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May 31, 2012

Foundry’s Jason Mendelson, Now Bullish On Michigan Startup Scene

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium was held in Ypsilanti. Xconomy’s Sarah Schmid reports that over 450 founders, entrepreneurs, VCs, and others in the Michigan startup community showed out for the event. Among them was the managing director and co-founder of Foundry Group, Jason Mendelson who gave a keynote address. Mendelson has completely reversed his earlier views of Michigan and Detroit in particular. He gives a lot of credit to Dan Gilbert of Detroit Venture Partners for creating a tech hub in downtown Detroit. There are a lot of attractive things about Michigan for new startups. Including the fact that Michigan delivers a bigger bang for your buck.

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May 31, 2012

Foundry’s Jason Mendelson, Now Bullish On Michigan Startup Scene

The Michigan Growth Capital Symposium was held in Ypsilanti. Xconomy’s Sarah Schmid reports that over 450 founders, entrepreneurs, VCs, and others in the Michigan startup community showed out for the event. Among them was the managing director and co-founder of Foundry Group, Jason Mendelson who gave a keynote address. Mendelson has completely reversed his earlier views of Michigan and Detroit in particular. He gives a lot of credit to Dan Gilbert of Detroit Venture Partners for creating a tech hub in downtown Detroit. There are a lot of attractive things about Michigan for new startups. Including the fact that Michigan delivers a bigger bang for your buck.

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May 31, 2012

30 win Detroit jobs for year

A list of more than 900 applicants has been whittled to 30 winners for the urban revitalization project known as Challenge Detroit, which pays participants to live in the city for a year. The Collaborative Group, a
Michigan nonprofit, will pay participants from 11 states and Canada, including Michigan, Arizona, Rhode Island and Tennessee, a $30,000 salary to work in jobs for companies such as Chrysler Group LLC, Quicken Loans Inc., Compuware Corp. and hiredMYway.com. Participants, who will begin their one-year journey Sept. 4, also will receive a $500-a-month housing stipend to live in Detroit and work with other nonprofits such as TechTown, The Detroit Regional News Hub and The United Way for Southeastern Michigan.



 

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May 31, 2012

Detroit Reforesters Transform Unused Lots Into Havens For Native Wildlife

Some people look at an old lot filled with tires and junk and see tires and junk. Others, however, see a forest. The Detroit Reforesters, a group of young adults dedicated to reinvigorating the Motor City with indigenous trees and plants, definitely belong to the latter category. "We're turning vacant lots used for dumping into useful, functioning ecosystems," said Jordan Sinclair, president and treasurer of the group,
which held its first tree-planting last fall and sponsored two more this spring.



 

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May 31, 2012

New plan for old building promises fun for Detroit

Detroit's east riverfront, which already draws millions of visitors a year to the RiverWalk and William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor, is about to get another major attraction. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources said it anticipates as many as 1 million visitors a year coming to a planned one-of-a-kind outdoor adventure and discovery center to be built in the historic Globe Building on the riverfront.



 

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May 31, 2012

Scrap consent deal, give Detroit EM

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May 31, 2012

Charter One Bank to award $100,000 in grants to Detroit farmers markets

In a big boost to Detroit's growing local foods community, Charter One Bank's Foundation plans to award $100,000 in grants this year to the city's farmers markets network, some of their vendors and a group of urban farmers. The bank's new Growing Communities program seeks to expand local food resources in Detroit, as well as help small businesses in this industry. Half of the $100,000 will be given to the nine farmers markets that comprise the Detroit Community Market Network. The network includes Northwest Detroit Farmers Market, Islandview Farmers Market and Oakland Avenue Farmers Market. The grants will support grassroots marketing efforts and the establishment of shuttle services to these markets.  Charter One's program will not end once all these grants are awarded. Plans are underway for other efforts to promote local foods.

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May 31, 2012

Mike Duggan quietly tests waters for a run for Detroit mayor

Detroit Medical Center CEO Mike Duggan has been coy about publicly discussing the 2013 mayor's race, but he has been talking privately with business and community leaders about a possible run. And, the Free Press has learned, Duggan has met with two potential rivals, both of whom consider him a worthy prospect. Detroit should spend the next year vetting and molding and preparing those who would participate in what will be the most important election in the city's history, more important than post-riot, more important than post-Kwame. What Detroit will become will evolve from what its voters do next year.

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May 25, 2012

Pasky Column for Mackinac Edition of the Michigan Chronicle

By Cynthia J. Pasky, President and CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions

Detroit has a lot of needs these days. It needs more police officers and fire fighters. It needs a lower crime rate. It needs a balanced budget. But more than anything it needs jobs. There is nothing wrong with Detroit that would not be solved by enough jobs for every man and
woman who needs one.

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May 24, 2012

Detroit Mercantile opens Saturday in Eastern Market

The Detroit Mercantile Co. in Eastern Market feels like a general store from the early 1900s that got a splashy update. The 1,300-square-foot store -- founded by Robert Stanzler, best known as the creator of the Made in Detroit clothing line -- opens Saturday. It features a wide variety of merchandise from across Michigan, much like the broad-reaching neighborhood shops of yore: Clothing by Dearborn-based Carhartt, paper items made at a Niles mill, Detroit-themed cruiser bikes by the Detroit Bicycle Co., Stormy Kromers from Ironwood, rock posters from Ferndale's The Silent Giants, music by the Beehive Recording Co. in Detroit, books from Oak Park-based Book Beat. Plus every Saturday, there are Detroit-themed breakfast and lunch specials, such as coney islands and Maurice salad wraps. The store aims, in part, to connect people to Detroit's history -- and what it was like to shop in the city during the first three decades of the 20th Century, what Stanzler calls "the golden era of Detroit."

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May 24, 2012

Detroit Mercantile opens Saturday in Eastern Market

The Detroit Mercantile Co. in Eastern Market feels like a general store from the early 1900s that got a splashy update. The 1,300-square-foot store -- founded by Robert Stanzler, best known as the creator of the Made in Detroit clothing line -- opens Saturday. It features a wide variety of merchandise from across Michigan, much like the broad-reaching neighborhood shops of yore: Clothing by Dearborn-based Carhartt, paper items made at a Niles mill, Detroit-themed cruiser bikes by the Detroit Bicycle Co., Stormy Kromers from Ironwood, rock posters from Ferndale's The Silent Giants, music by the Beehive Recording Co. in Detroit, books from Oak Park-based Book Beat. Plus every Saturday, there are Detroit-themed breakfast and lunch specials, such as coney islands and Maurice salad wraps. The store aims, in part, to connect people to Detroit's history -- and what it was like to shop in the city during the first three decades of the 20th Century, what Stanzler calls "the golden era of Detroit."

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May 24, 2012

Jobless rate drop, tax revenue jump boost Michigan's economic outlook

Michigan's economic news continued to improve Wednesday as the unemployment rate fell to 8.3% and
tax revenues ticked upward, contributing to a boost of more than $300 million for the state budget. The April jobless rate dropped from March, despite 3,000 more people looking for work, according to data released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. It's Michigan's lowest monthly jobless rate since July 2008 and puts the state close to April's national unemployment rate of 8.1%. In another sign of increased economic activity, officials meeting at the state Capitol determined Michigan can expect about $196 million more in tax revenues for 2012 and 2013 than was anticipated four months ago, when the last revenue-estimating conference was held. The unanticipated money will ease the work of state lawmakers as they try to finalize the 2013 budget by June 1, especially when combined with more than $100 million in reduced Medicaid and welfare costs for 2012 that also were identified Wednesday, state Budget Director John Nixon said. Michigan, which endured a decade-long recession, is continuing a steady climb back to economic health that began late in 2009, economists said.



 

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May 24, 2012

As a private-sector CEO, Robert Ficano would be gone

OUT. If Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano were CEO of a publicly traded company, that's what he'd be by now. A boss whose direct appointees and other underlings were caught in a whirl of criminal charges, investigations and accusations would resign or be ousted by the board or shareholders or both, no matter if he hadn't been tied directly to the problems. He'd be the accountable one. If he didn't know, he should have. If he did, so much the worse. He'd be gone. Even if Ficano hasn't done anything wrong, can he reasonably stay in control while people he hired and entrusted with the public's business find themselves in handcuffs or in front of juries? Is it right to say that mismanaging the people's business ought to incur different, lesser consequences than malfeasance in a private enterprise? It's hard to imagine how Ficano, or anyone else, could justify that.

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May 23, 2012

Linda Solomon Pictures of Hope

Detroit's world-renown photo-journalist Linda Solomon's passion is her "Pictures of Hope" project providing homeless children with cameras and instruction, Linda gives these kids the tools to communicate honestly and artfully. She draws out their hopes and dreams and reading their responses will warm your heart.   



 

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May 23, 2012

All Detroiters are the 'somebody' we yearn to have as a leader

It is easy to say what Detroit needs. It is harder to do what Detroit needs. First and foremost, regardless of what anyone says, Detroit's greatest enemy is its own malaise, its own tolerance for foolishness and crime, the belief of some residents that the city has no future. Napoleon Bonaparte, of all people, said that "a leader is a dealer in hope." Those are the kinds of dealers that Detroit needs. Not drug dealers but hope dealers. And if those people step up, those Somebodys step up and do what John Quincy Adams said -- "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader" -- Detroit has a chance.

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May 23, 2012

Justice Hathaway owes full explanation of real estate dealings

In a broadcast aired Wednesday night, WXYZ-TV asserted that Hathaway and her husband transferred three homes they had purchased in the last 13 years to their children shortly before seeking permission to settle their debt on a fourth home through a short sale. In a short sale, a mortgage lender agrees to accept as payment of a homeowner's debt whatever amount of money the mortgaged property can be sold for, absorbing the difference between the sales price and the mortgage holder's liability. Lenders typically approve a short sale only after being satisfied that a homeowner lacks the financial resources to pay the original mortgage. Documents obtained by WXYZ suggest that Hathaway and her husband temporarily transferred title to homes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars before seeking permission for a short sale of their Grosse Pointe home. They then reclaimed ownership of the other properties after the transaction was finalized, the TV station said. There may be any number of legitimate motives for such a series of transactions, but it seems not unreasonable to inquire whether there was an effort to conceal assets relevant to the short sale. Michigan voters have every right to reassurance that a justice whose court represents the last word on criminal cases in this state has been conducting her own affairs with scrupulous adherence to the law.

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May 18, 2012

Millage, volunteer police part of Detroit's public safety plan

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. have a message: Budget crisis or not, public safety efforts will not cease. Still, Godbee said decreased dollars will force his administration to cut 130 positions through attrition and early-retirement incentives by July 1 or risk having to lay off officers. Godbee spent much of Thursday at City Hall, first in budget hearings with the Detroit City Council and then at a news conference with Bing to announce a revamped reservist program in an effort to put more resources into patrolling and police presence.Bing and Godbee said they support placing a millage proposal on the November ballot in an effort to generate millions of dollars each year for the police and fire departments. The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners went before the council to explain how the 7-mill public safety proposal could generate upward of $56 million a year. Officials said the tax would be levied for five years, then brought before voters again for approval. The proposal received a lukewarm reception from most council members. Detroiters are already taxed at a higher rate than any other group of citizens in the state and the middle class, for the most part, are voting with their feet and moving out of the city to communities where public safety isn't an issue.

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May 18, 2012

Detroit violations notices call for homeowners to get up to code -- now

The violations notices began arriving in mid-April: City of Detroit inspectors had been in a southwest neighborhood scoping out blight, and now homeowners were on the hook to make costly improvements and repairs.The notices were not dated, but they stated that the inspections had been done in November. A batch of letters was mailed April 13, with the city giving homeowners less than one month to make the repairs.The inspections and code enforcement are part of Mayor Dave Bing's Detroit Works Project, a neighborhood-improvement initiative aimed at revitalizing more vibrant areas of the city and encouraging residents to move into those more densely populated areas. The goal is to streamline service delivery and keep healthy neighborhoods thriving. The city has issued about 6,000 correction notices so far this year. Officially, the correction orders are for "violations of the Detroit property maintenance code and/or (the) official zoning ordinance." The notices state that failure to comply would "result in the issuance of one or more" blight tickets. Many Detroit residents cited have requested 30-day extensions to correct violations. But others said 30 days won't help them find the money they need to make the repairs.

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May 18, 2012

Cobo's rebirth delivers business: $299-million renovation attracts events, shows regional cooperation

Detroit's Cobo Center may be only about halfway through its $299-million expansion and upgrade, but the renovations already appear to be paying off. Thom Connors, Cobo's general manager, said this week that the convention center is booking first-ever business -- a result of good buzz about Detroit, and improving operating efficiencies under a regional board that has run Cobo since 2009. Until the past few weeks, the Cobo Center upgrade had been happening mostly out of the public eye. Now that construction crews have been demolishing parts of Cobo Arena for a remake, the work is more visible. And it's about to get even more visible. Construction crews will soon begin demolition work on Cobo's waterfront side as part of building the new multistory atrium and lobby entrance that will become Cobo's signature new entrance. That atrium space will be finished in time for January's North American International Auto Show, creating a dramatic new look for Cobo visitors. Shortly after that, the remaking of adjacent Cobo Arena into a two-level space with ballroom and meeting rooms will wrap up by the middle of next year. And the final bits of Cobo work will be wrapped in 2015.

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May 17, 2012

$17-million medical center opens in southwest Detroit

Mayor Dave Bing helped to officially open a $17-million state-of-the-art medical center in southwest Detroit.The Community Health and Social Services Center at 5635 W. Fort replaces a cramped 42-year-old clinic that once housed an Oldsmobile dealership. It begins appointments in its new home, next to its old clinic. The health center will offer primary care and dentistry, mental health services, a domestic violence program and nutrition classes. It has 24 exam rooms, four procedure rooms, a six-room dental suite, a pharmacy, a laboratory and wellness center. It also has a 240-seat conference room that can be divided into separate spaces for community meetings; a track, and a kitchen for healthy cooking demonstrations. The extra space will allow the center to nearly double the patients it will serve, from 11,000 last year to more than 30,000 expected in the years ahead, said Dr. Felix Valbuena Jr., the clinic's medical director. He started at the clinic in 1989 as a social worker. He decided to go to medical school and now heads a staff of four doctors, three nurse practitioners and a physician's assistant. CEO J. Ricardo Guzman said the clinic expects to hire 152 full-time workers, up from 75 now.

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May 17, 2012

PwC to move to new site in city

 In a major downtown real estate deal, some 650 employees of the PwC US accounting and consulting firm will move later this year from their current office home near Ford Field to the One Detroit Center office tower in downtown's financial district. David Breen, managing partner of PwC's Greater Michigan market, said the firm will take up to three floors in One Detroit Center and will have some naming rights in its new location. Formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, the firm moved into a newly built office building near Ford Field in late 2005 just before Super Bowl XL in February 2006. In the years since, the space configurations required by the firm's national practice standards led the firm to seek a new office home in Detroit.

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May 17, 2012

Toronto firm buys downtown's Penobscot Building

 Another major downtown Detroit skyscraper has been sold, and -- surprise! -- the buyer was not Dan Gilbert. Triple Properties, the Toronto-based real estate firm that already owns the Silverdome in Pontiac, bought downtown's historic Penobscot Building last week for a price estimated to be in the $5-million range. "We have witnessed a tremendous amount of start-up activity in Detroit these days," said David Friedman, president and CEO of the Farmington Hills-based real estate firm Friedman that negotiated the sale by Capmark. "We look forward to this building once again playing a significant role in fueling future growth." The 47-story Penobscot was built in the 1920s during the golden age of Detroit skyscraper building from a design by noted architect Wirt Rowland of the firm Smith, Hinchman & Grylls. The building has changed hands several times in the past 20 years. Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, has engaged in a buying spree of downtown's historic office towers in the past year, snapping up the Chase Tower, First National, Dime Building and others. But the Penobscot was not among them, although Gilbert's real estate advisers were among the potential buyers who scouted the Penobscot in recent months. The building is about 45% to 50% occupied with tenants including Strategic Staffing Solutions and Wayne County Friend of the Court.

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May 17, 2012

Taxpayers paid for 3 workers to raise cash for Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Free Press investigation finds

Three top aides to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano devoted much of their county work time to raising money for Ficano's political and nonprofit operations, with more than $500,000 they generated going to companies connected to families or friends of two of them. The Ficano fund-raisers -- led by recently resigned Assistant Executive Nader Fakhouri -- targeted county contractors, with one e-mail from Fakhouri listing amounts from $5,000 to $25,000 that each of a dozen firms were expected to give to Ficano's 2010 re-election campaign. Raising campaign money on government time is illegal. Experts said soliciting campaign funds but failing to use the money for political purposes could constitute embezzlement, fraud or money laundering. Other e-mails show Fakhouri ordered county department heads to support Ficano's annual fund-raising gala by selling $500 tickets. A two-month Free Press review of campaign records and fund-raising e-mails, as well as interviews with current and former campaign insiders and Ficano aides, also found that Fakhouri sent e-mails from an address at QTI, the company that received more cash than any other vendor -- nearly $400,000 -- during Ficano's last re-election run. QTI, which lists Fakhouri's sister as its president and is not in good standing with the state's business licensing division, was unknown to local and state political experts familiar with companies that do campaign work.

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May 14, 2012

Detroit's Old Garden Theater lands loans for new music venue

The long-closed Garden Theater in Detroit's Midtown area nabbed $1 million in loans from state and Detroit development agencies to help restore the historic building into a live music venue and conference space. No details were given on when work would begin on the building that will be renamed the Woodward Theater. But the loans will help create a 32,000-square-foot, 1,300-seat entertainment spot for music and other performances, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The developer, Woodward Theater LLC, estimates restoring the venue will cost $12.3 million.



 

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May 14, 2012

Detroit and all that jazz

“Wow! I’d know that was Detroit.” Those are the words that so many say after attending the Detroit Jazz Festival. They shouldn’t be surprised. Detroit is passionate about jazz and many of its legends either hailed from the city or played at the Detroit Jazz Festival. This free festival brings people from around the world to Detroit Labor Day weekend. Last year 23 percent of those attending came from outside of Michigan and the festival brought millions into the city over the three days. “Hearing jazz heroes in Hart Plaza is an incredible gift,” says Chris Collins, the new artistic director of the Detroit Jazz Festival.” … and it is free to all of us.”



 

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May 14, 2012

Small cars: Detroit finally gets it

For years those in the executive offices at Ford, GM, and Chrysler considered small cars an afterthought – an unprofitable side-business that pulled valuable product development and marketing dollars away from the real cash cows, large trucks and SUVs. But times are changing. These days the Detroit Three are putting actual effort into designing and building small cars that are packed with enough features and style to make folks want to buy them.



 

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May 10, 2012

Detroit East Side Riders' Mind-Blowing Bikes Inspire Residents To Take Up Cycling (PHOTOS)

Known for colorful lights, flashy bikes, boom boxes and an upbeat attitude, Detroit's East Side Riders bike club has played an instrumental role in popularizing bicycling in the city over the last few years. Brothers Mike and Dywayne Neeley started the group about four years ago. At the time, Mike was suffering from diabetes and took up biking to lose weight and improve his health. During one of his early rides to Chene Park, Mike spotted some custom bikes that left an impression. Later, he shared the inspiration with Dywayne, who began making his own bicycle modifications.

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May 10, 2012

Wayne State to build $90-million biomedical facility

Wayne State University plans to pump more than $90 million into a new biomedical research facility at the edge of its campus -- a move that continues its push to improve Detroit's Midtown. The university is hoping to use $30 million from the state, along with $63 million from its coffers, to renovate the old Dalgleish Cadillac building and tear down the American Beauty Iron Building next to it. The project would be the largest in WSU's history. The state share is included in a budget proposal from Gov. Rick Snyder, based on recommendations made during the previous administration, budget office spokesman Kurt Weiss said. In total, funding is recommended for projects at nine of the state's 15 public universities. The Legislature still needs to approve the plan.

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May 10, 2012

LTU reinvents lower Woodward corridor at detroitSHOP Studio

Architecture and urban planning students have used Detroit as a teaching canvas for years, but the latest version of that education experience from Lawrence Technological University is different in that these students' dreams could become reality. Lawrence Tech's detroitSHOP Studio is working teams from Dan Gilbert's real-estate firms Rock Ventures and Bedrock Real Estate Services to create plans to redevelop downtown Detroit's lower Woodward corridor. The plans will be on display between 3-8 p.m. in the Dime Building, and could serve as a primer for what's to come developmentwise in downtown.

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May 09, 2012

Great American city: Detroit

Delicious food, strolls along the water, architecture that transports you to a different time, thriving music scene, art ranging from folk to street to masters, and the history of a city that is inseparable from the history of this country. This could be a description of New Orleans or San Francisco, two of America's most beautiful cities, but it is also a description of Detroit. Not many people pondering vacation destinations think of the Motor City — but they should. Detroit surprises.



 

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May 09, 2012

Detroit offers more than one might think

In years past, stunning-yet-depressing photo collections of a very decaying Detroit appeared in magazines and circulated on the Internet. The photos depict a ghost-towny ghetto suffocating under rubble and spray paint with more junked cars than new ones. In the past few years, Detroit has started to come around again and many new businesses, mostly bars and restaurants, are opening all over the city. The addition of three casinos has helped the city attract more visitors. Both gritty and pretty, Detroit can be, for the right travelers.



 

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May 09, 2012

400-500 Yahoo engineers show interest in Quicken jobs

When Quicken Loans went fishing this month for laid-off Yahoo engineers in California, it got more than a few nibbles. Matt Cullen, CEO of Rock Ventures, Quicken's development arm, said Thursday that 400 to 500 Yahoo engineers affected by a mass layoff this month have begun to talk to Quicken about taking jobs in Detroit. Paula Silver, a spokeswoman for Quicken, said the company planned to fly recruiters to California's Silicon Valley area soon to interview many of the prospects. A Quicken spokesman said late Thursday that its ValleytoDetroit.com website has had 11,000 visits and has received nearly 350 résumés. In remarks to a Turnaround Management Association annual spring meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club, Cullen also said Quicken planned to move another 2,100 of its employees downtown from suburban sites this summer. The moves will bring Quicken's downtown workforce to slightly more than 6,000.

 

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May 08, 2012

2012 Michigan Green Leaders sustain efforts toward a better environment

The 2012 Michigan Green Leaders have found sustainable ways to contribute to their communities to improve the environment. The Green Leaders, and others honored in the past, exemplify an evolution that has been taking place over decades. A lot has changed in the ways we treat the Earth's scarce resources, and that change will continue in small and big ways. Think back to a time when we threw away cardboard and plastic, when Styrofoam ruled and few commuters used reusable coffee mugs. The Detroit Free Press recognized 17 businesses, organizations and individuals working to make Michigan a greener, more environmentally sustainable state. Independent panels of judges considered more than 100 nominations in categories including small and large businesses, as well as individuals and nonprofits. Judges took into consideration the nominees’ breadth of environmental work and commitment to a culture of sustainability. The Free Press celebrated this year’s class of Michigan Green Leaders during a ceremony at the MGM Grand Detroit.

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May 07, 2012

Is Detroit ready for white mayor?

Mike Duggan is moving into his new Palmer Woods home this week, raising the question: Why is the Detroit Medical Center chairman forsaking his Livonia roots and political base to take up urban living?  Duggan is answering that question in private conversations with local political players. He's thinking about running for mayor of Detroit.  It is a bodacious roll. Duggan is white and from the suburbs.  Detroit hasn't had a white mayor since 1973, when Coleman Young became the fulfillment of the African-American majority's dream of black power. But surprisingly, nobody seems to be counting Duggan out based on race. "The right white mayor can win in Detroit," says radio host Mildred Gaddis, who stopped short of saying Duggan is that candidate. "I think he is masterful, he has a reputation as a go-to guy, and he's skillful at locking down community support. He's made a lot of friends in Detroit." It's no secret that Mayor Dave Bing's business backers are hoping the mayor retires, but are they willing to push him aside in favor of Duggan? If Bing does opt out, bet on Duggan getting in. And don't bet against him winning.

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May 07, 2012

Bit of good news doesn't solve the Big Problem in Detroit

Pictures are worth a thousand words. And sometimes, they speak even louder because of what's missing from them. Somehow, it still seems that Detroit's recovery is happening on two tracks: one where devoted private companies invest in the city and a second where a struggling mayor, mostly unsuccessfully, tries to keep the city from imploding. At some point, some of Detroit's brightest private minds must recognize that it might be futile to invest in Motown on the sidelines while the city is losing the Big Game on the field. If Detroit wants other companies to follow the lead of Quicken and Chrysler, then all of its leaders, public and private, corporate and elected, must put their heads together on the Big Plan, the one to make the streets safe, the schools work and the city a place that lots and lots of people want to call home.

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May 02, 2012

4 downtown Detroit-area developments get tentative approval

Four significant development projects for the greater downtown area won tentative approvals Wednesday, signaling that recent development interest in Detroit is continuing. Among the projects: The Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority tentatively approved a renovation plan for the historic Globe Building on the east riverfront. The authority also blessed a plan to build a new 140-unit upscale apartment building in the Harbortown complex on the east riverfront. The authority also gave the go-ahead to a project to build a major medical supply warehouse and distribution center near Henry Ford Hospital in New Center. And the city's Downtown Development Authority approved the selection of Karp and Associates of Lansing as the lead developer to transform the Capitol Park district on downtown's west side with renovations of three historic but derelict buildings.  All the projects need further approvals before becoming reality, but the mixture of projects encouraged city development leaders. "This has been a great day in Detroit, and it shows that there is momentum, and it's picking up and it's not just in one part of town, either," said George Jackson, president of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

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May 02, 2012

The power of art can transform Detroit's empty acres

Detroit is at a crossroads between realism and imagination, necessity and amenity, practicality and idealism. These complex choices, coupled with scarce resources, greatly challenge us as we yearn for a city characterized by more people, jobs and overall opportunities. This tension has a profound effect on how we view land and how decisions about its use will be made. I do not advocate for viewing Detroit as a "blank canvas" or abandoning any current initiatives or more conventional strategies to improve our city. Rightfully so, these tasks need to remain of the highest priority. However, approximately 40 square miles or 26,000 acres of vacant land, will require skill and ingenuity -- the hallmarks of great art and design. Thoughtful and creative interventions into the physical landscape of our neighborhoods and civic spaces must be viewed as legitimate contributors to the productive re-use of vacant land. Art, as both a short-term strategy and long-term solution, can help to negate the sheer unattractiveness of blight and help drive the economic activity we desperately desire.

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May 01, 2012

Former foster youth first to graduate from tuition-free college program

When Heather Nichols strolls across the stage at Western Michigan University's Miller Auditorium, the former foster youth will be handed more than her bachelor's degree. Nichols will get the distinction of being the first four-year graduate of a groundbreaking program that sends foster youth to college tuition-free -- one that was hatched on a "crazy idea," and fueled by human kindness and incredible timing. The Seita Scholars program originally was envisioned for a dozen students during fall 2008. But then more began showing up, some stepping from caseworkers' cars and clutching a garbage bag of belongings. In all, the inaugural class numbered 51. Now, there are 131 Seita Scholars. Now, at least five other universities and colleges are poised to establish their own versions of the Seita initiative this fall under $600,000 in funding from the Michigan Department of Human Services. With several proposals to consider, DHS will announce the recipients of the funding in May.

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