Michigan companies struggle to find skilled workers


Huron Inc. in Sanilac County plans to expand and add jobs making parts for turbocharger cooling systems, but the tight labor market makes finding qualified people more difficult.(Photo: Andrew Jowett / AP)


While Michigan’s unemployment rate dipped to a seven-year low in July, some analysts say the numbers aren’t as peachy as they appear.

Analysts say low the unemployment rate can in part be attributed to a loss of workforce in addition to a steadying economy. Michigan’s labor force has decreased by about 326,000 workers since 2000, according to a report released by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

According to the data, St. Clair County saw its workforce reduced by 15 percent between 2000 and 2016. That is a loss of nearly 13,000 workers. During the same period, the county population shrank by just more than 2 percent.

Sanilac County saw a 12 percent — or about 2,600 workers — reduction to its workforce, along with a 5.7 percent drop in population, according to the report.

“The job market has been very tight in 2017, particularly in manufacturing,” said Dan Casey, Economic Development Alliance of St. Clair County director. “We are expecting the automotive industry to soften in 2018, so that might relieve some of the pressure.”

Casey said young people are not being encouraged to pursue careers in manufacturing or construction.

“But I think the lack of supply of talent will create opportunities and drive up wages and eventually we’ll solve this problem,” he told the Times Herald.

In addition to an increase in wages, Casey said another solution to the lack of workforce is teaching the essential skills needed to excel at manufacturing careers. He said schools should focus on teaching mechatronics, programming languages, automation, maintenance and repair of robots.

“I think what a lot of (students) will discover that it’s pretty cool to design and build something,” Casey said. “They may not have been around when manufacturing was at its highest peak of employment, but the process of innovation is still exciting and rewarding. And this is what we do here. It’s what Michigan is known for.”

Jerry Solar, president of Huron Inc. in Worth Township, said the problem of skilled workers is not a new concept for his company and Huron Inc. has taken measures to side-step the challenge for this year.

Solar said Huron Inc. has always trained its workers itself and has built apprenticeship programs within the company.

While much pressure to find skilled workers has been put on the manufacturing sector, the trend hasn’t stopped there, but seeped into other areas such as retail as well.

Lee Jones, owner of Weekends in Port Huron, agrees that finding workers is a challenge.

“Before people would be out looking for and actively stop in and ask if we were hiring,” Jones said. “Now it’s hard to go down the street and not see signs for help wanted.”

Jones said he believes working retail is on the bottom of the job food chain and that those seeking part-time work gravitate toward tipped jobs where there is an opportunity to make more money.

“The logical answer is to pay more but the small business model doesn’t necessarily warrant that,” he said.

The policy report also attributed the loss of labor to workers leaving the state during the recession in search of jobs, and not returning following the rebound.

“How Michigan’s economy is doing depends on which worker or policymaker you talk to and what data you look at,” said Gilda Jacobs, Michigan League for Public Policy president. “Michigan’s declining unemployment rate is certainly good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. Since the unemployment rate was this low in 2000, Michigan has been steadily losing workers, and our workforce is getting older, neither of which bodes well for our economic future.”

The workforce is also largely made up of older workers as opposed to those in the 16- to 24-year-old range. More retired workers are picking up part-time jobs and fewer young people are seeking work.

“We’ve all seen this data in action. Think about your daily life and the variety of workers you encounter in jobs that young people used to hold — a fast food worker, a grocery bagger, a restaurant worker,” Jacobs said. “Lawmakers need to look at these changing demographics and embrace polices that help younger and older workers alike get the education, skills and training they need to get the jobs they want.”

The league urged policy makers to make college education less expensive, encourage colleges to offer more relevant work-study options, and make more post-secondary training available for skilled trades.

Detroit philanthropists tout investments in city

Dan Gilbert, Stephen Ross, Draymond Green

Dan Gilbert, far left, jokes with philanthropist Stephen Ross, center, as well as Golden State Warriors player and former MSU basketball star Draymond Green during Homecoming festivities at the Detroit Institute of Arts.


There’s room for investments as Detroit rebuilds, philanthropists and moguls told a group of former residents Thursday.

Reinvesting in Detroit as well as overhauling its image — that was the focus of a gathering Thursday for the fourth Detroit Homecoming, a three-day event designed to convince expatriates to return and invest in the area.

Since its launch in 2014, more than $300 million has been invested in city projects and businesses, coordinators said.

Such efforts, coupled with ongoing redevelopment, help position Detroit for growth that outsiders thought was impossible a few years ago, said Stephen Ross, a philanthropist and renowned real estate investor.

“Now it has the ability to attract outside developers, outside capital,” said Ross, a University of Michigan alum and Wayne State University Law School graduate. “Today there is so much excitement and energy.”

Thursday’s forum at the Detroit Institute of Arts Film Theatre was hosted by Dan Gilbert, chairman and founder of Quicken Loans.

The billionaire, a majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, has been viewed as a key player in helping revitalize the Motor City. He started moving his companies to Detroit in 2010, investing more than $2.2 billion to buy and renovate nearly 100 commercial properties.

This week, his Bedrock Detroit shared more details for the redesign of the J.L. Hudson site project. The 1 million-square-foot mixed use development on the site of the former department store is slated to cost $900 million and includes plans for an 800-foot tower, which would be the tallest downtown.

In February, Microsoft Corp. announced it planned to open a downtown Detroit office next year in the One Campus Martius building, which Gilbert’s Bedrock Detroit development company oversees.

Gilbert and Ross last year each donated $5 million to the Wayne State Law School — representing the largest donation in its history, officials said at the time.

Introducing Gilbert before the talk show-like forum on Thursday, Michigan State University President Lou Anna Simon described the businessman as “someone who can take vision and move it into action at lightning speed.”

Ross later praised him as an example of a visionary helping push Detroit forward.

“You’ve set the standard, you’ve set the pace,” said Ross, the chairman and founder of Related Companies and Time Warner Center in New York City, who also owns the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and Sun Life Stadium.

Ross and Gilbert spoke alongside Michigan expat Draymond Green, a Golden State Warriors player and former Michigan State University star.

The athlete told Gilbert that he was pursuing a business, Blink Fitness.

“We’re working on bringing it here to Detroit, which I think would be great,” Green said.

The basketball star’s $3.1 million gift to MSU in 2015 was slated to go to its basketball program as well as a donation from the Athletic Department for a Breslin Center upgrade.

“That feeling, I’ve never felt that feeling in my life,” he said. “I have never been so happy to give away money in my life.”

When Gilbert asked Green about the newly opened Little Caesars Arena, the sports figure praised it as proof of Detroit’s revival.

“I think it’s going to help boost the morale of the city,” he said.

Mich. college settles in nursing student’s lawsuit



Nichole Rolfe, 35, was awarded about $15,000 on Tuesday in a lawsuit against Baker College(Photo: google.com)


A Michigan college has been ordered to pay a woman’s nursing school tuition after she was dismissed for questioning lessons she says taught students to scare patients into vaccinations.

Nichole Rolfe, 35, was awarded about $15,000 on Tuesday in a lawsuit against Baker College, the Flint Journal reported .

Rolfe sued the college in 2015, saying an instructor at the school’s Owosso campus told students to threaten and panic patients into immunization.

“She stated that we would go in there if they declined and then we would use threats to coerce them,” Rolfe said of the instructor. Rolfe said the threats could include, “You’re going to lose your Medicaid and if you lose your Medicaid because you refuse the vaccine you will have to pay for your entire hospital stay.”

She said that lesson came two days after another instructor said she told new fathers they were to be vaccinated for whooping cough immediately before seeing newborns. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone who comes in contact with newborns be updated on vaccinations at least two weeks before coming in close contact with the infant.

Rolfe said she was kicked out of the program after questioning both instructors, saying the lessons went against how students were previously taught to inform patients.

“I was asking questions that a nursing student should ask,” she said.

The school said Rolfe was removed because she was overly aggressive and disruptive. A dismissal contract by the school alleged Rolfe continuously argued with the instructor about a personal belief regarding immunizations.

Rolfe denied being against vaccinations.

“This goes against the patient’s right to informed consent,” she said. “Our job is to build trust with the family and patient. We are to educate this patient.”

An attorney for the college says Baker officials are “very pleased with the settlement.”

Rolfe’s attorney, Philip Ellison, said he plans to appeal the decision in hopes of getting Rolfe an additional $2 million payout for “the career she’ll never have” due to being dismissed. If the appeal is approved, the case would go to trial.


Information from: The Flint Journal, http://www.mlive.com/flint

Metro Detroiters vow to ‘never forget’ on 9/11


On Monday, Captain Bob Haase of the Sterling Heights Fire Department, from left, Captain Aaron Burgess and Robert Wojciechowski of the Sterling Heights Police Department stand during a moment of silence to honor those who died Sept. 11, 2001.


With flags raised and a salute from the men and women in blue, Detroit honored the lives lost 16 years ago in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

A solemn, memorial service took place at Campus Martius with appearances from Mayor Mike Duggan, Police Chief James Craig and other city officials.

Police officers and firefighters in uniform surrounded the park as the national anthem was sang and a motorcade circled the area.

Nearly 3,000 people died on that day in New York, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Many of those deaths included firefighters, police and emergency medical workers.

Craig said after the 9/11 attacks, “our nation was paralyzed with fear and doubt.”

“Certainly our nation has experienced immeasurable tragedies that rocked us to our core,” Craig said. “This (9/11) event only fortified our commitment to the liberty of our fellow Americans.”

The Campus Martius event was one of many Patriot Day ceremonies held across Metro Detroit on Monday. In Sterling Heights, a similar event took place outside City Hall.

Speakers at the Detroit ceremony noted the 16th anniversary of 9/11 is coinciding with recovery efforts from devastating hurricanes in Texas and Florida.

A group of Detroit police officers traveled to Texas to deliver packages and offer aid, Craig said.

Mayor Mike Duggan honored police, firefighters and EMT who risk their lives responding to terrorism and natural disasters across the country.

He cited recent incidents, including Houston Police Sgt. Steve Perez who drowned in Hurricane Harvey’s floodwaters. Duggan also mentioned the two Florida police officers who were killed in a Hurricane Irma evacuation zone crash.

“They lost their lives doing what they loved,” Duggan said.

Duggan touted the city’s improvements to public safety such as reductions in homicides and carjackings and faster EMT response times.

David Gelios, a special agent in charge for the Detroit division of the FBI, noted Michigan has prosecuted several people who plotted to commit acts of terrorism in the last year.

“No one agency or department working alone can defeat terrorism,” Gelios said. “This is a battle we must wage together.”

Monday’s ceremony was emotional for some spectators who left their jobs downtown to attend.

Jennifer Williams of Garden City shed a few tears as she reflected on the lives lost on 9/11.

Williams was a college student when she saw news of the attacks on TV. She said she was in “pure shock” that it could happen in her lifetime.

“Other things that happened we never were around for, but this happened when we were here,” Williams said. “I think you have to move forward. But you never forget.”

Michiganians head to Florida to help hurricane recovery

National Guard



Florida National Guard amphibious vehicles stage at Raymond James Stadium Sunday in Tampa, as Hurricane Irma continues to churn through the state. National Guardsmen and first responders from Michigan will join them.(Photo: Chris O'Meara / AP)


First responders and more than 1,000 soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard are deploying staff to Florida and other parts of the United States to help those affected by Hurricane Irma and assist in recovery efforts.

Michigan Task Force 1 deployed 45 members in 18 vehicles from Holly on Sunday on an 11-day mission to aid the response to Hurricane Irma, MI-TF1 spokesman Dave McIntyre said.

The task force includes highly trained personnel from across the state who are capable of surface water rescue, wide-area searches, structural collapse, canine and technical search that are equipped of being self-sustaining for 11 days, McIntyre said.

Michigan Task Force 1 is scheduled to stage efforts in Jacksonville, Florida, to meet with task forces from Florida, Wisconsin and Tennessee before receiving their mission assignments to begin helping Florida residents.

The task force has personnel responding from fire departments from Sterling Heights, Southfield, Garden City, Groveland, Oakland, North Oakland Fire Authority, Bloomfield, Independence, Detroit, Northville, Dexter Area Fire Authority, Canton Township, Dearborn, Ann Arbor, Shelby Township, Walker, St Clair Shores, Livonia, Ferndale, Green Oaks, Eastpointe and Summit Township.

The Michigan Army National Guard is sending more than 1,000 soldiers on Tuesday to help those affected by the hurricane.

The guard says it will be providing security, humanitarian assistance and aircraft maintenance. Approximately 425 soldiers from the 126th Infantry Regiment will first head to Camp Grayling in northern Michigan, pack equipment and then depart for Florida on Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Gregory Vadnais says guard members “are anxious to get down there.” There will be dozens of vehicles and trucks in that convoy, he said.

Deployments from Michigan also include Michigan State Police Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division staff members deployed to Kansas and New Jersey to help with emergency coordination between states.


First responders and the Michigan Army National Guard are deploying staff to Florida and other parts of the United States to help those affected by Hurricane Irma and assist in recovery efforts. (photo courtesy of Michigan Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) (Photo: Michigan Mutual Aid Box Alarm System)

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said the deployments are the result of requests made for out-of-state support through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

“Michiganders stand with our fellow Americans dealing with the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey,” Calley said. “Safety always needs to be the No. 1 priority during emergencies and we are keeping everyone in the path of the storm in our thoughts.

“The American people come together during times like this and I’m extremely proud of the way our first responders are answering the call for help and deploying to help with relief efforts,” he said.

Capt. Chris Kelenske, deputy state director of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and commander of the MSP/EMHSD, said his department has maintained daily contact with the affected State Emergency Operations Centers and Emergency Management Assistance Compact coordinators and will continue to be ready to answer the call for resources.

“I am confident our highly trained first responders will provide the (utmost) support in the response and recovery of this disaster,” Kelenske said.

On Friday, Calley also signed an executive directive waiving hour and fuel restrictions as well as weigh station rules for motor carriers providing assistance to states affected by hurricanes.