professors asked by the Free Press to review an international Crossing Agreement signed in June.

The advertising campaign from the People Should Decide, a group financially backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family, has pushed that consistent message in several rounds of anti-bridge ads that are misleading, said two advertising experts who reviewed a recently released ad, also at the request of the Free Press.

Jennifer Henderson, a law professor at University of Detroit Mercy, John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University, and Marcia Valiante of the University of Windsor said the Crossing Agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Transport Minister Denis Lebel is crystal clear that Canada pays for the bridge and then recoups Michigan’s share, about $550 million, from future bridge tolls — not from Michigan taxpayers.

“It very clearly says it’s not funded by Michigan. … And throughout the agreement those words are repeated,” Henderson said.

Even so, the two ad experts say the anti-bridge message might be resonating because it’s working like political attack ads — thumping a single message even if it’s short on context or supportable facts.

The People Should Decide says its analysis of bridge finances is sound and that approval of Snyder’s New International Trade Crossing, and other projects like it, should be put to citizen votes. They say its consultant has determined costs for the bridge will skyrocket and that other “hidden costs” will saddle Michigan taxpayers with unwanted expenses for the next 50 years.

Recent ads claim the new bridge will end up costing $8 billion — nearly four times the official estimate — and force Michigan to lay off police and teachers and even tap senior citizen pensions to cover the cost.

“Will the ad be effective? Probably. Is it legal? Probably. Is it ethical or fair? Probably not,” said Hugh Cannon, a professor of advertising at Wayne State University.

Ballot issue in play

The Free Press asked the local professors for their opinions in light of a Moroun-backed ballot referendum, which, if approved, would create a constitutional requirement that any new international bridge or tunnel get a statewide and local vote before Michigan could spend any money. The referendum language says it would apply retroactively, impacting the NITC, to be built 2 miles downstream from the Ambassador. That issue, however, likely would be decided in court if the referendum passes, legal experts have said.

Mickey Blashfield, director of government relations for the Moroun business network and head of the People Should Decide effort, points out that the Crossing Agreement contains a clause that allows the terms to be changed in the future, which, he says, could mean a reshuffling of financial responsibilities. And a reworking of that agreement, he said, is more likely in the event of construction cost overruns and shortfalls in future toll revenue, according to the recent study paid for by the Moroun-backed group.

“Different experts have tackled this cost issue from different angles, but the one thing they all seem to agree on is the fact that there’s no such thing as a free bridge,” said Blashfield, whose group commissioned O’Keefe & Associates financial consulting firm of Bloomfield Hills to examine the new bridge project’s financial structure. “With so much on the line, the people deserve the right to decide how public money is best spent.”

Major corporations, including Detroit’s three auto companies, Honda, Toyota and various auto suppliers, back the NITC project, plus multiple business groups across the state, including the three largest chamber organizations — Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Chamber and Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. They call the bridge a boon for Michigan’s economic future, saying traffic across the NITC inevitably will increase as the economy in Michigan and Ontario expands and the advantages of the new modern bridge become apparent to users.

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit chamber, said Detroit needs another international crossing option because drivers who cross the Ambassador Bridge have to contend with 18 stoplights in Windsor.

He said many European goods making their way into the U.S. arrive to Canada at its deepwater port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but the trucks carrying those goods need a more efficient way to cross the border into the U.S.that doesn’t involve navigating Windsor traffic.

“Detroit is a logical choice. There’s a real opportunity here to build out a transportation, distribution and logistics industry,” Williams said. “The auto industry is completely integrated between Ontario and Michigan.”

Checking the claims

The Michigan Truth Squad, an effort connected with the nonprofit Center for Michigan think tank, issued a “flagrant foul,” its toughest verdict, against the People Should Decide’s claims made in advertisements, mainly that Michigan taxpayers will end up paying for the bridge and that the state’s debt load will increase because of it. The group characterizes a flagrant foul as a “statement that distorts or incorrectly states a fact.”

The group explains its verdict on its website: “These ads repeat claims, or advance new variants of old claims, that do not match available documents. The agreement with Canada puts the financial onus on Michigan’s neighbor, not Michigan, for paying the bills, including interest. Since Michigan is not appropriating construction dollars, no dollars are being diverted away from other public uses. Michigan is not increasing its debt load with the NITC project.”

The group said it is evenhanded in its assessments and looks at political commercials and speeches, issue advertisements, news releases, political websites and white papers. The group examines claims suggested by the public.

There have been several rounds of Moroun-backed ads that all push the idea that the cost of the bridge to be covered by Canada will somehow backfire on Michigan taxpayers. The Moroun-backed group has spent an estimated $10 million so far on the ads.

A recent ad called “Tough Choices,” says the bridge will become so expensive that Michigan would be forced to lose “quality teachers, cops on the beat, firefighters and EMTs,” and to reduce pension payments to seniors.

“Real cuts hurting real people,” the voice-over says. “Now that we know how much this bridge could cost us, shouldn’t the people decide?”

Cannon of WSU said the ad and others like it are dangerous because they are “deliberately using misleading imagery to “push the electorate to a certain decision,” which “undermines the very foundations of our political system.”

At the same time, Michael Bernacchi, a professor at University of Detroit Mercy, said the ads may be effective simply because they’re so bold and aggressive.

“I wouldn’t like to be combating this from the other side,” he said. “They’re out there first. They’ve been out there for a considerable amount of time with a single message. It’s developed a whole brand — it’s simple: ‘No bridge.’ ”

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who serves as Snyder’s point man on bridge issues, condemned the “Tough Choices” ad.

“Their claims keep getting more bizarre,” he said. “They’re throwing out numbers. I don’t know what’s next. One hundred billion? A trillion? They don’t seem to be bound by any factual information.”

New anti-NITC ads starting this week follow the same story line as the others, depicting ordinary people worrying about their finances as the expense of a new bridge looms, threatening their futures. Central to the Moroun case is the claim that Michiganders will get stuck paying for the bridge despite contractual assurances to the contrary.

The legal ties

The Free Press asked the three law professors to review the Crossing Agreement language and give their opinions about the strength of protections for Michigan taxpayers in the document.

Valiante of the University of Windsor said, “The basic concept is that Canada will pay for everything up front then will recoup those costs through tolls and other revenues.”

Mogk, an expert at WSU on development issues, said, “I think it’s airtight on that question.”

On the first page of the agreement, it says the project will be built “with funding approved by Canada, but with no funding by the Michigan Parties. The Michigan Parties are not obligated to pay any of the costs of the new International Crossing.”

And on page 30 of the agreement, it says, “The Michigan Parties shall not be required to fund any International Crossing Costs, Michigan Interchange Costs, U.S. Federal Plaza Costs, Crossing Authority Costs or International Authority Costs.”

There are multiple similar references throughout the agreement.

Henderson noted that the agreement does state that the parties could amend the document in the future, which could mean some new payment scheme that might include a cost to Michigan. But she said major changes are only a theoretical possibility and not something likely to happen.

Change of heart?

Blashfield, head of the People Should Decide, contends it’s more than theoretical and a likely scenario as the Canadians find themselves responsible for a bridge that cost too much and with fewer tolls than predicted to cover the tab.

He pointed out that any shortfall in tolls allows Canada to collect its amount due plus interest from future revenues, creating a snowball effect moving forward that will push up the bridge cost to more than $8 billion, according to a study commissioned by the People Should Decide from the O’Keefe & Associates financial consulting firm of Bloomfield Hills.

Patrick O’Keefe, founder and CEO of the firm, told the Free Press the figure assumes a 10% cost overrun on construction costs, a 20% shortfall on toll revenue and a 50-year time frame for the mounting debt and interest to grow.

The analysis doesn’t explain how Michigan taxpayers would become responsible for the financial burden — which, according to the crossing agreement, belongs to Canada — nor does it assess the likelihood of toll revenues falling short.

According to the firm’s website, O’Keefe “is recognized as an expert in the fields of corporate reorganization, debt restructuring, turnaround consulting, refinancing solutions, due diligence support, valuation and litigation support.”

Blashfield said other “hidden costs” of the project also will burden Michigan taxpayers over the years. Among those:

• Tolls on the Blue Water Bridge that now go to Michigan will in part go to Canada in the future as some traffic diverts to the new bridge.

• Homeowners in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood, where the new bridge will land, will no longer pay property taxes once they’ve been moved out.

• Workers employed by the Ambassador Bridge who might lose their jobs to competition from the new bridge will pay less income tax.

Backers of the new bridge respond that new commerce generated by a more modern and efficient bridge will more than make up for any incidental economic losses, including employing its own bridge operators and construction workers. The new bridge will be wider, have more modern plazas on either end and provide seamless connections to expressways on both sides of the border.

The backers, including the governor’s office, point out that Delray is an economically downtrodden area with high unemployment, and most residents there are happy to be bought out so they can move.

Carl Smith, 60, favors construction of a new bridge, even if it means he will be forced to move from the Delray neighborhood where he has lived most of his life.

“It’s going to create jobs. It’s going to create jobs during construction and it’s going to create jobs when it opens,” he said.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 orgallagher99@freepress.com

 

MICHauto Legislative Briefing

Automotive Hall of Fame
21400 Oakwood Boulevard, Dearborn, Michigan 48124
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
5:30  to 8 p.m.

Please join the Detroit Regional Chamber’s MICHauto program for a legislative briefing at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn on Tuesday, Oct. 23. Attendees will hear from state senators and representatives on business-related legislation and initiatives, pending in Lansing. The legislators will participate in a paneled discussion, moderated by Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Relations, Brad Williams, and answer questions from the crowd.

Topics of discussion will include but are not limited to personal property tax, Brownfield Redevelopment Incentives, the New International Trade Crossing, regulatory reform and more. The discussion will be tailored to automotive interests but registration is open to anyone interested in keeping their finger on the pulse of Lansing.

This event is free and includes hors d’oeuvres and a beer and wine bar, register todayPlease note space is limited.

Agenda:

5:30 – 6:30 p.m. Registration and Networking
6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Legislative Briefing
7:30 – 8 p.m. Networking

Confirmed speakers:

State Senator Bert Johnson (D-Detroit)

Member of Senate Appropriations Committe, Minority Vice-Chair of the Senate LARA
General Government and Judiciary appropriations subcommittees
Member of Senate Redistricting Committee
Minority Vice-Chair of the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee

State Senator Mike Kowall (R-White Lake)

Chairman of Senate Economic Development Committee
Vice Chair of Senate Transportation Committee
Member of Senate Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes Committee
Member of Senate Reforms, Restructuring, Reinventing Committee

State Representative Jeff Farrington (R-Utica)

Assistant Majority Floor Leader
Member of the House Banking and Financial Services Committee
Member of House Commerce Committee
Member of House Tax Policy Committee

State Representative Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak)

Member of House Tax Policy Committee
Member of House Local, Intergovernmental and Regional Affairs Committee

Register now.

Please contact Rob Luce at 313.596.0383 for more information.

Presenting Sponsor:

Political Action Committee Endorsements: 2012 Election

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s PAC Board has made the following candidate endorsements for the general election on November 6, 2012. For more information on the Chamber’s policy and legislation, visit the Vote4Biz – Advocacy page.

Michigan Supreme Court
2-Year Term: Justice Brian Zhara
8-Year Term: Justice Stephen Markman and Bridget Mary McCormack

Congress
District 2: Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland)
District 4: Dave Camp (R-Midland)
District 5: Dan Kildee (D-Flint Twp.)
District 6: Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph)
District 9: Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak)
District 10: Candice Miller (R-Harrison Twp.)
District 12: John Dingell (D-Dearborn)
District 14: Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Hills)

House of Representatives
District 6: Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit)
District 7: Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit)
District 8: David Nathan (D-Detroit)
District 9: Harvey Santana (D-Detroit)
District 10: Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford Township)
District 11: David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights)
District 12: Doug Geiss (D-Taylor)
District 13: Andrew Kandrevas (D-Southgate)
District 14: Paul Clemente (D-Lincoln Park)
District 15: George Darany (D-Dearborn)
District 16: Robert Kosowski (D-Westland)
District 17: Bill LaVoy (D-Monroe)
District 18: Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores)
District 19: John Walsh (R-Livonia)
District 20: Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth)
District 21: Dian Slavens (D-Canton)
District 22: Harold Haugh (D-Roseville)
District 23: Pat Somerville (R-New Boston)
District 24: Anthony Forlini (R-Harrison Township)
District 25: Sean Clark (R-Warren)
District 26: Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak)
District 28: Jon Switalski (D-Warren)
District 29: Tim Greimel (D-Pontiac)
District 30: Jeff Farrington (R-Utica)
District 31: Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser)
District 33: Ken Goike (R-Ray)
District 34: Woodrow Stanley (D-Flint)
District 35: Rudy Hobbs (D-Southfield)
District 38: Hugh Crawford (R-Novi)
District 39: Klint Kesto (R-Walled Lake)
District 40: Michael McCready (R-Birmingham)
District 41: Martin Howrylak (R-Troy)
District 42: Bill Rogers (R-Brighton)
District 43: Gail Haines (R-Waterford)
District 44: Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake)
District 46: Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford)
District 49: Jim Ananich (D-Flint)
District 50: Charles Smiley (D-Burton)
District 51: Joseph Graves (R-Argentine Township)
District 52: Mark Ouimet (R-Scio Township)
District 53: Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)
District 54: David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti)
District 55: Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor)
District 56: Dale Zorn (R-Ida)
District 57: Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton)
District 59: Matt Lori (R-Constantine)
District 60: Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo)
District 61: Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage)
District 62: Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek)
District 63: Jase Bolger (R-Marshall)
District 64: Earl Poleski (R-Jackson)
District 66: Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton)
District 67: Tom Cochran (D-Mason)
District 68: Andy Schor (D-Lansing)
District 69: Sam Singh (D-East Lansing)
District 70: Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes)
District 71: Deb Shaughnessy (R-Charlotte)
District 73: Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford)
District 74: Rob VerHeulen (R-Westland)
District 75: Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids)
District 77: Thomas Hooker (R-Byron Center)
District 78: Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs)
District 79: Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville)
District 81: Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway)
District 85: Ben Glarden (R-Owosso)
District 86: Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto)
District 87: Mike Callton (R-Nashville)
District 88: Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville)
District 89: Amanda Price (R-Park Township)
District 90: Joe Haveman (R-Holland)
District 93: Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt)
District 94: Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw)
District 98: Jim Stamas (R-Midland)
District 99: Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant)
District 101: Ray Franz (R-Onekama)
District 103: Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City)
District 104: Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City)
District 106: Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle)
District 107: Frank Foster (R-Petoskey)
District 108: Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan)
District 110: Matt Huuki  (R-Atlantic Mine)

Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee Announces Endorsements for the Michigan House, Supreme Court

DETROIT, September 20, 2012 – Today, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee (PAC) announced endorsements for the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Supreme Court for the general election. The Detroit Regional Chamber PAC Board of Directors regularly meets to identify and support pro-business candidates and policies that support the Chamber’s public policy priorities.

“The Chamber’s Political Action Committee selects the best candidates for elected offices who will help work toward creating good public policy that positions Michigan to prosper economically and moves our state forward,” said Brad Williams, the Chamber’s vice president of government relations. “With seats on the Michigan Supreme Court on the line, this election is critical to maintaining the momentum created by Governor Rick Snyder’s reforms. This year’s slate of endorsed candidates represents a talented and diverse cross-section of the state who will assist in continuing Michigan’s reinvention.”

The Chamber PAC Board of Directors made the endorsements based on responses to a Chamber PAC survey as well as input from PAC members and the Chamber’s government relations team. The Chamber’s top policy priorities include continued support of the New International Trade Crossing, repeal of the state’s personal property tax, implementation of a system of regional transit and increased investment in Michigan’s vital transportation system.

The Chamber-endorsed candidates are as follows:

Michigan Supreme Court:
2-Year Term: Justice Brian Zahra
8-Year Term: Justice Stephen Markman and Bridget Mary McCormack

Michigan House of Representatives:
District 6: Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit)
District 7: Thomas Stallworth III (D-Detroit)
District 8: David Nathan (D-Detroit)
District 9:  Harvey Santana (D-Detroit)
District 10: Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford Township)
District 11: David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights)
District 12: Doug Geiss (D-Taylor)
District 13: Andrew Kandrevas (D-Southgate)
District 14: Paul Clemente (D-Lincoln Park)
District 15: George Darany (D-Dearborn)
District 16: Robert Kosowski (D-Westland)
District 17:  Bill LaVoy (D-Monroe)
District 18:  Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores)
District 19: John Walsh (R-Livonia)
District 20: Kurt Heise (R-Plymouth)
District 21: Dian Slavens (D-Canton)
District 22: Harold Haugh (D-Roseville)
District 23: Pat Somerville (R-New Boston)
District 24: Anthony Forlini (R-Harrison Township)
District 25: Sean Clark (R-Warren)
District 26: Jim Townsend (D-Royal Oak)
District 28: Jon Switalski (D-Warren)
District 29: Tim Greimel (D-Pontiac)
District 30: Jeff Farrington (R-Utica)
District 31: Marilyn Lane (D-Fraser)
District 33: Ken Goike (R-Ray)
District 34: Woodrow Stanley (D-Flint)
District 35: Rudy Hobbs (D-Southfield)
District 38: Hugh Crawford (R-Novi)
District 39: Klint Kesto (R-Walled Lake)
District 40: Michael McCready (R-Birmingham)
District 41: Martin Howrylak (R-Troy)
District 42: Bill Rogers (R-Brighton)
District 43: Gail Haines (R-Waterford)
District 44: Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake)
District 46: Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford)
District 49: Jim Ananich (D-Flint)
District 50: Charles Smiley (D-Burton)
District 51: Joseph Graves (R-Argentine Township)
District 52: Mark Ouimet (R-Scio Township)
District 53: Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor)
District 54: David Rutledge (D-Ypsilanti)
District 55: Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor)
District 56: Dale Zorn (R-Ida)
District 57: Nancy Jenkins (R-Clayton)
District 59: Matt Lori (R-Constantine)
District 60: Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo)
District 61: Margaret O’Brien (R-Portage)
District 62: Kate Segal (D-Battle Creek)
District 63: Jase Bolger (R-Marshall)
District 64: Earl Poleski (R-Jackson)
District 66: Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton)
District 67: Tom Cochran (D-Mason)
District 68: Andy Schor (D-Lansing)
District 69: Sam Singh (D-East Lansing)
District 70: Rick Outman (R-Six Lakes)
District 71: Deb Shaughnessy (R-Charlotte)
District 73: Peter MacGregor (R-Rockford)
District 74: Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker)
District 75: Brandon Dillon (D-Grand Rapids)
District 77: Thomas Hooker (R-Byron Center)
District 78:  Dave Pagel (R-Berrien Springs)
District 79: Al Pscholka (R-Stevensville)
District 81:  Dan Lauwers (R-Brockway)
District 85: Ben Glarden (R-Owosso)
District 86: Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto)
District 87: Mike Callton (R-Nashville)
District 88:  Roger Victory (R-Hudsonville)
District 89: Amanda Price (R-Park Township)
District 90: Joe Haveman (R-Holland)
District 93: Tom Leonard (R-Dewitt)
District 94: Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw)
District 98: Jim Stamas (R-Midland)
District 99: Kevin Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant)
District 101: Ray Franz (R-Onekama)
District 103: Bruce Rendon (R-Lake City)
District 104: Wayne Schmidt (R-Traverse City)
District 106: Peter Pettalia (R-Presque Isle)
District 107: Frank Foster (R-Petoskey)
District 108: Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan)
District 110: Matt Huuki  (R-Atlantic Mine)

About the Detroit Regional Chamber
With over 20,000 members and affiliates, that employ over three-quarters of a million workers, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the largest chambers of commerce in the country. The Chamber’s mission is carried out through business attraction efforts, advocacy, strategic partnerships and providing valuable benefits to members. For more information, please visit detroitchamber.com.

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September 18, 2012: Chamber Departs on Gov. Snyder’s Trade Mission; Chamber CEO Joins Gov. at Midwest-Japan Conference

Detroit Regional Chamber Travels to China on Governor’s Trade Mission

Representatives from the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Business Attraction program are participating in Governor Rick Snyder’s trade mission to China organized by the State of Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation from September 18-27. The delegation is meeting with government officials and business leaders to strengthen relationships, expand exports and attract new investment to Michigan. The Chamber’s Business Development Representative Justin Robinson will blog about the experience throughout the weeklong trip. Click here to follow Justin’s blog and keep up with the delegation’s trip. The Chamber also participated in the Governor’s trade mission to Europe in March and to Asia in September of 2011.

Chamber CEO Joins Gov. Snyder at Midwest U.S.-Japan Association Conference

Governor Rick Snyder joined fellow U.S. and Japanese governors at the annual Joint Meeting of the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association yesterday in Minneapolis to discuss and promote U.S.-Japan trade and business relations. At the conference, Gov. Snyder said Michigan is the nation’s comeback state and Michigan is doing more than fixing a problem, it’s reinventing the state. Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah attended the conference at the request of Gov. Snyder and Consul General of Japan in Detroit Kuninori Matsuda. Baruah met with Japanese company leaders throughout the conference to highlight the Detroit region. For more information, click here.

Gov. Snyder Proposes Transitioning BCBSM to Nonprofit Mutual Insurer

Governor Rick Snyder continued his proactive approach to modernizing health care and adjusting to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last week by proposing Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) be regulated like all other health insurers as federal reforms are put in place. BCBSM currently operates as an insurer of last resort under PA 50, which is negated under the new law as it requires acceptance for anyone who applies for insurance. Snyder’s proposal would transition the company to a nonprofit mutual insurance company. BCBSM President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp spoke about the Governor’s proposal in an interview with Paul W. Smith last week, which you can hear here. For more information on the proposal, click here.

Business Leaders for Michigan Study Affirms Michigan as Key in Logistics

Business Leaders for Michigan recently commissioned a study reviewing Michigan’s logistics system and interviewing industry stakeholders, local policy makers and shippers in the industry. The result is the notion that Michigan can grow its position as a logistics gateway by accelerating efforts to support and maintain its logistics base and increase investments in infrastructure that support global product movement and identify niche industry sectors to build upon.

“This valuable work by BLM confirms that developing our regional supply chain capacity is not just an economic opportunity, but a 21st century competitive imperative,” said Detroit Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Economic Development Benjamin Erulkar. “The study’s recommendations on infrastructure and supply chain development are data-based, practical and visionary, and we support them fully.”

To learn more or read the full study, click here.

Chamber Education Trust-Midwest Write Op-Ed in Detroit Free Press on High School Graduation Standards

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah co-wrote an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press yesterday with Amber Arellano, executive director of the Education Trust-Midwest, on the importance of strong high school graduation standards to adequately prepare students for secondary education. The article describes the harm of legislation currently being considered that would weaken the Michigan Merit Curriculum standards passed in 2006. The article goes on to describe the economic impact higher education has on a region and the importance of quality education to the workforce. To read the full article, click here.

Connection Point Brings Together More than 130 Supplies to ManTech Supplier Forum

Last week, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Connection Point program hosted buyers from ManTech International Corporation looking to explore sourcing partnerships with qualified Michigan suppliers.

The visit, which was presented in partnership with Pure Michigan Business Connect, the Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTAC) of Michigan, and the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Translinked program, attracted over 130 suppliers and partners to discuss potential opportunities with 15 ManTech representatives, making this the largest buying group Connection Point has hosted to date. The program featured remarks from PTAC representatives as well as a keynote address from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s President and CEO Michael Finney. Additionally, 45 Michigan companies with specialties in ground vehicle maintenance, integrated logistics and base operations were hand selected by ManTech for individual meetings. Read more on this event from CBS Detroit’s Matt Roush here.

90 Area Companies Seek Sales To Big Military Contractor

From the CBS Report
September 16, 2012

WARREN — The Detroit Regional Chamber gathered 90 businesses at Macomb CommunityCollege Friday to boost Michigan’s sales to the Virginia defense contractor ManTech International Corp.

The chamber’s Connection Program, in partnership with the Michigan Economic Development Corp’s Business Connect program, the Michigan Defense Center, and the Macomb County Procurement Technical Assistance Center sponsored the event.

Keynoter Michael Finney, president and CEO of the MEDC, opened the event with a keynote, saying Michigan’s new flat business profits tax had improved Michigan’s tax standing from 47th to seventh among the states, according to the Tax Foundation.

Now, Finney said, the MEDC is focused on talent — technical, professional and vocational. “We have relationships on a national and international basis to get you the talent you need,” Finney said, referring to the mitalent.org Web site.

MEDC is also focused on getting Michigan firms to do more business with each other, prompting large companies like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy to pledge to buy more from Michigan suppliers. For every $200,000 in new revenue, a business adds another job, Finney said.

Army Staff Sgt. Jeff Moke also emphasized to the crowd just how important working in mineresistant vehicles is.

“The survivability of the soldier is everywhere in this vehicle, so anything you build for these vehicles, take pride in, and do the best you can,” Moke said to applause. “And wherever you can, hire a veteran.”

ManTech was awarded the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected (MRAP) Contractor Logistics Sustainment and Support (CLSS) services contract by the U.S. Army’s Tank-Automotive Command Contracting Center. Under this contract, ManTech will continue to provide services to rapidly assess and repair battle-damaged MRAP systems and mechanical failures, insert technology, integrate systems, and perform upgrades and modifications to enhance and sustain fleet operational readiness. This five year contract has a ceiling total of $2.85 billion.

ManTech is looking for transportation services, ammunition handling, fuel management, environmental expertise, medical supply management and depot support experience. It’s also searching for maintenance systems, spare parts manufacturing, maintenance innovations and welding expertise.

http://detroit.cbslocal.com/2012/09/16/90‐area‐companies‐seek‐sales‐to‐big‐military‐contractor/

From music to name recogniton: 5 things Grand Rapids should import from Detroit

From the MLive.com
September 14, 2012
Posted By: Shandra Martinez
“Five Things Grand Rapids could import from Detroit” by: Rick Baker

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The West Michigan Policy Forum held this week in Grand Rapids provided a little bit of a Detroit-Grand Rapids lovefest.

A delegation from the Detroit Regional Chamber was even handing out Detroit-hearts-Grand Rapids stickers, another sign Michigan’s two biggest cities are developing warm relations despite their differences.

When CEO Sandy K. Baruah was asked by MLive this week what could Detroit import from Grand Rapids, he said the city’s sense of unity and collaboration. An example of that unity, he said, is the design hub GRid70, shared by Grand Rapids area corporate giants Steelcase, Amway, Wolverine World Wide and Meijer.

Complete coverage: West Michigan Policy Forum in Grand Rapids

He praised West Michigan companies for their support of the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing, a proposed bridge between Windsor, Onatrio and Detroit. Getting the project approved was ranked the top priority of the 2012 policy forum.

MLive asked Baruah’s counterpart, Rick Baker, CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, to share what the west side of the state could learn from the east.

————————————————————————

Five Things Grand Rapids could import from Detroit
By: Rick Baker 

1. Far-reaching name recognition and scale. People have heard of Detroit and know what the city is about. I think that is something that Grand Rapids is still working on and it takes time. There are a lot of things that impact name recognition, it’s size and recent campaigns like Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” help. Grand Rapids’ international art competition ArtPrize and the work of Experience Grand Rapids are doing a lot to build the community’s identity.

2. Direct access to international markets. Detroit has the infrastructure to move freight and passengers internationally via its waterways, crossing with Canada and international airport. It’s a great asset. That’s a little harder for Grand Rapids because of geography. But it’s something we can as a community aspire to, and should continue to pursue.

3. Active riverfront. Detroit has really invested to develop its riverfront. There a lot of activities from bike trails to gathering spaces that bring people downtown and have turned the waterfront into the front door of the community. I think Grand Rapids can do that as well with the investment in bringing the rapids back to the Grand River.

4. Long rich history of musical and cultural influences. In addition to the automotive industry, Motown’s influence on the national and international music scene have shaped Detroit. When you think of the effect Detroit’s ground-breaking music has had on society, you see what impact it can have on a community. In Grand Rapids, we are just now understanding the potential and economic benefit of embracing the arts community and highlighting this as an asset to our region.

5. A higher level of diversity. Detroit has a high level of diversity in its community leadership. That brings together different perspectives that generate creative thinking and diversity of thought. It is something that Grand Rapids is working on. There is a growing recognition of the importance of embracing diversity and having conversations around the table about it.

 

Level One Bancorp, Inc. Enters Into Definitive Agreement to Acquire Oxford Bank Corporation

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (September 13, 2012) – Patrick Fehring, President and CEO of Level One Bancorp, Inc. (Level One) and James Bess, President and CEO of Oxford Bank Corporation (Oxford), are pleased to announce today that the companies have entered into a definitive agreement under which Oxford will merge into Level One. In addition, Oxford Bank will merge its operations with Level One Bank, creating one of the largest locally owned, independent community banks in Oakland County.

The Boards of Directors of both financial institutions have unanimously approved the acquisition, which will entail the acquisition of all Oxford stock by Level One. As is customary in transactions of this type, the sale is subject to approval by the shareholders of Oxford, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the Michigan Office of Finance and Insurance Regulation and the FDIC.  The transaction is also subject to a determination by regulators that after completion of the merger Level One Bank will comply with applicable capital requirements. It is anticipated the acquisition will occur by the 1st quarter of 2013. Upon closing, the two institutions will have combined assets of approximately $750 million, including 15 bank branches.

“We look forward to building upon Oxford Bank’s 128-year history and culture of community engagement while also adding residential and mortgage services, business loans and a wide range of Treasury Management services,” said Patrick Fehring, President and CEO of Level One Bank. “This acquisition is also in keeping with our plan for strategic growth – strengthening Level One’s position as a premier community bank throughout Oakland County and the surrounding communities.”

“We are quite proud of our heritage as a full-service community bank focused on the customers in our back yard,” said James Bess, President and CEO of Oxford Bank. “This combination will provide the capital, infrastructure and resources necessary to continue to build upon the high level of service our customers have come to expect.”

Founded in 2007, Level One Bank has completed two prior acquisitions in the past five years, including Michigan Heritage Bank in 2009 and Paramount Bank in 2010.  Advisors for the latest acquisition for Level One include the financial firm of Sterne, Agee & Leach, Inc. and the law firm of Howard & Howard. For Oxford, Austin Associates LLC, served as financial advisors with Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP, providing legal counsel.

About Level One Bank

Level One Bank is a full-service, 5-Star BauerFinancial rated commercial and consumer bank committed to connecting with unparalleled service and delivering outstanding financial solutions.  Owned and managed locally, Level One Bank is headquartered in Farmington Hills, Michigan with assets of approximately $500 million.  It currently operates seven full-service banking centers, located throughout Oakland County and the surrounding communities. Level One’s Commercial Division provides a complete menu of products including lines of credit, term loans, commercial mortgages, SBA loans, Export-Import Financing and a full suite of Treasury Management Services.  The Consumer Division offers personal savings and checking accounts, including free checking and competitive interest-bearing accounts such as Money Markets, IRAs, and CDs.  The bank also provides a complete array of consumer loan products including residential mortgages, home equity, auto, and credit card services.  Level One offers the sophistication of a big bank, the heart of a community bank, and the spirit of an entrepreneur.

For more information, please visit www.levelonebank.com

About Oxford Bank

Oxford Bank Corporation is a registered holding company. Its subsidiary, Oxford Bank, is the oldest commercial bank in Oakland County, celebrating its 128th year in 2012. In recent years, the Bank has been voted the Best Bank in Oakland County by the readers of the Oakland Press and earned the 1st Place Readers Choice for Best Bank by the readers of the Oxford Leader and the Lake Orion Review. It operates eight full-service offices in Clarkston, Davison, Dryden, Goodrich, Lake Orion, Oakland Township, Ortonville and Oxford, along with a consumer lending center in Oxford and a commercial banking office in Lake Orion. The Bank has operated continuously under local ownership and management since it first opened for business in 1884.

For more information, please visit www.oxfordbank.com.

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Plante Moran Earns Spot on 2012 InformationWeek 500 List of Top Technology Innovators Across America

Southfield, MICH— September 13, 2012 -Plante Moran, PLLC, one of the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, announces it ranked #128 on this year’s InformationWeek 500, an annual listing of the nation’s most innovative users of business technology. The list was revealed this week at a gala awards ceremony at the exclusive InformationWeek 500 Conference which took place at the St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, CA.

Plante Moran was recognized for its client collaboration centers, an innovative solution launched last year to (1) provide a more efficient, dynamic way to share documents with clients and (2) mitigate the security risks inherent in exchanging personal, confidential documents.

“We’re thrilled to be acknowledged among these other IT innovators,” said Plante Moran Chief Information Officer Doug Brady. “Our client collaboration centers have proven to be differentiators with our clients, and we continue to leverage technology to provide new and innovative solutions to client needs.”

InformationWeek identifies and honors the nation’s most innovative users of information technology with its annual 500 listing, and also tracks the technology, strategies, investments, and administrative practices of America’s best-known companies. Past overall winners include PACCAR Inc., The Vanguard Group, CME Group, National Semiconductor, Con-Way, and Principal Financial Group. The InformationWeek 500 rankings are unique among corporate rankings as they spotlight the power of innovation in information technology, rather than simply identifying the biggest IT spenders.

“The InformationWeek 500 has recognized the most innovative users of business technology for 24 years, and this year’s innovations were particularly impressive,” said InformationWeek Editor In Chief Rob Preston. “What the editors looked for are unconventional approaches—new technologies, new models, new ways of grabbing business opportunities and solving complex business problems with IT.”

Additional details on the InformationWeek 500 can be found online at www.informationweek.com/500/.

About Plante Moran, PLLC

Plante Moran (www.plantemoran.com) is among the nation’s largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms, providing clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting and wealth management services.  Plante Moran has a staff of more than 2,000 professionals in 22 offices throughout Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, with international offices in Shanghai, China; Monterrey, Mexico and Mumbai, India.  Plante Moran has been recognized by a number of organizations, including FORTUNE magazine, as one of the country’s best places to work.

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