Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Balaskovitz

Managing editor, covers energy, policy and economic development.

Twitter: @ABalaskovitz
Email: [email protected]

A coalition of bars and restaurants started in Grand Rapids is “trying to build some solidarity” within the industry around managing facilities responsibly during the pandemic, following recent COVID-19 spikes linked to bars that led Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to close many of them for indoor service.

GRAND RAPIDS — The Kent County Health Department has ordered a downtown Grand Rapids bar to close after video surfaced this weekend of large crowds of patrons not adhering to social distancing and other measures to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Kent County’s top official says it is “critically important” that a $25 million business relief program launched this week is accessible to minority-owned businesses, following recent criticism that the program isn’t properly compensating minority business and social equity groups for their assistance.

An Ingham County Circuit Court judge has ordered Enbridge to immediately shut down the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac, saying the company inadequately disclosed information about damage to support structures discovered last week. 

GRAND RAPIDS — Two organizations representing minority-owned businesses issued a public statement Wednesday condemning a Kent County program that’s distributing $25 million in federal CARES Act funding for small business relief.

DTE Energy’s natural gas subsidiary has pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 through a series of actions involving suppliers, customers and its own infrastructure, aligning with long-term goals for the utility’s electricity operations.

A coalition of businesses supporting the Line 5 pipeline’s closure in the Straits of Mackinac is backing Attorney General Dana Nessel’s effort to do just that after “significant damage” to the line was disclosed late last week.

Michigan conservation groups are praising the U.S. Senate’s passage last week of a bill that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars annually for restoration projects and act as an economic stimulus for the outdoor recreation industry.

After canceling this year’s ArtPrize because of concerns over COVID-19, organizers of Grand Rapids’ flagship arts event and the largest art competition in the world have avoided questions about whether it will return.

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 15 bars workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and also highlights additional work that needs to be done in Michigan. 

The state House has unanimously passed legislation that waives penalties and fees for deferring summer property tax payments as a way to help property owners and businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With summer property bills representing a major annual expense for businesses, House bills 5761 and 5810 would waive penalties and interest on late payments, acting as a deferral as income starts to rebound after pandemic-related closures. The bills were sponsored by state Rep. Jim Lower, R-Greenville.

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the state Senate today would allow tribally and commercially owned casinos to launch online gaming months before statewide regulations are expected, as a way to jumpstart lost revenue from the pandemic.

MUSKEGON — The former B.C. Cobb coal plant on Muskegon Lake is anticipated to be “one of the top marine port terminals” on the Great Lakes after officials announced today the site’s remediation and sale to a new owner.

Michigan lost another 1,000 clean energy jobs last month, bringing the state’s total losses to 31,000 in the sector since the coronavirus pandemic spread in mid-March, according to an analysis of federal labor statistics.

A statewide campaign to amend the state’s civil rights law is examining its next steps after today’s landmark ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court banning employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Overly aggressive expansions, lease disputes and sagging interest in craft beer-based casual restaurants were contributing factors to BarFly Ventures LLC’s bankruptcy filing this month before business was decimated by COVID-19, court records show.

GRAND RAPIDS — After considering modifications to enable more social distancing and focus on outdoor spaces, the ArtPrize board of directors announced today it was canceling this year’s event as the nonprofit re-evaluates its future.

Farmers grew nearly 4,000 acres of industrial hemp across 58 Michigan counties in 2019 as part of the state’s inaugural year of a pilot program to test the viability of the crop here.

The Michigan Court of Claims has ruled in favor of a building contractors’ trade group and a Grand Rapids landscaping company who challenged the penalties associated with an executive order on pandemic-related workplace requirements.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order today moving Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula to the next phase of reopening while the rest of the state will likely follow by June 15.

Michigan’s two largest utilities have operated coal plants uneconomically in recent years, costing customers tens of millions of dollars when cheaper and cleaner resources are available, according to a recent study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Restaurants across Michigan are slowly reengaging under occupancy limits and heightened measures to protect workers and patrons’ safety. 

GRAND RAPIDS — As part of an ongoing investigation into dozens of discrimination complaints against the Grand Rapids Police Department, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and the city are in discussions over a “global resolution” involving systemic bias at the GRPD.

GRAND RAPIDS — A 48-hour state of civil emergency and overnight curfew has expired in Grand Rapids after city commissioners largely opposed extending them today.

GRAND RAPIDS — Kent County is in a “very vulnerable position” with the coronavirus pandemic as businesses prepare to reopen and gatherings of up to 100 people are permitted, Health Department Director Dr. Adam London said today.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order today that moves Michigan into the next phase of a pandemic reopening plan and rescinds a statewide stay-home order in place since March 23.

Grand Rapids officials responded with a 48-hour state of civil emergency and a 7 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on Sunday and Monday nights after peaceful protests against police brutality turned violent.

The state chapter of a national trade group representing contractors and a Grand Rapids-based landscaping company have asked a state court to invalidate two recent executive orders by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer involving workplace safety requirements in light of COVID-19.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $22.5 million to expand rural broadband access to thousands of residents and dozens of businesses in Southwest Michigan.

Uncertainty over whether the federal government will approve new stimulus funding for state and local budgets continues to cloud the future of Michigan’s multi-billion-dollar revenue shortfall caused by the coronavirus pandemic.