PRNewswire

Greektown Casino-Hotel officials announced today that market share increased from January 2009 to February 2009 by nearly one percent and represents the first market share increase for the property since September 2008.

Greektown Casino also showed positive year-over-year February revenue numbers, with an increase of 1.89 percent, in relation to February 2008.

February 2009 revenue is the highest for the company since it filed for Bankruptcy in May 2008. In addition, the company is also exceeding internal financial projections and expected hotel occupancy rates.

"Our numbers are positive compared to last year and that represents a great new beginning for Greektown. The market share increase from last month to this month indicates signs of a positive trend. The Fine Point Group was selected to turn this property around, and while we are a long way from being out of the woods, we are excited about the new momentum and are looking forward to continued progress," said Randall A. Fine, Managing Director of The Fine Point Group and soon to be Chief Executive Officer of Greektown Casino-Hotel pending regulatory approvals.

In recent weeks, Greektown Casino-Hotel embarked on a new marketing program including hotel incentives for players, a starting room rate of just $99, several casino promotions with chances to win a "life changing" amount of money such as "Spin to Win $1 Million" and "Sure Win Hot Seat."

"While the revenue numbers look great, anyone can grow the topline if they lose focus on profitability. At Greektown, we are also exceeding all of our internal profitability projections and goals - by 30 percent in January and 80 percent in February. The new hotel tower is doing great as well, with 60 percent weekday and 80 to 100 percent occupancy on weekends. We're pushing an aggressive marketing campaign and we've begun to see positive numbers as a result. We are going to show the people of Detroit that no one will work harder for their business," said Fine.

Located at 555 E. Lafayette Avenue in Detroit's Greektown Entertainment District, Greektown Casino-Hotel opened on Nov. 10, 2000.

Greektown Casino-Hotel offers such amenities as their all-new International Buffet, the Eclipz Lounge and a VIP lounge for players.

Greektown Casino-Hotel opened its new 400-room hotel tower February 2009.

For reservations and group events, call 877-GCH-5554 or visit http://www.greektowncasino.com/.

A NON-MOTORIZED PLAN FOR THE MOTOR CITY

Dorian Moore
In a previous post I talked about the need for cities to look at their situations as-is.

This leads to uncovering opportunities that exploit a city’s “uniqueness."

The City of the Past thrived on communal interaction out of necessity.

The City of the Present has an emphasis on private space aided and abetted by personal electronics.

The City of the Opportunity embraces adaptive reuse of place and space as a primary “organizing” theme.

Urban areas are uniquely equipped to provide this type of experience because of the concentration of the built “infrastructure” of buildings, open space, and landmarks, which create an environment of intense energy.

Understanding the roles that all three of the above elements play will be important in dealing with nature as a desirable amenity within the city will be paramount to counteract the rapid suburbanization of our country in the latter half of the 20th century. To ease the now inbred misunderstanding of the virtue of density among American citizens, natural elements must coexist with, but not dominate, the urban realm.

The Non-Motorized Urban Transportation Masterplan for Detroit is an example of opportunistic thinking in action. When you think of it what better place for this than the city that is known for the auto and yet 30% of its populace doesn’t own one?

I. DETROIT: THE URBAN CONDITION

The trials and tribulations of Detroit have been well documented:

-population loss to below 1 million after peaking at 2 million in the 1950s
-racial polarization
-economic disinvestment leading to physical devastation

The intrigue of Detroit stems from the fact that it is “shrinking” yet this shrinking is just the thing that is providing it with unparalleled opportunities for [re]development. The urban condition has become much more than the “hole in the donut”. It is a tattered tapestry. Thing that makes any tapestry, though, is the quality of the connections.

Detroit has (de)veloped into a series of destinations that are disconnected. Currently, “The City” (i.e.,government) and designers are searching for ways to link these pieces utilizing unique functions. We can understand how this situation is being reversed by looking at the city in relation to how it is [re]forming itself.

The following three areas, if successfully handled, could hold the answer for the rebirth of the city:

“Creative Economies”
Green development principles provide opportunities to rethink the way urban space works as well as how the urban economy flows.

“Opportunity-based Redevelopment”
Adaptive reuse of buildings and sites becomes a change agent by providing the opportunity to inject new functions into existing areas, creating catalysts for change.

“Transitions of Activity”
These areas are of primary concern. They hold the key to urban restructuring in many post-industrial cities. Detroit is specifically rethinking its core with “gaming” facilities as well as grass roots appropriation of public space. This approach fills needs on both ends of the socio-economic spectrum, but it does not help to “heal” the city overall. It represents both hope and despair.
II. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF UNDERUTIZED ROADS AND PARK SYSTEMS

Interestingly, though, Detroit has embarked on an endeavor that can fulfill this goal: a master plan for a Non-Motorized Path System for the entire city. 139 square miles of walking trails, greenways, and bicycle paths that will be used to provide connectivity between the numerous disparate nodes within the city. This plan, once implemented will provide non-car dependant mobility options for citizens of the “Motor City."

This is crucial in a city where more than half the population depends on public transportation that consists only of buses. I have been fortunate to be one the urban design consultants on this unique initiative5. This initiative takes advantage of the “opportunity” that underutilized streets, parks, districts, and rights-of-way provide. It attempts to stitch together the tattered tapestry.

III. THE PROCESS FOR THE NON-MOTORIZED PLAN

A. Design Team planning process

a. Destination Analysis
b. Route Analysis
c. Infrastructure Inventory
d. Intra-city connectivity

B. Public Involvement process

The process of realizing the Non-Motorized Path system involved community input at multiple levels. The design team conducted workshops in communities on all sides of the city. The team also worked closely with the Parks and Recreation department and the Department of Streets and Roads. The overwhelming vacancy in the city became a positive for realizing the project. The openness fostered creativity in planning as well as responding to residents needs.

C. Guidelines

a. Bike Lanes
b. Trailways
c. Greenways

IV. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PLAN

A. Recommendations
B. Educating the Public
C. Encouraging usage
D. Enforcing rules of engagement

V. CONCLUSION

Towards a Better Community
A new urban environment is created by combining the traditional planning of urban areas with new technologies and aesthetics. The buildings respect the scale of the pedestrian and also provide interesting and engaging storefronts to make for a pleasurable experience. The area contains a healthy mix of housing, shopping, entertainment, and office functions. Again, this a traditional model for healthy urban development realized in a decidedly contemporary aesthetic. True urban space is created. Older, primarily industrial, American cities which typically have large areas of urban blight must embrace this concept of creating healing environments from the decay. Creating multi-functioning environments within the gaping holes in the existing fabric is an area where the city of the future can make the largest stride towards completely recapturing the spirit of community. A key element in doing this will be a connecting system that embraces, rather than fights, the existing paradigm.
http://nicolena10.blogspot.com/

It's such a breath of fresh air to read an article that sheds some positive light on Detroit. Every time I do, I make sure to share it with as many people as possible because we're all drowning in a sea of negativity on a daily basis.

Jeff Barr from the Kalamazoo Gazette shows some love for Detroit in his recent article about a Motown weekend getaway. In one article, Jeff sums up the message various organizations in southeast Michigan are trying to get across to the rest of the world, and sadly the majority of Michigan: Detroit truly has a lot to offer.

Jeff and his wife drove the two hours east from the K-zoo to Detroit - the "big-time city that often gets a big-time bad rap." The couple discovered just how fun and exciting Detroit can be, and I thank Jeff for putting his weekend into words to share this experience with the many skeptics.

Jeff highlights a variety of Detroit locations, including the Ren Cen Marriott, 42 Degrees North and Volt in the Ren Cen, the Fox Theater and of course, American Coney Island.

The entire weekend Jeff and his wife were in Detroit, they encountered not one of Detroit's typical stereotypes (you know, drug deals on every street corner and the constant ear-splitting sound of gun shots). They simply had a great vacation that didn't require the typical expenditures or travel hassle that accompanies many trips.

Take a few minutes to read the entire article. We all need a reminder that there are many reasons why we choose to live, work and play in Detroit.

Biggby Coffee Rules Social Media

http://www.yaffetidbitsblog.com/

You don't have to be a big company to be big in social media. Sure, large companies like Ford and GM have directors of social media on staff, but smaller companies who commit to it can make a big impact, too.

In fact, they just may be able to do it better. Such is the case with Biggby Coffee, a coffee chain of around 150 shops based out of East Lansing, Michigan.

Their whole vibe is an anti-Starbucks, fun and friendly vibe. And they're big into creating engagement with both their customers and their employees.

I'd seen Biggby Coffee shops going up around town here and decided to check them out online. Right away, they engage you when you land on the homepage. You can customize it with your own name and your choice of 5 backgrounds. There's also a trivia game you can play. But, the real engagement occurs when you enter the B Happy Lounge.

Near the top of the page, their logo keeps opening and shutting with CEO Biggby Bob popping his head out and inviting you into the lounge. Once there, you have a number of things to do and links to all their social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Biggby Bob's Blog, a YouTube channel, Flickr and LinkedIn.

The first place I went was an area in the lounge that invites customers to upload a picture to enter into Biggby's "Let's Travel The World Together" photo contest. All you have to do is take a picture of anything anywhere as long as it has a Biggby cup in the shot.

There are monthly and yearly winners, It's perfect to engage the rabid fan who's going to enter, but also to engage the casual fan who just enjoys viewing the photos - each a consumer generated subtle ad for Biggby.

The CEO, Biggby Bob writes the ongoing commentary for the Twitter account and uses it very effectively. It's the right mix of personal, business and fun tweets. He keeps up a pretty steady stream and was pretty quick to reply when I sent him a tweet - something you'd never get from a big company CEO. Plus, they do a good job of combining customer engagement with promotion.
On different days, they do a Spot Bob promotion, where Biggby Bob sends out tweets that he will be at a certain store during a set time frame. If you spot him and come up and talk to him, he'll buy your drink. I think that's a brilliant use of social media. It drives customers to your store for a free trial and a chance to chat with a CEO. But it's done in a non-selling way, one that is acceptable in a social media setting. Plus, the company gets ongoing, instant feedback from its customers during these chats.

Their YouTube channel is a way to connect with both the customer base and the employees. Much of the videos there are interviews Biggby Bob did with his hand held camera in different stores with the winners of their barista competition.

Fans can nominate their favorite barista for the honor on Biggby's Facebook fan pageand see their winning barista talk on the YouTube channel. And when you become a fan on Facebook, a day or so later you get a friend invitation from Biggby Bob, generating yet another connection to me, the customer. Bob often records random videos of stuff on his travels from store to store and posts them on the Facebook sites.

With all this and many other things they're doing, Biggby shows that by being committed to it, you can create a strong, multi-channel social media campaign that connects and engages your fans in so many ways, no matter what your size. And they carry that vibe into the store experience, too. My visits so far have found the same commitment to engaging their customers on the employee level, in person, as they do on a corporate level online. They brew a pretty darn good cup of coffee, too.


To find the Biggby in your backyard, click here.
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This afternoon, Major League Baseball announced that 10 players from Team USA will be on The Late Show with David Letterman Thursday night to read the Top Ten list:

Top Ten Reasons to Watch the World Baseball Classic

Here are the details from CBS:

The 10 Team USA players taking part in the Top Ten List are: Derek Jeter from the New York Yankees; David Wright from the New York Mets; Chipper Jones from the Atlanta Braves; Ryan Braun from the Milwaukee Brewers; Jimmy Rollins from the Philadelphia Phillies; Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis from the Boston Red Sox; Curtis Granderson from the Detroit Tigers; Roy Oswalt from the Houston Astros; and Adam Dunn from the Washington Nationals.
So Curtis won't be sitting down to chat with Letterman (someday, maybe), but the rest of Thursday's show should be great, with Jon Stewart and U2 as guests. (U2 is actually the musical guest for the whole week.) Set your DVRs!
AJ's Cafe of Ferndale is planning to break the Guinness record for "longest concert by multiple artists" when it hosts a 10-day continuous musical tribute to the American auto industry.

The 240-hour "Assembly Line" show -- planned for March 20-30 -- will be hosted by AJ's Cafe in Ferndale, MI, the latest in a series of events planned by cafe owner and community activist AJ O'Neil.

O'Neil made headlines in March 2007, when he hosted a 50-hour "Danny Boy" marathon. He recently made national news again with his offer of a free cup of coffee to customers who pledge to buy American cars.

The Assembly Line concert will bring the two worlds together as the music marathon pays tribute to American workers, products and automobiles. The Danny Boy marathon attracted singers ranging from local business owners to the governor of Michigan.

The Assembly Line will also call on musicians from all segments of society to come together in the heart of hard-hit Main Street America and help pay tribute to the down, but not out, American worker.

"We call on every manufacturing plant, every car dealership, garage mechanic to join us," O'Neil said. "We call on politicians, loan officers, credit agencies, builders to join us. We call for music to heal us.

"We call on the corporate world to join us to help us in our Main Street solution to this American challenge."

The Assembly Line Concert will feature at least 240 acts, performing for 240 hours, nonstop, at AJ's Cafe, 240 Nine Mile Road, Ferndale, MI.

Each of the 10 days will highlight different aspects of the American partnership between workers, employers, politicians and the media.

One day, political leaders will play 24, one-hour sets; another day, auto workers; and another day, local Detroit bands. Even members of the media will have their own day to play and be a part of the big news event.

If anybody can pull off an event like this, it's AJ O'Neil, who has a history of bringing the community together for special events and causes.

In December, what began as O'Neil's small effort to show support for a bridge loan to the Big Three automakers grew into a movement and generated media coverage nationwide.

His offer of a free cup of coffee to customers who sign a promise that they will buy an American-made car prompted an overwhelming response that resulted not only in O'Neil briefly running out of coffee, but also a new Web site: http://ipromiseamerica.com/, and social networking site: http://ipromiseamerica.ning.com/. The online community has been growing ever since, and O'Neil plans on tying the effort to his Assembly Line concert idea.

O'Neil's 50-hour "Danny Boy" marathon last year brought prominent politicians, including Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, to his coffee shop stage.

The marathon inspired a book about how the community came together for the marathon -- and about O'Neil's personal struggles. "In Sunlight or in Shadow," by Karen Wilhelm, is scheduled for release in February.

AJ's Music Cafe is located at 240 W. Nine Mile Road in Ferndale, MI.

You can contact O'Neil at 248-399-3946 or e-mail him at ajamesoneil@gmail.com.
http://www.wxyz.com/
www.cnnmoney.com

Gary Heitman of Plymouth is just one example of how changing careers can change your life.

Eyeing the repeated rounds of layoffs at Ford, IT manager Gary Heitman didn't need a GPS to know which direction his 30-year career with the automaker was heading.

So he volunteered for a buyout in 2006, figuring the next offer might not be so generous.

Heitman, who'd been making $160,000 a year, knew he couldn't afford to retire on a pension of half his salary.

The widower had two teenagers, Ashley, now 17, and Derek, 14, to raise and put through school.

He also knew that finding a comparable IT job at his age would be tough.

So Heitman worked his contacts and said yes to a $60-an-hour parttime job scouting new business for a staffing agency he'd worked with at Ford.

The salary, plus his pension, brings him close to his former income, so his retirement plans -- he hopes to quit by 2013 -- are intact. The bonus: He gets to spend more time with his kids. Even on the days he travels, he's home in time to make dinner.

Gary was featured in Money Magazine as part of a story called "Rescue Your Retirement."

He has the following advice for others who want to pick themselves up and start over:

Use your network of family, friends and business associates
Don't be afraid to ask for help
Always maintain a positive attitude
Develop a powerful resume
Be prepared to work hard
Take advantage of free resources offered by colleges, churches or government programs

Do you have a story similar to Gary's? Click on the envelope icon below and email me your story. It could be the next featured article on Positive Detroit!

Detroit: Doing Right by the Waterfront


John Davidson
http://www.planphilly.com/

When it comes to city planning and urban environments, Detroit isn't usually the first place to look for examples of how to do it right. Not that there hasn't been some creative revitalization downtown in recent years, but significant sections of the city's core were abandoned or razed long ago, and remain that way—part of Detroit's troubled history, which it is now struggling mightily to overcome.

Part of that tension is playing out on the city's waterfront. Like Philadelphia, Detroit has a sizeable, underused waterfront, which is in the process of being renewed and reinvented as a center of civic life and pedestrian use.

The Detroit River, like the Delaware River, was once a bustling center of shipping and commerce. In the early 20th century, the river was dubbed "The Greatest Commercial Artery on Earth," with more shipping tonnage passing through the Motor City than either New York or London.
Later in the century, as everyone knows, the city fell on hard times and the river's industrial might declined. The waterfront languished there as it did in Philadelphia—a unique urban asset cut off from residents and the life of downtown.

But Detroit, ever the city committed to renaissance, began to change things. In 2003, the powers that be commissioned a study that resulted in the creation of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy a public-private partnership whose stated purpose was to clean up and improve the city's waterfront.

It identified an area designated as the Detroit International Riverfront, which extends from the Ambassador Bridge to the Gabriel Richard Park, just east of the Belle Isle Bridge, about a five-mile span of waterfront next to downtown.

The DRFC's efforts have thus far focused largely on the RiverWalk, a continuous expanse of parks, promenades and green spaces. The East Riverfront, a 3.5-mile span from the Joe Louis Arena to Gabriel Richard Park near Belle Isle, has seen the lion's share of development, which began in earnest in 2007.

Since then, various public spaces have been opening along the river and connecting waterfront landmarks like the Renaissance Center, GM Plaza and Tri-Centennial State Park with a patchwork of wide promenades, parks and large pavilions.

The development of Detroit's riverfront actually stands in contrast, in terms of scale, to much of the rest of the city. Built to service the automobile, Detroit is not laid out with pedestrians in mind: wide swaths of pavement cut through downtown, making travel by vehicle a near necessity.

Not so with the new RiverWalk; it is in every way built to a human scale, catering to walkers, bikers, strollers and joggers.

The RiverWalk development plan includes transforming parking lots like these near the waterfront into green spaces, and in some cases, into luxury housing developments.


Part of the RiverWalk construction has involved reclaiming vast downtown parking lots that nearly abut the riverbank. In their place will eventually be wide swaths of green space and footpaths leading to the water. In fact, if the design principles employed on the city's waterfront were somehow extended throughout the city, Detroit would be the picture of a modern, sustainable urban center.

The success of the project is instructive for Philadelphia—or any modern city with a post-industrial waterfront. Detroit's now-bustling, pedestrian-centered waterfront, once designed and built entirely for industrial use, now includes the former grounds of factories like the Uniroyal tire plant and Medusa cement company. Private land that had impeded public access to the river was acquired.

The waterfront's economic appeal now lies in how it can serve individuals, both as a place to exercise and play, and as a focal point for festivals, concerts, and outdoor exhibits.

Among the more popular events held on the riverfront are GM Days, a four-day festival that draws some 700,000 attendees annually; and Rockin' on the Riverfront, which brings free Friday concerts beginning in April.

The East River Front has also helped bring in private development; million-dollar condos like Watermark Detroit are going up, enticed partly by the appeal of a vibrant, active waterfront.

That said, development of the East Riverfront has not been cheap. To date, the DRFC has raised $102 million toward its capital campaign goal of $140 million. The most recent contribution came in December, when Wayne County contributed $1 million. But money needs to keep coming in if work is going to move forward. In September, construction began on the expansion of Tricentennial State Park and Harbor—a project managers have said will take 275 days to complete.

Gabriel Richard Park, the eastern most point for the RiverWalk, is located just east of the Belle Isle Bridge and directly across the Detroit River from Belle Isle. The DRFC recently improved the park with a plaza and pavilion.

But so far, Detroit's ambitious waterfront plan seems to be working. The use of a public-private partnership in the form of the DRFC is analogous, in many ways, to Philadelphia's Action Plan for the Central Delaware. That plan, crafted by the Central Delaware Advocacy Group and Penn Praxis, in cooperation with city residents, will see funding from both public and private sources in the coming years, much like the DRFC's East Riverfront plan has.

Once you get away from the waterfront, much of Detroit is built for vehicles. In contrast to the walkable, pedestrian-scale riverfront, Detroit has many wide, multi-lane streets cutting through its downtown.

And if Detroit's experience is any indication, then it just might work.
Detroit Free Press

Thirty-five filmmakers qualified for $48 million in payments from state government for work done in Michigan during the first 10 months operation of an incentive program enacted last year by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and the Legislature, according to a film office report the Free Press obtained today.

The tally includes 22 feature films, a pair of television movies, two TV pilots, a reality show and four documentaries.

Filmmakers spent about $125 million in Michigan on the projects.

The report did not break down spending on individual films because the law restricts release to the public of financial information about any of the projects.

The most well-known productions in Michigan have been “Gran Torino,” produced by Clint Eastwood, and “Prayers for Bobby,” a television movie produced by Sigourney Weaver.

The 35 projects resulted in employment of about 2,800 people, the film office said. Seventy-one projects have been okayed for incentive payments (worth up to 42% of production costs), but have not yet been completed or sought post-production certification to qualify for state incentive payments.

The report also cites two large scale studio projects announced last month in Detroit and Pontiac which it says are “laying the foundation for an industry that will support long term growth.”

State Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, said he’s heard nothing but positives about the local surge in activity by filmmakers and others (the incentives are available to video game makers, animators and others as well).

“I think it’s been very positive,” said Basham, who is working with officials in Allen Park trying to attract another studio project.

I say, ‘If they’re going to be making ‘em, why not make ‘em in Michigan.”

Steven Miller, director of the Center for Economic Analysis at Michigan State University, said there is no question the incentives are “creating activity in Michigan.”
http://fangearku.blogspot.com/

Comes complete with multiple pieces so you can change his look frequently.
A fun fan item and a great collectible.
This product, licensed by Hasbro, Inc., is a miniature sports version of the classic retail Mr. Potato Head.
Standing 5" tall, the molded plastic potato wears a team jersey and has multiple choices of shoes, fun faces, hairstyles and applicable sports paraphernalia.
Click Here to purchase your very own!
http://motorcityconnect.collectivex.com/

Abick's Bar, located at 3500 Gilbert in Detroit, will once again host the popular "Prime Your Pump for Patty's Day" charity benefit on Friday, March 13 at 7:00pm.

All proceeds from the evening will benefit the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.

Founded in Detroit in 1952, the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan is a statewide organization that provides information, financial assistance, and emotional support to families of adults and children affected by blood disorders.

Betsy Bonnell, Director of Development for the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan notes that the organization does not receive government funding of any kind.

"We rely wholly on the generosity of individuals. The significance of events like this is that the money is raised here and stays here."

The charity benefit, which is co-sponsored by Sure Shot Darts, will run dart tournaments during the night with trophies and cash prizes going to first and second place winners.

The event will feature a live auction, to include tickets and autographed memorabilia from the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers, bar mirrors, and much more.

There will also be plenty of the homemade food that has become a staple of Abick's events.
There is no cover charge for this event.
Detroit Free Press
Detroit’s status as the bowling capital of the world has been given a major reinforcement from the Professional Bowlers Association.

The PBA is planning to announce that all seven tournaments that will constitute the first half of the 2009-10 season, along with ancillary events, will be conducted in suburban Detroit.

Billed as the World Series of Bowling, the events will run from Aug. 1-Sept. 7 with the kickoff tournament, the PBA Motor City Open, Aug. 1-6 at Taylor Lanes, a longtime PBA host.

The rest of the events, including six exempt PBA Lumber Liquidator Tour events, the return of the PBA Women’s series and a revamped PBA Senior Tour World Championship, will be at Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park. The concluding tournament will be the PBA World Championship, one of the tour’s four major events.

“We are thrilled to host this revolutionary month in PBA Tour history,” said Thunderbowl proprietor Tom Strobl. “Detroit’s passionate bowling fans are in for a treat.”

Mark Martin, association manager for the Metro Detroit USBC is excited about the tournament marathon.

“Detroit has a long history in bowling and we welcome the PBA for this one-of-a-kind set of events,” Martin said. “The Metro Detroit USBC will gladly work with the PBA and the host centers in making this venture asuccess."

The tournament finals, except for the World Championship, will be taped and aired on ESPN from mid-October to early December, the PBA’s traditional fall season. The series will close with a live telecast of the finals of the World Championship, featuring the four finalists determined at Thunderbowl in September.

Producing multiple television shows in one location will mean significant savings for the PBA and will also save the 200-300 bowlers involved a lot of travel money.

The January-April second half of the tour will follow the tradition pattern with live Sunday telecasts.
The Tour will travel to at least 10 cities for the events, which will include the remaining major championships the United States Bowling Congress Masters (with defending champion John Nolen of Watrford), the PBA Tournament of Champions and the U.S. Open.
PRNewswire

The New Economy Initiative (NEI) today announced a first wave of $11 million in grants to organizations driving economic change in southeast Michigan.

"NEI is dedicated to helping our community respond and look forward," said Steve Hamp, chair of the NEI governing council.
"We want the community to know NEI is working to help lay the building blocks for economic renewal."

"These grants are examples of how our region can build on its strengths, and overcome barriers to economic opportunity," said John Austin, executive director of NEI. "Together they contribute to creating new jobs, and a more diverse industry-base in the region."

To enhance Detroit's creative sector in the arts, media, design, architecture, music and film, and implement the Creative Corridor initiative led by the Detroit Renaissance, NEI announced:

A $2.5 million grant to the University Cultural Center Association as part of a $37 million project to develop a dense residential and business arts district in the Sugar Hill neighborhood - building on the rich history of music, art and related enterprise in Detroit.

A $3 million grant to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) to fund the "Argonaut Project," - the development of the Alfred Kahn building in the New Center area as a world center of teaching, learning and business incubation in the arts, media, design and related fields. The project also provides expanded educational opportunities in creative occupations, including new charter middle and high schools that will provide a pipeline for Detroit youth to these growing industries.
To grow the health, medicine and bio-science industry NEI announced grants, including:

A $750,000 grant to Ann Arbor SPARK to open the Michigan Life Sciences and Innovation Center, providing a business incubation complex for life-sciences firms and entrepreneurs.
A $42,500 grant to the Detroit Renaissance to support the planning by Renaissance, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and other regional economic development organizations to expand the health and life-sciences industry in southeast Michigan.

To support greater entrepreneurship, NEI is investing to commercialize new technologies and train the next generation of Detroit entrepreneurs, including:

A $1.5 million grant to The Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MIIE), a consortium of Michigan's 15 public universities formed to accelerate the movement of ideas from university research to job-producing new enterprises. The grant will allow the Consortium to support 20 new start-up businesses and entrepreneur initiatives.

A $950,000 grant to Bizdom University, an entrepreneurial boot camp located on the campus of Wayne State University. Bizdom U trains talented young adults as entrepreneurs and helps them launch new businesses in the city of Detroit. The grant from NEI will enable Bizdom U to double participant enrollment in the 2008-2009 program session.

To keep talented young people in the region, applying their skills to create Michigan's economic future, NEI announced:

A $1.9 million grant to the Detroit Regional Chamber to support the implementation of a statewide system to place 25,000 Michigan college students in internships while they are school in Michigan, increasing the likelihood that they will stay in the state after graduation.

Finally, to support a true message about the region's economic strengths and opportunities, NEI announced:

A $400,000 grant to the Detroit Renaissance for the Detroit News Bureau, focused on sharing stories of economic growth and transformation throughout the region.

The New Economy Initiative is one of the nation's most expansive philanthropic partnerships dedicated to economic transformation in the region hardest hit by manufacturing job loss and the global economic crisis.
NEI includes $100 million in funding commitments from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (Detroit), the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation (Southfield, Michigan), the Ford Foundation (New York), the Hudson-Webber Foundation (Detroit), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (Battle Creek, Michigan), the John S. and James L .Knight Foundation (Miami), The Kresge Foundation (Troy, Michigan), the McGregor Fund (Detroit), the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation (Flint, Michigan), and the Skillman Foundation (Detroit).
The 10 participating foundations are leading the implementation and governance of the Initiative. The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, which initiated the collaborative, is serving as its administrative home.

Universities Aim To Create 'Cluster Of Innovation'

Jaclyn Trop
The Detroit News

Wayne State, MSU and U-M want research corridor to rival Boston and Silicon Valley.

Education could be Detroit's salvation if an alliance among Michigan's three major universities gains traction with local government and business interests, university presidents said Tuesday.
"The world has changed and so must we," Wayne State University President Jay Noren told 300 attendees at a Detroit Economic Club luncheon

Michigan's intended transformation from a regional manufacturer to key player in a global, information-based economy depends upon the region's ability to diversify and develop new industries, particularly biotechnology, according to Noren.

The state's two-year-old University Research Corridor, comprised of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, has untapped potential as a catalyst for economic development in Southeast Michigan, he said.

Noren, along with University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and Michigan State President Lou Anna Simon, plan to pick an executive director to serve as "the face of the URC" and to set up a Lansing office later this year. The research corridor currently has no physical presence and exists only on the Web at urcmich.org.

Together, Wayne State, U-M and MSU spend more than $1.3 billion on research activities and the research corridor, which spends $6.7 billion on operations, directly employs more than 48,000 jobs, making it one of Michigan's four largest employers.

The universities' collaboration with government and business interests could put Detroit at the forefront of innovation and help transfer new technology from the lab to the marketplace, Noren said. "There is no American city with more mental toughness and a stronger work ethic than Detroit."

A successful alliance would rival other "clusters of innovation" around the country, such as Boston's 128 Corridor, which includes Harvard and Tufts universities and, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, or Silicon Valley, comprised of Stanford University, the University of California -- Berkeley and UC- San Francisco.

In Michigan, academic-private-government projects already under way include a $57 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to study children's health and TechTown, a Wayne State research facility that will house Michigan's first stem cell commercialization lab.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon said she hoped that the alliance could be a force for good. "It's important to get news out about Michigan that's positive and to show that we can compete" with other parts of the country.





Associated Press

With a deadline looming to show it can provide tens of millions of dollars to restore and redevelop Tiger Stadium, the group trying to save the historic ballpark got a boost this week in Washington.

A $410 billion omnibus spending bill approved by the House on Wednesday includes $3.8 million for the Tiger Stadium project.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., included the earmark in the bill. The Senate is expected to consider the spending plan next week.

The earmark's progress "was terrific news and a very important confirmation of the project and confirmation of Sen. Levin's support," Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy President Thomas Linn said Thursday.

"Hopefully this funding will stay in the bill," Levin said in a statement. "It is an important step for the economic development of the city of Detroit."

Tiger Stadium was built in 1912 as Navin Field and later was known as Briggs Stadium. The Detroit Tigers played there before moving to nearby Comerica Park after the 1999 season. Most of the historic ballpark was demolished last year, but a section extending from dugout to dugout was left standing.

The Old Tiger Stadium Conservancy has ambitious plans to redevelop the stadium as a commercial and educational space with a usable playing field, with an estimated price tag of $27 million.

The group faces a Sunday deadline to show the city it can provide that funding and meet other benchmarks on the development's viability.

Linn said the group expects to submit a "substantial package with respect to financial and other planning issues" by Monday, showing how the project will be financed by a combination of individual donations, foundation support, loans, state and federal tax credits and the federal earmark.

"Of course, this is more of a journey than a destination. There is still more work to do," Linn said.

A Great Deal In Detroit


http://www.npr.org/blogs/

Jason sends us this bit of good news from Detroit:
About a month ago you were asking to here from folks that were doing well in Detroit. My wife and I are two of those people. I am currently working at a solar panel manufacturer, and my wife is an elementary school teacher.

I was excited to hear Obama's plan roll out last night, as it distinctly called out progression in solar panel manufacturing and incentives for teachers who perform. We have had a great year this past 2008.

We sold our house which was getting too small for our family and found a GREAT deal on a brand new foreclosed home. I moved into the solar sector from the automotive sector, and learned a few months after I left my old company that they have been making major cuts in in the salary ranks.

My job would have been in jeopardy. I have started to invest in stocks which are at bargain levels, to help secure my retirement down the road. We feel more secure now in our lives then when the economy was booming. Things just seem much more affordable now. I can fill my Saturn VUE for 25.00 instead of 50.00. Our gas savings over the last few months has been hundreds of dollars!
http://www.clickondetroit.com/

Scrubbing, determination and hope are the first ingredients Suzanne Zoellner has used to get her new cooking business, LuLu White's Chicken And Dumplings, started.

Zoellner said she has not been able to find employment for two years, her home is in foreclosure, bills are mounting and as a single mother with children to support, she had to do something. After getting a few loans from friends, Zoellner said the idea for a restaurant came from what she does best.

"Use the talents you have, which right now, raising six kids, is cooking," she said. "And I'm a great cook."

She also said she's trying to teach her kids a lesson along the way.

"With kids, their lifestyle changes with the economy. Things are not handed to them anymore," she said.

"Well at first, I was questionable as to what we were going to do. And then she came up with this idea," said son Mark Zoellner. "And I was like, 'I think it might work,' as long as we all put all of our 100 percent into it and it can be successful and we'll no longer have to struggle."

Zoellner said she knows the road ahead will be hard, but is thankful she's got one more chance to provide for her family.

"I have to keep working, I have to keep going. I can't just throw in the towel, I'll be homeless," she said. "I have to do something and this is it."

The restaurant in Pontiac, at 143 South Telegraph Road, is set to open Friday.
www.modeldmedia.com

Sean Combs. Puffy. Puff Daddy. P. Diddy. Just plain Diddy. Whatever you want to call him, he's coming to town in search of a back up band to tour with him during the promotion of his next album.

Diddy is on the hunt for musicians worthy of being in his backup band to tour with him to promote his next album, "Last Train to Paris."

Auditions for the new show will be held at 10 a.m. March 21 at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts.

Audition lineup begins at 7 a.m.

The show is looking for men and women who play guitar, bass, keyboards or drums, plus backup singers. Those that play guitar or bass, bring your own instruments.

If you are a drummer, bring your sticks.

And, if you play keyboard or sing, you don't need to bring anything.
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Gov. Jennifer Granholm is betting that liquor sales and longer bar hours will bring in more money for the state.

The plan involves liquor stores and restaurants selling spirits on Sunday mornings and bar owners buying permits for their establishments to stay open until 4 a.m.

The expanded hours for liquor sales would generate an estimated $13.7 million for the state's general fund, the pot over which the governor and lawmakers have spending discretion.

Additional revenue would come from the sale of the special permits priced at $1,500 each.

"Clearly, this is an opportunity for revenue enhancement," said Megan Brown, spokeswoman for the governor. "It's also an opportunity for communities to enhance entertainment districts and for businesses to expand profits.

"And it's more convenient for Sunday shoppers. Grocery stores could eliminate those gates in front of their liquor aisles."

The revenue estimates are based on 3,050 bars taking advantage of the longer night hours and 6,100 merchants buying licenses for Sunday morning sales.

Tom Dunleavy, owner of Dunleavy's bar in Allen Park, said he likes the idea of later bar hours.
"Say you had a nice crowd at 2 a.m. and didn't feel like kicking everybody out," he said. "You could make a couple hundred dollars extra or maybe even a thousand if you could stay open until 4 a.m. Opening on Sunday morning would be good for someplace like a hotel downtown that could have a breakfast and maybe serve Bloody Marys before a ballgame."

Sen. Gilda Jacobs, D-Huntington Woods, said extending hours for the sale of spirits is long overdue.

"These laws stem from Prohibition," said Jacobs, sponsor of the bill to allow Sunday sales between 7 a.m. and noon. "The times, they are a-changing. If we want to be competitive with other entertainment venues, we need to do this."

Lance Binoniemi, government affairs director for the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association, said his group has pushed for longer hours for four years but not necessarily with costly new fees attached.

There has been talk during that time of increasing the basic fees for liquor licenses. Granholm also proposes that those fees be doubled as part of her budget plan. License fees haven't been increased since 1976.

"We suggested longer hours because we thought we should get something in return if they're going to increase our fees," he said.

Binoniemi said a few other places, including Virginia, New York, metro Chicago and some metro areas of Georgia allow liquor sales until 4 a.m.
The Detroit News

Henry Ford Health System plans a March opening for its new hospital in West Bloomfield, an expansive 300-bed structure with a stone and brick façade, an entryway lined with small town-style storefronts and a look more in line with a northern Michigan lodge than a sterile medical building.

At a preview today, hospital officials said that beyond the resort-like feel, Henry Ford plans to offer an array of health services aimed at helping the Detroit-based hospital system compete for patients in the western Oakland County.

Those services include operating rooms with surgical robots, a one-stop care center for seniors with neurological conditions, an expanded emergency department that will double the number of visits a year to 48,000, and a wellness center with day spa services and personal health coaches.
"Some of the services are very central. Some others are unique," said Nancy Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System. "The idea is to draw the community in so they get to know us."

The hospital opens to the public on March 15, and has been nearly 25 years in the making on Henry Ford's 160-acre West Bloomfield property. Henry Ford first opened a medical campus on the site in 1975. It wasn't until 2002 that plans for a new hospital there gained traction, after state lawmakers passed legislation allowing Henry Ford and its competitor St. John Health to transfer patient beds from Detroit to suburban locations.

Previously, regulators had ruled the region that includes Oakland County had enough beds, and even after legislation was passed, five rival health systems filed suit to have the bed transfers blocked. That suit was struck down in 2004.

St. John Health, which is based in Warren but has a flagship hospital in Detroit, opened its new 200-bed hospital in Novi last fall. Henry Ford began construction on its own new $360 million hospital in West Bloomfield in 2005, and shortly after, hired former Ritz-Carlton executive Gerard van Grinsven, as the hospital's CEO.

The new hospital does have many hotel-style features such as all-private rooms with wood furnishings and Internet access, meals prepared by local culinary chefs, retail shops in the lobby, cooking classes and wooded walking trails, all designed to make the hospital more of a destination than a pit-stop for medical care.




http://blogs.thetimes.co.za

Last night Barack Obama presented Stevie Wonder with America’s highest award for pop music at a ceremony at the White House - Library of Congress’ Gershwin prize. President and First Lady hosted a concert to honor Stevie Wonder, a man whose music they said brought them together. “Love was in the air at the White House”, said the pool reporters there.

Here are some edited notes from the pool report:

“Michelle opened the event, and explained that she grew up listening to Stevie Wonder’s music with her grandfather. Years later, she said she “discovered what Stevie meant when he sang about love. Barack and I chose the song, ‘You and I’ as our wedding song.” A chorus of “awws” from the crowd.

Obama, when presenting the award, called Stevie Wonder’s music “the soundtrack of my youth,” saying he found in it “peace and inspiration, especially in difficult times.” He then mirrored his wife’s comments, saying: “I think it’s fair to say that had I not been a Stevie Wonder fan, Michelle might not have dated me. We might not have married. The fact that we agreed on Stevie was part of the essence of our courtship.”

The award was presented, and after a long ovation, Wonder spoke. “President and Mrs. Obama, I’m so excited to know that I was a part of” – he said, pausing for some laughter from the audience. “I needn’t say more.” Obama, standing to Wonder’s left, sported a broad smile, and then looked down to his wife in the front row.

Wonder thanked his friends and family, and said he accepted the award for his mother. If she were here, Wonder said, “She’d say, ‘Let me give him a peach cobbler.’” Wonder then spoke of his excitement over the president who honored him tonight, saying that through him “America has a chance to again live up to the greatness that it deserves to be seen and known as.”

He closed by saying that he looked forward to the president being able to unite the world, “so that in my lifetime I can write some more songs about love, about unity, and real songs of passion.” And then he added: “You know, maybe I’ll be a part of creating some more of those babies.” The audience roared with laughter and applause.

The pool of journalists exited shortly after, but as they were leaving they could hear Wonder saying that he had thought about inviting Obama to sing “Michelle My Belle” with him. Sadly, he did not. Instead, Wonder struck up “Signed Sealed Delivered,” a staple of the campaign trail.”

'Happiness' gene helps you look on the bright side

http://www.newscientist.com/

Positive people may owe their optimism to a gene variant that helps them dwell on the good and ignore the bad.

That's the conclusion from a study examining people's subliminal preferences for happy, neutral, and threatening images.

Volunteers who had inherited two copies of the "long" variant of 5-HTTLPR – a gene that controls transport of the mood-affecting neurotransmitter serotonin – showed clear avoidance of negative images, such as fierce animals, and a clear preference for positive ones, such as puppies. People with this variant combination are dubbed "LL" carriers.

The effect wasn't seen in volunteers with at least one version of the "short" variant of the same gene – these people showed no strong preference whatever the content of the images.
Time lapse
In repeated tests, the 97 volunteers had less than a second to identify dots hidden in one or other of a pair of adjacent images. Each pair contained a neutral image alongside one that was either positive or negative.

The researchers found that LL volunteers took 18.3 milliseconds longer on average to spot the dots in a negative rather than neutral image, suggesting a subliminal aversion to bad images.

Conversely, they noticed the dots 23.5 milliseconds sooner in the positive images, such as cuddly puppies, than in the neutral ones, suggesting they were subliminally drawn to them. "It sounds very small, but in terms of attentional time, it's consistent," says team leader Elaine Fox of the University of Essex in Colchester, UK.

Optimistic streak
Fox and her colleagues conclude that the LL volunteers may be primed to seek out positive events and ignore negative events.

Earlier studies had revealed a tendency for negativity and anxiety among individuals with at least one short variant of the gene, but the study is the first to reveal an optimistic streak in LL individuals.

"A number of mechanisms may contribute to this difference, and the authors have provided good evidence that attentional bias in the processing of emotional stimuli may be one of those mechanisms," says Turhan Canli, who has studied the same phenomenon at Stony Brook University in New York.

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1788)
If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission.
New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

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.
CHARLES CRUMM
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.
http://www.hometownlife.com/
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.
http://www.hometownlife.com/

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.
ELLEN CREAGER
FREE PRESS TRAVEL WRITER

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.
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