Ferndale's Downtown Business Booms

Detroit Free Press

Leaders of Ferndale's Downtown Development Authority said their main business district is booming.

Ferndale's downtown enjoyed a leap of nearly 300% in public and private investment in 2008 from the year before, said DDA Executive Director Cristina Sheppard-Decius.

In 2008, 26 new stores and other firms opened to add 290 new jobs, for a net employment gain of 168%, Sheppard-Decius said this week. Newcomers included two fitness centers and several restaurants, she said.

Both Ferndale and Royal Oak had several major downtown building projects last year, "their downtowns are doing pretty well," said Bob Donohue, an Oakland County principal planner who assists small downtowns.
The Oakland Press

Oakland County hopes to use a federal program to help low- and moderate-income residents acquire housing and get some of the foreclosed homes back into the marketplace.

The county plans to use $5 million of its $17 million allotment from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program money to help qualified residents in 43 of the county’s 61 communities take ownership of vacant foreclosed homes.

“We’re looking for people to purchase and occupy single-family homes and condos in select communities,” says Gordon Lambert of the county Community and Home Improvement Division.

For prospective buyers, income limits are set by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.A single person can earn up to $58,700 and qualify for the program, while a family of four can earn up to $83,900 and qualify.Under the program, the county will offer a zero percent loan of up to $100,000 for 49 percent of the home’s cost, plus rehabilitation expenses.

The homebuyer takes out a loan for the other 51 percent and repays the county when the home is resold or when it’s no longer the buyer’s primary residence.

“That’s the beauty of it,” Lambert said.The county plans a pair of meetings next week, one to explain how the program works to Realtors and lenders and another to explain it to prospective buyers.

The meeting for Realtors and lenders is at 9 a.m. Monday in the Board of Commissioners Auditorium, next to the county courthouse at 1200 North Telegraph Road, north of Elizabeth Lake Road.

Prospective buyers can attend a meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28, at the county’s Executive Office Building Conference Center, 2100 Pontiac Lake Road, just west of Telegraph Road in Waterford Township.

Residents are eligible for the county program in the townships of Addison, Brandon, Commerce, Groveland, Highland, Holly, Independence, Lyon, Milford, Oakland, Orion, Oxford, Rose, Royal Oak, Springfield, West Bloomfield and White Lake.Cities eligible for the county program are Auburn Hills, Berkley, Birmingham, Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Keego Harbor, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Novi, Oak Park, Rochester, Rochester Hills, South Lyon, Sylvan Lake, Troy, Walled Lake and Wixom.Eligible villages are Holly, Lake Orion, Leonard, Milford, Ortonville, Oxford and Wolverine Lake.

Other communities, such as Pontiac and Waterford Township, operate their own programs and may choose to use the money for other purposes.

For more information about this program, please contact Erin Rose at erin.financemyhome@gmail.com or Karen Greenwood at Kgreenwood@cbschweitzer.com
Detroit Tigers centerfielder Curtis Granderson is launching a new initiative that allows individuals or businesses to pledge a penny or more for every run he scores during the 2009 season.
All procedes go to Michigan Schools.

The "Scoring for Schools" program allows donors to pledge money to a specific district and can also choose if they want their donation to be used for educational programs or for college scholarships for high school students.

Granderson is anticpated to score between 120 to 130 runs during the 2009 season.
Ten Ferndale restaurants are participating in the city's first "Taste of Ferndale" strolling dinner event on "Fat Tuesday," Feb. 24.

The event takes place from 6-9 p.m. at Via Nove restaurant at 344 West Nine Mile downtown. The concept of the fundraiser is to showcase some of Ferndale's popular and diverse restaurants all in one location.

Each restaurant is donating tastings of their popular menu items. Participating restaurants include Pete's Place, Emory, Assaggi Bistro, Anita's Kitchen, Christine's Cuisine, The Flytrap, Via Nove, Howe's Bayou, Starving Artists, and the Blue Nile.

"There are restaurants of many types and styles in this little town," said Dan Martin, Ferndale Community Foundation chair. "This event allows folks to sample all kinds of great fare from a variety of these popular destinations."

The Ferndale Community Foundation funds local projects and charitable efforts in art, culture, education, and youth programs.

Taste of Ferndale benefits the Ferndale Community Foundation and tickets are $30 per person.
The foundation has distributed more than $30,000 in the past several years to fund downtown murals, the "Crow's Nest" sculpture, youth camps, music in the parks, and other efforts to increase the quality of life in Ferndale.

Tickets can be purchased through the Web site at http://www.ferndalecommunityfoundation.org/ or by calling (248) 672-4067.

The event will also feature a silent auction and an afterglow with live music at Howe's Bayou 22846 Woodward Ave.

When members of the Y.O.U. (Young, Optimistic United) Youth Coalition met earlier this month at Berkley High School, the teens started off by squelching their after-school hunger pangs with pizza, candy and pop.
But after the quick snack they divided into groups and got down to business, designing an entertaining and educational presentation for adults about alcohol and drug use.

One group made up skits while another team came up with survey questions regarding substance use and teen culture.

Berkley High School sophomores Erin Michonski and Maya Edery worked on a PowerPoint presentation that describes effective ways for adults to communicate with teens.
It also lists drugs that kids may be using, along with the slang names for those substances. The meeting on Feb. 5 was the first Y.O.U. experience for the girls, who are also members of the Huntington Woods Teen Council.

"It's a very open environment where we can really talk about all the problems and pressures that we're all facing," Edery said. "Everyone seems very open and very including of others."
"It's very cool," Michonski said. "Right away we met a bunch of new people -- I learned about drugs I didn't know about."

Y.O.U. is open to students who attend Berkley and Oak Park high schools, and its membership includes teens who live in Berkley, Oak Park, Huntington Woods, and other communities. Meetings are held twice a month, one at each school.

Y.O.U. developed out of a Tri-Community Coalition-sponsored event called Dialogue Day, where teens and adult leaders met to talk about issues that affect young people at home, in school and in the community.

"One of the things that came across very clearly from the young people was they wanted a place where they could meet regularly and get to know people from other schools," said Deanna Tocco, TCC program director and Youth Coalition facilitator. "We did a lot of breaking down barriers of stereotypes of each other that day. They were really excited by that and wanted an ongoing relationship and a way to do some good things together for all three communities. That's the uniqueness of Y.O.U.

"It's an opportunity to bring kids together and focus on helping them make good decisions, and helping them change the tone in the schools and community around substance abuse, so kids can say, 'we can have fun without doing that stuff,'" Tocco said.

Oak Park High School students Mallary Jackson, a senior and president of Y.O.U., and George Lanier, a junior, both attended Dialogue Day last spring. They see the benefits of meeting teens from other communities and working together on common goals.

"We get to see the other side of the fence," Jackson said. "We might think that we're different because we're from different communities but when we come together we see that we have the same issues, like substance abuse in our communities. As a coalition we try to figure out ways to help people realize that it's okay to say 'no' and it's okay to do something different than everybody else."

"There are a lot of stereotypes," Lanier said. "Its kind of funny sometimes but we get to talk about it and we get to resolve our issues together."

Y.O.U. is organizing a drug-free bowling night/fund-raiser. Some members want to do prevention presentations for elementary-aged students.

"Some kids might have problems at home with this and we can give them some type of hope or some type of warning so that they won't do it. We just want to get the word out and help them the best as we can," Lanier said.

"It's about helping people. Younger people and also people in our age group at school," Jackson added.

Y.O.U. members will make their thought-provoking substance abuse presentation at the TCC meeting, 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 5 at the Michigan State Police Post, 14350 W. 10 Mile in Oak Park. The meeting is open to all community members. To learn more, contact Deanna Tocco at (248) 837-8009 or toccoklaft@talkamerica.net.

Ahoy, bargain hunters. Cruise deals are better than ever! Some are half the price of last year, say Detroit area travel agents.

"They're as good and even better," said Steven Kalt, vice president of Bee Kalt Travel in Royal Oak. "For example, Ruby Princess for Alaska in May is starting at $499. Rates for Europe keep going down.

Lower hotel occupancies mean slightly cheaper hotel rooms nationwide (the average hotel room in the United States went for $103 a night in mid-January, a 2.7% drop from a year before, according to Hendersonville, Tenn.-based Smith Travel Research, which tracks lodging data). And many hotels have a deal of a third night free when customers stay two nights.

Because of lagging demand, airfares are down 6% from last year, according to fare data from Travelocity. And the deals abound.

For example, you can fly from Detroit to Baltimore March 1-5 on Northwest Airlines for $149 round-trip or from Detroit to Cancun for as low as $139 each way on USA 3000.

Because cruise ships have to sail whether they are full or not, lines have hacked prices drastically on certain routes, especially longer cruises to more exotic destinations, and especially at the last minute.

Cruise prices are down 50% for South America, down 18% to Europe and down 10%-15% for the Caribbean, according to Mike Driscoll, editor of the industry journal Cruise Week.

Lines also have dropped fuel surcharges of up to $12 a day that were implemented last year during the height of the gasoline price surge.

Caribbean cruises out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, are especially good deals, with fares starting at about $538 for seven-day cruises, said Debbie Reilly, an agent at Cruise Holidays in Shelby Township.

Any cruise that costs less than $100 a day is generally considered a bargain by cruise watchers.
For cruisers who want a balcony, an eight-day cruise for $896 is a deal on Carnival Miracle this spring, said Cathy Daldin, owner of Shamrock Travel in Rochester.

Cruise deals should continue throughout 2009, because nine new cruise ships are set to debut this year, adding 20,706 more cabins to an already sodden market.

Meanwhile, airlines and hotels will have to adjust prices depending on demand.

Hotel occupancy in Detroit in mid-January was just 43%, the lowest in the nation, according to Smith Travel Research.

With U.S. jobless rates catching up to Michigan's 10.6% rate, the pool of Americans who can afford to travel is shrinking. But for consumers who can still afford it, bargains are just waiting to be plucked.

For instance, the Web site Cruise.com advertises an 11-night transatlantic repositioning cruise on the Norwegian Jewel sailing April 17 from Miami to London -- for $599.

"If you are available to travel without much notice and have an agent who searches, last-minute deals can be found," Reilly said. "We are told we will see more and more specials as this year goes on. Let's hope so."

Deals close to home

CHICAGO: Get a room March 6 at the Palmer House Hilton for $85 or at the Wyndham Chicago for $105 through Expedia.com.

Or if you are in Chicago this month, take advantage of February free admission to the Art Institute of Chicago (www.artic.edu, 312-443-3600).

TORONTO: With an exchange rate again advantageous to Americans, get a room March 6-7 at the Fairmont Royal York for $142 a night or at the Sheraton Centre for $139 through Expedia.com.

You also can take an underground safari tour of the Toronto Underground with an architecture expert March 7, 13 and 21 for $16 (416-503-8086).

MICHIGAN: Hide out at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center for a romance package any weekend night, including deluxe room, sparkling wine and breakfast for two. $169 (www.marriott.com, 313-568-8000).

Or do a Splashtastic trip for four to Zehnder's Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark in Frankenmuth for $329 midweek; includes two nights' lodging, one dinner for four, daily breakfast and four waterpark passes (www.zehnders.com, 800-863-7999. Offer ends March 27).
Tom Henderson
Crain's Detroit

Randal Charlton, executive director of TechTown, will hit the ground running this week as he tries to lure stem cell researchers and companies from around the world to establish a presence in the Stem Cell Commercialization Center that Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano announced in his State of the County speech last Thursday.
The center, which will be housed in TechTown's Tech One building on Burroughs Street just north of Wayne State University, is an outgrowth of the passage of Proposal 2 by Michigan voters last November.
The proposal allows embryonic stem cell research in the state. President Barack Obama's efforts to end former President George W. Bush's restrictions on the number of stem cell lines could be supported by increased federal funding through the economic stimulus package.
Charlton told Crain's Friday he will meet this week with executives of a Boston company that has asked about locating in TechTown to pursue its stem-cell-based product development.
And he said he hoped to — “in weeks, rather than months” — begin visiting university researchers and for-profit companies he has identified that are involved in stem cell research throughout Europe and the Middle East, including Sweden, Great Britain, Spain, France and Israel.
“Over the last two or three years I have been quietly talking to companies. Even when I was at Asterand,” said Charlton, referring to his stint as CEO of Asterand plc, a tissue-bank company traded on the London Stock Exchange that is headquartered in TechTown.
“I'd say to them, "I can't do anything now, we have these laws on the books, but one day I want you to think of partnering with us,” he said. “I'm going to reach out now and say, "Look, you want to be in the U.S. market, the biggest health care market in the world. Here's an opportunity.' “
Charlton met Friday with Wayne County economic development officials to discuss details of getting the center, which will involve both embryonic and adult stem cell research, up and running.
The county will offer tax incentives for companies that move here and the center could provide seed capital for startups. Deputy Wayne County Executive Azzam Elder said Friday the county will provide up to $10 million in funding for the center over the next two years and will try to raise at least several million more from foundations and nonprofits. Elder said the county hopes to have the center up and running within six months.
As it expands, it could evolve into a collaboration that includes the state, the University of Michigan and area hospitals.
Charlton said there is room on the third floor of the Tech One building to provide space immediately, with 20,000 square feet available on the second floor as soon as funds are found to complete that floor's build-out, possibly from money that comes to Michigan from the economic stimulus package. Gloria Heppner, Wayne State University's associate vice president of research, said half a dozen university researchers from a wide range of academic disciplines — including biologists, geneticists, an obstetrician and an engineer, four of whom have formed startup companies to commercialize research — are ready to move into the center.
“We're really excited to work with Wayne County and TechTown on this commercialization center. It's a great day,” she said Friday. She said the school has budgeted $1.5 million to recruit and supply stem cell researchers.
“This commercialization lab is an opportunity for our area to go from the back of the pack to the front of the pack. The best scientists around the world are engaged in this and billions are being spent on stem-cell research, but very few are thinking about getting it out of the lab and making it a commercial success,” Charlton said.
The Saginaw News

The Great Lakes Loons, in partnership with MidMichigan Health, will pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the Detroit Tigers' 1984 World Championship during six home games of the 2009 season.

Three players from the 1984 Tigers team will appear at Dow Diamond and meet with Loons fans. Dan Petry will be in Midland on Thursday, June 18, Milt Wilcox visits on Wednesday, July 29, and 1984 American League Cy Young award and MVP winner Willie Hernandez will be in town Saturday, August 29.

In addition, the Loons are giving away three bobbleheads featuring Kirk Gibson (Wednesday, May 27), Jack Morris (Thursday, July 16) and Chet Lemon (Monday, August 10).

The Loons are offering a Tigers Championship Mini-Plan ticket package, available now through the Loons' ticket office, and includes box seats to six Loons' home games, three bobblehead giveaways and the opportunity to meet members of the 1984 Tigers team.
Voices of Detroit with Larry Henry and David Benjamin once again visited Goldfish Tea in Royal Oak for their latest show.

In this podcast, we talk to Menachem Kniespeck who is co-founder of Operation: Kid Equip and Lisa Meloche, President and Massage Therapist of Bodywork Alternatives.

During the show, Voices of Detroit brings the two together in what might be the start of another great non-profit organization benefitting everyone!

Click Here to Listen
Associated Press

A Detroit-area gas station is offering $20 in gas to people who buy a new Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC or General Motors Corp. vehicle from one of three local auto dealers.

Albert Abbas, who manages Tel West Fill-Up Citgo in Wayne County's Brownstown Township, tells The Detroit News for a Friday story that the offer that started in January runs through the end of February.

Abbas says he hopes to encourage sales of Detroit Three vehicles and support local businesses.

The promotion is good for vehicles bought at Taylor Ford and Telegraph Chrysler Jeep in Taylor, or Rogers Chevrolet in Woodhaven.

Buyers will get a voucher for gas at the Tel West Fill-Up station.
Associated Press

Rosie O'Donnell says she hopes to film again in Detroit on the heels of her new Lifetime movie "America," which was shot last year in the Motor City.
The nation's foster care system provides the backdrop for the movie, which premieres Feb. 28.
O'Donnell says she's been so moved by Detroit's plight that she bought a Buick Enclave, made by Detroit-based General Motors Corp.
O'Donnell tells the Detroit Free Press by phone that "whatever movie we do next, we're going to do there."
Based on E.R. Frank's book, "America" centers on 17-year-old America, a boy played by Philip Johnson who has been in foster care since infancy. He's a patient of Dr. Maureen Brennan, played by O'Donnell.
Johnson got the role after being spotted by O'Donnell at a Detroit restaurant.

Hour Detroit is proud to announce Forest Grill as its 2009 Restaurant of the Year.
Located in Birmingham, Forest Grill is a self-proclaimed "neighborhood bistro" that serves seasonal fare with an emphasis on fresh, high-quality, local ingredients.

Forest Grill seamlessly integrates Old World dedication and authentic preparation with a contemporary and environmentally conscious setting.

Hour Detroit's story includes five pages of appetizing photographs that capture the cuisine, atmosphere, and spirit of this metro Detroit newcomer.

Owner and Executive Chef Brian Polcyn, a veteran restaurateur with 34 years of extensive experience in the business, opened Forest Grill in August 2008.

Guided by a spirit of collaboration, Polcyn and Executive Chef David Gilbert lead a crew of talented staffers, teaching "care, passion, and the sound principles of good cooking," Polcyn says. "Good cooking comes from the soul; you have to feel it."

The menu offers dishes with dynamic interpretations of "nature's provisions." An eclectic wine list pairs beautifully with the cuisine. Forest Grill's signature is the charcuterie platter, which combines a trifecta of cured meats including soppressata, salami, and prosciutto di Parma with a choice of three accompaniments that range from marinated olives to heirloom beets to carrot-and-garbanzo salad. Featured items such as lobster bisque topped with golden puff pastry and house-smoked salmon with crème fraîche are rich and unexpected.

This combination of traditional and contemporary elements distinguishes Forest Grill as a unique dining experience, one that fuses elements of charm, innovation, and surprise.

Hour Detroit's Restaurant of the Year is located at:
735 Forest Ave., Birmingham

With this announcement, Forest Grill joins a class of distinguished winners. The coveted Restaurant of the Year title has been awarded to Mon Jin Lau in 2008, The Lark in 2007, Il Posto in 2006, Bacco Ristorante in 2005, BooCoo in 2004, Café Cortina in 2003, Hong Hua in 2002, The Hill Seafood & Chop House in 2001, and The Rugby Grill in 2000. The Lark and Tribute were co-honorees in 1999.

To read Hour Detroit's 2009 complete Restaurant of the Year story, be sure to pick up the March issue on newsstands March 3.

M-59 would be widened to six lanes from four between Crooks and Ryan roads -- a chronic choke point for commuters in Oakland and Macomb counties -- under the state’s proposed plans to spend about $850 million in federal stimulus money Michigan will receive.

The long-sought, $60-million project would be fast-tracked to begin this year, possibly in September, according to a list of projects statewide that the Michigan Department of Transportation said are most likely to meet federal requirements for economic stimulus spending.

Gov. Jennifer Granholm told an audience of regional leaders this afternoon that the spending on infrastructure is expected to create about 25,000 construction-related jobs.

Under President Barack Obama’s stimulus plan, Michigan will get another $135 million for transit systems, Michigan Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle told the gathering at the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments offices downtown.

Steudle said the federal government will make additional money available for roadwork and high-speed rail, which could help efforts to build a high-speed route between Detroit and Chicago.

“This is about job creation and putting people to work," Steudle said. “This is a great opportunity for us.”

Granholm said the emphasis will be on speed to meet federal requirements to get the projects rolling within the timeframe the stimulus plan requires.

MDOT said many of the projects will have to be approved by regional planning agencies statewide, a process the state said it’s working to finish quickly. The Legislature also must approve the additions to the roadwork budget.

Other major projects in metro Detroit that would be paid for with stimulus money include $15 million in major bridge repairs on I-96 in Wayne County; $10 million to resurface Michigan Avenue between Livernois and Rosa Parks Boulevard in Detroit; $13 million to resurface M-8 between Oakland and Conant in Detroit; $18 million to rebuild I-94 between St. Clair Highway and Allington Road in St. Clair County; and a $12-million reconstruction of northbound Telegraph Road between Square Lake and Orchard Lake roads in Oakland County.

Steudle said the state’s top priority with transportation stimulus money is to fix existing roads, but some of it also will address congestion relief.
Associated Press

The National Federation of the Blind is preparing to hold its 2009 convention this summer in Detroit.

The Baltimore-based group's convention is scheduled for July 3-8 at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center.

The Detroit News reports that more than 3,000 people could attend the convention.

Events are expected to include a fundraising walk for braille literacy programs.

Michigan’s Fab Five will reunite publicly April 4 in Detroit for the first time since their final game 16 years ago.

The event, which has no affiliation with the Final Four, will act a fund-raiser for the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

Because it is being held at the Motor City Casino and was initiated by the five players themselves, the NCAA has no connection to it.

But the basketball players -- Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson -- chose the setting because the attention focused on the Final Four would provide a chance to raise money for the museum that has a history of contributing to the city’s youth.

While the Michigan athletic department has a longstanding relationship with a few of the players -- Rose was honored at a game last year for his charity work, King is a U-M broadcaster, and Howard has made appearances at the U-M basketball summer camp -- there are no Fab Five-era records nor banners at Michigan, and a similar reunion could not occur on campus because of Webber’s association with booster Ed Martin.

That, along with the later involvement of three other U-M players, drew sanctions for the basketball program. Webber, who accepted a loan of $280,000 from Martin while still in high school, is not allowed to formally associate with the university until 2013.

“It’s no shame, what was said was said, what was alleged was alleged,” Rose said when he was honored by U-M last February. “But ultimately, with everybody, time heals all wounds. In my opinion, it’s going to be time to move on eventually.

"That’s how life happens, that’s how situations happen. I just hope I’m not in a wheelchair walking with a cane or in a gravesite when it happens (at Michigan). I want to be here to see it.”
The Fab Five phenomenon -- having five freshman starters reach the NCAA title game in 1992 and do it again as sophomores in 1993 -- was sullied by the scandal.

The museum’s association is not a surprise, given its relationship with Webber. It hosted his extensive collection of African-American historical artifacts and documents in 2007.

The players have reunited yearly, but in private. This will be a public opportunity for fans to connect with the group.
Jason Barger

The two-minute stroll between Detroit’s Concourse A and C is a cosmic departure from the airport norm.

The tunnel between terminals has motorized walking paths on both sides and a wide-opened space right down the middle, for those with the energy to walk the stretch at a normal pace. The curved-in walls are decorated with slightly raised images of different countries around the world and flashing rainbow colored lights synchronized with the pumped in sounds of nature.
As I came to the end of the tunnel after a recent flight, I couldn’t help but wonder how passengers were reacting to the walkway.

Would the tunnel be embraced? Would they be annoyed by it? Would the flashing lights be enough to break their autopilot trance?

I stopped right at the base of the escalator leading up to Concourse A and witnessed the spattering of smiles as person after person emerged out of the fairytale tunnel.

One woman that looked to be in her late-sixties turned to her partner and said simply, “Wow, that was cool!”

With the recent rise of massage kiosks, oxygen bars, and even karaoke bars — all aimed to reduce traveler stress — the cosmic tunnel is perhaps an image of another creative approach for airports looking for a cultural makeover.

It’s a fact: The way we “feel” in an environment affects the way we “live” in that space.

And in Detroit, the feeling is evidently cosmic.

Start Up Weekend Comes To Detroit


Last week Craig Sutton, someone I know from Twitter, posted an interview with me on his blog about some of my various endeavors. One of the questions in particular related specifically to Startup Weekend Detroit:

Q: You are organizing the upcoming Startup Weekend Detroit (Mar. 27-29). Can you explain what that is, and why other cities would benefit from doing the same?

A: The Startup Weekend organization was founded by Andrew Hyde in Boulder, Colorado. There have been several Startup Weekends in cities across the country and even in Europe.

Basically the event gathers together creatives and people with technical skills to launch new companies within a single weekend. Each event is different since the direction is largely determined by the people who show up.

I live in Detroit and I was raised here. I really believe that the future of this city lies in the ability to bring people together to get great ideas off the ground. Nobody becomes successful in a vacuum. We need each other. Events like Startup Weekend help bring people together with a variety of skills to roll up their sleeves, work side by side and get things done.

I attended Startup Weekend in Ann Arbor, Michigan last year. What struck me most about the event was the fact that so much was accomplished in a single weekend. This experience leaves people who attend with the feeling that anything really is possible if you work together. What city couldn’t benefit from a little of that?

Elizabeth Cohen

It's 7 a.m. at Henry Ford Hospital, and surgeons are preparing to remove a cancerous tumor from a man's kidney.

It's potentially a risky surgery, but everything's ready: The doctors and nurses are in the operating room, the surgical instruments are sterilized and ready to go, and the chief resident is furiously Twittering on his laptop.

That's right -- last week, for the second known time, surgeons Twittered a surgery by using social-networking site Twitter to give short real-time updates about the procedure.
Following the February 9 operation online were other doctors, medical students and the merely curious.

"Here's something different: HenryFordNews is live tweeting surgery today, getting some buzz, too," wrote one Twitter participant from Massachusetts.

"I find this fascinating!" tweeted another Twitter user from Swansea, United Kingdom.
"It's an interesting use of technology, but I can't help but feel a bit 'eeewww!' about this," wrote a third tweeter from New York.

Why twitter a surgery?

Whether it's new and cool or merely yicky, observers say there's no question that more and more doctors -- and patients -- will be sharing the blow-by-blow of medical procedures on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

Dr. Craig Rogers, the lead surgeon in the Henry Ford surgery, said the impetus for his Twittering was to let people know that a tumor can be removed without taking the entire kidney.

"We're trying to use this as a way to get the word out," Rogers said.

Observers say Twittering about a procedure is a natural outgrowth of the social networking media revolution.

"Doing this removes a real communication barrier. It helps make something scary much more comprehendable," said Christopher Parks, co-founder of the Web site changehealthcare.com. "It brings us closer together and makes us more engaged."

Four months ago, Park's colleague, Robert Hendrick, tweeted his own varicose vein removal surgery here as it was happening (he was, obviously, under local anesthesia).

"It redirected my attention and allowed me to minimize some of the nervousness around what was going on. It felt like I had family and friends there to support me," Hendrick wrote in an e-mail.

"I wanted a record for other people who might be interested in the same surgery," added Hendrick, who also posted photos and video of his surgery. "It later allowed me to connect with others with the same issues."

As time goes by and the younger generation moves into medicine, expect even more sharing online of private medical procedures, Parks says.

"Newer and newer generations are used to putting their life online," he said. "This generation shares everything."

"Gosh, this is big"

Twitter users -- those "tweeple" -- who kept up with the Henry Ford procedure online got to share some medical drama in real time. (You can read the "Tweetstream" or watch video of the tumor removal on YouTube).

As Rogers got closer to the tumor, he realized it was far larger than it had appeared on a CT scan, and he wondered out loud whether he would have to remove the entire kidney -- something he'd been trying to avoid.

"Gosh, this is big," he said to his colleagues in the operating room. "Could I have picked a harder case for this?"

As Rogers worked away on his robotic machinery, the chief resident, Dr. Raj Laungani, Twittered: "Dr. Rogers is saying because the tumor is so large he may have to do a radical (total) nephrectomy."

After conferring with Laungani and others in the operating room, Rogers decided he could remove just part of the kidney. Then came another challenge: In a surgery like this one, doctors have to restrict blood flow to the kidney with clamps while they remove the tumor.

Those clamps then have to be removed within 30 minutes so the kidney isn't damaged by the lack of blood.

"The goal is to keep the clamp time below 30 minutes," Laungani Twittered. "25 minutes left!!!"
Approximately 25 minutes later, Laungani shared his relief with all of Twitterville: "Tumor is excised, bleeding is controlled, we are about to come off clamp," he wrote.

In the end, Rogers had the last tweet. "The robotic partial nephrectomy was a success," he wrote. "Thank you for joining us today."

CNN's Jennifer Pifer-Bixler and Marcy Heard contributed to this article.

Every time she pulls into the driveway of her three-bedroom ranch-style home on Detroit's east side, Beatrice Coleman says she still can't believe it.

"Sometimes I just sit here and look and say to myself, 'This is my house,' " Coleman, 55, said. "It's a good feeling."

Her dream of a home for her family began with the annual Habitat for Humanity Detroit Homeownership Fair, where the nonprofit group got the ball rolling. On Wednesday, the group is to host its annual fair at Samaritan Center, 5555 Conner in Detroit.

Habitat for Humanity Detroit is looking to make 20 families homeowners this year, said Traci Odom, family services director. Even if a person has gone through foreclosure, depending on the circumstances, that would not necessarily disqualify him or her from getting a Habitat home, Odom said.

"If it's due to predatory lending, we may be able to work with them," she said.
Twenty homes worth $75,000 to $85,000 will be constructed on Wayburn, Maryland and Lakepointe in the Morningside neighborhood, roughly within a 15-block radius of Alter Road between Warren and Mack, Odom said.

U-Snap-Bac Housing Corp. and Habitat's Detroit chapter are building the homes as part of a joint venture that plans to erect 100 homes in the area, Odom said. Applicants will be required to spend 250 to 400 hours building the homes with volunteers in order to receive a 0% interest mortgage.

The mortgage payments, which include insurance and taxes, range from $600 to $650 a month, Odom said. The area is within a Neighborhood Enterprise Zone, which allows for a 15-year tax break.

Coleman, who moved into her home with her grandson in December 2007, said she's pleased with how Habitat has helped to revitalize the neighborhood.

"I'm just so grateful for Habitat." Coleman said.

Additional Facts
What: Habitat for Humanity Detroit Homeownership Fair
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Samaritan Center cafeteria, 5555 Conner, Detroit
Some qualifications: Prospective participants must have a minimum household income of $22,000 a year, no bankruptcies discharged within the past two years, and must not have owned a home within the last year.
What to bring: Tri-merged credit report; copy of current driver's license or state ID; W-2s and federal tax returns (1040) for 2006, 2007 and 2008, and a $25 money order payable to Habitat for Humanity.

A brewer headquartered southeast of Lansing is getting a tax credit to produce a new line of beer for Kid Rock.

The tax credit for the Webberville-based Michigan Brewing Company was approved by the Michigan Economic Growth Authority. It's valued at $722,957.

The company plans to invest $7 million in the project, which is expected to create about 400 jobs in the state. In order to help with the project, the village of Webberville is also considering an abatement.

The Michigan Brewing Company is owned by Bobby Mason. He says he hopes to have the Kid Rock branded beer in stores sometime in the spring.

The beer's name, style and pricing have yet to be determined, and Kid Rock is working closely with the company to make those decisions.

The brewery currently employs about eight people, and produces about 100,000 barrels a bear a year.

Mason says he hopes to double production because of the new Kid Rock beer, and hopes to hire more than 150 employees over the next five year.

Those jobs are expected to be in the sales packaging and production department.

Positive Detroit Editor's Note: I will donate my taste buds for the greater good of ensuring the best tasting beer is made in Michigan. Please click the tiny envelope below if you would like me to partake in any taste tests. My liver is at your service.

The Kresge Foundation awarded $63.6 million in grants at its fourth-quarter board meeting in December, making the quarter, together with the $181 million in grants for 2008 as a whole, the most generous in the foundation's 85-year history.

"If ever there was a time for Kresge to put its resources on the line to help nonprofit organizations serving the poor and disadvantaged," says Elaine D. Rosen, chair of the board, "it is now. The magnitude of the economic contraction demands we be both creative and aggressive in our grantmaking."

Detroit Program
The foundation made 19 grants to advance the five strategic objectives of Kresge's community development work in metropolitan Detroit, its home town: strengthening the downtown, revitalizing city neighborhoods, re-tooling the regional economy, supporting arts and culture, and enhancing the environment.

A $4 million grant to the College for Creative Studies is emblematic of the kind of investment the foundation believes will be central to re-invigorating the region's economic health. The grant will help complete a $145 million renovation and repurposing of the historic Argonaut Building in Detroit to house a new master's of fine arts program, undergraduate and graduate student housing, and a new charter middle school and high school focused on art and design that will serve the city's youth.

With the opening of the Argonaut Building, the College for Creative Studies, a fully-accredited, degree-granting institution, expects to create 200 new knowledge-economy jobs and expand its enrollment by 250 students with its new MFA program.

"The College for Creative Studies' restoration of the Argonaut is an extraordinary example of a project that ripples in multiple ways beyond the immediate needs of the educational institution," says Rip Rapson, president of the foundation. "It will contribute momentum to the Woodward Corridor's increasingly dynamic creative economy. It will signal the importance of directing investment to the Corridor's historic physical infrastructure. And it will provide a vital updraft for young people aspiring to enter careers in the design professions. We are tremendously excited at its promise on all fronts."

Health Program

Kresge's Health Program is working to improve the environmental conditions that disproportionately contribute to chronic health problems among low-income populations. It also supports efforts to both increase access to health care and improve the quality of care for the poor and disadvantaged.

Lead abatement is one such effort. Building upon a previous grant in September 2008 to the Get the Lead Out Initiative, the board awarded multi-year grants to Alameda County Community Development Agency in Oakland, California ($225,000); the Department of Family and Child Well-Being in Newark, New Jersey ($1.5 million); and the Detroit offices of the Michigan Department of Community Health ($55,000) and the Southeastern Michigan Health Association (two grants totaling $900,000), in support of efforts to decrease and eventually eliminate lead poisoning in children.

To complement the lead abatement work, a multi-year award of $180,000 was made to Greensboro Housing Coalition in Greensboro, North Carolina, in support of its nationally recognized program to improve health by improving overall housing conditions.

"Healthy housing should be a given for families and individuals at all income levels," Rapson adds. "Greensboro is quite innovative in its approach, using nurses and social workers to identify potential health risks, contractors that employ healthy work practices while making repairs, and evaluation methods to measure the changes in housing and health conditions."

Environment Program

Climate change is the over-arching priority of the Environment Program. It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the built environment, accelerate the adoption of renewable energy technologies, and assist in the development of adaptation strategies.

A $5 million grant to the Energy Foundation of San Francisco expands its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from buildings - the cause of approximately 40 percent of carbon emissions in the United States. The multi-year grant enables the Energy Foundation to advance national and state building codes and appliance standards. It also assists in advancing the twin objectives of increasing utility investments in energy efficiency and spurring the adoption of renewable energy policy, particularly in the Midwest and Southern states.

"The Kresge Foundation has been an early and ardent proponent and funder of environmentally sustainable construction and renovation projects in the nonprofit sector," explains Rapson. "We understand the built environment. Through the work of the Energy Foundation, we are able to extend our reach and influence to address the fundamental issues necessary to propel a shift to energy efficiency and sustainability within our nation's building infrastructure."

Advancing adaptation strategies is the focus of multi-year grants made to the Conservation Biology Institute ($1,020,000) in Corvallis, Oregon, and the Center for Resource Economics-Island Press ($600,000) in Washington, D.C. In collaboration with other partners, the Conservation Biology Institute will create an open-access Web database - the Data Basin Climate Center - that will standardize the format and centralize the climate-change related data submitted and used by researchers, policymakers, practitioners and others interested in the field.

Island Press, the nonprofit publishing house for the Center for Resource Economics, is partnering with EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization dedicated to climate change adaptation issues, to build a Web-based Climate Adaptation Knowledge Environment that will gather, synthesize and disseminate knowledge and informational tools on adaptation to climate change for practitioners as well as create an online environment for users to share information. The Data Basin Climate Center (mentioned above) will be one of the resources available to users.

Awards also were made to arts and culture organizations, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, and a broad array of human service organizations.
Nancy Kaffer
Crain's Detroit

The Detroit Investment Fund, partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corp., is launching an Urban Retail Loan Fund in Midtown and the greater downtown area, said Dave Blaszkiewicz, president of the Detroit Investment Fund.
The URLF is a $5 million revolving loan program designed to provide lending support to small and mid-sized, retail storefront businesses in targeted areas of Detroit’s Greater Downtown including Midtown, Downtown, Riverfront, Eastern Market and Corktown.
“Our hope is to create some density of retail, and support those neighborhoods through that density,” Blaszkiewicz said. URLF loans will be managed by the Detroit Investment Fund.
Businesses that will be served by the URLF include boutique grocery stores, restaurants, neighborhood services and small commercial businesses.
“Retail is very important for the revitalization and continued growth of greater downtown Detroit,” said Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance. “Detroit Renaissance will continue to support our long standing commitment to redeveloping Detroit.”

The Oakland University Athletic Department invites you to support OU basketball and cancer research at the 4th Annual OU Coaches vs. Cancer Event on Tuesday, Feb. 17.

Join men's head coach Greg Kampe and women's head coach Beckie Francis, along with members of the men's and women's basketball coaching staffs as they serve as guest grillers at BD's Mongolian Barbeque in Auburn Hills, off university drive.

"I'm excited to do it again," said Kampe. "We have done it for a handful of years now and made thousands of dollars. It's Oakland's small part in a huge battle. We're really excited and happy to be part of it."

Fans are encouraged to attend to watch our guest grillers cook up your meals on a 2,000-pound, 600-degree grill.
The 2009 fundraising goal is $2,000.
All grill tips will be donated to Coaches vs. Cancer in support of cancer research. A 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. seating is available.
Please contact Kate Burke at 248-370-3161 or burke23@oakland.edu to make your

The movie industry is meaning big bucks for Michigan. Millions of dollars have been pumped into the state since the "Film Tax Incentives Program" went into effect last year.
We told you about a studio coming to Pontiac last week. That's going to mean thousands of jobs for the area.
"Action." That's probably the easiest word we know on a movie set. The rest, well, it's a language all its own.
Most of us know "grip" is when you have a firm hold of something. While gaffe refers to a mistake we made. However, both have different meanings on a set. You have the chance to learn that language while possibly starting a new career.
Mort Meisner is still in the television business, even though he is no longer a news director. The Detroit native represents reporters and anchors. Now, he's taking his act to the big screen.
Meisner and his business partner have formed a film school. They came with the idea last fall.
"We met with Hollywood executives, and what they told us is, Michigan has a lot of capable people, but, they're not trained."
Meisner's school will help train people for what they need to know for a career behind the scenes. Set building is in high demand. That's why Meisner is teaming with the Michigan Alliance of Carpenters.
"They have 4,000 of their 20,000 members in Michigan are laid off, and we're going to be training these people."
That's not all. The film industry is expected to create lots of jobs in our state.
"Approximately 20,000-32,000 over the next five years."
Meisner is ready to help train those people.
By the way, "Grip" in movie lingo is a film technician, while a "gaffer" is not a klutz, but, the head electrician.
Classes begin next month, and you can learn more about the film school through this link Click Here

LAKELAND, Fla. - Chuck Helppie is the Ironman of Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camps. While most come to the team's spring training home and live the dream of playing with their heroes for one week, Helppie is a 25-year veteran.

He keeps coming back for more memories, laughs and cutoff throws from outfielders.

More than 4,000 lovers of the Olde English D have attended the camps since the first one in 1984. Seven have been to 20 camps, but only Helppie has celebrated a silver anniversary.

The financial services company president from Pinckney is the Cal Ripken Jr. of baseball wannabes. It's getting harder to snag grounders in the hole and take an extra base, but the camaraderie gets better and better.

Associated PressChuck Helppie of Pinckney is celebrating his 25th year of Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp.

"The hook for me is the guys," said Helppie, who recently turned 57. "I keep coming back here for a week every winter to play ball with my buddies, to put on the uniform and swap stories.
"It's like a baseball frat party with some of my best friends in life. It's bonding, baseball and a chance to get out of Michigan in the winter."

He said 50 of his fellow campers have become friends he stays in touch with, and he has come to know many of those Tigers who won it all in 1968, when he was attending Ypsilanti High, as well as the 1984 Tigers who took the World Series.

But nothing tops that sunny day at Joker Marchant Stadium in 1987, long before he sported a neatly trimmed white beard and when he still had some giddy-up in his tank.

"The real Tiger team was short one guy," Helppie said. "Al Kaline came up to me and said, 'Helppie, go out and play center field for us in the fourth inning.'"

That coming from his lifelong hero ... even priceless seems too trivial a descriptor.

"Al Kaline is next to me in right field and I look the other way and Willie Horton is in left," Helppie recalled. "It's just like you dream."I was so unbelievably excited. That's the root of your fantasy right there. Marchant Stadium had 5,000 fans in it. My only fear was to not muff anything. I got a couple easy flies and caught up to a liner Jim Price hit that just took off. I did just fine."

Helppie wears No. 24 for Mickey Stanley because Kaline's No. 6 is retired, and for part of one game got to play the part of Stanley in the outfield.

Helppie, president of Echelon Wealth Management in Ann Arbor, had an arm injury and never got past junior varsity baseball in high school. But he shells out $2,000 to $3,000 every year and gets to play the game he loves with guys he cherishes and major leaguers who call him by name.

Norm Kubitskey, Glenn Smith, John Adams and Tim Allard keep coming back most years with him. The four suburban Detroit campers and Helppie pull on the genuine home and road Tigers uniforms and caps along with Dick Tracewski, Mickey Lolich, Jon Warden, Horton and Price.

Five of the 1968 Tigers from that first camp attended this latest camp, which is more populated by 1984 Tigers Doug Bair, Juan Berenguer, Tom Brookens, Barbaro Garbey, John Grubb, Guillermo Hernandez, Larry Herndon, Dan Petry and Bill Scherrer. Sprinkled in from other Tigers teams are Rick Leach and Mike Heath.

Heath chuckles at a pitcher struggling to throw strikes and uses a line aimed at Nuke LaLoosh in the movie "Bull Durham," "Breathe through your eyelids, kid!"

Everybody laughs, and the tendonitis and bad knees don't seem so bad for the moment.
"Go right after him!" Helppie shouts to his pitcher before getting into the fielding crouch and glancing at the batter. "C'mon, Gus, hit it to me, buddy."

The only year he missed was 1985, and Jerry Kruso of Southgate is the only camper with more appearances (27). But nobody has been here more years. Kruso passed him by going to two camps a year once they began doubling up.

Helppie played every position in one game in 2002, but usually plays first or third base, sometimes second.

They sing "Happy Birthday" to Helppie here each year, and his wife of 37 years, Vali, a Pinckney Community High School language arts teacher, told him it's OK for him to be alone on that day.

She understands, noting he isn't as cranky when he returns. He came home this year with a Detroit Tigers leather jacket with his name and 25-year achievement embroidered on it.

Helppie has played with the two Detroit World Series championship teams of his lifetime and will team with Todd Jones and perhaps Kenny Rogers and Sean Casey next January when 2006 World Series members are integrated into the fantasy camps.

"I hope to play with more of the '06 players," Helppie said. "I've been here from age 32 to 57. And if I stay healthy, I hope to be here when I'm in my 70s and 80s."

He taps his bat on the ground and smiles.

Who knew that the fountain of youth was right here in Polk County?

Detroit News

The Detroit News is seeking the top high school seniors in the state.

The newspaper is teaming up with CATCH, former Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson's charity for children, to honor the selected students this spring as a part of the 24th annual Detroit News Outstanding High School Graduate program.
Scholarships are expected to be awarded.

"The Detroit News is honored to recognize the best and brightest Michigan high school seniors," said Editor and Publisher Jonathan Wolman. "The rigorous criteria for being named an outstanding graduate assure that this group of students will be among their generation's leaders and highest achievers."

Teachers and school officials can nominate qualifying students by getting an application from http://detnews.com/schools/catch.

Applications must be submitted by March 13. Schools are limited to submitting 11 entries and one student per category.

The criteria for the honors were developed with academic specialists at the Michigan Department of Education. Judges will weigh grades, test scores, honors and community involvement.

But the most important criteria will be students' demonstrated ability in the award categories: athletics, health, journalism, language arts, performing arts, mathematics, science, visual arts, and vocational-technical and world studies. There is also the "against all odds" category, which spotlights students who have overcome challenges and adversity.

Honorees have included blind students as well as a student who overcame substance abuse problems and struggled with cancer.

The top two students in each category will be profiled in The News this spring and honored at an awards dinner. Four students in each category will be selected as runners-up and have their names published in The News. All nominees are expected to receive certificates.

Turn on the radio. Can you tell where you are? In an era of increasingly generic programming, WDET is putting the Detroit back into Detroit radio.

Detroit Public Radio WDET-FM (101.9) today will announce changes in programming that will bring back veteran music host Ann Delisi and infuse the station with more Detroit music and attitude.

The changes will go into effect the week of Feb. 23. At a time when commercial stations like Clear Channel's WDFN-AM (1130) "The Fan" are replacing local air personalities with syndicated programming that lacks the flavor of the city, WDET general manager J. Mikel Ellcessor says his station is choosing a different path. "
When more of Detroit's radio is coming out of town, WDET is drilling deeper into the city," Ellcessor said. "At a time when so much of the world is talking about Detroit, and Detroit is absent from that conversation, the people in the city who are being talked about are like props in a play. It's vital to get their voices back up into that national dialogue."

Nursing Professionals magazine has selected Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak as one of its 2009 "Top 100 Hospitals to Work For." Beaumont was one of five Michigan hospitals to make the listing.

"It's an honor to be recognized nationally as an outstanding place for nurses to work," says Val Gokenbach, R.N., vice president and chief nursing officer at Beaumont, Royal Oak.
"Our ability to provide excellent care for patients depends on the expertise of our nurses. We're especially proud that Beaumont, Royal Oak was the first hospital in Michigan to attain Magnet status, the highest designation for nursing excellence."

In early 2008, Nursing Professionals sent a survey to 25,000 randomly selected hospital nurses throughout the country measuring their job satisfaction. Questions focused on the following topics: training and development; family-friendly employer; equality and diversity; and flexible working arrangements.

"Greater awareness of the crucial role of nurses and the expanded opportunities they have today in patient care, research and training will be very helpful in encouraging more people to enter this profession, " says Donna Anderson, a senior vice president of marketing with
Nursing Professionals.

Nursing Professionals magazine serves as a tool for hospitals, the military and corporations to recruit nurse graduates.

Beaumont Hospitals employs 6,544 nurses, nursing assistants and nurse technicians. The three-hospital system is consistently recognized as having the best nurses by the National Research Corporation and as among the most preferred places to work.
From the flexibility of its nursing pool to a variety of full and part-time opportunities on its medical, surgical, cardiology and maternal child health units, Beaumont has a broad range of opportunities.
All three Beaumont Hospitals have Professional Nurse Councils that are made up of nurses who serve in an advisory and decision-making role to provide leadership in nursing practice, professional development, outcomes and research.

Metro Detroit home sales continued in positive territory for January.

Home sales rose 25.7% last month to 4,301 from 3,421 in January 2008 for Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Livingston counties and parts of St. Clair County, according to Realcomp, a multiple listing service in Farmington Hills.

Realcomp figures come from sales that closed in January as reported by its Realtor members.Karen S. Kage, CEO of Realcomp, said she was heartened that the inventory of homes on the market dropped by 21% compared to 2008. The number of homes on the market in January fell 21% to 53,815 from 68,174 in January '08.

Stephen Baker

One Detroit-area apartment owner is connecting online with current and prospective tenants. Interested in a place? Send a text for a floor plan.

Forty-nine-year-old Eric Brown is no expert in social media. In fact, he doesn't believe such a thing exists. For Brown, social media is a question of trying new forms of communication, from blogs to Facebook and Twitter, and seeing what works and what bombs.
What he has learned, among many lessons, is that reaching out to the unhappiest customers can sometimes not only make them happy, but even turn them into evangelists for Urbane Apartments, his 500 units scattered through Royal Oak, Mich. "When I explain these things to corporate people, they look at me like I have a horn coming out of my head," he says.

Brown, who had worked in housing for 25 years, launched his own real estate business in 2003, and started to buy up midsize apartment buildings in Royal Oak, a Detroit suburb. He was reading a lot about marketing and social media, and one day in 2005 he announced plans to open a company page on MySpace.
His colleagues worried that residents would trash the company on the social network. But Brown bet that they'd point to things that needed fixing.

Problems, he noticed, turned into discussions—and opportunities to improve things. "The more I saw this," he says, "the more I became a believer."

Brown now tries all kinds of things. Some of them work. He enticed six residents of his apartments to keep up a blog. It's not about the apartments, but instead about the life, food, and culture around Royal Oak. It's a lively blog, and he says that some of its cultural aura has rubbed off on his apartment brand.

Solo Apartment Hunting
One benefit of social media is that Brown can understand the problems his tenants (and potential tenants) face—and what drives them crazy. Case in point: For people juggling jobs and family, "looking for an apartment is a pain in the neck," Brown says. The last thing they want is to stand outside an apartment unit and make an appointment to see it later. So Brown fixed up a cell-phone service powered by text messages. When apartment hunters want to see a unit, they text a number. The floor plan of the unit pops up on their phone. And if they want to look around, they get the lockbox code on their phone. Perhaps the best part? They can do it alone. "A lot of times the salesperson just gets in the way," he says.

A few of his social media experiments have flopped. He wanted photos of the apartments with people in them. So he asked residents to take pictures of themselves and upload them to Flickr, Yahoo's (YHOO) popular photo site. The results, he says, were bad. "You never know how things are going to work out." So just before Christmas he tweaked it. On Twitter and Facebook, he offered residents a rent discount if they agreed to pose in Urbane units. By New Year's he had a dozen models ready to pose for a professional photographer. The bonus: Some of them started posting their promotional photos on social networks and e-mailing them to friends.

Despite his energetic outreach, Brown doesn't subscribe to all the traditional lines about customer management. "I don't think the customer's always right," he says. "But most of them are reasonable, so you can come to some kind of compromise."
He also refuses to try to quantify the benefits of social media. "I have no idea how you'd calculate the return on investment," he says.

Cartoon Network shows Metro Detroiters love

Mekeisha Madden Toby
Detroit News Television Writer

Two Metro Detroiters are making Cartoon Network a basic-cable destination this week.

There's Jon Glaser, a son of Southfield, whose new live-action Adult Swim show "Delocated" debuts Thursday.
Adult Swim is of course Cartoon Network's late-night block of programming.

Glaser is an alumnus of the University of Michigan, NBC's "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" and "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" on Comedy Central.

Never one to be overlooked, Detroit native Roz Ryan is the voice of Bubbie the whale on "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack."
While the off-beat animated series doesn't return for a second season until late spring, Ryan and friends put together a nifty love episode just in time for Valentine's Day. Look for that installment on Thursday, as well.

If Ryan's name sounds familiar, you are either a Broadway fan who saw her in a number of musicals, including "Ain't Misbehavin'" and "Dreamgirls," or you watched the 1980s sitcom "Amen" on NBC. Ryan played Amelia, one half of the meddlesome-but-loving Hetebrink sister duo.

Read on to learn more about Ryan and Glaser before the big day.

Roz Ryan

The part of Bubbie was written for a man originally. But that all changed when one of the producers of "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack" heard Roz Ryan audition.

"Something about my voice made him feel all warm and fuzzy," says Ryan, 57, with a giggle. During a recent phone interview, Ryan peppers the conversation with terms of endearment such as "baby," making the interaction feel like a chat with an aunt instead of a one-on-one to promote her show. That's the Detroit in her. Her friendly nature makes her seem like family to a lot of people.

Ryan is doing the interview from Denver on her way to Bangkok. It is there that she'll be co-starring in the traveling production of "Chicago" for two weeks.

"They work with me," says the Mackenzie High School grad of her producers. "I'm in the studio doing voice work for Bubbie for a few hours when I'm in L.A. and then I go and do some work and come back and work in the studio again."

The actress, born Rosalyn Bowen, is best known for the five seasons she played Amelia on NBC's funny church sitcom "Amen." She got her start locally singing in nightclubs such as Watts Mozambique at the tender age of 16. It was a 13-year singing career that eventually led to Broadway.

Detroit radio legend Jay Butler remembers Ryan in those days. The two are still friends, and when Ryan visits family in Detroit about fours times a year, they often hang out.

"Roz is so very talented," says Butler, who can now be heard hosting "Jay's Place," a blues show that broadcasts on WDET-FM (101.9) on Saturday nights. Butler is also the host of "FaithTalk Afternoons" on the Christian station WLQV-AM (1500).

"I wish more people could hear her sing," Butler says. "She has such a wonderful voice, but she's found something special in acting, and now she's doing more of that. If she could get an album deal, it would be over. People would want her to sing everything."

As for Ryan's humble beginnings in Detroit, Butler couldn't be more proud.

"Back in the day, she did a lot of singing with rock bands," Butler says. "Now look at her. That's talent."

Ryan continues to make her mark. In addition to the voice work she does for "The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack," she'll be appearing in two films, including the Ricky Gervais comedy "Invention of Lying," which is due in theaters later this year.

"Ricky is a hoot. I can't say enough about him," says Ryan of Gervais, who wrote and directed the flick.

But for now, Ryan, a mother and grandmother, is all about Bubbie, the maternal whale who raises a little boy named Flapjack.

"I love doing voice work," she says. "The freedom it gives me is wonderful, and I have two granddaughters, 8 and 5, two mini-mes, who love the show. Who can resist that?"
Jon Glaser
As the brains and the body behind the lead character in "Delocated," Jon Glaser is the first to tell you that this is not an autobiographical tale.

Not so coincidentally, the live-action comedy follows a guy named Jon, who after testifying against the Russian Mafia, is relocated by the government along with his wife and child. Instead of enjoying life in anonymity, Jon decides to subject his family to a reality show in which they live in a posh New York loft and hide their identities with ski masks.

"I've been thinking about this character for a long time," says the Southfield-Lathrup High School alumnus in a phone chat from New York last week. He and his wife and kids all live in the Big Apple.

"I did a similar character on 'Conan,' except that guy was an impersonator who was in the witness protection program, and no matter who he impersonated, they all sounded digitally disguised."

Glaser, whose parents and siblings still live in Metro Detroit, has an equally funny explanation about sharing the name Jon with his character.

"It's an homage to Tony Danza, who often plays characters named Tony," Glaser, 40, half-jokingly says. "I wanted this character to be a total jerk, so I did everything I could to make him that way.

"Like for me, it's too late to go back to Jonathan even though I want to, because people would think I'm a jerk. But this guy, he would go back to being called Jonathan in a heartbeat."
Eric Campbell
The Michigan Citizen
While Michigan’s Governor and other state officials have spent time recently talking about the importance of preparing for the future job market, one local program is already placing skilled workers on the road from a pollution-based economy to a green one.
DWEJ (Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice) has developed Green Jobs Workforce Training Program, creating a skilled workforce that will in turn make Detroit more attractive to a brand new sector of industry, according to DWEJ Green Jobs director, Roshani Dantas.
“We think it’s key for Detroiters to be at the beginning of this green process,” Dantas told the Michigan Citizen. “Detroit is the place where this needs to happen.”
The program has its roots in a brownfield cleanup training program that DWEJ started in 1995.
The Green Jobs program now has the support and funding of the National Institute of Environmental Health Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It’s part of a consortium of urban environmental groups which includes the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice in New Orleans.
In its first year the DWEJ Green Jobs program accepted over 300 applications for a 13-week class that would only hold 25 members. This year the program will run two classes — interviews are already being conducted for the March session. A second class will be given in September.
The program stands out for targeting underemployed and unemployed Detroit residents.
Applicants are not required to hold a high school diploma or GED. Nor does DWEJ discriminate against residents with criminal backgrounds.Dantas says that the small class size is designed to give students a broad spectrum of tools and a generous amount of attention.
The 25 applicants who make it through the application and interview process essentially receive a scholarship which may include bus passes or parking vouchers, and catered breakfast and lunch daily.
“We want to remove any barriers that would get in the way of learning in the classroom,” Dantas says.
The curriculum itself starts with six weeks of basic math and reading skills, job readiness and life skills training, counseling and computer literacy. Students are also exposed to environmental justice issues.
“Our goal is not just to get them a job, but also make them complete advocates in the community,” Dantas says.
The second six weeks involve technical training associated with jobs in environmental clean up and remediation. Students receive state-certified training in asbestos and lead abatement, confined space entry, OSHA 10 workplace certification, HAZWOPER certification, and environmental site assessment.
A supplement to the program includes training in energy auditing, green landscaping, computer-aided design and geothermal technology.
The program also includes a comprehensive job placement component that includes input and training from potential employers themselves.
Kinnus Paul is the job developer and a recent graduate of the jobs training program. His mission is to seek out employers and market potential employees. He says that the Green Jobs’ focus on jobs skills in particular makes potential employees attractive to employers looking to the Detroit area.
Graduates like Grayling Owens, who spent six years in prison, have been the “star students in the program.” Owens now works in lead removal for B & A Environmental in Livonia.
Cedric Dicus, 25, is a graduate of last years’ inaugural class. He now cleans storage tanks and performs clean air testing for Birks Works Environmental in Detroit. He says that the wide range of training led immediately to a variety of job opportunities.
“I just hung in there,” Dicus told the Michigan Citizen. “In the end, we got a number of certifications.”
Roshani Dantas says that the first stages of the greening process involve addressing the aging infrastructure, abandoned properties and decades of environmental neglect. Her expansive background in studying how chemicals affect the community has led her to the conclusion that, “You have to clean up before you go green.”
She’ll be pressing that point and others when DWEJ presents its successful programs to the State Green Jobs Conference in May. The region and Detroit in particular have an opportunity to be at the forefront of a revolution in industry while employing the services of those that need the work the most.
Dantas says that as the demand for environmental remediation and gainful employment increases, DWEJ would like to offer up to 12 classes a year.
“This program is for the individuals that didn’t go to college but just need a chance,” Dantas insists.
“If you really know you can do this, than this is the program for you.”
For more on the Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice Green Jobs Training Program visit www.dwej.org or call 313-833-3935.
Sean Jagodzinski

In the center of Detroit's flag is the City Seal. The two Latin mottos read Speramus Meliora and Resurget Cineribus, which means "We hope for better things" and "It will rise from the ashes."
The seal represents the Detroit fire of June 11, 1805 in which the entire city burned with only one building saved from the flames. The figure on the left weeps over the destruction while the figure on the right gestures to the new city that will rise in it's place.
Could you imagine your entire city burning down, facing a total rebuild? In Detroit this has happened at least twice. Once in 1805 and again in 1967. In 1805 they chose to rebuild the city, eventually leading to many of America's greatest inventions, art and music legends, large corporations, and a city of three million.
In 1967, Detroiter's decided not to rebuild, but instead moved, and decided the mountain before them was too great. What followed was over forty years of problems, as they tried to live among or adjacent to the city ruins. Eventually, they were forced to leave or sink, and America was stuck dragging along another weakened link in it's chain.
In hindsight, Detroit has gone through a lot, and that's because Detroit has done a lot. Detroit isn't doing as good as other cities, it's true. But, that is because Detroit had to go through a lot more than most cities.
The current situations in our city are precarious. City and suburb neighborhoods are in shambles, and portions of the current leadership still need fresh faces or systems. Our most recent glimmers of hope are facing failure if we give up, and make no mistake, tomorrow is getting much harder for all of us.
But, Detroit is a city of strength. Detroiter's do not collapse and fold under the pressure.
Detroiters stand strong, because Detroiters know that they learn and grow stronger from failure and adversity; like a chain being hammered through the fires of our smelting plants; like gold being purified or a chain link being strengthened.
Today, I urge you to explore what you can do for your city/metro. It doesn't matter if it's picking up pieces of trash on your block or on the walk to work and lunch Downtown, reporting a burned out streetlight, reporting crimes when they happen to you, simply mentioning something new in the city, editing a Detroit Wikipedia article, or giving money to a Detroit area non-profit institution.
Remember, everything that has happened in Detroit has happened as a result of acting on dreams, or not having the will power to see the dreams through. What happens next is up to all of us.
Will our grandchildren look back and see us as failures, or a city that was rebuilt twice?
The decision is yours.

Sold: Grosse Pointe Houses

Grosse Pointe News

Lawrence Scaff and Patricia Riker have the distinction of being Grosse Pointe's newest residents. And they are not the only newbies in town.
Scaff, 66, a political science professor at Wayne State University, and Riker, 66, a retired project manager with Honda, just days ago moved into their new house on Westchester in Grosse Pointe Park, and they couldn't be happier.
"I was attracted to the total environment that the Pointes have to offer," said Scaff. "I've been in and out of the Pointes since I moved to this area in 1998. I was familiar with the Village and several Wayne State people live in the area."
And then there's the lake, which Riker, an avid sailor, referred to as "the third coast.""I lived in Santa Monica, just two blocks from the beach," said Riker, "so we're very much looking forward to getting out on the water."
Scaff had previously lived in Lafayette Park and sold his townhouse after about six weeks on the market. He and Riker began their search in Grosse Pointe early last fall, accompanied by real estate agent Beline Obeid.
"We actually looked at about 25 to 30 houses and ironically, the house we ended up buying was the very first house we looked at. We looked at several other houses, then did a full circle and came right back to the very first one we looked at."
"We have beautiful homes on the market right now," Obeid said.
"Grosse Pointe is the most desirable of communities. We have the lake, parks, an outstanding school system, but we have other things as well, such as churches and outstanding hospitals and medical facilities. And now is definitely the time to buy, especially with these low interest rates."
Realtor George Smale, president of the Grosse Pointe Board of Realtors, echoed her sentiments.
Smale said statistics indicate while the inventory of houses for sale is down, sales have been slow but steady.
"There are currently 554 homes on the market," Smale said, "which is down from a high of nearly 800 at one time. According to the MiRealSource multiple listing service we use, there were 471 homes sold in the Pointes in 2008."
Smale declined to predict what 2009 would bring."I really don't know what to expect or to even predict," he said. "There are too many external forces operating against us, but I will say that now is definitely the time to buy if you can, and Grosse Pointe is definitely the place to buy. It has stability, tremendous services, an outstanding school system and the parks. This is not subdivision living, but rather small town living. Interest rates are low, prices are down. While credit has been tight, it's starting to loosen up."
Kim Schmidt, regional president of Community Central Bank, said money is becoming available, but advises customers to work closely with their real estate agents and have their financial affairs in order before applying.

Families move to Grosse Pointe for many reasons and sometimes they move from one Pointe to another, as the Williams family did recently. They moved from the Park to the Farms so Liam, 12, could walk to St. Paul Catholic School.

"Mortgage money was difficult to come by for awhile," she said. "Government regulations went from being too lax to being too strict. But those regulations have become far more sensible, making more money available. And right now the rates are historically low."
Schmidt wrote 160 mortgages in 2008 and predicts 2009 will be busy as well, not only with new mortgages, but some refinancing.
"Of course the problem we're seeing with refinancing is the appraisal issue, with values being lower than they were a few years ago. But if we can work out a refinancing, we will," Schmidt said.
Realtors are focused on new sales and at least one agent is encouraged by young families moving into the area.
"What I'm seeing is a lot of young people who grew up in Grosse Pointe coming back and buying homes here when they want to settle down. They obviously know what a great community it is, and right now, you can't beat the values," said Realtor Beverly Tannian.
She recently sold a house on Buckingham in Grosse Pointe Park to Lisa McQueen, who grew up in Grosse Pointe. Her husband, Steve, said his father taught in the Grosse Pointe schools. They moved with their five sons after outgrowing their home in Macomb Township.
"I like the small town atmosphere," Lisa McQueen said. "I especially wanted to get away from all the shopping centers and strip malls. And I love being by the water."
"There was no hesitation when we started looking. We knew we wanted to move to Grosse Pointe," Steve said. "We always appreciated the older style homes and the schools are something that appealed to us."
The private schools also have appeal to Lynne and Brian Williams.They moved to the area so their children could walk to St. Paul on the Lake school.
"My husband lived in Grosse Pointe before we were married," said Lynne Williams. "It's like a small town, and pretty soon the lines blur as to how you even know people. We have friends from school, friends from the neighborhood and people we have been friends with for years. There's a real sense of community."
Amid the boxes and controlled chaos of moving, Scaff also talked about that sense of community, explaining his colleague's praises of Pointes, sold him on the area.That colleague was State Representative Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe.
"Tim's enthusiasm wore off on me," Scaff said with a laugh. "I finally had to move here."