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Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Balaskovitz

 
 
Managing editor, covers energy, policy and economic development.

Twitter: @ABalaskovitz
Email: [email protected]

President Biden’s recently proposed $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan comes as state officials and local planning experts make gains in plotting investment needs across Michigan.

GRAND RAPIDS — After an economically grim 2020, Grand Rapids event and entertainment officials say they’re optimistic about pent-up demand, COVID-19 vaccines and a new standard of hybrid in-person and virtual programs.

Michigan’s mandates for renewable power and energy efficiency programs — first set in 2008 and slightly increased in 2016 — are scheduled to level off this year, although it may make little difference as the clean energy transition rolls on under market forces.

Sunday, 28 March 2021 17:45

5 energy projects to watch

The transition away from large coal plants is reducing power-sector emissions while also changing the state’s physical landscape. Hulking, centralized power plants are leaving vacant footprints for redevelopment, including in Grand Haven with the recent demolition of the J.B. Sims Generating Station. Meanwhile, more distributed wind and solar projects are also raising key land-use questions and, at times, vocal opposition. Here’s a list of five large-scale generation projects planned around West Michigan. 

The ability to store intermittent renewable energy from wind and solar and capturing methane emissions from common waste streams to displace natural gas usage are two technologies poised to play a bigger role in a lower carbon future.

After production ground to a halt for Michigan oil and gas producers early in the COVID-19 pandemic, wells resumed activity later in the year for an improved short-term outlook.

Deborah Prato is less than a month into her new job as CEO of The Rapid, the Grand Rapids metro area’s public transit system. It’s certainly a change of pace from the expansive systems where she previously held executive positions at New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and NJ Transit — some of the largest public transportation systems in the country. In an interview with MiBiz, Prato said while the scale is different, the mission to provide safe and reliable transit options that can also help fuel economic growth remains the same.

FRUITPORT TWP. — The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians has received the necessary federal approvals for its planned Muskegon County casino and is now calling on the Whitmer administration to approve a new gaming compact before starting construction.

In Michigan’s 24 cities with local income taxes, work from home restrictions this past year that are still largely in place for office workers have caused multi-million-dollar budget gaps.

GRAND RAPIDS — Brothers Chris and Andy Schaefer managed through cost overruns and construction delays during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently opened their new Pux Cider Taphouse in the city’s Midtown neighborhood.

The Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act is a big and bold injection into the U.S. economy that critics — such as all GOP members in the House and Senate who voted against it — have called unnecessarily expensive. However, supporters say the broad support for state and local governments and targeted relief to individuals and families will provide both immediate and long-term benefits. Susan Houseman, vice president and director of research at the Kalamazoo-based W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, said while the latest stimulus reflects Democratic spending priorities, it will also help to ensure a swift post-pandemic economic recovery. Houseman spoke with MiBiz a day after Congress approved the legislation and before it was signed by President Biden.

State officials are releasing nearly $10 million for more than 100 municipalities across the state that have allowed recreational marijuana dispensaries and microbusinesses.

The Whitmer administration on Tuesday announced a series of loosened COVID-19 restrictions statewide, including allowing restaurants and bars to double their indoor capacity from 25 percent to 50 percent and allowing visitations at long-term care facilities.

GRAND RAPIDS — City officials are seeking proposals from companies to operate its business incubator as part of a broader push to bring more equity to economic development.

As major automakers and government officials pledge ambitious electric vehicle targets over the coming decade, Michigan’s automotive suppliers are adapting to a business environment that’s swiftly changing yet still firmly rooted in internal combustion engines. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has sent two proposed budget plans to state lawmakers this year that maintain or expand funding for skilled trades training as well as introduce new talent development programs.

The polar vortex of 2019 sent sustained extreme cold weather throughout the Great Lakes states, and in Michigan led to a strained electric and gas system. At the time, newly elected Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency and launched a formal inquiry.

A growing number of business executives anticipate higher employment and capital investments over the next six to 12 months as post-pandemic economic outlooks are increasingly optimistic, according to a recent survey by Business Leaders for Michigan.

The Biden administration on Monday announced a series of changes to the Paycheck Protection Program that are aimed at improving access to federal COVID-19 relief loans for small and minority-owned businesses.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has again proposed legislation backed by clean energy advocates to expand utility programs for customers who generate their own solar power.

KALAMAZOO — Former GOP House Speaker Lee Chatfield has resigned as CEO of Southwest Michigan First, a week after his appointment generated controversy among local officials and some in the local business community.

KALAMAZOO — LGBTQ advocates say Southwest Michigan First should support expanding Michigan’s civil rights law following backlash to the appointment of its new CEO, former House Speaker Lee Chatfield.

Mel Trotter Ministries’ acquisitions of two other Grand Rapids nonprofits in 2020 marked the start of a significant, long-term shift for the nonprofit that executives say will fundamentally change the organization.

Grand Rapids City Commissioner Joe Jones recently stepped down from his full-time job as CEO of the Urban League of West Michigan to launch a consulting firm focused on diversity, equity and inclusion strategies and other social justice advocacy. Jones launched The Hekima Group LLC (named after the Swahili word for wisdom) after a decade at the Urban League where he worked closely on the ongoing inequities for people of color in West Michigan. Jones said he felt a calling to launch the consultancy following the nationwide protests after the killing of George Floyd, the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate harm to communities of color, and his own personal brush with the virus in October. Jones spoke with MiBiz to discuss his new venture and recent City Commission business.

Two statewide advocacy groups representing municipalities support Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest proposed budget that includes spending to cover income tax revenue gaps, increased revenue sharing and infrastructure investments.

GRAND RAPIDS — After acquiring two other Grand Rapids nonprofits over the last year, Mel Trotter Ministries is considering plans for a housing development after purchasing an abandoned property on the city’s south side.

Within hours of his inauguration on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden signed executive orders seeking to bolster the country’s COVID-19 response and issued a memo to top federal officials to “preserve and fortify” a key immigration policy for certain undocumented immigrants.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican lawmakers are squaring off over multi-billion-dollar COVID-19 spending plans that would bolster a vaccine rollout, K-12 schools preparedness and crucial business support.

Robin Burns took over as head of the Grand Rapids-based Family Business Alliance in November after nearly 12 years as marketing director at the Rhoades McKee law firm in Grand Rapids. The FBA was created in 2006 as a partnership with the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce and Grand Valley State University and later reorganized as a 501(c)(6) nonprofit. With more than 150 member companies, the FBA’s mission is to ensure family-owned businesses in the region are passed down to future generations. Burns spoke with MiBiz about what’s next for the organization.

Statewide business groups announced their support today for House Republicans’ COVID-19 spending plan that’s a rebuttal to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s $5.6 billion plan unveiled last week.