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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