Why Are The Car Guys Smiling?

Joann Muller

For 44 years, the automotive glitterati has converged on this bucolic resort town (Traverse City) on the northern shore of Lake Michigan, with its sandy beaches, world-class golf courses and numerous wineries lining the Tuscany-like countryside.

One might expect the mood at this year's confab to be a bit dour, given that two of America's three carmakers just exited bankruptcy and numerous parts suppliers are hanging on by their fingernails.

Certainly, attendance is way down with 650 registered attendees vs. 1,000 last year and about 1,300 during the industry's peak years in the late 1990s. Unlike previous sessions there was plenty of elbow room at the bar during the evening social hour.

But oddly, Detroit's mood seems to be on the upswing.

"I feel like we're moving from, 'What in the world are we going to do?' to 'We can do this,'" said David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, which sponsors the annual conference. "This is going to be a far more competitive industry than anyone imagined. People who have been writing this industry off are going to be in for a big surprise."

Cole would say that--he's the son of a former General Motors president and one of the industry's biggest cheerleaders. And auto company executives are, at heart, car salesmen--they always see better days ahead.

Still, there's no mistaking the survivor mentality taking hold in Detroit. The worst is over, and now it's time to pick up the pieces.

"I feel like it's the opportunity of a lifetime," said Thomas G. Stephens, vice chairman of global product development at General Motors, which used bankruptcy to shed billions in liabilities and lower its break-even point (on an EBIT basis) to an industry sales rate of 10 million vehicles per year. "If you can break even at 10 million units, and the replacement rate is 12 million, that bodes very well for the business."

For industry suppliers that feed off the automakers, there's also a feeling of relief now that the GM and Chrysler bankruptcies are behind them. "A lot of us were holding our breaths," said Prabhakar Patil, chief executive of Compact Power, which is supplying the battery for GM's upcoming Chevy Volt plug-in car. "That could have been a real mess," he said.

"There has been a lot of pain for families and for investors," he adds. "But the adjustment was required, and the manner and speed in which it was handled by the government puts us in a good position for the future."

The government's newfound interest in the auto industry--and in advancing cleaner alternative fuel technologies--also has a positive side, said Patil. "There was no way for some of these technologies to come to market by sheer market forces," he said, pointing out the enormous investment costs required. "No manufacturer is strong enough to bring these technologies to market on their own."

It certainly helped that the Department of Energy on Wednesday doled out $2.4 billion in federal money to automakers and their suppliers to establish battery manufacturing facilities, $1.3 billion of it in Michigan.

"Our economic table has been balanced on one leg," said Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, who has been working to diversify the state's economy. "That's an unstable table. We need to make it stable with more legs."

Olga’s Kitchen will celebrate the 25th Anniversary of its newly remodeled restaurant at the Old Orchard Plaza, 6655 Orchard Lake Rd., just South of Maple, in West Bloomfield, by offering 25 cent specials on two of their most popular signature menu items on Saturday, August 8, 2009 from 10:30am – 10 pm.

The celebration begins with the first 25 parties/tables in line eating FREE. (Up to a $25 value per party)

The Anniversary celebration will include entertainment for kids including magic, and balloon sculptures from 10:30am to 4pm. Guests can enter to win $25 Olga’s Kitchen Gift Cards as well as a chance at the Grand Prize – Eat FREE for a year at Olga’s Kitchen ($300 value).

In addition, there will be sampling throughout the day of some of Olga’s Kitchen’s menu items, including Suncoast Smoothies, individually blended fresh fruit smoothies, being introduced at the Orchard Plaza location.

For only 25 cents, guests will be able to enjoy an Original Olga sandwich and the Orange Cream Cooler. Both of these specials are available for dine-in only.
Classic rock tribute bands, The Who Show and The Rock Show will co-headline the third concert in the 2009 Rockin’ on the Riverfront classic rock series on Friday, Aug. 7 from 8 – 10:30 p.m. The 2009 concert series sponsor is Andiamo Detroit Riverfront, in partnership with Detroit’s Classic Rock Station 94.7 WCSX-FM.

The Rock Show is a Midland, Mich.-based tribute band that plays the hits of the iconic classic rock band, Journey. The band’s high-energy show – fittingly named “Don’t Stop Believing” – has won over Journey fans across the state. Expect to hear a tribute to all of Journey’s many hits from “Wheel In The Sky” to “Any Way You Want It” and “Open Arms”.

With note for note musical renditions, authentic costumes and vintage instruments, The Who Show will recreate a Who concert experience from the 1970s right on Riverfront Plaza. From classic hits such as “Teenage Wasteland” and “Pinball Wizard”, The Who Show has been thrilling audiences across the nation for more than a decade. VH1 has even noted the band as the “Most Believable 1970s Era Who Tribute”.

Rockin’ on the Riverfront will continue to feature classic rock headliners and openers every Friday through September 4, making the Riverfront Plaza the Friday night destination for food, fun and FREE concerts.

Upcoming Rockin’ on the Riverfront concerts include:

August 14 – Rare Earth original lead singer Peter Rivera, Iron Butterfly and Blues Image lead singer Mike Pinera, Sugarloaf original lead singer Jerry Corbetta and Novi, Mich. bass player Larry Prentiss, touring as the Classic Rock All Stars.
August 21 – Foghat
August 28 – Edgar Winter
September 4 – TBD

Admission to the concerts is free and no advance tickets are necessary. Viewing space will be on a first-come, first-serve basis and people are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets. In addition, boaters on the Detroit River are invited to anchor near the riverfront and enjoy the view of the stage from the water.

Food and refreshment concessions from Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will be available at several locations on the plaza. Outside food, beverages or coolers will not be permitted. Andiamo Detroit Riverfront will accept dinner reservations before and after the concert and invites guests to take advantage of its gorgeous outdoor patio overlooking the Detroit River.

Convenient parking is available for $5 per vehicle at the GM surface lot at the intersection of St. Antoine and Atwater, adjacent to the GM Renaissance Center.

Rockin’ on the Riverfront sponsors include Bridgestone, Fathead, Quicken Loans, Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center, MediLodge, Motor City Harley-Davidson, Pepsi, SKYY Vodka and 94.7 WCSX-FM.

For more information, call (313) 567-6700 or visit www.andiamoitalia.com/detroit or www.gmrencen.com.
Summertime in Detroit still means making the most of your free time and soaking up Detroit culture with family and friends in the process.

How about hitting The Henry Ford Museum before the ultra-cool exhibit Rock Stars, Cars and Guitars closes on Sept. 7; or upping your culture cred with a concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in September? (FYI, single tickets for the DSO in September just went on sale this week).

Thanks to two just-released incentives from American Express, it’s possible to secure some summer fun (at a discount!) and earn coveted frequent flier miles on Delta Air Lines faster than ever, redeemable for vacations later.

Here’s a quick summary of what American Express rolled out August 1 for its Delta SkyMiles Credit Card holders:

Discounted entry at Detroit-area attractions. From August 1 to June 30, 2010, Delta SkyMiles Cardmembers can take advantage of special offers at popular Detroit destinations, including Buy 1, Get 1 Free tickets at The Henry Ford Museum (up to four) and 20 percent off Detroit Symphony Orchestra tickets (up to four). Extra bonus: Cardmembers will also earn frequent flier miles on their ticket purchases in the process.

How to redeem: For The Henry Ford Museum, the Cardmember must present coupon received in the mail from American Express in order to redeem Buy 1, Get 1 Free discount. To redeem the DSO discount, Cardmembers must present their Card at the theater’s box office to pay for tickets or go online and use the code: AMEXDELTA at www.detroitsymphony.com

How to redeem: Visit www.americanexpress.com/delta2x or call 1-800-794-1308 and enter the promotional code 148790001. There is no cost to enroll.

Not a cardmember yet? No worries. Consumers who are applying and are approved for the Delta SkyMiles Card from August 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009 can also enroll their card to take advantage of the promotion.

Mark Dowie

Detroit has zero produce-carrying grocery chains. It also has open land, fertile soil, ample water, and the ingredients to reinvent itself from Motor City to urban farm. Mark Dowie’s immodest proposal...

Were I an aspiring farmer in search of fertile land to buy and plow, I would seriously consider moving to Detroit. There is open land, fertile soil, ample water, willing labor, and a desperate demand for decent food. And there is plenty of community will behind the idea of turning the capital of American industry into an agrarian paradise. In fact, of all the cities in the world, Detroit may be best positioned to become the world’s first one hundred percent food self-sufficient city.

Not so long ago, there were five produce-carrying grocery chains—Kroger, A&P, Farmer Jack, Wrigley, and Meijer—competing vigorously for the Detroit food market. Today there are none. Nor is there a single WalMart or Costco in the city. Specialty grocer Trader Joe’s just turned down an attractive offer to open an outlet in midtown Detroit. There is a fabulous once-a-week market, the largest of its kind in the country, on the east side that offers a wide array of fresh meat, eggs, fruit, and vegetables. So despite the Eastern Market, in-city Detroiters are still left with the challenge of finding new ways to feed themselves a healthy meal.

One obvious solution is to grow their own, and the urban backyard garden boom that is sweeping the nation has caught hold in Detroit, particularly in neighborhoods recently settled by immigrants from agrarian cultures of Laos and Bangladesh, who are almost certain to become major players in an agrarian Detroit. Add to that the five hundred or so twenty-by-twenty-foot community plots and a handful of three- to ten-acre farms cultured by church and non-profit groups, and during its four-month growing season, Detroit is producing somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of its food supply inside city limits—more than most American cities, but nowhere near enough to allay the food desert problem. About 3 percent of the groceries sold at the Eastern Market are homegrown; the rest are brought into Detroit by a handful of peri-urban farmers and about one hundred and fifty freelance food dealers who buy their produce from Michigan farms between thirty and one hundred miles from the city and truck it into the market.

There are a few cities in the world that grow and provide about half their total food supply within their urban and peri-urban regions—Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; Havana, Cuba; Hanoi, Vietnam; Dakar, Senegal; Rosario, Argentina; Cagayan de Oro in the Philippines; and, my personal favorite, Cuenca, Equador—all of which have much longer growing seasons than Detroit. However, those cities evolved that way, almost unintentionally. They are, in fact, about where Detroit was agriculturally around one hundred and fifty years ago. Half of them will almost surely drop under 50 percent sufficiency within the next two decades as industry subsumes cultivated land to build factories (à la China). Because of its unique situation, Detroit could come close to being 100 percent self-sufficient.

First, the city lies on one hundred and forty square miles of former farmland. Manhattan, Boston, and San Francisco could be placed inside the borders of Detroit with room to spare, and the population is about the same as the smallest of those cities, San Francisco: eight hundred thousand. And that number is still declining from a high of two million in the mid-nineteen fifties. Demographers expect Detroit’s population to level off somewhere between five hundred thousand and six hundred thousand by 2025. Right now there is about forty square miles of unoccupied open land in the city, the area of San Francisco, and that landmass could be doubled by moving a few thousand people out of hazardous firetraps into affordable housing in the eight villages. As I drove around the city, I saw many full-sized blocks with one, two, or three houses on them, many already burned out and abandoned. The ones that weren’t would make splendid farmhouses.

Even without local production the food industry creates three dollars of job growth for every dollar spent on food—a larger multiplier effect than almost any other product or industry. Farm a city and that figure jumps over five dollars.

As Detroit was built on rich agricultural land, the soil beneath the city is fertile and arable. Certainly some of it is contaminated with the wastes of heavy industry, but not so badly that it’s beyond remediation. In fact, phyto-remediation, using certain plants to remove toxic chemicals permanently from the soil, is already practiced in parts of the city. And some of the plants used for remediation can be readily converted to biofuels. Others can be safely fed to livestock.

Leading the way in Detroit’s soil remediation is Malik Yakini, owner of the Black Star Community Book Store and founder of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network. Yakini and his colleagues begin the remediation process by removing abandoned house foundations and toxic debris from vacated industrial sites. Often that is all that need be done to begin farming. Throw a little compost on the ground, turn it in, sow some seeds, and water it. Water in Detroit is remarkably clean and plentiful.

Although Detroiters have been growing produce in the city since its days as an eighteenth-century French trading outpost, urban farming was given a major boost in the nineteen eighties by a network of African-American elders calling themselves the “Gardening Angels.” As migrants from the rural South, where many had worked as small farmers and field hands, they brought agrarian skills to vacant lots and abandoned industrial sites of the city, and set out to reconnect their descendants, children of asphalt, to the Earth, and teach them that useful work doesn’t necessarily mean getting a job in a factory.

Thirty years later, Detroit has an eclectic mix of agricultural systems, ranging from three-foot window boxes growing a few heads of lettuce to a large-scale farm run by The Catherine Ferguson Academy, a home and school for pregnant girls that not only produces a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, but also raises chickens, geese, ducks, bees, rabbits, and milk goats.

Across town, Capuchin Brother Rick Samyn manages a garden that not only provides fresh fruits and vegetables to city soup kitchens, but also education to neighborhood children. There are about eighty smaller community gardens scattered about the city, more and more of them raising farm animals alongside the veggies. At the moment, domestic livestock is forbidden in the city, as are beehives. But the ordinance against them is generally ignored and the mayor’s office assures me that repeal of the bans are imminent.

About five hundred small plots have been created by an international organization called Urban Farming, founded by acclaimed songwriter Taja Sevelle. Realizing that Detroit was the most agriculturally promising of the fourteen cities in five countries where Urban Farming now exists, Sevelle moved herself and her organization’s headquarters there last year. Her goal is to triple the amount of land under cultivation in Detroit every year. All food grown by Urban Farming is given free to the poor. According to Urban Farming’s Detroit manager, Michael Travis, that won’t change.

Larger scale, for-profit farming is also on the drawing board. Financial services entrepreneur John Hantz has asked the city to let him farm a seventy-acre parcel he owns close to the Eastern Market. If that is approved and succeeds in producing food for the market, and profit for Hantz Farms, Hantz hopes to create more large-scale commercial farms around the city. Not everyone in Detroit’s agricultural community is happy with the scale or intentions of Hantz’s vision, but it seems certain to become part of the mix.

Any agro-economist will tell you that urban farming creates jobs. Even without local production, the food industry creates three dollars of job growth for every dollar spent on food—a larger multiplier effect than almost any other product or industry. Farm a city, and that figure jumps over five dollars. To a community with persistent two-digit unemployment, that number is manna. But that’s only one economic advantage of farming a city.

The average food product purchased in a U.S. chain store has traveled thirteen hundred miles, and about half of it has spoiled en route, despite the fact that it was bioengineered to withstand transport. The total mileage in a three-course American meal approaches twenty-five thousand. The food seems fresh because it has been refrigerated in transit, adding great expense and a huge carbon footprint to each item, and subtracting most of the minerals and vitamins that would still be there were the food grown close by.

Detroit now offers America a perfect place to redefine urban economics, moving away from the totally paved, heavy-industrial factory-town model to a resilient, holistic, economically diverse, self-sufficient, intensely green, rural/urban community—and in doing so become the first modern American city where agriculture, while perhaps not the largest, is the most vital industry.
Royal Oak Mirror

The Ferndale Chamber of Commerce has challenged other Woodward Avenue Chambers - Berkley, Royal Oak, Ferndale and Birmingham/Bloomfield — to see which can bring in the most blood donations for the American Red Cross during Dream Cruise week.

Donor sites are as follow:

The Ferndale Chamber blood drive will be from 1-7 p.m. Aug. 10 at the Ferndale Public Library, now located at 642 E. Nine Mile.

Berkley/Royal Oak will be having a joint blood drive from 1-7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 11, at the Berkley Donor Center, 21805 Woodward.

The Birmingham/Bloomfield Chamber drive will be from 1-7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12, at the Holiday Inn Express, 35270 Woodward Avenue.

Register at www.givelife.org and enter the sponsor code chamberchallenge. Online registration is encouraged in order for the Red Cross to staff properly. Appointments will receive first priority.

Prizes will be awarded.
Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

It started with a family recipe.

Michael McClure, of McClure’s Pickles in Troy, explained that the pickle recipe came from the grandmother of his wife, Jenny.

“We’ve been making them in our family kitchens for 37 years,” he said. “Our sons, Robert and Joe, grew up watching us make these, then helping us (to) make these.”

He explained that the pickles were a big hit with the boys’ friends as they were growing up.

“I also gave them away for Christmas gifts,’ Michael said.

Robert and Joe were after their parents to go into business with the pickles for years, but Michael, who worked in sales and marketing, resisted.

“I didn’t want to work that hard,” he said.

But about three years ago, the younger McClures designed a Web site, completed coursework at Cornell University in acidic food processing and earned Michigan ServSafe certification, and McClure’s Pickles was born.

Using Michigan cucumbers whenever possible, flowering dill from Ontario, Canada, and California-grown garlic, McClure’s makes two varieties of pickles: spicy, and garlic and dill. The company also creates the same two varieties of relish.

The pickles received rave reviews in the July issue of Martha Stewart Living.

Ruth Altchek of Martha Stewart Living writes, “It’s rare to find a line of prepared foods in which every item is delicious. The family-run company’s two varieties of pickles and relish … and its pair of multi-grain mustards incorporating beers from Michigan and New York, are all perfectly seasoned and textured.”

Christine Albano of Martha Stewart Living states in a letter to the McClures, “We loved them and know our readers will too.”

McClure’s was also featured in a story about a flea market on the Brooklyn Bridge that appeared in The New York Times, and in Bon Appetit magazine in March.

Michael explained that Robert is based in Brooklyn, where he is an actor and “some product” is made, and Michael has established McClure’s in that area.

At present, all jars of pickles and relish are hand-packed. The pickles are produced with a heat process, which allows the jars to remain un-refrigerated until they are opened. The labels are printed on recycled paper with wind-powered presses, and the company recycles cardboard boxes.

The McClures plan to expand the product line to include mustard and ketchup locally.

When the pickles are gone, keep what’s left in the jar, Michael said.

“Put anything you like — beets, hard-cooked eggs, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, carrots — in the brine for 10 days. Or mix the brine with tomato juice for Bloody Mary mix.”
Jonathan Oosting

Vice President Joe Biden will appear with Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm on Wednesday in Detroit to discuss the the Obama administration's handling of the $787-billion economic stimulus package and announce the first round of federal research grants.

"He will discuss how we build a new economic foundation strong enough to withstand future economic storms and support lasting prosperity, and how we recapture the spirit of innovation that has always moved America forward," the White House said, via the Detroit News.

Auto officials told the News that Biden plans to announce the first round of funding from the $2 billion battery grant program, part of the $787 billion stimulus package approved in February.

Biden will speak from NextEnergy at 461 Burroughs St., where tickets will be available on a first-come-first-serve basis tomorrow from noon to 1 p.m.

NextEnergy is a Detroit-based nonprofit organization "with a mission to become one of the nation's leading catalysts for alternative and renewable energy," according to the company's Web site.

As a salute to the many past community contributions of the Big Three automakers and to rally support, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Arts, Beats & Eats – Festival of Hope organizers today announced Chrysler Group LLC, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. will receive complimentary exhibit space and sponsorship benefits during the festival.

“This was the least we could do to support and honor the millions of dollars the Big Three automakers have given back to the community,” Patterson said. “Economic conditions have reduced the number of civic initiatives our automakers are able to support and we want to thank them, especially Chrysler, the official sponsor of our last 12 events, for making the event possible for all of these years.”

Valued at $50,000 each, the automakers will receive a 3,500 square-foot exhibit space, which is large enough to display vehicles. They also will receive significant signage space, logo placement on entrance treatments and sponsor towers, and a major presence on the festival’s Web site as well as mentions in festival advertising.

Additionally, there will be a Big Three Music Stage, which will serve as a tribute to local Detroit-area musicians. Messages about “Buy from the Big Three, Support Detroit” will be broadcast throughout the festival.
Do the math: 500 Miles, 50 Hours, 50 Charities and $1 Million. It all adds up to an exciting celebration of Art Van Furniture's 50th Anniversary, dubbed the "Million Dollar Charity Challenge."

Chairman and Founder Art Van Elslander announced the organizations from the Metro Detroit area who will receive these grants during a reception this morning at the Art Van Furniture store in Warren, Michigan. This was the first of five events around the State, where selected charities are awarded grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 each. The organizations are Michigan-based 501(c)3 non-profits who focus on children, health and human services programs.

"If you are fortunate enough to be as successful as we have been, then I believe it is your responsibility to give back," said Mr. Van Elslander, "The Million Dollar Charity Challenge will benefit 50 remarkable and deserving organizations to help them continue their outstanding work and improve the lives of people across our state. We designed these grants as challenge gifts in order to encourage others to donate and maximize fundraising opportunities."