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Luxe bowling, movies come to downtown Royal Oak

An entertainment complex that takes movies and bowling up a few notches - leather, club seating instead of hard, fiberglass chairs; real dishes instead of styrofoam and paper; restaurant wait service; and high tech bells and whistles - opened Monday in Royal Oak.

The Emagine Theater and Star Lanes in Royal Oak is Emagine's sixth theater in Michigan and the first in a downtown Main Street location (Main St. and 11 Mile, near the Main Art Theatre). it's also their most ambitious.

Inside 71,000 square feet of space are 10 movie screens and 16 bowling lanes, and a bar and restaurant that serves lunch and dinner at its own tables, or to bowlers and movie-goers.

The latest in technology will operate on the lanes and in the theaters, including Smartphone movie tickets and more. There are also four electric car charging stations and solar power panels on the top of the buildings, which is LEED certified, says Ruth Daniels, senior vice president of marketing for Emagine Entertainment and Star Lanes.
 
"It's the greenest entertainment venue in town," Daniels says.

The  $19-million project was christened with three charity preview parties last weekend. At least $200,000 was raised and benefited the Judson Center and Gleaners Community Food Banks, she says. Separately, the business created 100 jobs.

"It's not your typical bowling alley," Daniels says.

In fact, the company doesn't call them bowling alleys. They're bowling lanes. And banish any thoughts of stale, throwback bowling joints. The Royal Oak location follows a nationwide trend to step up bowling and movies in competition for the consumers discretionary entertainment dollar.

Daniels says the downtown location was sought after, and she sees the company pursuing other downtown locations, possibly for a theater or bowling lanes on their own or together.

Royal Oak is an ideal location…."It's a great place to hang out," she says. "If we can get the right space we need we would definitely look for another downtown area."

Emagine's other theaters are in Woodhaven, Canton, Novi, Rochester Hills, and Birch Run.

Source: Ruth Daniels, senior vice president of marketing, Emagine Entertainment, Star Lanes
Writer: Kim North Shine


Plymouth's $2M streetscape cruises toward completion

Downtown Plymouth is closing in on finishing a $2 million streetscape overhaul aimed at keeping its vacancy rate low and its vibrancy rate high.

"The last time the streets were done was in 1995 and it was starting to a look a little old," says Plymouth DDA Director Tony Bruscato. "And of course there's competition in downtowns for customers. Farmington and Northville and other cities were upgrading their downtown streets. You have to be competitive. You want people to come to your downtown and look at it favorably."

Bruscato likes to think it's just the latest in a line of good decisions that have kept  Plymouth's vacancy rates among the lowest, even in the most barren economic conditions, and businesses thriving day and night.

"We've been doing pretty well so we want to keep it that way," he says.

The streetscape projects include repaving, infrastructure changes, the installation of LED traffic lights on arms instead of wires, more walkable and safe crosswalks, and other work.
Some of the work was done last year; everything will be completed this year, the first phase finishing by May 27 in time for the first of Plymouth's outdoor concerts. They attract 3,000 - 5,000 people, Bruscato says.

The second and final phase will be completed in June, he says.

By then, every street in the downtown will have been touched, he says.

Source: Tony Bruscato, director, Plymouth Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Six Oakland County Main Streets ace their tests

What does it take to be declared a perfect downtown Main Street?

Six Oakland County communities have been told they're perfect when it comes to their Main Streets and carrying out the mission of working to make their core go-to destinations for great shopping, eating, working and living and community gathering places.

Farmington, Ferndale, Lake Orion, Ortonville, Oxford and Rochester all received perfect 10 out of 10 scores on their accreditation from the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C..

Each community has its own character: Ferndale with its eclectic, hipster vibe, Rochester with its upscale feel mixed with history, and all the rest their local style and appeal.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson recognized the accomplishments of the Oakland County Main Street programs (half a billion in investment in 11 years) last week at the Rust Belt Market on Woodward and 9 Mile in Ferndale, a poignant example of concerted DDA efforts to keep Main Streets thriving.

"The perfect scores attained by these six Main Street communities in their annual evaluation attests to the hard work of many in our downtown areas involved with our Main Street Oakland County program," Patterson says in a statement. "This is a wonderful and well-deserved recognition."

The 10 criteria for scoring were:
Broad-based community support for downtown revitalization
A clear mission and vision statement for the downtown
A downtown revitalization work plan
A historic preservation ethic recognizing the importance of sense of place
A downtown management organization
An adequate operating budget
Paid professional program manager
Ongoing training for staff and volunteers
Reporting of key investment statistics
National Main Street membership

Oakland County was the first county in the United States to operate a county-wide Main Street program, Main Street Oakland County.

Main Street is a trademarked program of the National Main Street Center in Washington, D.C. In addition to the perfect score recipients, members of Main Street Oakland County are: Franklin, Highland, Holly, Pontiac, and Walled Lake. Berkley, Clarkston, Clawson, Hazel Park, Leonard, South Lyon, and Waterford are in the Main Street Oakland County mentoring program.

Since Main Street Oakland County's formation in 2000, there has been more than $560 million of new investment in Main Street Oakland County communities, over 5,100 jobs created, 551 new businesses opened, and almost 170,000 volunteer hours logged, according to the county.

Source: Pam Tremble, executive assistant, Oakland County
Writer: Kim North Shine

GM plans $130M high tech lab and data center in Warren

General Motors Corp. may build a $130 million data center, information technology lab and technology center at its Cadillac building in Warren.

The plans are part of an announcement made Wednesday by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority, which approved a state brownfield tax credit of $10 million for the expansion and redevelopment of the building.

The project would create about 25 jobs and put the state's third-largest city in the position of attracting new economy workers to replace the manufacturing jobs eliminated by modernized car-making.

"I think this is an indicator to companies that in Warren and in the metro area we have a lot of highly skilled people who are ready to move in to these jobs, and they will be high paying jobs, highly skilled jobs, jobs where people have a future," Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says. "The future is with information and data and the internet. We don't want to be dependent upon the old industrial concept. We want to move into the 21st and 22nd century."

In all the investment - should it be completed as planned - along with other upcoming GM projects in Warren amounts to nearly $500,000 million and hundreds of jobs, Fouts says.

"I really think this is the tip of the iceberg with the state turning around and getting out of the economic malaise it's been in."

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority, or MEGA, offers refundable tax credits against the Michigan Business Tax to companies expanding or relocating their operations in Michigan. Tax credit agreements are awarded on the basis on the strength of projects, including jobs created and amount of investment.

Source: Warren Mayor Jim Fouts; Michigan Economic Growth Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine

Nearly $200M federal grant accelerates high speed rail in Metro Detroit

Metro Detroit and Michigan's high speed rail system moved into the fast lane this week with the announcement of nearly $200 million in federal funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to improve lines from Dearborn to Kalamazoo.

The grant goes toward the purchase of tracks, signals and other rail infrastructure that will address congestion points and separate rail and freight trains -- currently the reason train travel is slower than ideal. The changes will allow trains to travel up to 110-mph along certain portions of the line. This will also decrease the travel time between Chicago and Detroit by one hour on what is known as the Amtrak Wolverine line. The 135-mile-long corridor will receive $196.5 million in funding while a separate $2.8 million will pay for a new train and bus station in Ann Arbor to serve Amtrak and other local transit providers.

Michigan will also receive funding to purchase the latest in locomotives and coaches as part of a joint application with Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. The new cars will be added to Amtrak's Wolverine, Blue Water, and Pere Marquette lines.

The projects are expected to start next year and be completed by 2013 or 2014. Once the new rail network is built, Michigan workers and residents will have greater access to high speed rail than most states. According to the Michigan Municipal League, 69 percent of Michigan residents and 71 percent of employers would be within 15 miles of a station, including Pontiac, Detroit, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Jackson, Albion, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.

The announcement comes at a time when ridership on the trains is rising substantially, an illustration that high speed rail is desired by Americans and will be a part of American life across the nation, as Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said during the accelerated high rail funding announcement in Detroit Monday.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and other transportation advocates say the high speed rail projects will mean jobs and economic development, but critics complain that Michigan is not a high speed rail or mass transit kind of market and the money is a waste.

"Accelerated rail service has the ability to enhance our economy, environment and overall quality of life," Gov. Snyder said in a statement. "An investment of this magnitude can spur economic development in our communities with rail stations, and provide access to a 21st century rail system that will help Michigan citizens compete in a global economy. Reliable, fast train service is attractive to businesses that want to locate or expand near it. This investment in our rail system is critical to Michigan's recovery."

Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin says the funding caps many years of working in unison.

"Here in Michigan, we have been fortunate enough to have strong bi-partisan support for high-speed rail. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle fully understand how important this money is to creating jobs, increasing affordable transportation options, and jump-starting our economy."

Source: Sara Wurfel, spokesperson for Gov. Rick Snyder; Dan Gilmartin, executive director, Michigan Municipal League
Writer: Kim North Shine


Southfield-based company helps local governments to share services

As officials at all levels of government look at sharing services to save money, companies such as ImageSoft, Inc. in Southfield have the goods to show them how.

ImageSoft is hosting a summit on the topic of shared services June 8 in Lansing. Oakland County Deputy Executive Robert Daddow will be keynote speaker and share Oakland's success stories of shared services in a presentation titled: "Shared Services – Politics Versus Reality."

While fire and police and similarly high profile departments are often the targets of consolidation, the focus of ImageSoft's Enterprise Content Management software is documents and work flow-labor intensive, costly and often inefficient areas that come with serving the public.

Scott Bade, president of ImageSoft, a 15-year-old company recognized as one of Metropolitan Detroit’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For and winner of the 2010 Best Fit Integrator Award from the Center for Digital Government, says the software is ideal for human resources, billing and other financial areas, permitting and even dog licensing.

The software doesn't eliminate paper but cuts it and the processes that go with it way back. Data entry duties are saved, the need for multiple servers can be eliminated, as can the space and IT staff they require. The idea is to eliminate redundancy and cut costs without sacrificing quality of services, he says.

The software lets communities share data collection and storage, hardware, and expenses, and allows for processes to be centralized and knowledge shared.

"The software in general is going to save money because it makes your staff 20-30 percent more efficient, Bade says. "Unfortunately in a lot of cities the adoption rate is pretty low…A lot of that is changing because of shared services."

Shared services is not a new concept, but recently more and more bodies of government are taking a hard look at it as they look to slash budgets, especially as the proposed state spending plan needs to make up a $2 billion shortage. Gov. Rick Snyder is asking communities to put the shared services concept into practice as a money saver.

Bade says Oakland County is a prime example of sharing services successfully. In addition to Oakland County using ImageSoft, Washtenaw County is using it to share services with Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. With the system they share storage, a server, and disaster recovery. Grand Traverse County uses the software to collaborate with Traverse City as do cities on the west side of the state, Bade says. ImageSoft also provides similar software solutions for banking, health care, courts, insurance and other organizations with vast amounts of document requirements.

Separately, cities in Macomb County have banded together to talk consolidation, and other cities are combining libraries, police dispatch, and other areas.

The summit is free and is geared toward state, county and local government officials of all levels and areas of expertise. It will be held from 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. at the James B. Henry Center for Executive Development and will include continental breakfast and lunch.  For more information or to register go to
www.imagesoftinc.com/government-summit-2011.html

Source: Scott Bade, president ImageSoft Inc.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Interest in DTE's Solar Currents so hot it's reached its goal

A DTE Energy program that provided incentives to customers to install solar energy systems on their homes and businesses has reached its goal for alternative energy generation and is no longer taking new applications.

"The SolarCurrents program demonstrated that financial incentives can spur significant growth and interest in an emerging renewable technology," says Trevor Lauer, DTE Energy vice president of Marketing & Renewables. "We are proud of the role this program has played in helping Michigan's solar industry transition to become a viable and growing industry within our state."

Through two programs, one a pilot for customer-owned solar installations, the other for utility-owned installations, DTE has met goals of promoting photovoltaic solar power in order to generate a total of 20 megawatts of renewable energy -- five from residential installations and 15 from the others. DTE handed out $25 million in incentives for nearly 500 installations in metro Detroit and will continue to offer some incentives only for large utility-owned installations on large customers' rooftops and land.

SolarCurrents was created in 2009 to help DTE meet the state's renewable energy goals. The company's plan is to add about 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy, or about 10 percent of all its power -- by 2015. Wind turbines will generate most of that.

DTE says its utility-owned program will represent one of the largest distributed solar energy programs in the country and lead to major opportunities for the emerging solar power industry in Michigan. DTE plans to invest $112 million in the program.

DTE Energy spokesman Scott Simons says DTE will file an amended renewable energy plan next month with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The amended plan will detail any proposed changes from the original SolarCurrents plan, which was approved by the MPSC two years ago.

"Until then, we will be reviewing our entire renewable energy program, including SolarCurrents," Simons says.

Customers can still install solar energy systems and work with DTE to connect them to their electric system, but the incentives are no longer available.

Source: Scott Simons, spokesman, DTE Energy
Writer: Kim North Shine


Raleigh Studios brings its moviemaking to Pontiac despite threats to film tax credits

The debate over Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to cap film tax credits goes on, but a movie studio has opened in Pontiac nonetheless.

This week Raleigh Studios Michigan, the newest division of Raleigh Studios Worldwide, officially opened on the site of the former General Motors truck plant and office complex at Centerpoint.

The new location joins studios, production facilities, and other film-making locations in Hollywood, Manhattan Beach, Calif., Playa Vista, Calif., Baton Rouge, Atlanta, and Budapest.

Raleigh Studios Michigan has nine sound stages totaling over 175,000 square feet, the latest in filming equipment and technology, and 360,000 square feet of office space on three floors, some already leased to production companies, production service firms and other vendors. There is also a set lighting department, on-lot cafe and "premier dressing rooms," according to a news release from Raleigh, which says it is the longest continually operating movie studio in the country.

The Michigan studio is owned by one of Michigan's most prolific developers and businessmen, A. Alfred Taubman, along with Linden Nelson and John Rakolta Jr.

Supporters of Michigan's fledgling movie industry oppose Gov. Snyder's $25-million cap on film tax credits and are lobbying for a $180-million annual spending limit.

Raleigh promotes the film incentives on its website, walking producers through the application process and also lists more than 20 films, TV shows and other productions currently happening in Michigan.

Source: Raleigh Studios
Writer: Kim North Shine

Northville firm cited in nat'l award for innovative job creation

Michigan was one of three states to receive the top award from a national economic development organization that tracks innovation by state agencies in attracting business, and part of the credit goes to Northville-based TSC Michigan for being a major investor and job creator.

The Gold Shovel Award was given to the state of Michigan by Area Development, which ranked TSC, maker of lithium-ion battery electrolytes, as one of the state's top 10 investors. The company invested $31.1 million in 2101 and created 279 jobs.

Two other Gold Shovels went to Indiana and South Carolina while states such as Texas, North Carolina, and Georgia (like Michigan, home to more than nine million residents), won Silver Shovels.

Michael Shore, spokesman for the Michigan Economic Development Corp. calls the Gold Shovel Award "a significant achievement. We beat ten Sunbelt states to win this award."

He says there is "great value" in the award considering that Michigan competes daily against other states, provinces and even nations.

According to Area Development, the award recognizes state economic development agencies "that drive significant job creation through innovative policies, infrastructure improvements, processes and promotions that attract new employers as well as investments in expanded facilities. The Gold Shovels are presented annually to the states that have achieved the most success in terms of new job creation and economic impact."

Shore says the award shows Michigan is writing a new economic story.

"Michigan, despite more than a decade of severe economic stresses, remains one of our nation's real centers of manufacturing, engineering, and R&D excellence. We've won significant new investments in recent years, good enough to earn Silver Shovels four times since 2006, a recognition that we are a serious competitor on the national scene despite our difficulties," he says.

"This helps to change the narrative about Michigan. Whether we're talking with in-state, out-of-state or overseas-based businesses, the Gold Shovel award presents a truer picture of all that Michigan can offer: a competitive business climate,  a talented workforce, a strong work ethic, world-class educational institutions, and a quality of life that very few can even dream of matching."

Source: Michael Shore, spokesman Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and Area Development
Writer: Kim North Shine

Vintage Pontiac neighborhood vital to Oakland County's urban core

With stately, tree-filled streets, its homes built in the Arts & Crafts era, Tudors and Cape Cods, Pontiac's South Boulevard area is a trip back in time, a tour through the years from the days the first homes were built in the early 1900s until the last ones went up in the 1950s and early 1960s.

The neighborhood at South Boulevard and Franklin Street is one of many vintage neighborhoods in the city and across the county, all of them the focus of the Oak Street Home and Neighborhood Fair this Saturday. It's the third year of the fair, which brings together home professionals and various home improvement and preservation organizations together with the owners of homes built in 1960 and before. There also will be advice and information on access to landscapers and financial assistance for home improvements.

The Oak Street fair runs from 4-7 p.m. in the area of South and Franklin near Woodward. The fair is free and will offer kids activities.

"Our urban neighborhoods are an extremely important component of Oakland County's quality of life," County Executive L. Brooks Patterson says. "The fair raises awareness of these neighborhoods and brings resources directly to homeowners."

The Franklin South Boulevard neighborhood specifically will be the site of home renovations and improvements being completed Saturday by Rebuilding Together Oakland County, the local branch of a national nonprofit that takes volunteers into older neighborhoods to complete preservation projects and improvements.

"When we come away at the end of the day, there's going to be six to 10 homes that have been given revisions, painting, shrubbery," says Ronald Campbell, principal planner and preservation architect for Oakland County Planning and Economic Development.

The boulevard will also be changed when the day ends. ITC Holdings Corp. of Novi, an electricity transmission company, has donated nine red oak trees and will plant them in the median on South Boulevard.

"There's tremendous investment in these neighborhoods both in terms of infrastructure and in private investment," Campbell says. We want them to understand the opportunities to protect that investment."

Source: Ronald Campbell, principal planner and preservation architect for Oakland County Planning and Economic Development
Writer: Kim North Shine

New Sterling Heights office welcomes Chaldean immigrants

Metro Detroit, already said to be home to the largest Chaldean community outside the Middle East, will be the destination for thousands of Chaldean refugees in coming months.

Between 10,000 and 12,000 Chaldeans from Iraq, many of them Catholics fleeing persecution of their Christian faith, are expected to resettle in the Detroit area in 2011 and 2012, and one of their first stops could be a new immigrant assistance office in Sterling Heights.

The office is operated by the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and the Chaldean Community Foundation. The Sterling Heights location become the second such office. The other is in Southfield.

Martin Manna, executive director of the organizations that run the offices, says the goal is to offer help, be it transportation, housing, English language lessons, and job help so that the new residents can become self-sufficient after their eight months of federal assistance ends.

Manna says one aspect of assistance will be helping Chaldeans, who are the indigenous people of their part of the world, where they traditionally excel. "They are historically merchants and entrepreneurs," he says.

And a survey of local Chaldeans by Walsh College and the United Way found that 2/3 of Chaldean households own one business and and 39 percent own two or more.

He says the residents, many of whom will stay in Macomb County, will add to metro Detroit's growing number of Chaldean Catholic churches and organizations.

The new office has filled a vacant storefront at 15 and Ryan and resulted in the hiring of three employees, and more will soon be added to keep up with the arrival. There are also plans to expand the office, Manna says.

"Part of the goal of the grant is to grow a campus," Manna says.

Source: Martin Manna, executive director, Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce and Chaldean Community Foundation.
Writer: Kim North Shine

Field of dreams coming to life in Plymouth

Where now there's nothing but a field behind Central Middle School in Plymouth by August there will be a baseball field, concession stands, bathrooms -- all of it creating a special place for special needs kids who want to play sports but don't have a place to do it.

The Miracle League of Plymouth is building the $1.1-million park and broke ground on it last week. Hundreds of small donations and major contributions, including a $250,000 grant from the state, are making the Miracle League park happen. The Rotary Club of Plymouth sponsors the Miracle League.

Deb Madonna, co-chair of the Plymouth Miracle League, says a park like this complements and adds to the local fairs, markets, shows, and special events that bring people out into the community.
 
Most importantly it lets the families of special needs children "hear the answer yes for once," when they ask to let their children join in, says Madonna, who co-chairs with Bob Bilkie, whose family's Bilkie Family Foundation recently gave $150,000 for the naming rights of the park: Bilkie Family Park.

Plymouth's Miracle League field will be one of several in Michigan, including one in Southfield, which draws visitors from the region and beyond, and one in Mid-Michigan that is expected to open in June.

The project means a 20-year lease of the land to the league by the school district and at least half a million dollars to build the field and grounds.

"It's perfect use for this land, and the impact on the community is huge, especially in these economic times," Madonna says. "This is a private-public partnership to say, 'Hey come to Plymouth,' like you say, 'Come to Michigan, it's huge'"

"And then there's the whole other level of what it does for these families who many times are traipsing who know where to find some kind of therapeutic outlet for their child. We want those parents to know we did this for their children. This was first and foremost in our mind. There was no other purpose for this project except to have kids out there playing baseball."

Source: Debra Madonna, co-chair Plymouth Miracle League
Writer: Kim North Shine


Lake St. Clair water trail to beckon kayakers, paddlers

By August, a water trail along Lake St. Clair should be ready to welcome kayakers and water paddlers and potentially bring a wave of prosperity to Macomb County communities located along the path.

The trail, funded by a $10,000 grant from the Michigan Sea Grant to the Lake St. Clair Tourism Development Program, will connect to a statewide system of water trails in Wayne and St. Clair counties and be suited to all levels of open water kayaking and paddle sports.

"There's phenomenal fishing in Lake St. Clair and kayak fishing is becoming more popular. And as that sport grows there's tremendous opportunity to take advantage of this," says Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant extension educator for Southeast Michigan.

Along the trail are outlets to lakefront communities. Harrison Township, St. Clair Shores, Chesterfield, and New Baltimore formed the tourism development group and shared the cost of a planner from the Michigan State University Extension center.

"Just like the lake, the coastline is a built-in economic development tool, and we should be doing all we can to take advantage of the opportunities it presents," Macomb County Commissioner James Carabelli says. Carabelli is also co-chair of the county's Economic Development Committee.

The water trail for the first time will link lake outlets to points of interest in Macomb County, Bohling says.

The end product of the project is a map that will detail points of interests, from marshes for paddling and swimming beaches to lighthouses, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House, and nature centers.

The maps will be distributed at libraries, city halls, parks, and local businesses such as marinas, Bohling says. Residents, paddlers and marina operators are part of focus groups to meet in May, prior to a public comment session that will help guide the best design of the trail.

Bohling says community involvement will help determine what sorts of activities would be wanted and how the information will be spread.

Macomb County Commissioner David Flynn, chair of the Economic Development Committee calls the water trail a creative example of how to use natural assets for economic development.

Source: Macomb County Board of Commissioners and Mary Bohling, Michigan Sea Grant extension educator for Southeast Michigan
Writer: Kim North Shine

Northville lithium battery maker helps Michigan best 37 states

http://www.michiganadvantage.org/

http://www.tscmi.com/

http://www.areadevelopment.com/

Source:
Writer: Kim North Shine

Propane-powered vehicles deliver for Wright & Fillippis

Goods delivered by Rochester-Hills-based healthcare supplies provider Wright & Fillippis are getting to their destinations on propane power as the company converts 25 percent of its fleet to this clean form of fuel.

That means 12 of Wright & Fillippis' trucks and vans will run on propane as they deliver goods in Michigan. About half the vehicles have already been converted and are on the road and a propane station is up and operating at the company's headquarters.

"They're hoping to convert the entire fleet eventually," says Matt Sandstrom, mobility division manager for the Clean Energy Coalition, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit that steers companies through the process of converting to alternative fuels, whether for transportation or building.

The Wright & Fillippis fleet conversion came out of a partnership with the coalition through a $15 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

Wright & Fillippis and the Clean Energy Coalition worked with Roush CleanTech, a Plymouth Township company that designs and manufactures liquid propane autogas fuel systems for a variety of light and medium Ford vehicles. The technology, which reduces vehicle operating costs and vehicle emissions, is available to consumers through authorized Ford dealerships.

The Wright & Fillippis project is one of several clean-fuel conversions being directed by the coalition through a $40 million agreement with the Department of Energy, says Sandstrom.

Of all the clean fuel projects, about a third are propane, he says. The others are compressed natural gas, electric, and hydraulic hybrid, he says. The type of fuel used depends on the type of fleet and uses of the vehicles, and the coalition guides companies through the learning process to select what's best for them.

Companies working with the Clean Energy Coalition include Frito-Lay, which is converting 90 of its vehicles, about half of its Michigan fleet, to propane, and U-haul, which is converting 30 vehicles.

"It should be very clear that this is not R&D. This is a deployment of these technologies… They've already been true and tried," Sandstrom says.

For Wright & Fillippis, propane autogas will result in the use of 48,000 fewer gallons of gasoline, the elimination of 931,200 pounds of carbon dioxide released, and a savings of $3,000 per converted vehicle, or $36,000 total thus far.

Source: Matt Sandstrom, mobility division manager, Clean Energy Coalition
Writer: Kim North Shine
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