More than 1.3 million people in Michigan qualify as working caregivers. Anyone who holds a job and takes on the duties to care for one or both parents is considered a working caregiver. This is an often overlooked group of people that would benefit from support, education and training. The Working Caregiver Initiative (WCI) is a non-profit created to address and assist this growing group of people and families in this need throughout Michigan.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, more than 25% of American families are now providing care for someone over the age of 65 in their home. This stressor causes increased health risks, a greater chance for developing signs of depression or anxiety, and even speeds the aging process for the one providing care, even to the point of reducing one’s life expectancy by up to 10 years. This can lead to chronic absenteeism, presenteeism, and even poor performance due to the working caregiver feeling overwhelmed. Moreover 10% of working caregivers eventually cut back to part-time work or even leave the workforce altogether.

“The Working Caregiver Initiative (WCI) was created to provide quality support, education, and training for those who are both family caregivers and working professionals,” says Bert Copple, the President and creator of the WCI program.

“I worry about my mom being home by herself,” says Jeana Rea of Warren, Michigan. “My husband works 50 plus hours a week, my kids have school and sporting events, and I’m working as well. It can be stressful, but we have to do it to make ends meet. Being able to proactively care for my mom’s needs is a big deal, and the WCI program has helped me cope with my challenges.”

Copple says Jeana, and thousands like her, are part of a new generation that must make proactive care-giving decisions for their parents. They take on the responsibilities to keep mom and/or dad safe, at home, while both spouses work and manage the household.

“No one has more on their plate than a mom or dad who has to provide care for their children while reversing roles with their parents to manage mom’s incontinence or dad’s dementia care,” adds Copple. “Because the family dynamics have changed so dramatically, and will continue to change as this tsunami of seniors come of age, employers needs to look to support, educate, and train their working caregivers to retain those who are key to their survival in this economy.”

Over the next 14 years, the number of people at the age of 50 will increase by 74%, while those under the age of 50 will increase by a mere 1%. The bottom line is there will be fewer professional caregivers to provide care, putting a greater strain on working caregivers to pull double duty.

“The WCI’s focus is to help working caregivers self-identify as caregivers,” says Copple. According to the National Family Caregivers Association, 90% of family caregivers become more proactive about seeking skills and resources they need once they identify themselves as a working caregiver. In the work force, it can be as easy as offering an employee assistance program to help employees make that connection.

“Most working caregivers don’t even realize they are providing care for their parents. They think it is normal to provide incidental transportation or manage medications or even help with personal care,” explains Copple. “We want working caregivers to install the grab bar in the shower before mom slips in the shower, not after she has fallen and broken her hip. We educate working caregivers on topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, in-home medical care and non-medical care, power of attorney and how to understand Medicare and Medicaid and where to find support groups in the community.”

The WCI provides free support via a toll-free help line, coaching, support groups, and spiritual direction. We provide an on-line library of how-to videos and presentations on over 16 care-giving topics, weekly podcasts, and workplace caregiver fairs where WCI experts make themselves available to a company’s employees for a four hour block of time, free of charge, to answer questions and provide assistance. The WCI hosts community caregiver-training programs, which provide practical, hands-on training with skills such as transferring, personal care, and even cooking for seniors.

For businesses, organizations, and places of worship, the WCI offers a speaker’s bureau, capable of providing more than 40 presentations on the issues of care giving. The WCI will also begin hosting Working Caregiver Experts Fairs, throughout SE Michigan, this summer.

“The WCI program is available to Michigan’s employers free of charge,” says Copple. “We know this is going to become a greater issue for millions of Americans, and we’re here to help during these difficult times.”

To learn more about the Working Caregiver Initiative and how the program can help businesses reduce lost productivity, visit or call Bert Copple at 248-203-2273.

The first television series to be shot in Michigan is looking for a high school to call their TV home.
Ron Stern is one of the producers of the new show "The Wannabes". In the last few days, he has been from Howell to Birmingham scouting locations for a 26 episode production.

"It's an eight-million dollar budget shoot. ... A lot of that money is going to go to local Michigan residents who we're going to hire through the production. Of course, we're bringing some of the talent... but the majority, about 90-95 percent, will be hired locally here," said Stern.

Jeff Spillman of Ferndale's S3 Entertainment is a partner in the project.

"This is the first TV series that will be fully filmed and fully produced in the state of Michigan. So, it's great for the state. It's great for the local folks who want to get jobs and great for people behind the camera as well as in front. ... We're going to have casting calls for local, talented ... adults and children to take part in this series," said Spillman.

Based on the Radio Disney group Savvy, "The Wannabes" puts the stars in a school for the performing arts.

Dorean Spicer-Dannelly, the show's creator known for the movie "Jump In" and the series "The Proud Family," says, "We're looking for schools that have the traditional hallways, lots of space (and) big areas. ... We're going to do a lot of ballet scenes (and) acting scenes. We're also need to fit in there a sweet shop. So, kinds of schools that have a lot of space that we can do a lot of creative things in."

Once they find their locations, shooting starts in June.

Who Moves to Detroit?

Ashley Woods
Model D

If you live here already, a better question might be—who falls in love with Detroit? And, indeed, that was one of the first questions moderator Dave Egner of the Hudson-Webber Foundation asked at the latest Model D Speaker Series event on April 8. The event took place at the College for Creative Studies and was co-sponsored by Next American City, a Philadelphia-based magazine chronicling new trends in American cities.

The discussion on Detroit's burgeoning professional population and housing trends quickly became a chance for four transplants to tell their own stories about falling in love with the Paris of the Midwest. (It was also a great excuse to attend a terrific reception afterward catered by the Majestic Cafe.)

What emerged was an ode to the D, both honest and hopeful, realistic and yet resistant to the "old narrative" of our city's history. We all know that story -- the birth and death of one of America's great cities -- but what about Act 3? To four of Detroit's newest residents, their love stories are only the beginning.

In those first heady moments, love is passionate. At least that's how Toby Barlow tells it. This ad man, who works as executive creative director at JWT Team Detroit in Dearborn, said Detroit was the only natural move for him, since "I grew up listening to punk rock and rock 'n' roll, and all I knew was that the suburbs suck." Living in his unique Mies van der Rohe home in Lafayette Park, Barlow is a convert who has helped spread the good word about Detroit. "This city embraces people. It's an incredibly infectious community, in a good way."

For Luis Croquer, the new director at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit, said "being in Detroit, and working with Detroit, is very much part of the job description." Good thing for Croquer; he said his first visit to Detroit was a little like falling head over heels. "I became a Detroiter instantly," he said -- and this coming from a diplomat's son who grew up in El Salvador and has lived all over the world.

Love is giving. To Meghan McEwen, editor of CS Interiors magazine, a new chapter in her life began when she and her husband left Chicago four years ago for the Motor City. Looking to raise a family, they realized they could purchase a home in Detroit for roughly a third of a price of the condos they considered buying in Chicago. The low cost of living meant that she and her husband could work less, and spend more time raising their sons. "I don't think I could have had all of this in Chicago," she said.

Love is brave. At least that's the story for Kirsten Ussery, the director of communications for Detroit Renaissance. Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, her move to Detroit was a bit worrisome for her family and friends. That attitude usually changes when her loved ones visit her home in West Village. Ussery said, "I was a little naive," regarding her decision to move to Detroit, "but I never really had any negative experiences. That's still true today."

Barlow said he was surprised by the attitudes of his fellow New Yorkers when he accepted the job offer with JWT Team Detroit. For the record, "I'm sorry," was his least-favorite, most annoying reaction from acquaintances. He said, "I thought, in the last couple years, there seems to be something interesting going on in Detroit -- it's a shift, a noticeable shift."

(Not every speaker experienced negative reactions when they decided to move to the D. Croquer said," I come from Latin America, so I was never really worried about that. In fact, everyone said I was going to be safer here.")

Love is intimate. And that closeness is what McEwen says keeps her living in her restored Victorian in Corktown. "It's a small town, and a big city, all at once." In her former life in Chicago, McEwen said she never really got used to the feeling of anonymity that's so prevalent in the Windy City. People who don't make eye contact in the streets, or elbow for a place on the L Train, because they know they won't ever see you again. "The feeling of community, I think, keeps us acting a little more like humans."

Moderator Egner agreed. "It is an overgrown small town," he said. "Unlike Chicago, or Seattle, or LA, if you come here, you can move the needle in a positive direction."

Love is energetic. Croquer thinks one of Detroit's biggest problems is its "enormous self-esteem issue." He thinks finding a way to bring together the creative and corporate interests in the city is one key to Detroit's renaissance. "This city was once thought of as a center of modernist thought. But now, creative industries are not talking to the people who can have the resources to make things happen."

What is one of our great assets, according to Croquer? Detroiters themselves. "They are so passionate, and so committed," he said.

Love is wise. To Barlow, whose one-man marketing campaign to change Detroit starts with his motto, "Stop the Loathing," Detroit is literally a success story. "Detroit's story is the greatest act of hubris in the history of cities in North America," he said. "Everyone that could, left." That the city survives, and fights on, continues to impress him. But Barlow said he thinks reforming Detroit's City Council in order to elect officials by district is necessary "to reflect the rich tapestry of all people now calling this city home."

Love is hopeful. Ussery says pushing for regionalism in political and economic affairs will help make Detroit what it was once again. She said pushing for cooperation between corporations, politicians and cities is also the only way to diffuse the "race issue" once and for all. "Once people from the suburbs and people from Detroit can finally come together and make decisions that are the best for the region as a whole, all the dialogue will change," she said.

McEwen said Detroit has a future if it markets itself as an alternative to city dwellers across the world who are put off by yuppie neighborhoods and corporate chains. "I challenge you to name another major city that doesn't have a GAP," she said. She also thinks Detroit should do more to publicize real estate opportunities in its unique neighborhoods. "In more and more cities, I swear," she said, "You could pick up a block in Chicago and move it to Brooklyn, and you'd never know the difference. You can't do that with Detroit."

There's something about love, how it has a power to heal those who have been hurt before, a way it seems to change people. To McEwen, that's the greatest thing about Detroit, the reason she stays here, the reason, in fact, all four of these new Detroiters said they'd never want to leave. "What people love about Detroit ... what I love about Detroit ... is that we can do something to change it, to make it better. They all want to be part of something bigger than themselves."

That's what loving Detroit means.
Stephanie Steinberg
Michigan Daily

An array of solar panels sits atop the Dana building on Central Campus. In total, the panels can generate over 30 kilowatt-hours of electricity for the building.

Solar cells are among the most well-known alternative sources of energy. But Engineering Prof. Max Shtein is working to bring solar technology into more homes by making solar cells more conducive to daily life — like weaving them into textiles.

Shtein said this change will allow people to consume energy in eco-friendly ways when using everyday products.

“Going to the store and buying clothes, for example, is a lot more familiar to a lot more people than installing a solar cell on the roof of their house,” he said.

Shtein, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering, and a team of researchers are developing a system to create solar cells out of fibers that can be woven into textiles.

“Most of those textiles are actually dyed using organic dyes where the molecular structure is very similar to the structure of the molecules we would use to make organic-based solar cells,” Shtein said.

Shtein has brainstormed many uses for his discovery including carbon fiber airplanes with solar cells interwoven into the plane’s structure and coats and tents made out of solar cell fibers. He said a tent that can effectively generate electricity from the power of the sun can solve many of the problems caused by natural disasters.

“There’s a lot of instances where you have disaster relief kind of shelters, where you want to be able to generate electricity for people to communicate, for people to purify water, to read, to do things they need to do,” Shtein said.

The solar cells applied to the fibers are very thin and add no thickness to the material. Shtein said he discovered that bundles of fibers in a textile absorb more light, making the textile more efficient at collecting energy than a regular, flat solar cell.

Solar panels are one of the most common means of obtaining solar energy. Through the use of photovoltaics, solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.

Though solar panels provide a way to capture light energy, University scientists are working on new and improved methods to harvest energy from the sun.

“The sun is a terrific energy resource for humanity in general,” said Stephen Maldonado, as assistant professor of chemistry. “The output of power that reaches the earth from the sun is several times as much energy as people use every year.”

Maldonado and his team of researchers are studying and designing systems that convert solar energy into chemical bond energy, which can be used to make electricity.

“We work with materials that are similar to what’s found in photovoltaics or the solar panels you see on people’s houses,” Maldonado said, “but those typically operate for solar to electrical energy conversion, and we’re much more interested in making systems that mimic photosynthesis in plants.”

One of the disadvantages of solar cells is that the generated electricity must be consumed immediately because it cannot be stored for long periods of time.
Maldonado said plants are good at converting solar energy into chemical bond energy for making chemical fuels. Using plants as a model, the research team hopes to devise a system that can store solar energy in chemical bonds for long-term storage — similar to how energy is currently stored in gasoline and fossil fuels.

United Solar Ovonic — based out of Rochester Hills, Mich. — is the largest producer of flexible solar cells in the United States. Flexible solar panels are sometimes more useful than regular solar panels because they can be applied to curved surfaces like dome-shaped stadiums.
On average, United Solar Ovonic sells three to four solar panels a week to customers in Michigan.

United Solar Ovonic Sales Engineer George Zaharopoulos said the company has seen an increase in sales since President Barack Obama passed the stimulus package, which included tax incentives for renewable energy investors.

“People are more persuaded to use solar because they get reimbursements and rebates from their state,” he said.

According to a survey conducted by AltaTerra Research Network last November, solar energy installation is on the rise. Results from the survey showed a 52 percent growth rate of newly installed solar energy each year until 2012.

Geological Sciences Prof. Joel Blum believes there are major advantages to alternate energy sources.

Blum teaches GEOSCI 344 Sustainability & Fossil Energy: Options & Consequences at Camp Davis, the University’s Rocky Mountain field station near Jackson, Wyo. The course — which educates students about the scientific and environmental issues related to sustainable and traditional fossil energy sources — will be offered for the first time this summer.

While Blum is an advocate for using renewable forms of energy, he said Michigan is one of the worst places in America to capture solar energy.

“Michigan is a very cloudy place,” Blum said. “It doesn’t mean that it’s not feasible and shouldn’t be done, but it makes much more sense in sunny places like the Western United States where you have much, much, much greater annual solar radiation than you have in a place like Michigan.”

Despite Michigan’s cloudiness, the University decided to install solar panels on the roof of the Dana Building when it was renovated in 2004.

Bill Verge, the associate director of Utilities and Plant Engineering at the University, said the University installed solar energy collectors in an effort to become more environmentally friendly and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“I’m a firm believer in the fact that global warming is occurring and that we have to move away from fossil fuels,” Verge said. “And I think that solar energy is one of the best opportunities, even in the state of Michigan.”

Helaine Hunscher, program coordinator of the Center for Sustainable Systems in the School of Natural Resources and Environment, wrote in an e-mail interview that the solar panels on the Dana Building don’t generate enough electricity to sustain the entire building. The angle of the sun and cloud conditions affect the photovoltaic output of the solar panels, and the power demand of the Dana Building varies by occupancy and the use of equipment and lights.

However, the system has shown positive results, Hunscher wrote in the e-mail.

“In 2005, the solar panels generated 35,000 KWh (kilowatt-hours) of energy which is enough to light a 100-Watt bulb for about 40 years,” Hunscher wrote.

She added that on a sunny day in May 2005, the panels met 23 percent of the power demand of the building.

Although the solar panels are not providing an immediate reduction in utility costs, Verge said the University will see a payback in cost reductions in 15 to 20 years.

She added that the main value of the technology is to use it for educational purposes by involving students from the School of Natural Resources and Environment in monitoring the system and evaluating its effectiveness.

In spring 2008, the University also installed a solar collector on the top of the University’s Central Power Plant that helps heat water in Central Campus facilities. The collector is the first of its kind to be installed in the United States and can heat water up to more than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Its estimated 25-year lifespan will offset the costs from future fuel increases.

Verge said the University is looking into installing more alternate energy sources like solar panels and solar collectors down the road.

“However, the price needs to come down quite a bit before we can utilize it in a large scale,” he said.

Another group on campus is investing in solar energy — not for powering a building, but for running a car.

The University’s Solar Car Team is the largest student project on campus. Involving about 100 students from different schools on campus, the team works together to build a car to race in competitions held every two years.

This year’s car is as tall and long as a normal car and can reach a top speed of 87 miles per hour. The one main difference from a regular car is its six square meters of solar cells on the roof, which are used to charge the vehicle’s lithium ion batteries. Additionally, the car is only 600 pounds — driver included.

Engineering senior Steven Hechtman is the project manager of the Solar Car Team. He said while solar energy is useful for charging the car’s batteries, the amount of energy obtained from the sun is very limiting.

“Our solar cells only pull in as much power as you use for a hair dryer,” he said. “So if you compare it with the horsepower of a regular car, there’s not enough energy coming from the sun to power a real heavy vehicle.”

Hechtman said the next generation of consumer cars will probably include solar cells on the roof — citing the next Toyota Prius as a vehicle that will use solar energy to charge a certain percentage of its battery.

However, he said it’s unlikely there will ever be a car that runs solely off the power of the sun.
“If you want a car that’s the size of a normal car, the weight of a normal car, with all the features of a normal car, there’s no way you can power it completely by the sun,” he said.

Even though solar energy may never be able to generate enough power to fully run vehicles, it has the potential to greatly reduce fossil fuel consumption around the world.

Moreover, the developments made by University researchers shows that solar energy could provide at least a part of the solution Michigan’s economic troubles.

Shtein and Maldonado agree that a concerted effort to produce solar cells in Michigan could have a huge impact on the state’s economic situation.

Shtein said Michigan is well-suited for large-scale production because of the automotive industry.

“You have a highly trained work force, you have very good manufacturing capacity and here people know how to scale things up,” Shtein said. “In solar cells a big problem is scale up. We’re not making enough of them fast enough.”

Maldonado said if researchers can create an alternative energy resource that’s more uniformly distributed, they could potentially restructure the way society operates.

“If that technology can be developed here within the state of Michigan and cultivated here, that would give Michigan an insight in terms of being a major player in that sort of energy redesigning,” Maldonado said.

He added: “Getting involved in solar energy is really a sort of hot ticket item that could really have a lot of financial gain if it’s done right.”
Nathan Bomey and Sven Gustafson
Michigan Business Review

Michigan is becoming the nation's leader in advanced battery production got a major jolt today as officials announced investments in four new operations that would employ several thousand workers.

The four projects, collectively worth about $1.7 billion, illustrate the state's burgeoning hold on the vehicle battery production market as the world's top automakers invest billions in electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries.
Michigan economic development officials approved tax incentives for battery production operations for:

• Watertown, Mass.-based A123Systems Inc., which has existing operations in Ann Arbor and Novi. The firm, which has an agreement to supply batteries for Chrysler's electric vehicles, will invest more than $600 million in a new battery plant in Livonia. This specific project will create some 5,000 jobs.

A123, which is also pursuing $1.84 billion in loans from the U.S. Department of Energy to build U.S. battery factories, had already announced plans to invest in battery plants employing 14,000 workers. In November, the company won $10 million under the state's Centers of Energy Excellence research and development program. It says it will base that program out of the new Livonia facility and work in collaboration with the University of Michigan and Michigan State University.

• KD Advanced Battery Group LLC, a joint venture between Midland-based Dow Chemical Co., Kokam America Inc. and Townsend Ventures LLC. The firms are joining together to build a $665 million, 800,000-square-foot battery manufacturing plant. The plant will employ some 885 workers and deliver batteries for electric vehicles and hybrids.

• Korean firm LG Chem and Troy-based subsidiary Compact Power, in partnership with General Motors, announced they would invest $244 million to jointly establish a 660,000 square-foot lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing facility. The facility would include cathode, anode, separator and assembly lines and will create up to 443 new jobs over the next five years, according to state documents.

GM in January announced it had selected LG Chem to supply lithium-ion cells for the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle to be released in November 2010. The Volt will be able to travel 40 miles on a single charge of electricity.

Business Review first reported last month that Compact Power was planning an expansion in Troy.

• Milwaukee-based Johnson-Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions LLC. The firm expects to invest $220 million in an advanced battery production plant that will employ 498 workers. JCS recently landed a deal with Ford Motor Co. to supply batteries for Ford's first plug-in hybrid vehicle.

"The state's created an enviroment where battery businesses are welcome, and electrification technologies are welcome," said University of Michigan engineering professor Ann Marie Sastry, who has her own Ann Arbor-based vehicle battery startup called Sakti3. "Michigan has taken a leadership role."

The announced investments come after Gov. Jennifer Granholm last week signed two additional tax credits into law for battery cell R&D and manufacturing, increasing the credits available to companies to $555 million. The incentives stipulate that battery manufacturers can qualify for up to $25 million in incentives a year for four years, or $300 million altogether, provided they open a plant and create at least 300 jobs in the state.

"Thanks to the most aggressive economic strategy of any state in the country, Michigan, the global center of automotive research and development, is positioned to lessen the nation's dependence on foreign oil and become the advanced battery capital of the world," Granholm said in a news release.

Other tax incentives totaling up to $225 million target research and manufacturing of advanced batteries.

Granholm and lawmakers hope the tax credits strengthen Michigan's case for a large share of $2 billion in federal stimulus money for energy projects.

Ford Motor Co. in February won $55 million in refundable credits from MEDC to help it with its strategy to bring four electric vehicles to the market by 2012. GM also won up to $160 million under the program and $6.8 million in separate tax incentives to locate a battery pack assembly plant in Southeast Michigan.
Steve Keating
Reuters Canada

The Detroit Red Wings will give Motor City spirits another boost when they launch the defense of their Stanley Cup crown this week against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Red Wings march to the Stanley Cup last year provided one of the best feel good moments for Detroit and another championship parade would no doubt bring the same to Detroiters in 2009.
The long Stanley Cup grind begins on Wednesday with 16-teams trying to become the last one standing at the end of four punishing best-of-seven series that will carry into June.

A Stanley Cup run is something Red Wings fans have come to expect with Detroit in the playoffs for an 18th consecutive year.

But it will be a new experience for first round opponents the Blue Jackets, who will be making their first playoff appearance since joining the league nine years ago.

In the last 40 years, only two teams have reached the Stanley Cup finals in their first trip to the post-season and if the Blue Jackets are to join them it will largely depend on the play of brilliant rookie netminder Steve Mason, who led the league with 10 shutouts.

"We know what's in front of us, Columbus captain Rick Nash told reporters during a conference call. "They know what it takes to win the Stanley Cup and we will have our hands full."

The San Jose Sharks finished the regular season as the NHL's top team but must shed their reputation as playoff under-achievers after exiting in the Western conference semi-finals the last three seasons.

The Sharks open against Anaheim and will have to be wary of the eighth seeded and in-form Ducks.

In other Western conference matchups, the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Calgary Flames while the St. Louis Blues, the NHL's hottest team in the second half going 25-9-7 to clinch their first playoff spot in five years, face-off against the Vancouver Canucks.

The NCAA has released their final figures for the events surrounding the 2009 NCAA Men's Final Four and they show a number of records were broken.

Detroit now holds the attendance records for several of the NCAA's marquee events, including The Big Dance, NCAA Hoop City, the Final Four Dribble and the Road to the Final Four 5K Run/Walk.

Attendance figures show that between 32,000 and 34,000 fans packed Ford Field on Friday, April 3, to watch the teams' practices and the Hershey's College All-Star Game.

For The Big Dance concerts, officials say the 300,000 music fans packed the Riverfront for three days of food, fun and entertainment by national recording artists and 40 local bands.

The attendance breaks down with 60,000 fans attending the AT&T Block part on Friday, 125,000 fans attending Big Dance Saturday and 115,000 fans attending the My Coke Fest on Sunday.

Meanwhile, 76,079 people took part in NCAA Hoop City over at Cobo Center for the first three days of the event. Attendance figures for the fourth and final day are still being compiled.

The Road to the Final Four 5K Run/Walk attracted 1,702 runners who raced through downtown and along the Riverfront on Saturday.

And not to be outdone, the National Semifinals and Championship games brought more than 145,000 people to Ford Field over the course of the weekend.

In talking about the attendance, Greg Shaheen, the NCAA Senior Vice President of Basketball and Business Strategies says "Detroit proved itself to be one of America’s great sports and music cities and exceeded all expectations for the weekend. This weekend was a celebration of another great NCAA men’s basketball season and millions of people who follow the game from every corner of the country and world. Detroiters demonstrated great warmth, spirit, and hospitality and helped make this a memorable weekend for visiting and local fans alike."

A veteran Hollywood film executive who is a native Detroiter will build a $146 million, 750,000-square-foot film, TV and media production studio factory and village on 104 acres of land at Southfield Road and Enterprise Drive in Allen Park, officials announced today.

Productions at Unity Studios will employ up to 3,000 skilled and non-skilled union workers. Unity will employ up to 83 management/operational positions for the studio and within the Village.

City of Allen Park residents and laid-off union workers from across the region will get first shot at the jobs, Allen Park Mayor Gary Burtka said.

"Unity Studios amounts to an economic development blockbuster and the best economic news announced in Downriver and southeast Michigan in years," Burtka said. "This project represents new hope and, more importantly, job opportunities for thousands of Allen Park residents and auto workers who have lost their jobs.

"We have found an economic boost in the lights, cameras and action of Michigan's newest high-tech industry."

Governor Jennifer Granholm said the Unity Studios project highlights the success of the state's efforts to attract the film industry to Michigan.

"We are working hard to build a diversified economy and create good-paying jobs for our talented workforce," Governor Granholm said. "As a result of our aggressive film incentives enacted just a year ago, we are not only bringing new investment to the burgeoning film production community in Michigan, we are putting in place the infrastructure for an industry that will support long-term job growth and opportunity in new, creative sectors."

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said the Unity Studios project is an important step in diversifying the county's economy.

"Our economic development team has been working diligently with Allen Park on this project," Ficano said. "We are now attempting to put together an incentive package that will create jobs in a new industry for the region."

The county is considering making a Renaissance Zone designation available for the project when all benchmarks are met by investors, Ficano added.

Unity Studios will be majority owned and operated by a group of investors from Los Angeles and Michigan, with Jimmy Lifton of California as the President. Lifton, originally from Southfield, Michigan, has been in the business of entertainment for 30 years. He has owned an internationally distributed record label, produced 13 feature films, and is Principal of one of the largest independent post-production audio studios in Los Angeles, Oracle Post. Some of the most famous and familiar TV and film industry giants use Oracle Post including Fox, HBO, NBC, ABC, Disney, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Lionsgate, Universal, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, VH1 and MTV.

Also unique about the project: The Lifton Institute for Media Skills will implement one of the largest retraining programs ever enacted in Michigan. Out of work skilled and unskilled labor will receive on-the-set training and production experience, giving students production credits. In addition, the project will include a village where people can live, shop and find entertainment options.

"My goal was to help bring a new industry to my home state," said Lifton. "I like to think of Unity Studios as a factory in the tradition of Henry Ford's Rouge factory model. All aspects of production occurring in one location; workforce training, production, post-production, distribution and marketing. We will constantly be creating product on the lot, utilizing the Detroit area's best asset, the creativity of its people."

Burtka said the project represents a creative and progressive approach to community-based economic development and redevelopment: under the agreement with Lifton, the city will own equity in the studios. In addition, the studios are being developed on brown field property currently occupied by various buildings and open fields. As a result, it does not increase sprawl nor does it require the city and its taxpayers to shoulder significant new infrastructure costs.

"This project is an economic development win-win-win for Allen Park residents," Burtka said.
"We did not need to raise taxes a penny to win this project. Our residents get first shot at the jobs, and they are owners too."

Allen Park officials said the project would not have been possible without significant support from the State of Michigan.

"We offer our sincere appreciation and heartfelt thanks to Gov. Jennifer Granholm, the Michigan Film Office, Robert Ficano, the Michigan Economic Development Growth Corporation, and to the state legislators who helped us put all the pieces together," Burtka said.

Additional details about Unity Studios will be released in coming weeks and months, including the start of construction, hiring, enrollments in the training institute, and partnerships with various other companies and industries in the region and state.

Unity Studios Facts

A full-service movie, television and media production studio factory and village to be built on 104 acres at Southfield Road and Enterprise Drive in Allen Park.

$146 million total project investment.

Phase 1 will encompass 40 acres of the site. It will include 750,000 square feet of production, post-production and production services facilities with eight sound stages. In specific terms, there will be four, 24,000-square-foot sound stages, 45 feet to the grid. There will also be four smaller stages of about 11,000 square feet with 21-foot ceilings to accommodate smaller productions, TV shows, commercials and Media School productions.

Up to 3,000 skilled and non-skilled union jobs each year working on the sets of media productions and within the Village.

The project will generate up to 83 full-time managerial and operational jobs.

City of Allen Park residents and laid-off union workers from across the region will get first shot at the jobs.

A unique and progressive economic development model in which the City of Allen Park will have equity in the project.

The project is being developed on brown field property that has served as home to auto makers and suppliers for decades. As a result, it does not increase sprawl nor does it require the city and its taxpayers to shoulder significant new infrastructure costs.

Unity Studios will be majority owned and operated by a group of investors from Los Angeles and Michigan, with Jimmy Lifton of California as the President.

Lifton, a native Detroiter, has been in the business of entertainment for 30 years. He has owned an internationally distributed record label, produced 13 feature films, and is Principal of one of the largest independent post-production audio studios in Los Angeles, Oracle Post. Some of the most famous and familiar TV and film industry giants use Oracle Post including Fox, HBO, NBC, ABC, Disney, Nickelodeon, Paramount, Lionsgate, Universal, Dreamworks, Warner Brothers, VH1 and MTV.

The Lifton Institute for Media Skills will implement one of the largest retraining programs ever enacted in Michigan. Out of work skilled and unskilled labor will receive on-the-set training and production experience, giving students production credits.