The Courage of Detroit

By Mitch Albom

This was Christmas night. In the basement of a church off an icy street in downtown Detroit, four dozen homeless men and women sat at tables.

The smell of cooked ham wafted from the kitchen. The pastor, Henry Covington, a man the size of two middle linebackers, exhorted the people with a familiar chant.

"I am somebody," he yelled.
"I am somebody!" they repeated.
"Because God loves me!"
"Because God loves me!"

They clapped. They nodded.

A toddler slept on a woman's shoulder. Another woman, holding a boy who looked to be about four, said she was lucky to have found this place open because "I been to three shelters, and they turned me away. They were all filled."

As she spoke, a few blocks to the south, cars pulled up to the Motor City Casino, one of three downtown gambling palaces whose neon flashes in stark contrast to the area's otherwise empty darkness. Sometimes, on a winter night, all that seems to be open around here is the casino, a liquor store and the pastor's kitchen, in the basement of this church. It used to be a famous church, home to the largest Presbyterian congregation in the upper Midwest. That was a long time ago -- before a stained-glass window was stolen and the roof developed a huge hole. Now, on Sundays, the mostly African-American churchgoers of the I Am My Brother's Keeper Ministries huddle in a small section of the sanctuary that is enclosed in plastic sheeting, because they can't afford to heat the rest.

As food was served to the line of homeless people, I watched from a rickety balcony above. My line of work is writing, partly sportswriting, but I come here now and then to help out a little. This church needs help. It leaks everywhere. Melted snow drips into the vestibule.
"Hey," someone yelled, "who the Lions gonna draft?"
I looked down. A thin man with a scraggly black beard was looking back. He scratched his face. "A quarterback, you think?"

Probably, I answered.

"Whatchu think about a defensive end?"
That would be nice.

"Yeah." He bounced on his feet. "That'd be nice."

He waited for his plate of food. In an hour, he would yank a vinyl mattress from a pile and line it up next to dozens of others. Then the lights would dim and, as snow fell outside, he and the other men would pull up wool blankets and try to sleep on the church floor.

This is my city.

"Them Lions gotta do somethin', man," he yelled. "Can't go on the way they are."
And yet...

And yet Detroit was once a vibrant place, the fourth-largest city in the country, and it lives in the hope that those days, against all logic, will somehow return. We are downtrodden, perhaps, but the most downtrodden optimists you will ever meet. We cling to our ways, no matter how provincial they seem on the coasts. We get excited about the Auto Show. We celebrate Sweetest Day. We eat Coney dogs all year and we cruise classic cars down Woodward Avenue every August and we bake punchki donuts the week before Lent. We don't talk about whether Detroit will be fixed but when Detroit will be fixed.

And we are modest. In truth, we battle an inferiority complex. We gave the world the automobile. Now the world wants to scold us for it. We gave the world Motown music. Motown moved its offices to L.A. When I arrived 24 years ago, to be a sports columnist at the Detroit Free Press, I discovered several letters waiting for me at the office. Mind you, I had not written a word. My hiring had been announced, that's all. But there were already letters. Handwritten. And they all said, in effect, "Welcome to Detroit. We know you won't stay long, because nobody good stays for long, but we hope you like it while you're here."

Nobody good stays for long.

We hope you like it while you're here.

How could you not stay in a city like that?
And yet...

And yet to live in Detroit these days is to want to scream. But where do you begin? Our doors are being shuttered. Our walls are falling down. Our daily bread, the auto industry, is reduced to morsels. Our schools are in turmoil. Our mayor went to jail. Our two biggest newspapers announced they will soon cut home delivery to three days a week. Our most common lawn sign is FOR SALE. And our NFL team lost every week this season. A perfect 0-16. Even the homeless guys are sick of it.

We want to scream, but we don't scream, because this is not a screaming place, this is a swallow-hard-and-deal-with-it place. So workers rise in darkness and rev their engines against the winter cold and drive to the plant and punch in and spend hours doing the work that America doesn't want to do any more, the kind that makes something real and hard to the touch. Manufacturing. Remember manufacturing? They do that here. And then they punch out and drive home (three o'clock is rush hour in these parts, the end of a shift) and wash up and touch the kids under the chin and sit down for dinner and flip on the news.

And then they really want to scream.

Because what they see -- what all Detroit sees -- is a nation that appears ready to flick us away like lint. We see senators voting our death sentence. We see bankers clucking their tongues at our business model (as if we invented the credit default swap!). We see Californians knock our cars for ruining the environment (as if their endless driving has nothing to do with it). We see sports announcers call our football team "ridiculous." Heck, during the Lions' annual Thanksgiving game, CBS's Shannon Sharpe actually wore a bag over his head.

It hurts us. We may not show it, but it does. You can say, "Aw, that's the car business" or "That's the Lions," but we are the car business, we are the Lions. Our veins are right up under the city's skin -- you cut Detroit, its citizens bleed.

We want to scream, but we don't scream. Still, enough people declare you passé, a dinosaur, a dying town, out of touch with the free-market global economic machine, and pretty soon you wonder if they're right. You wonder if you should join the exodus.
And yet...

And yet I had an idea once for a sports column: Get the four biggest stars from Detroit's four major sports together in one place, for a night out. The consensus cast at the time (1990) was clear. Barry Sanders was the brightest light on the Lions. Steve Yzerman was Captain Heartthrob for the Red Wings. Joe Dumars was the most popular of the Pistons. And Cecil Fielder was the big bat for the Tigers.

All four agreed to meet at Tiger Stadium, before a game. I picked up Dumars at his house. He was alone. No entourage. Next we went for Sanders, who waited in the Silverdome parking lot, by himself, hands in pockets. When he got in, the two future Hall of Famers nodded at each other shyly. "Hey, man," Barry said.

"Hey, man," Joe answered.

At the stadium Yzerman, who drove himself, joined us, hands also dug in his pockets. As conversations go, it was like the first day of school. Awkwardness prevailed. Later -- after we chatted with Fielder -- we sat in the stands. The hot dog guy came by, and we passed them down: Lion to Red Wing to Piston. And when Yzerman put his elbow in front of Sanders, he quickly said, "Excuse me."

Somehow I can't see that being duplicated in Los Angeles. ("Kobe, pass this hot dog to Manny") or New York City ("Hey, A-Rod, Stephon wants some mustard"). But it worked in Detroit. The guys actually thanked me afterward.

Stardom is a funny thing here. You don't achieve it by talking loud or dating a supermodel. You achieve it by shyly lowering your head when they introduce you or by tossing the ball to the refs after scoring a touchdown. Humility, in Detroit, is on a par with heroism. Even Dennis Rodman didn't get really crazy until he left.
And yet...
And yet we live among ghosts. Over there, on Woodward Avenue, was Hudson's, once America's second-largest department store; it was demolished a decade ago. Over there, on Michigan and Trumbull, stood Tiger Stadium, home to Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg and Al Kaline and Kirk Gibson; it lasted nearly a century, until the wrecking ball got to it last year. Over there, on Bagley, is the United Artists Theater, which used to seat more than 2,000 people; it hasn't shown movies since the 1970s. The famous Packard plant on East Grand Boulevard -- the birthplace of the auto assembly line -- used to hum with activity, but now its halls are empty, its windows are broken, and its floors gather pools of water. On Lafayette Avenue you can still see the old Free Press building, where I was hired, where those letters once arrived in a mail slot. It used to house a newspaper. It doesn't anymore.

Any mature city has its echoes, but most are drowned out by the chirping of new enterprise. In Detroit the echoes roll on and on, filling the empty blocks because little else does. There is not a department store left downtown. Those three casinos hover like giant cranes, ready to scoop up your last desperate dollar. We have all heard the catchphrases about Detroit: A city of ruins. A Third World metropolis. A carcass. Last person to leave, turn out the lights.

For years, we took those insults as a challenge. We wore a cloak of defiance. But now that cloak feels wet and heavy. It has been cold here before, but this year seems colder. Skies have grayed before, but this year they're like charcoal. We've been unemployed before, but now the lines seem longer; we hear figures like 16% of the labor force not working, Depression numbers. I read one estimate that more than 40,000 houses in our city are now abandoned. Ghosts everywhere.
And yet...
And yet we remember when the streets were stuffed, a million people downtown at a parade, as our hockey team was given a royal reception; every car carrying a player was cheered. This was 1997, and the Red Wings, after a 42-year drought, had once again won the Stanley Cup. Players and coaches stepped to the microphone and heard their words bounce back in waves of sound and thundering applause. Yzerman. Brendan Shanahan. Scotty Bowman. A hockey team? Who does this for a hockey team? Hockey is an afterthought in most American cities. Here, we wear it as a nickname. Hockeytown. We know the rules. We know the good and the bad officials. We sneak octopuses in our pants legs and throw them onto the ice at Joe Louis Arena.

Who loves hockey like this? What other American city comes to a collective roar when the blue light flashes? And what other American city goes into collective mourning when two of its players and a team masseur are seriously injured in a limo crash? People in Detroit can still tell you where they were when they heard about that limo smashing into a tree in suburban Birmingham six days after the Cup win of '97, forever changing the lives of Vladimir Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov and Sergei Mnatsakanov. Vigils were held outside the hospital. Flowers were stacked at the crash site. The TV and radio news broke in with updates all day long. How critical? Would they skate again? Would they walk again?

Remember, these were two hockey players and a masseur, Russians to boot; none of them did much talking in English. Didn't matter. They were ours, and they were wounded. It felt as if there was no other news for weeks in Detroit. "You hear anything?" people would say. "Any updates?"

When people ask what kind of sports town Detroit is, I say the best in the nation. I say our newspapers will carry front-page stories on almost any sports tick, from Ernie Harwell's retirement to the Detroit Shock's winning the WNBA. I say sports is sometimes all we have, it relieves us, distracts us, at times even saves us. But what I really want to tell them about is that stretch in 1997, when the whole city seemed to be nervously pacing around a hospital waiting room. I can't do it justice. It's not that we watch more, or pay more, or cheer louder than other cities. But I will bet you my last dollar that, when it comes to sports, nobody cares as much as Detroit cares.
And yet...

And yet the gods toy with us. They give us the Lions. Our football team puts the less in hopeless. Its owner, William Clay Ford, has been in charge for 45 years. He's seen one playoff win. One playoff win in nearly half a century? Meanwhile, the backstory on Lions failure could fill a library. Blown games. Blown trades. Some of the most pathetic drafting in history, much of it orchestrated by Matt Millen, a former player who was hired out of the TV booth. Honestly, how many teams can use first-round draft picks on a quarterback, a receiver, a running back and two more receivers, as the Lions did from 2002 through '05, and not have a single one of them on the team just a few years later? And two of them out of the NFL altogether?

Wait. Here's a better one. In the last 45 years -- or since Ford took over -- the Lions have had 13 non-interim head coaches, and not a single one was ever a head coach in the NFL again. Not one. Rick Forzano. Tommy Hudspeth. Monte Clark. Darryl Rogers. Wayne Fontes. The list goes on. Nobody wanted them after Detroit. The Lions don't just hurt your reputation, they permanently flatten your tires.

Joey Harrington, a star college quarterback of unflagging optimism who foundered after the Lions drafted him with the No. 3 pick in 2002, once told me of a fog that seems to settle over inhabitants of the Lions locker room -- an evil, heavy cloud of historic disappointment that becomes self-perpetuating. Maybe it's the curse that Bobby Layne supposedly cast on this team after it traded him, saying it wouldn't win for 50 years.

That was 51 years ago.

No wonder Bobby Ross, who once coached San Diego to a Super Bowl, turned in his whistle and walked out of Detroit in the middle of a season. No wonder Sanders, the best running back Detroit ever had, quit the game at age 30. He actually gave money back rather than continue to play for the Lions.

Against this awful tapestry, in an economic crisis, in the darkest of days, came the 2008 season. What cruel fate could conjure such timing? After going 4--0 in the preseason (how's that for irony?), the Lions fell behind in their first regular-season game 21-0, in their second 21-3, in their third 21-3 and in their fourth 17-0 -- all before halftime. Their fifth game was the closest all year. They lost by two points. The margin of defeat? Our quarterback du jour, Dan Orlovsky, lost track of where he was and ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Stop laughing. Do you think this has been easy? Do you think it's fun watching four guys miss tackles on a single play? Do you think it's fun watching Daunte Culpepper arrive, fresh off coaching his son's Pee Wee games, and get the nod as starting quarterback? There were days when it seemed as if all you needed to be on the Lions roster was a driver's license.

Week after week, as our businesses suffocated, as our houses were foreclosed and handed over to the banks, our football team lost -- to Jacksonville by 24 points, to Carolina by 9, to Tampa Bay by 18. And then, on Thanksgiving, the Tennessee Titans came to town with a 10-1 record. In front of the only national TV audience we would have all year, our Lions fumbled on their second play from scrimmage. A few plays later, Tennessee's Chris Johnson ran six yards untouched into the end zone -- the beer vendors were closer to him than the Lions defenders -- and before you could check the turkey in the oven, the Lions were down 35-3.

At halftime Sharpe wore that bag over his head and joined his colleagues in loudly suggesting that the NFL take the annual tradition away from the Motor City. "We have kids watching this," Sharpe said. "And they have to watch the Detroit Lions. This is ridiculous. The Detroit Lions every single year. This is what we have to go through."
No, Shannon. This is what we have to go through.
And yet...
And yet it's our misery to endure. There's a little too much glee in the Detroit jokes these days. A little too much flip in the wrist that tosses dirt on our coffins. We hear a Tennessee player tell the media that the Thanksgiving win didn't mean much because "it was just Detroit." We hear Jay Leno rip our scandalous former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, by saying, "The bad news is, he could be forced out of office. The good news is, any time you get a chance to get out of Detroit, take it."
We hear Congress tongue-lash our auto executives for not matching the cheaper wages of foreign car companies. We hear South Carolina senator Jim DeMint tell NPR that "the barnacles of unionism" must be destroyed at GM, Ford and Chrysler. Barnacles? Barnacles are parasites without a conscience. Sounds more like politicians to us.

Enough, we want to say. The Lions stink. We know they stink. You don't have to tell us. Enough. The car business is in trouble. We know it's in trouble. We drive past the deserted parking lots of empty auto plants every day.

Enough. We don't need more lofty national newspaper laments on the decay of a Rust Belt city. Or the obligatory network news piece, "Can Detroit Be Saved?" For too long we have been the Place to Go to Chronicle the Ugly. Example: For years, we had a rash of fires the night before Halloween -- Devil's Night. And like clockwork, you could count on TV crews to fly in from out of town in hopes of catching Detroit burning. Whoomf. There we were in flames, on network TV.
But when we got the problem under control, when city-sponsored neighborhood programs helped douse it, you never heard about that. The TV crews just shrugged and left.

Same goes for the favorite Detroit cliché of so many pundits: the image of a burning police car in 1984, after the Tigers won the World Series. Yes, some folks went stupid that night, and an eighth-grade dropout nicknamed Bubba held up a Tigers pennant in front of that burning vehicle, and -- snap-snap -- that was the only photo anyone seemed to need.

Never mind that in the years since, many cities have done as badly or worse after championships -- Boston and Chicago come to mind -- and weren't labeled for it. Never mind that through three NBA titles, four Stanley Cups, Michigan's national championships in college basketball and football, and even another World Series, nothing of that nature has occurred again in Detroit. Never mind. You still hear people, when we play for a title, uncork the old "Let's hope they don't burn the city down when it's over."

Look, we're the first to say we've got problems. But there's something disturbing when American reporters keep deliciously recording our demise but nobody wants to do anything about it. We're not your pity party. You want to chronicle us? We've been chronicled enough. As they say when a basketball rolls away at the playground, Yo, little help?

This is why our recent beatdown in Congress was so painfully felt. To watch our Big Three execs humiliated as if they never did a right thing in their lives, to watch U.S. senators from Southern states -- where billions in tax breaks were handed out to foreign car companies -- tear apart the U.S. auto industry as undeserving of aid, well, that was the last straw.

Enough. We're not gum on the bottom of America's shoe. We're not grime to be wiped off with a towel. Detroit and Michigan are part of the backbone of this country, the manufacturing spine, the heart of the middle class -- heck, we invented the middle class, we invented the idea that a factory worker can put in 40 hours a week and actually buy a house and send a kid to college. What? You have a problem with that? You think only lawyers and hedge-fund kings deserve to live decently?

To watch these lawmakers hand out, with barely a whisper, hundreds of billions to the financial firms that helped cause this current disaster, then make the Big Three beg like dogs and slap them with nothing? Honestly. There are times out here we feel like orphans.
And yet...
And yet we go on. The Tigers were supposed to win big last season; they finished last in their division. Michigan got a new football coach with a spread offense and an eye on a national championship; the Wolverines had their first losing season since 1967.

But we will be back for the Tigers and back for Michigan and -- might as well admit it -- we will be back for the Lions come September, as red-faced as they make us, as pathetic as 0-16 is.
And maybe you ask why? Maybe you ask, as I get asked all the time, "Why do you stay there? Why don't you leave?"

Maybe because we like it here. Maybe because this is what we know: snow and concrete underfoot, hardhats, soul music, lakes, hockey sticks. Maybe because we don't see just the burned-out houses; we also see the Fox Theater, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Whitney restaurant, the riverfront that looks out to Canada. Maybe because we still have seniors who call the auto giant "Ford's", like a shop that's owned by a real human being. Maybe because some of us subscribe to Pastor Covington's words, We are somebody because God loves us, no matter how cold the night or hard the mattress.

Maybe because when our kids finish college and take that first job in some sexy faraway city and a year later we see them back home and we ask what happened, they say, "I missed my friends and family." And we nod and say we understand.

Or maybe because we're smarter than you think. Every country flogs a corner of itself on the whipping post. English Canada rips French Canada, and vice versa. Swedes make lame jokes about Laplanders.

But it's time to untie Detroit. Because we may be a few steps behind the rest of the country, but we're a few steps ahead of it too. And what's happening to us may happen to you.

Do you think if your main industry sails away to foreign countries, if the tax base of your city dries up, you won't have crumbling houses and men sleeping on church floors too? Do you think if we become a country that makes nothing, that builds nothing, that only services and outsources, that we will hold our place on the economic totem pole? Detroit may be suffering the worst from this semi-Depression, but we sure didn't invent it. And we can't stop it from spreading. We can only do what we do. Survive.

And yet we're better at that than most places.

Here is the end of the story. This was back on Christmas night. After the visit to the church, I drove to a suburb with an old friend and we saw a movie. Gran Torino. It starred and was directed by Clint Eastwood, and it was filmed in metro Detroit, which was a big deal. Last year the state passed tax incentives to lure the movie business, an effort to climb out of our one-industry stranglehold, and Eastwood was the first big name to take advantage of it.

He shot in our neighborhoods. He used a bar and a hardware store. He reportedly fit in well, he liked the people, and no one hassled him with scripts or résumés.

The film was good, I thought, and familiar. The story of a craggy old man who loves his old car and stubbornly clings to the way he feels the world should behave. He defends his home. He defends his neighbors' honor. He goes out on his own terms.

When the film finished, the audience stayed in its seats waiting, through the closing music, through the credits, until the very last scroll, where, above a camera shot of automobiles rolling down Jefferson Avenue along the banks of Lake St. Clair, three words appeared.


And the whole place clapped. Just stood up and clapped.

To hell with Depression. We're gonna have a good year.

Mitch Albom ( is a columnist for the Detroit Free Press and the author of For One More Day, among other books.

Best Advice For 2009

Michael H.Hodges
The Detroit News

It's time to take a minute to reflect on the individuals who most deserve our admiration.

Far from the limelight, any number of our neighbors are doing work that makes a real difference in people's lives.

If you know one of those remarkable individuals, we'd sure like to hear from you.

Since 1978, The Detroit News has asked readers to tell us about those Michigan residents, famous or utterly unknown, who deserve to have their good works honored by being named a Michiganian of the Year.

We're particularly interested in the unseen and the unsung -- like the Detroiter who shoveled out dozens of her elderly neighbors after a crushing blizzard, all the while singing "Amazing Grace." Or the quick-thinking gentleman who leapt into a pond at the Detroit Zoo to save a drowning baby monkey (and got bitten for his pains).

Some honorees hold down highly visible jobs -- such as U.S. Rep. John D. Dingell, General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner or the Rev. Faith Fowler, who turned her Cass Community United Methodist Church into a social-service powerhouse helping Detroit's down-and-out.

Others have uncanny powers to thrill, like soul-queen Aretha Franklin or Tiger legend Al Kaline.
Or consider Waltraud Prechter, who harnessed the grief over her husband's suicide by raising millions for research on manic depression.

Their stories lift up our spirits, inspiring our own good works.

You can nominate someone by writing a letter to Michiganians of the Year, Features Department, The Detroit News, 615 W. Lafayette Blvd., Detroit, MI 48226.

Please include the individual's name and a short explanation why this person deserves such an honor. Don't forget your name and telephone number, so we can call you if we have further questions.

You can also fax The News at (313) 222-2451, or e-mail at with "Michiganians of the Year" in the subject line.

But act fast. The deadline for applications is Jan. 31.
By Stever Parker
Huntington Post

Since every automotive enthusiast publication, website, and magazine runs some sort of "Best of" list every year, we're listing those we think are Detroit's "Most Significant" for 2008 and 2009, and some early available news on 2010 models. After reading this post, we'd really like to know where you think we're right - or wrong - and tell us what cars should be on this list, and why. They are listed in no specific order.

On-sale in mid-2009 as a 2010 model.

This "Caddy station wagon for the 21st century" will likely use a traditional gasoline powertrain, probably a version of GM's "High Feature" 3.6-liter V6 engine with a six-speed automatic transmission. A gas/electric hybrid version could be added to the SRX roster in late 2010, and the main reason we picked it for our "Most Significant" list. No new SRX pricing as yet; 2009 CTS base prices range from $33,500 to $36,000.

On-sale mid-2009 as a 2010 model.

Ford's all-new 2010 Fusion hybrid has been certified by the EPA at 41 mpg/city and 36 mpg/highway, with a combined rating of 39 miles per gallon. That beats the hybrid versions of Camry, Malibu and Altima. Based on the competition's '09 ratings for combined city and highway driving, the new Fusion hybrid beats every widely sold vehicle in America except the Toyota Prius hybrid (46 mpg combined) and the smaller Honda Civic hybrid (42 mpg combined). Pricing will start around $27,000.

On-sale now.

The G8 is almost certainly the last big family-sized rear-wheel drive sedan from the Pontiac division. Sometime soon, Pontiac will become a niche brand with just one or two models (sold at dealers selling several GM makes). G8's three engine offerings, a 256-hp 3.6-liter V6, a Corvette-derived 361-hp 6.0-liter V8, plus a new GXP package with a 402-hp 6.2-liter V8 and a 6-speed automatic are not high-mileage units. It's built in Australia by GM's Holden division. Base prices from $28K to $31,500.

On-sale now.

Like the Pontiac G8, Flex probably looked great - on paper - about four years ago, when planning for future production models really begins. Flex's one engine choice is its biggest drawback: a thirsty 262-hp 3.5-liter V6 mated to a 6-speed automatic (16mpg in-town, 22 highway). All-wheel drive is available. Flex would have been a great car - in 2002. Base prices start between $28,000 and $36,000 for 2009 models.

On-sale now.

Malibu's "single-mode" hybrid, with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder gas engine mated with an electric motor, produces 164-horses and mpg figures of 26 in-town and 34 on the highway. New for 2010 (on-sale late 2009) is rumored to be a Malibu "two-mode" hybrid. That model would use a gasoline 3.6-liter V6 + an electric motor to make 255-hp. Both hybrid systems stop the gas engine at red lights, and the two-mode allows the vehicle to run at low speeds on electric power only. Malibu hybrid prices start at $26K; 2010 pricing hasn't been announced.

On-sale now.

When Lee Iacocca was fired from Ford and went to lead Chrysler, he took with him Ford engineer Hal Sperlich, who brought with him a van project that became the first US minivan in 1983. Town & Country and Dodge Grand Caravan still dominate the minivan market, and offer a 3.3-liter V6, a 3.8-liter V6 and a 4.0-liter V6. Some models still have stone age four-speed automatics; others a modern six-speed. 2009 base-prices go from $24,230 to $36,550.

On-sale Spring, 2009

Lincoln's 2010 MKZ gets somewhat-new looks inside and outside. MKZ comes with one drivetrain choice: a 263-hp 3.5-liter V6 Duratec engine with a six-speed automatic transmission (similar to Ford's Flex wagon drivetrain). MKZ offers a choice of front- or all-wheel drive. MKZ is easy to spec out, with options kept to an enjoyable minimum. 2010 MKZ is built in Hermosillo, Mexico. 2009 models are base-priced between $32,695 and to $34,585.

On-sale first quarter 2009 as a 2010 model.

A two-door coupe will add a convertible version in late '09 (Camaro in photo is a convertible prototype). A base 3.6-liter V6 engine produces 300 horsepower. Automatic-equipped SS models get a 6.2-liter V8 making 400 horses and has Active Fuel Management cylinder deactivation (which most owners will switch "off"). SS versions with a manual transmission get a monster 422-horse 6.2-liter V8. Mileage figures and official pricing haven't been announced. Can't wait to see those mileage figures ... and, I'd wager, neither can Congress.

On-sale now.

Vibe is built on the same Fremont, California assembly line as its near-twin, Toyota's Matrix. GM shares the factory with Toyota, and New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) was the first joint venture between GM and an import carmaker. The 2009 Vibe is redesigned inside and out and has more power and other new features, including the return of all-wheel drive, a definite plus. Two engines are offered, a 1.8-liter 132-horsepower four, and a 158-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder. Mileage ranges from 20 mpg in-town to 26 highway, depending on the model. Base prices range from $16,100 to $20,875.

On-sale now.

Jazz is the quintessential American music, and Jeep's Wrangler is the quintessence of American cars. Jeep's logo ties at #1 as most-recognized product symbol worldwide along with Coca-Cola's, and Wrangler and Corvette remain America's most authentic cars. All models have a 3.8-liter V6 engine, making between 202- and 205-horsepower, depending on model. Manual or automatic transmissions are available. "There's nothing like the real thing." Base prices range from $20,460 to $31,840.

Some photos by
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With its Support Center located in Detroit, Michigan, the DetailXPerts Franchise Systems is the world's first eco-friendly vehicle steam cleaning system. Offering a full range of services to people interested in business ownership.

DetailXPerts Franchise Systems provides franchise opportunities to people looking for an educational and family environment using a proven business system.

With DetailXPerts' patent-pending process, they can clean 15 cars with just 2 gallons of water. The U.S. Government Accountability Office predicts 36 states will have water shortage problems by year 2013 and the Entrepreneur Magazine list onsite "waterless" car washes as a 2009 Trend. DetailXPerts has the answer.

For more information, call 313.924.9779 (toll-free 1.877.317.9737), or visit their website at
Royal Oak Mirror

After being picked, processed and shipped thousands of miles to a table near you, our food is just plain worn out.

Or as Ferndale resident Trevor Johnson says, "You're eating stressed-out food."

It fits with our stressed-out lives, always running to this and trying to accomplish that before the day's over.

It's enough to make us forget that eating is a privilege as well as a necessity, something that, if done correctly, can nourish our soul as well.

That's where Johnson comes in. He's looking to carry a new food revolution on his 24-year-old shoulders, educating people about the food they eat, where it comes from, why it's grown the way it is.

He wants to help people to "foster that food revolution in their front and back yards."

To that end, Johnson has started his own business called "Rent-a-Farmer," which offers clients the chance to use the expertise of real farmers to help them grow fruits and vegetables in their back yards. "This is not about going back to the farm," said Johnson, who graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in horticulture. "It's about bringing the farm back to us."

Johnson is founder of Ferndale's Good Neighbors Garden, which rents out gardening space for residents in Ferndale and bordering cities to grow their own produce.

Rent-a-Farmer would allow clients to buy a basic-level package that includes, for example, gardening tutorials and access to gardening tools. Each successive level would include increasing involvement from farmers, and the premium package would essentially send a farming expert to your back yard to oversee your home garden.

Other services may include help in building containers for raised beds and constructing a small greenhouse to extend the growing season.

"We're really open to whatever clients want," Johnson said.

Johnson's mom, Debbie, loves her son's idea and thinks the times are amenable to this sort of business.

"People want things that are green," she said. "They want to eat local. It's exciting."

Johnson thinks so, too, and he's already got some farming and gardening experts on board, as well as some potential clients lined up. He's still looking for gardeners who are willing to be part-time farming consultants. Those interested in becoming "farmers" don't have to have a degree or work in horticulture professionally, he said. "What we're looking for is experience."

And as intuitive as Johnson is in matters of the earth, he may be somewhat counter intuitive in matters of business. He's hoping he doesn't have any one client for longer than two years, by which time he hopes they learn to cultivate crops for themselves.

At some point, he said laughing, Rent-a-Farmer may go out of business completely.
"And I'm OK with that," he said, "because we'll have a world of home gardeners and farmers."

For more information on Rent-a-Farmer:
Trevor Johnson at (248) 894-4059
Royal Oak Mirror

Local school districts, community centers and environmental agencies offer a variety of garden planning classes. Registration has started in some districts; others are just making class schedules available to the public.

Here's a sampling of courses in Oakland and
Wayne counties:

Rain Gardens
This day-long how-to-do-it seminar is designed for ecological gardeners who are working with clay soil. Register beginning at 6:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 9, 2009, at the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen, south of I-696.

The program will run from 7-8:30 p.m., and cover topics such as compost benefits and water quality, native wildflowers and shrubs for rain gardens, and sizing and locating a rain garden. Speakers will include Rick Lazzell, landscape designer and consultant; Suzan Campbell, Michigan Natural Features Inventory; Lilian Dean, Southeast Oakland County Water Authority (SOCWA) Healthy Lawns and Gardens program.

There is no admission charge, but advance registration is required.
Call Karen Bever at (248) 288-5150 or e-mail

Postage Stamp Gardens
Michael Saint, a certified master gardener and owner of Good Earth landscape Institute, will show you how to turn a neglected entrance, courtyard or side yard into a peaceful oasis, from 10-11:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 3, 2009, at The Community House, 380 S. Bates, in downtown Birmingham. $19 fee. (248) 644-5832

Creating a Focal Point - Three Easy Steps
Michael Saint demonstrates the use of lighting, sculpture, various plants and hard structures to draw attention to the heart of the garden, 7-8:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 10, 2009, at The Community House, 380 S. Bates, Birmingham. $19. (248) 644-5832Garden Design Made Simple
Michael Saint offers tips for taking landscaping from "ho hum" to "wow," 7-8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 18, at The Community House, 380 S. Bates, Birmingham. $19 fee. (248) 644-5832

Growing Roses Made Easy
This session is designed to take the mystery out of growing roses. It runs 7-9 p.m., Thursday, April 9, 2009, at Glenn High School, 36105 Marquette, Westland. $20 fee. No phone registrations accepted. Register by mail or in person starting Jan. 5, 2009, at Tinkham Adult Center, Leisure Office, 450 S. Venoy, Westland, MI 48186.

Roses, Perennials and Hydrangeas: The Makings of a Traditional Flower Border
Learn about vintage gardens in this class, 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, April 22, 2009, at Farmington Community School, Students will look at old fashioned perennials, timeless classic roses and hydrangeas and learn how to combine traditional plants to make their own vintage-style border garden. Farmington Community School, 30415 Shiawassee, Farmington.
The fee is $20. (248) 489-3333

Getting Your Garden Ready for Spring
The class will guide students to a successful garden season with a variety of tips, 7-9 p.m., Wednesday, April 29, 2009, at Farmington Community School, 30415 Shiawassee, Farmington. The fee is $20. (248) 489-3333

Growing Perennials Made Easy
The class will offer tips on successfully growing perennials, including use of fertilizer and other maintenance practices, 7-9 p.m., Thursday, May 14, 2009 at Glenn High School, 36105 Marquette, Westland. $20 fee. No phone registrations accepted. Register by mail or in person starting Jan. 5, 2009, at Tinkham Adult Center, Leisure Office, 450 S. Venoy, Westland, MI 48186.
Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. - Gov. Jennifer Granholm and lawmakers hope generous tax incentives will help make Michigan the center of efforts to research and manufacture advanced batteries used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

Legislators say the United States today has no large-scale production plant for the lithium-ion battery, the technology General Motors Corp. expects to power its touted Chevrolet Volt.
Most battery technology is being developed in Asia.
"It is imperative that Michigan possess this technology to keep Michigan the center of car manufacturing," said Sen. John Pappageorge, a Troy Republican. Before adjourning this month, the Legislature approved tax credits worth up to $335 million depending on how many battery packs are assembled here, production expenses and other factors. Granholm is expected to sign the legislation.

Lawmakers were motivated to act at a time auto demand has dropped due to the ailing economy and the credit crunch, which has made it tougher for some buyers to get financing. GM and Chrysler LLC recently secured a $17 billion lifeline from the federal government.

The same week lawmakers voted for the credits, GM announced it was delaying construction of a Flint engine factory to conserve cash. The plant eventually will make 1.4-liter engines for the Chevy Cruze and the Chevy Volt plug-in electric car, key products in the century-old automaker's bid to turn itself around after relying on highly profitable truck and SUV sales.

"That's just temporary," Granholm said. "They are going to produce the Volt. ... The battery that is going to power the Volt -- we intend that to be made in Michigan." GM could make a decision early next year.

The state also is working with a cell manufacturing company to build a facility in Michigan. The governor says the rechargeable lithium battery not only will store energy in people's cars but potentially could be used for their homes and businesses, too.

"All of that we want to make a big play for Michigan," Granholm said. "We want it to be an American solution produced by American workers."

Things are moving quickly on the battery front. Fourteen U.S. technology companies and a national laboratory this month created an alliance to seek billions in federal funding for construction of a plant to make advanced vehicle batteries.

The U.S. will lose out on high-tech jobs if Japan, South Korea and other countries continue dominating battery development, according to the new coalition.

Michigan's tax incentives are similar to those offered the film industry earlier in 2008. To entice moviemakers to choose Michigan over competing states, Granholm and legislators created refundable tax credits for in-state movie production expenses.

Giving tax breaks is nothing new, with the state often deciding to forgo tax revenue in exchange for economic investment and job creation. But refundable credits go further. They are more like a rebate for production expenses and can require the state to cut checks to businesses if the credits exceed their tax liability.

Refundable credits have been castigated by critics such as Sen. Nancy Cassis, a Novi Republican who has said Michigan would be more attractive if it provided "broad-based tax relief ... benefiting all, rather than just a selected few."

The criticism mostly has been ignored. Senators scaled back the battery bill's potential price tag by nearly $200 million before voting 31-3 to pass the legislation. It was approved 94-0 by the House.

Backers say Michigan just cannot afford to miss out on a vehicle battery market that could total $50 billion by 2020. They describe the tax incentives as a "down payment" toward fostering high-tech industries. The battery bill is House Bill 6611.

Americans are paying $1 billion less per day for gasoline now compared with mid-July, when the national average price was more than $4 per gallon, an energy analyst says.

In Michigan, the average price of gas Friday was $1.62 a gallon.

Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for Oil Price Information Service, estimates that Americans were paying about $1.61 billion per day for gas on July 11, when the national average price was $4.11 per gallon.
On Friday, with Americans buying about 372.4 million gallons of gas per day, Kloza estimated that the country would spend about $611.5 million.

The low gas prices are a reprieve for the estimated 2 million Michigan residents who AAA estimates will travel 50 miles or more from home during the holidays.

Still, Kloza said the relief for individuals is not enough to provide a broader boost for the economy, stalled by frozen credit and low confidence.

Next year, oil and gas prices will remain low, at least until peak driving season returns in spring, Kloza said.
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Jennifer Granholm has differed in the past with U.S. automakers, squabbling with the United Auto Workers union over party politics and wishing out loud that Michigan’s fortunes weren’t so tied to the ailing industry.

But when detractors in recent weeks portrayed the Big Three as manufacturing dinosaurs that didn’t deserve bridge loans to avoid bankruptcy, Granholm became an impassioned advocate for the industry. "It has been extremely frustrating, and I have probably used some words I should not be using," she said.

The two-term Democratic governor has been a frequent guest on national talk shows and news programs, taking on the naysayers. She has rallied governors worried about losing major factories and suppliers, plotted Capitol Hill strategy with congressional members from Michigan and other states, and sent letters to President George W. Bush.

"The auto industry is seeking only a fraction of what was given to the  . . . financial industry and it’s a loan. And that loan is going to ensure that we have a manufacturing infrastructure and 3 million jobs are protected in this nation all across the country, not just in Wall Street but in small communities all over," Granholm said on PBS’ Nightly Business Report this month.

The feisty and hard-charging governor, who ran a half-marathon in less than two hours this fall, is easily angered by injustice, and she thinks that the automakers and her state are being wrongly maligned.

The Senate’s failure to pass a $14 billion bridge loan for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler Llc. — which could run out of money within weeks without assistance — infuriated Granholm, who sits on President-elect Barack Obama’s transition economic advisory board. She accused Senate Republicans who refused to back the bridge loans of "protecting the foreign companies that are in their borders. They’re not acting as Americans."

When former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said during an exchange Sunday with Granholm on NBC’s Meet the Press that U.S. automakers had a cost disadvantage compared with foreign automakers, an impassioned Granholm skewered his comments as inaccurate and pointed a finger at him as she argued over legacy costs.

During an appearance last month on CNN, she accused Romney of "breathtaking hypocrisy" for saying in January during his presidential campaign that he’d be a partner to the automakers and fight for jobs, then arguing in November against giving them the loans.

More than a few television anchors have felt the governor’s polite but pointed displeasure. When CNN’s Kyra Phillips asked why auto companies deserved the bridge loans, Granholm took aim at the financial-sector meltdown and shot back that "it’s really important to know that the auto industry didn’t put us into this position."

She also hasn’t pulled any punches in her news conferences.

"I really felt so deeply for these workers who have felt powerless to be able to change the minds of people in Congress who were spouting untruths about the industry," she said after watching the bridge-loan plan fall apart. "Those who caused this financial meltdown were allowed to walk away with $700 billion, with no oversight, many of them ultra-rich hedge-fund players. Those who were the victims of their greed — people who work on the factory line — were blamed and were asked to pay the price," she added.

Don’t tell her automakers aren’t trying to lower costs to match their foreign competitors or that they haven’t improved quality or taken steps to move more fuel-efficient cars and hybrids.

"The bottom line is, the industry has recognized that it must change," the governor said.
With more than 35 giant animated displays and over a million lights, the Wayne County Parks Lightfest is the Midwest’s longest light show.

The complete route is over 4 miles along Hines Drive. There are walk-through displays, a Santa's Workshop and refreshments.

Open 7-10 p.m. daily through Jan. 1. Admision is a $5 donation.

Enter Hines Drive at 7651 Merriman Road in Westland, between Ann Arbor Trail and Warren Avenue.

Sledding is available along Hines Drive between Merriman and Inkster Roads in Dearborn Heights and Westland. The best sledding along Hines Drive is in the Cass Benton Area of Hines Park, where rolling hills start at Sheldon Road in Northville, following the Rouge River to Six Mile Road in Northville Township.

For more information, call 734.261.1990 or visit
No need to drag that Christmas Tree out to the road for the garbage man this year.

Oakland County Parks and Recreation Department is offering a Christmas Tree recycling program for all area residents, starting Friday December 26th.

There are 11 drop off locations. The trees will be either replanted or cut up as mulch for park playgrounds or hiking trails.

For locations, click here .

by Courtney Monigold
Someone asked me the other day what my favorite ‘find’ of 2008 was. Besides a pair of designer shoes I found insanely on sale, it’s really hard to narrow it down to just ONE! But one that came to mind was the new Mirepoix Cooking School at Holiday Market in Royal Oak which opened in February this year.

I can’t tell you how long I have looked for a hands-on cooking classes. I have been to so many different cooking demonstrations, but had never been to a “hands-on” class. Most of you may know I am self-taught, so even my skills could use some brushing up.
Plus, I absolutely love learning new things to improve myself in the kitchen. So when I discovered this great opportunity to learn more about buffing up my so called ‘culinary expertise’ without actually enrolling in culinary school, you could only imagine the excitement I had!

I have managed to take a few classes at the facility and I can’t say enough good things about this school. It’s fun, it’s informative, the instructors are phenomenal, the service is great and even better ….you come out with useful knowledge you can use to better your skills!

Mirepoix offers an extensive variety of classes all the way from knife skills to stocking a pantry, from appetizers to desserts. Classes are very reasonably priced because you get one on one attention from a trained chef. On top of all that, you get to cook with all of the great gourmet ingredients you would find downstairs in the market. Gourmet or not, don’t let that detour you, they make this so easy that anyone could do it.

If you aren’t sure, I dare you to check out their class schedule at Mirepoix Cooking School. With so many tempting courses, it is very hard to choose!

Not sure what to expect? I’ll tell you…

When you arrive, what you may think is just a gourmet market, is only an illusion. Upstairs your cooking destiny awaits behind swinging stainless steel doors.

Upon entry, you are welcomed by the instructor(s), given your official chef’s coat and then sat down to go over the class recipe plan. Then, you are off to your own devices to grab your tools and ingredients (which are all conveniently located in the center of the room).

The school is set up what is reminiscent of a ‘home economics’ class you may have taken in school because each person or group has their own kitchen space. Depending on the class size, you may be put into groups and set up with your own chef to help guide you through the whole cooking process. They show you how to properly chop, weigh, measure, mix ….depending on what you may be doing of course! Before you know it, you have created an amazing gourmet meal(s).

Now…for my favorite part of the course: You get to EAT what you and the other class members have made! For me this is pay-off in itself!

So if you are squeamish in the kitchen, or maybe you just want to brush up your cooking skills or even if you are looking for a fun thing to do with a friend or loved one, sign up for Holiday Market’s, Mirepoix Cooking School. Not only will you have fun, but you will come out “full” of both new knowledge and great food!

For more info:

Contact Mirepoix Cooking School Director, Stacy Sloan

Phone: 248-544-7037, 1203 S. Main Streen, Royal Oak, MI 48067

Go Comedy! offer hilarious dance movie spoof

By Susan Steinmueller
Timeless: The Dancical, which opens the new Ferndale theatre's 8 p.m. Sunday showcase, has been extended indefinitely says Pj Jacokes, co-owner and producer. The showcase features original written comedies.

"It's one of the shows where people who see it come back," he said. "So each week we have repeat attendees. It's a big word of mouth show."

The spoof of dancing movies like Dirty Dancing was written and directed by Lauren Bickers of Ferndale.

Jacokes said Timeless is "hilarious" but "hard to describe."

"It's sort of like a musical but they don't sing, they dance, and it's not necessarily people who should dance," Jacokes said. "I have seen it 12 times by now and there are still times that I'll howl."

Timeless has had success in other venues. It debuted as a short sketch at Hamtramck's Planet Ant Theatre 2007 Box Fest, then returned there as a full production earlier this year. It was picked up by The Second City to run this summer at Donny's Sky Box in Chicago.

Timeless is followed at 9 p.m. by the fully improvised musical, Rock-o-Matic.

Using only audience suggestions, the cast creates an on-the-spot musical comedy accompanied by a live band featuring Phred and Mikey Brown. Rock-o-Matic is followed at 10 p.m. by Elemenopy featuring improv power-duo Pj Jacokes and Chris DiAngelo.

"I think our whole line-up is something you are not going to see anywhere else," Jacokes said.

Go Comedy! Improv Theater, 261 E. Nine Mile, opened last month in the building formerly occupied by the Ferndale Secretary of State office. It offers improv and sketch comedy, a training center, road shows, classes and workshops for private parties, corporations and schools.
For tickets ($10), call (248) 327-0575; or buy them beginning at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the theatre box office. The Web site is

It's less than a week away before the clink of champagne glasses toast in 2009. Have you made your plans yet? Whether you're a snuggle-by-the-fire sort or you plan to paint the town red at any expense.

New Year's Eve can be just as enjoyable spent at home among friends or loved ones as it can with elaborate dinners or dancing. Try one of these non-plans and cozy up for the coming year:
Make it a movie night, no date required - Rent a DVD, grab a stack of pillows and warm blankets and set up a living room picnic with popcorn and peach mimosas - or ginger ale with a cinnamon stick.

For the young, and young-at-heart, you can't lose with animated classics like Rudolph's Shiny New Year or Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. Grown-ups might choose a favorite director - Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen or Ingmar Bergman - and squeeze in a double feature before the clock strikes 12. Stick to the holiday theme with a comedy like When Harry Met Sally, a romance like The Apartment or a mystery like After The Thin Man.

Heat up the oven and click on the TV - Plan ahead and make your own indulgent New Year's Eve dinner, complete with a dessert you'd never dared before (perhaps a chocolate souffle), light some candles and dine with your family or loved one decked out in slippers and pajamas. Let Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve, now with co-host Ryan Seacrest, entertain you and count down to a new year ahead. The Times Square holiday broadcast has been going strong since 1972 and will air at 10 p.m. Dec. 31, on ABC, Channel 7. After all, what would New Year's Eve be without the ball drop?

BYO Wine and Dine - Gather a group of close friends and ask everyone to bring a favorite bottle of wine, and an appetizer or dessert to share. Spend the time sampling flights - from white to blush to full-bodied red - and noshing on home-baked goods while you investigate the lyrics to Auld Lang Syne, the Scotch song known to ring in many a New Year. Try hanging sprigs of mistletoe around the house, to catch your unsuspecting pals off guard.

If you can't imagine closing the door on 2008 without some serious dance moves, consider these mid-priced options for singles, couples or groups:

Ferndale's Boogie Fever blends the sounds of the '70s and '80s with party favors, a champagne toast and late-night pizza buffet. Doors open at 9 p.m. Dec. 31, at 22901 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Tickets $25 in advance at

The Royal Oak Music Theater features Eve's New Year with guest Lori Michaels. Doors open at 9 p.m. Dec. 31, at 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak. The event is 21 and older and tickets $15-$30, call (248) 399-2980.

Craving those '80s hits you know and love? Feel like breaking out your Pat Benatar-inspired shoulder shakes? Head to the Magic Bag in Ferndale for the annual Mega 80s New Year's Eve Bash. Doors open at 8 p.m. for anyone 21 and older.
Tickets $40, visit for details.
The bar is located at 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Call (248) 544-3030.

From belly-laughs to long-standing traditions, make it a night to remember at any of these events:

For 21 years, Livonia's Laurel Manor has held the tradition of hosting a New Year's Eve Gala. This year will be no exception. From 7 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 31, patrons will enjoy hors d'oeuvres, an open bar, dinner featuring filet mignon and chicken or a vegetarian entree, dessert table and an afterglow featuring pizza and Danishes after midnight. Tickets $85 per person, 21 and over only, call (734) 462-0770. Laurel Manor is at 39000 Schoolcraft in Livonia, visit

Canton's Village Theatre hosts New Year's Eve with Two for the Road, a stage show featuring the music of Dean Martin, Barry White, The Beatles and more. The evening includes a strolling reception and champagne at midnight. Festivities begin at 9 p.m. Dec. 31, 50400 Cherry Hill Road in Canton. Tickets $50, call (734) 394-5300 or visit

If your New Year's Eve requires a full-scale balloon-drop and fireworks, check out A New Year's Eve-olution, 9 p.m. Dec. 31 at Clutch Cargo's, 65 E. Huron in Pontiac. The first 100 tickets sold cost $40, then the price rises to $75, but it includes a top-shelf open bar until 1 a.m., elegant hors d'oeuvres, champagne, music by DJs Ryan Richards and Braz D, a fashion show, magicians, comedy by Guy Copeland, door prizes and a late-night buffet. Call (248) 333-2362 or visit

Eve '09 at the newly-revamped Hyatt Regency of Dearborn features music by DJs Captn20, Fadi and Blake George, model art, dancing in the Grey Goose Ballroom, a Platinum Ice Lounge featuring Jose Cuervo Platino Tequila, visit for details and prices as they become available.

If you love Middle Eastern food and music, check out the lavish, stylish New Year's Eve Celebration hosted by legendary modern musicians Emad Batayeh and Osama Baalbaki plus DJ Franky Bones. The huge event includes appetizers, dinnner, champagne, breakfast and full premium bar. There's also kids tickets available that includes dinner and babysitters. The party also includes a raffle and prizes. Tickets are $75, $100 and $125. Location is the upscale Bella Banquet Center, 4100 E. 14 Mile Road in Warren (at Ryan Road. For details call (810) 397-8500.

Ring a Ding Ding with The Rat Pack is Back! a musical tribute to Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop and Dean Martin, offering show-only tickets for $45 at 6:30 p.m. and $65 at 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve. Dinner and a show offered at the same times for $110 and $130, respectively. Or opt for dinner only at the Century Grill, reservations run from $65 to $90, later seatings include a midnight champagne celebration with party favors and members of The Rat Pack Orchestra. It's all happening at The Gem Theatre, 333 Madison Ave., Detroit. Call (313) 963-9800.

Comedians Steve Harvey and Katt Williams take the stage for the 2008 Championships of Comedy, 9 p.m. Dec. 31, at Joe Louis Arena, 600 Civic Center Drive, Detroit. Tickets $65-$250, call (248) 645-6666.

The Barenaked Ladies will rile up the crowds, making them feel as if they had a million dollars, at The Fox Theatre, 9 p.m. on Dec. 31, 2211 Woodward, Detroit, Tickets $55-125, call (248) 433-1515.

Make it to the Mansion for an unforgettable New Year's Eve bash this year as Detroit's Whitney restaurant opens its doors - and even heats garden tents - for revelers. The restaurant offers three dinner seatings, at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. but the party begins at 10 p.m. and keeps rocking with DJs Matt A and DJ Roc Boy until 4 a.m. Enjoy a premium open bar, champagne toast and hors d'oeuvres for $100 per person or reserve a booth for up to six guests including unlimited bottle service for $900. Late-comers arriving after 1 a.m. pay $50 each. Reserve a spot at (313) 832-5700.
by Oakland Business Review

The following is a list of recent achievements by businesses in Oakland County:

• Orchard Hiltz & McCliment Inc., an engineering and architectural firm with headquarters in Livonia, was recently named one of the Top 50 Best Civil Engineering Firms to Work For in the U.S.

• With offices in Novi, Sidock Group recently announced it has added Wilkie & Zanley Architects of Wyandotte to its group of companies.

• Kathy Mastantuono, chief executive officer for The KPM Group, a family-owned recruiting firm specializing in direct hire and temporary staffing, recently announced that her organization has been granted certification by the Women's Business Enterprise National Council. KPM Group has offices in Troy, Livonia and Chicago.

• Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, with Gift of Life Michigan, was recently recognized for outstanding organ donation rates by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This marks the third consecutive year Beaumont, Royal Oak, has received this award.

• For over 40 years, the Troy Chamber of Commerce has recognized the outstanding physical investments made by businesses in the city. The 2008 honorees were selected by the Best of Troy Committee of the Chamber and were announced at its annual holiday luncheon. This year's winners are: The Boston Consulting Group, Ciot Granite & Marble, Franco's, Ocean Prime, Seco Tools Inc. and Walsh College.

• The employees at Troy-based WorkLife Financial helped raise nearly $6,000 for their Holiday Families Fund. The money raised allowed them to purchase gifts for 38 children and adults.

'Secret Santas' pass out $11,000 in Detroit area

Associated Press

Two "Secret Santas" have given away $11,000 to strangers to help make their holidays happier.

The Detroit Free Press says the married Detroit area couple anonymously gave away $100 bills Monday at bus stops, thrift stores and coin-operated laundries in the working-class community of Lincoln Park.

Local police were told about the money giveaway, and an officer accompanied the couple who asked that their identities not be revealed.
FOX 2 News

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (WJBK) --There's a new "green" business located here in Metro Detroit's Auburn Hills that's growing.

It produces a state-of-the-air building material called Microposite, which resembles wood.

"It's a new Michigan story," says Governor Jennifer Granholm. "Microposite builds energy efficiency materials."

Granholm recently visited the company's 30,000 square foot facility, where 29 workers help produce what's considered to be the first alternative to premium siding in 20 years.

Microposite plans to add new shifts, and they hope to double their workforce by the end of 2009."This is exactly the sweet spot of Michigan's transformation," says Granholm.

The company uses a low energy manufacturing process with natural materials, which makes Microposite good for the environment. It's also water resistant, light weight and energy efficient.

The material was developed locally, in part by people who used to be employed by the auto industry. A handful of the founders worked for General Motors in the 1980s. The company could have located anywhere, but they set up shop in Auburn Hills, enticed by a grant worth more than a half-million dollars.

The governor says when it comes to selling Michigan to high-tech, "green" companies, the pitch is easy. "We are hungry. We have the workforce that is available. We can make a good business case for you to do it," says Granholm.
The land along I-94 and M-59 in Chesterfield will house the new 150,00 square foot Chesterfield Town Centre, featuring a convention center and 4-star hotel.

Bill Crouchman/Chairman, Macomb County Commmissioners stated," This is really a shot in the arm to get things going again."

Bill Crouochman is the chairman of the Macomb County Commission. He helped lead the effort to get the project going.

It will cost developers $150 million over the next 10 years to complete.

There will be plenty of shops, entertainment, basically something for everyone. It's all designed to bolster the I-94 corridor in the area.

"You've got $100 billion a year going thru Port Huron and Detroit, back and forth from Canada every year. We're right in the middle of that."

You might ask yourself does Macomb County need a convention center with Detroit nearby? Fair enough. But, commissioners say this land needs to be developed because things are about to change between here and their neighbors to the south.

"We will surpass the City of Detroit in population in the 2010 Census, we've grown quite a bit."

That means having what's needed to keep people shopping closer to home. The bonus comes with the roughly 1,700 permanent jobs that will be created with the new convention center and hotel. They are expected to open for business in 2010.

The center is expected to generate 6 million dollar a year in new sales taxes. Roughly half a million of that will go to Macomb County. Construction will begin next spring once the governor approves the legislation passed last week.

Mark Hornbeck / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Michigan has launched a record $30 million dollar travel promotion campaign, featuring TV ads with Actor/Michiganian Tim Allen.

For the first time in 15 years, the state is running a series of winter tourism commercials and will follow that with a first-ever $10 million national cable TV buy in the spring to coax out-of-state vacationers to flock to the Great Lakes State in the summer.

MSU to bring med school to Macomb Co.

Christina Stolarz
The Detroit News

-- Kristy Maxlow doesn't believe that community colleges always receive their due respect.

But she thinks the big exception is Macomb Community College, which is pairing with Michigan State University to bring a satellite campus for MSU's osteopathic medical school to Clinton Township.

"The fact that these big colleges are willing to participate and have affiliations with this little community college makes us believe they believe in this little community college," said Maxlow, 33, of Almont, who is the president of MCC's December 2008 nursing graduating class.

"Anything that will bring attention there, and advance the programs there, is wonderful."

The medical program -- set to train 50 students in MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine -- will open in June on MCC's Clinton Township campus. It's an effort to address Michigan's physician shortage.

However, the 21,850-square-foot MSU facility under construction is not slated for completion until January 2010, said Dan Heaton, manager of media relations for MCC. The community college will provide classroom space in the meantime, he said.

MCC officials say the partnership is a perfect fit because the Clinton Township campus is near several major medical facilities: Henry Ford Macomb Hospital, Children's Hospital of Michigan Stilson Specialty Center and William Beaumont Medical Center.

"It's a very significant development for the college and the community," Heaton said. "MCC has a pretty well-respected name in its own right. This just provides another opportunity for the community."

A similar satellite campus is opening at the Detroit Medical Center, allowing MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine to accept an additional 100 students for a total of 300 this year, said Dr. William Strampel, dean of the program.

The program's expansion has been in the works for about three to four years. It made sense to bring the medical education to the Metro Detroit area so interested students didn't have to uproot and move to East Lansing, Strampel said.

MSU's College of Osteopathic Medicine receives an estimated 5,000 applications each year, 1,000 of which are from Michigan, Strampel said. Of the Michigan applicants, about 600 come from students who live in Metro Detroit.

"I think it's going to be wildly successful," he said.

Kristin Stehouwer said she's excited because the project will allow students to remain in Macomb County to get a medical degree.

"It's an exciting development," said Stehouwer, vice provost for arts and sciences at MCC. "The building is really a symbol of the level of commitment MSU has to our county. It will be a tremendous asset."
Jennifer Youssef
The Detroit News

Michigan tourism officials are looking to lure thousands of Chinese travelers to the Great Lakes State during the next few years as the Asian nation's burgeoning middle class takes to the air to visit the United States.

Their efforts come in the wake of a tourism agreement between the U.S. and China that will increase leisure travel from China as well as a new nonstop flight between Detroit and Shanghai, China's automotive and financial capital, set to begin in June.

"There's a growing number of affluent Chinese and they are going everywhere," said George Zimmermann, vice president of Travel Michigan, the state's tourism advertising firm. "We don't want to miss this opportunity."

Zimmerman and representatives from the Detroit Convention and Visitors Bureau and The Henry Ford attended the China International Travel Mart in Shanghai in November to promote the state's attractions and amenities.

The state also is considering stationing a travel representative in Asia (Michigan has some in Europe). Some 115 agencies from across the country were at the tourism trade fair vying for a piece of China's growing leisure travel market.

"If we can get a piece of that, that would be fantastic," Zimmermann said.

More Chinese visitors
The U.S. and China signed an agreement last year to bolster travel between the two countries. The deal will increase the number of Chinese visitors to 580,000 by 2011, the U.S. Commerce Department said. Previously, there were restrictions on group and other leisure travel from China to the U.S.

The agreement also makes it possible for tourism officials and destinations like The Henry Ford to market their attractions in China.

The United States is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese travelers. In 2007, China ranked as the 16th largest international market for the United States, according to the Commerce Department.

While industry experts expect most Chinese tourists to visit large cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Michigan is not out of the realm of possibilities with its natural attractions, including the Great Lakes, automotive sites, casinos, sporting events and shopping.

Michigan, too, has a major advantage: A new direct flight route on Northwest Airlines from Shanghai will make Detroit one of only three cities in the U.S. with direct service from China. The others are Chicago and New York.

Chinese are top spenders
Last year Chinese visitors spent an average of $6,000 in the U.S., about twice the next-highest foreign visitors' group, according to the Commerce Department. If even a fraction of the estimated 580,000 visitors come to Michigan, it would be a boon to the state's $18.1 billion tourism industry, the second-largest sector of the Michigan economy.

China is "a burgeoning economic powerhouse," said George Moroz, president of the Tourism Industry Coalition of Michigan, a statewide organization of tourism professionals.

Moroz, who is involved in the strategic planning process at The Henry Ford, said the many Michigan entities -- airlines, airport and Michigan Economic Development Corp. -- interested in forming partnerships with the Chinese should work together.

"It seems to me on a number of different fronts that there are a lot of things in the works and we should try to coordinate and support each other's efforts," he said. "There's a lot of activity in China right now. There are some real opportunities to tap into."

About 100 million tourists visited Michigan in 2007, Zimmermann said.

The state has made an effort to broaden its regional marketing. Travel Michigan expanded its successful Pure Michigan campaign this year to include Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and St. Louis, Mo. The ads -- airing in Chicago, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Ontario as well -- feature the voice of actor Tim Allen describing the state's natural attractions.

Chinese love shopping
Almost every other state had representation at the tourism trade show in China, each trying to get media attention and form partnerships with Chinese agencies, said Tim Tyrrell, director of Megapolitan Tourism Research Center at Arizona State University's College of Public Programs. Asian tourists' love of shopping is well known and if a state or tourism entity can create a vacation package that includes a lot of it, it's likely to draw many visitors.

"I think it could be very big," he said. "China is a huge market and there's plenty of (tourists) to go around."

NBC's The Biggest Loser is a realty show that has turned losing weight into a full on competition. This past season featured couples, husband and wives along with parent child teams. One of the mother daugher teams, Shellay & Amy Cremen, are from Royal Oak. Even though they didn't make it to the end and win the $250,000 grand prize, the "Purple Team" came out winners by losing a combined 178 pounds!

The next season aires Janurary 7, 2009 and 3 of the 11 teams hail from Southeast Michigan:

- Carla Triplett, a 36-year-old assistant bank manager, and her best friend Joelle Gwynn, a 41-year-old non-profit founder, who are from Southfield, MI.

-Ron Morelli, a 54-yeaar-old city councilman and retired food distributor, and his son Mike Morelli, an 18-year-old student, who are from South Lyon, MI.

- Helen Phillips, 47-year-old retired retail manager from Sterling Heights, MI, and her daughter Shanon Thomas, a 29-year-old massage therapist from Centerline, MI.
Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News

MOUNT CLEMENS -- When it comes to traffic lights, timing is everything.

That's what the Road Commission of Macomb County has determined since the start of an experiment two years ago aimed at making travel in the county more efficient.

The commission has been testing out a high-tech system for controlling the timing of traffic signals along Mound Road between Eight Mile and Hall Road since 2006.

The system has saved the 70,000 motorists who drive the 12-mile stretch of Mound Road daily an estimated $2 million in fuel costs during the two years, said Adam Merchant, the road commission's traffic engineer.

And the commission plans to expand the computerized system to other roads during the next year, he said.

"The whole idea is mobility," Merchant said. "The goal is to enable motorists to get to a place in the shortest amount of time and without any traffic delays."

The commission calls the project Signal Optimization. On Mound Road, the system uses cameras, computers and sensors in the pavement to detect traffic tie-ups and adjust the signals' timing to alleviate congestion. The technology will save motorists fuel, money and time by preventing them from idling at intersections and relieving traffic congestion, Merchant said.

Other benefits include less pollution from vehicle tailpipes in the air, and travel is safer because drivers have to make fewer stops, cutting down the potential for accidents, he said.

During the next year, the commission will spend about $750,000 to analyze traffic patterns and develop traffic signal timing programs for stretches on five major county roads.

Money for the project is coming from federal highway grants.

The roads the commission has targeted for the high-tech system are:

• Schoenherr Road between Eight Mile and 23 Mile.• Garfield between Utica to 21 Mile.
• Hayes between Utica and Hall Roads.
• Metropolitan Parkway between Dequindre and Jefferson.
• Harper Avenue between Eight Mile and Metro Parkway.

Andrea Kanakry, 32, of Warren said she's all for anything that can be done to make it easier for her to get around, since driving is a big part of her job. She owns Andrea's Gift Boutique and Florist on 13 Mile at Mound and makes all of its deliveries herself, she said.

"I know traffic on Mound moves pretty well," she said. "It can get a little busy on the road when the Tech Center lets out. But other than that, it's a good traveling road."



Fifteen years after it began building affordable houses for low-income families, the Macomb County Habitat for Humanity is making big plans to ring in the New Year.

For the Christian housing nonprofit in Macomb County, 2009 will commemorate a major feat -- its 50th house.
The construction of the 1,200-square-foot ranch in the Colchester section of Clinton Township, near the Mt. Clemens border, not only will highlight Macomb Habitat's legacy but also will set a precedent.
In what it is calling the "largest ecumenical build project ever undertaken in Macomb County," the chapter is seeking pledges and volunteers from 240 area churches to make the approximately $100,000 house a reality by September.
"It's our attempt to do a couple things: One is publicize the progress we've been able to make in Macomb County in terms of providing decent, affordable homes for families in need, and also highlight the strong support we've had over the years from the faith community," said Dave Tirsell, church relations director and coordinator of the project called the 2009 50/50 Build.
By early this week, four churches -- First United Methodist of Mt. Clemens, Lake Shore Presbyterian Church in St. Clair Shores, Kensington Community Church-East in Clinton Township and Cross Lutheran Church in Clinton Township -- were signed on as supporters, Tirsell said.
The rest of the commitments from congregations are expected in January, with construction slated to start in April. A family has not been selected for the house, which is to be part of a Habitat subdivision under way since 2007.
The development of several new homes around Howard Street, near Joy Boulevard in what's referred to as the Colchester area of the township, marked the first new construction there in 25 years. They abut an existing, older neighborhood with home owners who have an average yearly income of about $9,000.
Macomb County Habitat for Humanity also has built houses in Mt. Clemens, Roseville and Warren.
"In the early years of Macomb Habitat, we were building one or maybe two homes in a year, so the 50th house is how we've been able to grow the capacity to help families ... through partnerships and business and organizational support," Tirsell said.
With more than 300 houses under its belt, Habitat for Humanity of Detroit said it's important to note those types of accomplishments.
"In general, when you reach those milestones, you certainly want to have a celebration because it's pretty significant," said Vincent Tilford, executive director of Detroit Habitat.

Habitat for Humanity in Oakland County is preparing for its 100th house in 2009.