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Chrysler reopens plant, brings $114 investment and 268 jobs to Trenton

A $114 million investment by Chrysler Corp. will bring a closed engine plant in Trenton back to life.

The plan to retool the North Engine Plant at the Trenton Engine Complex will also create 268 jobs. The plant was closed in May and in the past has employed more than 500 workers. Chrysler's investment will be used to retool nearly 400,000 square feet, or about 1/5th, of the Trenton North Engine Plant, Chrysler spokesperson, Jodi Tinson, says.

The decision to reopen the Trenton North Plant was made after the Trenton City Council approved a 50-percent tax abatement on the property and improvements for 12 years.

In its new form, the workers at the plant will produce the components that go into the Pentastar engine, which is manufactured at the Trenton South Plant at the complex, Tinson says. The Pentastar engine was recognized as one of the Ten Best for 2010 by Ward's Automotive.

Tinson says the first phase of the project will be completed by the end of the year. The full project won't be complete until 2013.

Source: Jodi Tinson, Chrysler Corp. spokesperson
Writer: Kim North Shine

Charter air service makes $5.8M investment in the Aerotropolis

A charter jet company is expanding at the Detroit Aerotropolis.

Kalitta Charters' $5.8 million investment will pay to move part of its operation from Willow Run to a new facility in Ypsilanti Township and also for an expansion of two of its buildings at Willow Run Airport. About 80 jobs will be created, most of them in Ypsilanti Township, Wayne County spokesperson Brooke Blackwell says.

Kalitta, which also has an operation in Tennessee, considered moving either there or to California but was enticed to expand in Michigan with incentives offered by Wayne's County's Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE. EDGE cut some of the improvement costs to Kalitta, a company founded in 2002. At that time, Kalitta had 81 employees. Currently it employs 210 people and provides corporate charters, air ambulance, cargo transportation and other air services.

EDGE is part of a plan to create a Detroit Region Aerotropolis for transportation related businesses to locate near each other in the Aerotropolis boundaries that stretch across Wayne and Washtenaw counties and include Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports.

"We're excited both by Kalitta's decision to stay and by the fact that this investment signifies the future growth in the Aerotropolis," Turkia Awada-Mulllin, EDGE's chief development officer, says in a statement.

Source: Brooke Blackwell, Wayne County spokesperson
Writer: Kim North Shine


LTU's stormwater management trail creates valuable flow of info

A stormwater management education trail is coming to Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, and whether you get the point of a project like that or not, you should know that what will be taught there affects us all.

Anyone, not just Lawrence Tech students, can walk the trail, which in large part is funded by a $57,000 donation from the Erb Family Foundation of Birmingham. It will be open to anyone wanting to understand how managing the water that runs off of our homes, businesses, schools and so on is crucial to keeping streams, rivers, lakes - and plants, animals and people - healthy, says Donald Carpenter, an associate professor at Lawrence Tech and founder and director of the Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute at the school.

The education comes through signs posted at seven or eight stops along the trail and through booklets with more detailed information about ways to manage water use and storm drainage so that it is less damaging to the environment. The signs will describe various run-off prevention and water preservation features on Lawrence Tech's campus, most of which are within 100 yards of each other and easy to link on a trail system. There are green roofs, porous pavement, rain barrels, native plants and other methods. They're all things that most anyone can add to their home. Carpenter hopes that the trail, along with other efforts at the school, will help educate builders, architects, local zoning officials and others that these features can be a regular part of any construction.

"Water that's running straight off parking lots and roads is highly polluted," Carpenter says. "There are ways to slow down the flow of that water so that it's less polluted by the time it gets to the streams, rivers and lakes."

In addition to an in-person tour of the trail, there will be virtual education tours online and pdf files matching the information provided in the trail guide booklets. Both projects will be advertised to the general public, schools, organizations that may want to tour, Carpenter says.

"In general I think there is a disconnnect for a lot of the public in understanding how water management works, the tie between water management, and protecting our water," says Carpenter, who finds in his school education visits that elementary and middle school-aged children have a better grasp of the topic than high schoolers and their parents. "Some people still don't understand when they fertilize their lawns, don't pick up after dogs, use too many pesticides…that they're having an impact on our water."

Carpenter hopes the trail will be ready in time for a green infrastructure conference being hosted by Lawrence Tech Sept. 23. If it's not ready by then or at the latest October, it will debut in the spring, he says.

The mission of the Erb Family Foundation, founded by Fred and Barbara Erb, is to nurture environmentally healthy and culturally vibrant communities in metro Detroit by supporting projects aimed at restoring the Great Lakes Basin.

Source: Donald Carpenter, associate professor, Lawrence Technological University, and founder and director, Great Lakes Stormwater Management Institute
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester offers more places to charge your car

It is the wave of the future and Rochester is starting to catch a ride. Two electric car charging stations will be hooked up within eight weeks in the city. One plug-in will be installed downtown, says Kristi Trevarrow, executive director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority. The other is likely to go in near near Rochester City Hall. A final decision on locations and pricing to users is expected this week.

DTE Energy is providing $25,000 via a U.S. Department of Energy program for the equipment. It's part of an effort to promote alternative energy.

The need for car charging stations is there as two electric car charging stations at the Royal Park Hotel are in high demand, Trevarrow says.

"People come in and say, 'I'll plug in at the Park,' " she says. "I think there would definitely be demand."

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, executive director, Downtown Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine


Garden City turning to outdoor sculpture, streetscape, to enhance downtown

With two major commuter roadways running by it, it's easy to pass through Garden City without even noticing.

City planners are working on turning heads (safely, of course) and bringing in more foot traffic to the city's downtown near Ford and Middlebelt roads.

A multi-faceted project will bring outdoor sculptures to the downtown district, saysinterim DDA director Stacey Tobar. .At its main intersection, the city will add landscaping along with decorative circular planters and an LED-lit "Welcome to Downtown Garden City" sign.. It all will replace an underused gazebo that's been there for years and was demolished last summer, she says.

The $125,000 project comes from funds captured by the Garden City Downtown Development Authority for the use of promoting the downtown and building the commercial tax base.

Ten new sculptures will be displayed throughout the downtown district. Assistance is also coming from the Sauvé Foundation and Brighton artist John Sauvé, who finds artists to make the sculptures. The theme is a surprise, though the city will consult on where the sculptures will go.

Others changes are being made to make the downtown more walkable. A celebration is planned for July 14 during Night of Artists and Stars. From 6 p.m. - 11 p.m. there will be a sculpture crawl, a display of Garden City students artwork, promotions at businesses and the introduction to the apples, which will be auctioned in the fall. In addition, musicians will perform and a Movie at the Moose will end the evening with the showing of a movie on the massive white wall of a business on Ford Road.

"Garden City has struggled in terms of finances. We had a millage that failed," Tobar says. "Some people may wonder why we are doing this. We want to give our community a fresh look, bring people in, attract sponsors, entice new development."

Source: Stacey Tobar, interim DDA director, Garden City
Writer: Kim North Shine

Rochester DDA microloan program puts money where retail is

Retailers are being enticed to downtown Rochester with the offer of loans with no payback for two years and business start-up assistance from Oakland University.

The micro loan program was announced last week and loans may be made starting in the fall, says Kristi Trevarrow, director of the Rochester Downtown Development Authority.

"Basically the idea is the DDA is putting in $100,000 and we're looking for private investors to fund an additional $400,000," Trevarrow says.

The fund will offer two-year loans of up to $50,000 with payback coming at the end of two years and a 12-percent interest rate, which is how private investors will see a return on their put-in.

"What it does is it gives time to get your business going," she says.

It also gives the retailers access to Oakland University INCubator's "kitchen cabinet," she says. The incubator provides answers, guidance, connections, "areas where we identify issues where they need assistance before the end of the two-year period."

The requirement for the loan is to be a retail business operating in Rochester's DDA district, which is bordered on the north by Woodward Avenue, the west by Helen Street, the east by Elizabeth, and the south by Diversion.

Trevarrow says she and others behind the micro loan program have not located any other cities doing something similar.

"We're kind of the guinea pigs to see how something like this will work," she says.

Source: Kristi Trevarrow, director, Rochester DDA
Writer: Kim North Shine


British armor company starts operations in Sterling Heights

A British company that produces defense armor for vehicles and troops has moved into new offices in a part of Sterling Heights dubbed the Defense Corridor.

On June 1, NP Aerospace Inc.. joined personnel from TACOM and Automation Alley at the Defense Corridor Center for Collaboration and Synergy, or DC3S. NP Aerospace announced in October that it was establishing a U.S. operation in Sterling Heights. It also has offices in Kingston, Ontario.

The Sterling Heights facility features a media center with amphitheater style seating for 46, a large display area and multipurpose rooms and close access to counterparts in the defense industry.

NP Aerospace was founded in 1926 and is based in Coventry, England. It is seen as a leader and innovator in defense systems, especially lightweight armor delivered in a speedy fashion to military sites around the world.

"The reason we established NP Aerospace Inc. in the states in October was to allow us to share technologies to build advanced composite armor systems in the U.S.," Donald Bray, business director for NP Aerospace Inc., says in a statement. "Our materials are stronger and lighter than other armor systems and have been battle tested in Iraq and Afghanistan with the British Army. We have brought this state-of-the-art technology to the U.S. to help create and build the next generation of lightweight advanced armor systems for tactical vehicles and personnel.
This new location in Sterling Heights will enhance our activities in Michigan's Defense Corridor."

Source: Automation Alley and Don Bray, business director NP Aerospace
Writer: Kim North Shine



New wellness and activity center coming to Grosse Pointe

Beaumont Hospital and the Neighborhood Club in Grosse Pointe are entering the home stretch of a project to build a Community, Recreation and Wellness Center, just off the Village business district in the city's downtown.

Ground will be broken on the two-story building June 23. Demolition is expected in July with construction to begin by the end of summer. The plan is to open by January 2013, says Joan Phillips, vice president and chief nurse executive for integrated health services at Beaumont Hospitals.

The project has been in the planning stages since 2008.

"There's a lot of excitement about this," Phillips says.

The center will include a five-lane, warm water lap pool, a children's pool, and a fitness center, which will be integrated with adult physical therapy. There will also be sports medicine programming and athletic enhancement training as well as body mechanics for hobbies such as gardening.

Beaumont will offer adult physical therapy and a pediatric therapy center at the facility. Physical, occupational, speech and other forms of therapy will be provided. One special feature is the Center for Human Development, which provides services to children from birth to adulthood.

"It's really nice because in the past our services have all been separate," she adds. All services will be combined in a pediatric friendly environment. The Neighborhood Club will continue to run its preschool at the facility.

"It will be a chance for the children at the Center for Human Development to interact with children of normal development," she says.

All features of the center are specific to the missions of Beaumont and the Neighborhood Club, which as been the center of recreational youth sports for youth, an activity center for adults, and a source of education and enrichment in numerous topics for 100 years.

The center could be a boon to a downtown that lost one of its largest anchor tenants when Borders closed earlier this year and one of its oldest establishments, Cavanaugh's, a stationery and gift shop, closed last month. The Village, however, is seeing new life in a pizza restaurant that focuses on healthful selections and expanded outdoor seating at two of its restaurants.

Source: Joan Phillips, vice president and chief nurse executive for integrated health services at Beaumont Hospitals
Writer: Kim North Shine


Lawrence Tech to get $55 million expansion

A $55 million academic complex is coming to Lawrence Technological University thanks to a major contribution from one of its former students, noted philanthropist A. Alfred Taubman.

The donation will pay for the construction of a building and expansion and physical connection of a complex where engineering, architecture and life sciences are taught, creating the Taubman Complex. The combined structure would also provide additional space for the College of Architecture and Design and growing biomedical programs within the College of Arts and Sciences.

Taubman, who studied architecture at the Southfield-based university in the 1940s, sees the gift as a way to thank the school that helped him become successful and also as a door opener for future students and graduates.

"Lawrence Tech made a big difference in my life, as it has for generations of young people working to build successful careers and fulfilling lives. I am immensely proud of my Lawrence Tech affiliation, and am delighted to provide support for the exciting new Engineering, Architecture and Life Sciences Complex," Taubman says in a statement announcing the gift, one of many to the his alma mater.

"With Mr. Taubman's generous support, we will be able to move forward with expanding and enhancing Lawrence Tech's academic programs in engineering, architecture and life sciences," Lawrence Tech President Lewis Walker says in an announcement. "This new building will greatly improve our facilities and open up new opportunities for faculty and students."

The gift was given in two parts: $1 million for the planning and development of the building construction and $10 million that comes with a challenge grant to be matched by $20 million in new contributions in three years. Construction of the building should be complete within 24 months.

Source: Eric Pope, spokesman, Lawrence Technological University
Writer: Kim North Shine


 

Woodward Avenue as linear city

The concept of making Woodward Avenue in south Oakland County a thoroughfare traveled by multiple forms of transportation that move through one unified, "linear" community is taking shape with the award of a $15,000 grant.

The Urban Land Institute's Community Action Grant will fund the latest phase in the Transform Woodward: Woodward Avenue Linear City concept, which aims to identify ways land use can be changed to support transit-oriented development.

The Woodward Avenue Action Association, or WA3, an economic and community development organization with the mission of improving the visual, economic, functional and historic character of the 27-mile All-American Road and national scenic byway, is the driving force behind a five-city consortium working to change the the way the corridor is used and traveled.

Berkley, Birmingham, Ferndale, Huntington Woods and Royal Oak are part of the task force using the grant money to identify the changes that might move the corridor away from its dominance by the almighty automobile.  SMART, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, the Michigan Suburbs Alliance, Beaumont Hospital, and the Detroit Zoo are also on the task force.

"These are five separate communities but collectively we're all one community when it comes to Woodward," says Heather Carmona, executive director of WA3.

The cities got together in October 2010 to evaluate how south Oakland County figured into plans to bring mass transit to metro Detroit. One project, light rail on Woodward through Detroit, will end at 8 Mile, leaving south Oakland County out.

"We came together due to a lack of consensus on a public transit plan," says Carmona. "We needed to start thinking about what that next link will be."

"But what's happening now is less about transit and more about land use."

The grant from the Urban Land Institute will pay to research land use strategies, conduct policy and education and support promotional activities to roll out plans. The information will assist task force cities to identity land use and zoning and master plan changes needed to support transit-oriented development.

"It's really a progressive group of folks that's thinking big picture," Carmona says. "These are elected officials that have the ability to change affect policy and make decisions."

Carmona says the goal is to have "working drawings and visionary plans" completed by year's end.

"This is a great shot in the arm to get the group moving," Carmona says.

Source: Heather Carmona, executive director, Woodward Avenue Action Association
Writer: Kim North Shine


Regional children's museum planned for downtown Mount Clemens

Ann Arbor has one. So does Flint, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids, and more cities in between. Children's Hands-On Museums.

Organizers behind what could be metro Detroit's next children's museum, this time in Macomb County, are traveling the state, learning how they work, what makes each one special and what they mean to the community as a whole.

They are also holding public meetings, seeking funding and embarking on a feasibility study that will take the project from planning and vision to reality. The project has the backing of local education officials, the Mount Clemens DDA, the Macomb County Chamber of Commerce, and others.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2014. The organizing committee for the regional children's hands-on museum has hired Informal Learning Experiences Inc. of Washington, D.C. to complete the study, which will be the blueprint for the museum.

"We've been working on it awhile," says Monika Rittner, an organizer, who visited the Flint museum earlier this week. "It's really past the idea stage. We've got a lot of the foundation work put together and getting the right people in place. The best part is as more people hear about it they are very excited."
 
When the organizers first met the impetus was to broaden Macomb County's cultural offerings and to provide local children with enriching places to visit close-by. As talk turned to planning it became clear that interest was spread across the region and the potential for economic runoff was high.

"The first priority was to provide resources for Macomb County children, but there are other by-products that come with it," Rittner says. "First, there's increasing travel and tourism. When you're in town to visit a museum you usually walk down the street, look through the shops and have dinner."

"It will help some of the businesses around the museum itself as far as foot traffic. I think in particular it's going to help with the image of Macomb County itself. Enough like this hasn't been done and there's no excuse for it. We're lacking on cultural activities in our community. We're trying to improve that," says Rittner, who is working to figure out a theme and character for the Mount Clemens museum and how it will connect to its Macomb County surroundings.

The actual location of the museum is still to be decided. An informational meeting for donors will be held at noon on June 14,
2011 at the Anton Art Center.

"Every museum is different and their focuses are different -- their idea of how children should be interacting with their environment and how they're going to get the most out of it," Rittner says. "What's been great is how everyone I've called and met with really want to help us. They don't see us as competition. They see having another good museum as being good for everyone."

Source: Monika Rittner, organizer, Macomb Hands-On Children's Museum
Writer: Kim North Shine


Nightlife builds in downtown Plymouth

Downtown Plymouth, known for its history, its ice festival, and boutique shopping, is making a name for itself as a designation for nighttime fun.

Tony Bruscato, director of the Plymouth Downtown Development Authority, says the city has hit the sweet mix of daytime vibrancy with boutiques, shops, restaurants, and soon-to-expand office space with nighttime action that's attracting 20-somethings on up.

The Detroit section of about.com listed Plymouth in its top 10 up and coming neighborhoods for nightlife destinations. Bruscato says it's here and now.

There's live music and a lengthy drink list at 336 Martini Bar, a DJ every Friday at Hermann's Olde Town Grille, the Penn Bar and Grill, Sean O'Callaghan's Pub, the Grape Expectations Wine Bar and more.

The city nighttime vibe gets to pumping even more when the Music in the Air concert series starts in Kellogg Park this weekend.

The concerts attract 3,000-4,000 people, Bruscato says.

"I think Plymouth is a good market. It's a good place to be right now," he says. "I think if you were looking for the cool downtowns Plymouth would certainly be one of those.  We've really turned into a town for nightlife. A younger clientele is coming in. Larger business offices are moving in. Young families are moving in…We've been very lucky."

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

DTE Energy's community gardens expand

DTE Energy's community gardens are growing by four acres and possibly hundreds of new volunteers this year.

Farming season for the 10 DTE Energy Gardens kicked off in Southfield earlier this week, starting a multi-faceted project that provides food to Gleaners Community Food Bank. The gardens also offer volunteers the opportunity to get involved in their communities, to get more exercise and to learn about gardening. The gardens also serve as aesthetic buffers around DTE facilities.

Last year, the 10 gardens produced 44,000 pounds of food for Gleaners and its food banks. With extra land and more volunteers - as many as 1,000 total - the amount of food grown is expected to increase this year, DTE Spokesman Scott Simons says.

DTE Energy and Gleaners started the program at two electric substations in 2008 and have since expanded to company properties in Allen Park, Birmingham, Farmington Hills, Frenchtown Township, Plymouth Township, Pontiac, Southfield, Lyon Township, Washington Township and Westland.

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

Lighthouse Moldings in midst of major expansion

Business is going so well for Lighthouse Molding, Inc. that it's moved from a mere 1,300 square feet of space in Sterling Heights into a 16,000-square-foot facility in the same city.

The 5-year-old advanced manufacturing company makes environmentally-friendly packaging for electronic assemblies. Their packaging, commonly known in the business as low pressure molding, provides a barrier for electronic assemblies from water, dirt, dust, vibrations, and other enemies of electronic machinery.

With two big contracts coming up later this year, one with automotive, the other a consumer product, the company needed more space and will hire 15-18 employees to do the work, says Lighthouse Molding President Scott Lowes. The company currently has six employees.

"We need this big facility to handle the growth," says Lowes.

He has a background in traditional moldings, but became hooked on Lighthouse's innovative process when he saw its potential to benefit customers.

He says when new equipment is done and other changes made by year's end, the company will have invested at least $100,000.

Source: Scott Lowes, president, Lighthouse Moldings
Writer: Kim North Shine

Art is in the air in Dearborn

Dearborn is showing lots of love for the arts as community development groups carry out plans to shape the city's identity around creativity and culture.

There is the addition of three new outdoor sculptures to join the eight already on display as part of the Midwest Sculpture Initiative in the east, west, and center parts of the city. After rounding up interest and determining there is a market in Dearborn, the national nonprofit, Artspace, is working with the city, development officials, and arts groups to build a live and work space for artists.

The project, now entering the third phase, could be at least two years away from completion. The next step is to find an ideal piece of property. If the goals are accomplished, it would be a magnet for other commercial and residential development.

Pockets of Perception is bringing student art into the public eye, letting them express not only their creativity but learn the nuts of bolts of working with local government and business. A Youth Arts Festival was held earlier this month. DearbornSoup came to the city in March, putting out the artists welcome sign by sponsoring soup nights where the money paid for soup goes toward sponsoring entrepreneurs in the arts.

The city is also giving a shout-out to the musical arts with the West Dearborn Downtown Development Authority's Friday Nites in the Park, opening June 17, at Muirhead Plaza each week. Jazz on the Ave, the Wednesday night concerts sponsored by the East Dearborn DDA, come to Dearborn City Hall Park, starting July 13.

"We've got so much going on," says Melissa Kania of the East Dearborn DDA. "We've just got to get people here and keep them here."

Source: Melissa Kania, spokesperson, East Dearborn Development Authority
Writer: Kim North Shine
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