- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

The Detroit News. July 20, 2015

Give teens a foot on employment ladder

Minimum wages are rising around the country, including in Michigan. And that’s having the unintended effect of keeping young adults out of the job market. With youth unemployment soaring, a bill in the Michigan Legislature would offer some assistance to teens seeking to build their resumes and earn income.

Sen. Margaret O’Brien, R-Portage, has introduced some legislation that would extend the youth minimum wage to workers under 20, allowing older teens a better chance to get their first job and gaining critical employment skills.

By making young workers more attractive to employers, this legislation should help alleviate a youth unemployment rate that is more than three times that of workers over age 20.

Michigan’s teen unemployment rate is 18.4 percent. Youth unemployment is even higher in minority communities. And lawmakers’ decision to hike the minimum wage - rising to $9.25 by 2019 - will leave more youth out of work.

State law allows a pay scale that’s 85 percent of the full minimum wage for teens ages 16 and 17. O’Brien’s bill expands current law to cover the entire teen labor force, allowing Michigan businesses to pay the youth wage to employees below the age of 20. O’Brien’s bill would also adjust the lower training wage that employers can pay during the first 90 days of employment.

The problem of youth unemployment has caught the attention of some of the nation’s largest employers. Last week, Starbucks and other corporations, including Target and Microsoft, joined together with the intent to provide jobs for 100,000 unemployed young people over the next three years. These business owners, who acknowledge teens are being shut out of the job market, are calling their effort the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative. An estimated 5.5 million Americans, ages 16 to 24, aren’t employed or in school.

Opponents of O’Brien’s bill, including the UAW, say that lower wages for the 18 and 19 year olds would hurt young people’s ability to pay for things like college tuition.

O’Brien rejects those claims, and says her legislation would help youth get into the job market, setting them up to make more money in the future.

“I just want kids to get their first real job,” she says. “I want to give that employer a reason to take a risk on them.”

Minimum wage jobs are often the bottom rung of the economic ladder. Once a teen gets that first job, it’s easier to move into higher paying work.

But, O’Brien says, “it’s getting harder and harder for teens to get their first job.”

This bill could help more youth get into the job market and give them a stronger start toward adult careers..


The Times Herald. July 21, 2015

Lake level complaints dried up without dams

Thank you for government inaction.

Way back in the bad old days, January 2013, to be precise - 30 months ago - the water level on Lake Michigan-Huron was at an all-time low, 576.02 feet above sea level. Boat docks sat high and dry, beaches stretch out forever and weeds displaced the sand, freighters scraped bottom and sailboats could approach marinas.

Because someone needed to be blamed, fingers pointed at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Critics - the loudest were the cottagers of Canada’s Georgian Bay whose summer homes were surrounded by rocks instead of Lake Huron - said the Corps took too much dirt out of the St. Clair River when it dredged the shipping channel.

Making the river channel too big, they argued, increased its flow and would lead to the inevitable emptying of the upper lakes. The Corps of Engineers said it wasn’t to blame, that the St. Clair River had changed because of natural erosion following the high water levels of the mid-1980s.

Georgian Bay cottagers wanted the river dammed. The Corps said it would think about it.

The International Joint Commission, the U.S.-Canada group charged with managing the lakes, said thinking about it wasn’t enough. It didn’t call for throwing up barriers in the St. Clair River, but insisted that the U.S. and Canadian governments immediately begin studying options to increase water levels in Lake Michigan-Huron. That was in 2013.

The Great Lakes Coalition, an environmental group whose main focus is maintaining consistent water levels, checked in this spring with the IJC on those U.S. and Canada studies. What studies? The governments of the two nations sharing the Great Lakes had forgotten the IJC’s dire warning.

That’s good. Because if the Corps of Engineers had dropped baffles or dams or weirs in the St. Clair River when everyone was demanding that something simply had to be done, Georgian Bay would be gone by now. Water levels are almost 4 feet higher than 30 months ago and appear to be headed higher.

Communities are complaining that beaches have disappeared under the waves. Banks are eroding, waves are undercutting bluffs and house foundations are crumbling. Sailboats can go anywhere they want and freighters are full.

And not re-engineering Mother Nature is working perfectly.


The Alpena News. July 24, 2015

The sound of freedom over NE Michigan

One day this week a large C-130 Hercules flew at a low altitude over Alpena, on its way presumably to the Alpena Combat Readiness Center.

There, more than a dozen military units are taking part through July 31 in Operation Northern Strike 2015.

Northern Strike brings together both equipment and military personnel from Canada, Latvia, Poland, Australia and 20 military forces from states across the U.S. The units, blended together, will participate in air and ground training both here and Camp Grayling.

In all, 3,000 soldiers are expected to participate in this two week training session, designed to give units situations similar to what U.S. military forces have been involved in over the past several years in combat theatres around the world.

Monday the head of the U.S. National Guard, Gen. Frank Grass, is scheduled to visit.

Operation Northern Strike has become an important training tool for military forces, both ground and air, from all over the world. The fact it can combine live fire exercises at Camp Grayling (one of the largest facilities of its kind in the U.S.) with air training from the CRTC (the largest U.S. military airspace east of the Mississippi River), makes this an incredible experience for all those who participate.

We’re glad to see this training become part of an annual event in the summer.

And the sound of those aircraft overhead - well, freedom never sounded so sweet.


Midland Daily News. July 21, 2015

Dow commits to region

A few days ago, Dow Chemical Co. CEO Andrew Liveris announced that the company will build a new six-story corporate center in Midland.

The news was met with smiles, excitement and, to some degree, relief.

According to Liveris, the project, which is scheduled to begin this summer and be completed in 2017, is Dow showing its commitment to Midland and the entire Great Lakes Bay Region.

“If you think of the basis of a community like Midland or the Great Lakes Bay Region, or for that matter the entire state and entire Midwest, there’s a certain community neighborhood view that we’re all in it together, independent of what we earn, independent of where we’ve come from, independent of our accents. That tone is in the DNA of the company,” Liveris told the Daily News last week.

At about 150,000-square-feet, the new building, located near the current headquarters, will be smaller than the 2020 Willard H. Dow Center it will replace.

Over the past several years, Dow also has been involved in Midland-based projects such as Dow Diamond, the H Hotel, the Midland Country Club, but also with projects in Bay City and Saginaw.

All of this is an encouraging signal that Dow not only has a strong community focus, but also has deep roots in this region, and plans to be around for a long, long time. The company began operations in Midland in 1897.

“What we’ve done is create a modern day community so that new, young employees could come here and build a home and have a family and be part of our great, global enterprise,” Liveris told the MDN.

Indeed, Dow’s commitment to keep its headquarters based in Midland is very welcome news Dow’s commitment to Midland helps to provide stability throughout the region, and that’s something that typically translates into a healthy local economy.

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