Close, but no cigar No credit where it's due

February 9, 2009
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It sounded like it might be good news for West Michigan manufacturers seeking loans in order to diversify into aerospace manufacturing …

Two executives from Comerica Bank's Grand Rapids office told the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, in writing, that "Comerica stands ready to explore how we can add-value (sic) to MAMA and its membership with business banking support and financial counsel."

The Business Journal contacted the two execs and asked, in view of the criticism of the banking industry now for not lending: "Does this mean Comerica is more likely to lend to companies that want to diversify into aerospace? More likely to lend — or not?"

"I would say that the opportunities that we are trying to make known to the manufacturing base, specifically our clientele, is to find operators who can support aerospace contracts, and selectively, where it makes sense, create financing solutions that allow them to participate," said Executive No. 1. "I'm speaking specifically as it relates to the international element of the global supply chain, and specifically, if you look at the size and scale of the industry, $200 billion a year, the U.S. aerospace industry is, a backlog of $400 billion dollars of business, of unfilled orders, half of that amount is foreign orders. And because of the international aspect of the business, our global banking expertise and, specifically, our expertise with the Export-Import Bank of the United States …" And so on and so forth.

The Business Journal tried again: “Do you see credit in general loosening up to Michigan manufacturers?”

"This initiative really is not a last desperate attempt for companies to save themselves, if they haven't managed themselves properly in the good times, in the auto industry or office furniture industry, et cetera," said Executive No. 2. "It's really an initiative that we're  seeking financially viable companies that want to strategically position themselves for continued success in the future through diversification of their revenue sources. So that's what we're looking for, are companies that have been successful, continue to be successful through innovation or delivering high quality, all the numerous capabilities that these Michigan manufacturers have. We're looking to help them parlay those core competencies, if you will, into some new industries …"

Business Journal: “Is the credit situation for Michigan industry changing or not?”

"We're trying to create solutions," said No. 1, "whereby we can incorporate financing solutions for viable companies to deploy some assets into new industries, and specifically recognizing the global aspect of this industry and using our core international banking experience and our relationship with ex-im banks, to put in place solutions to allow things to do this. We're not in a position to say X amount of dollars are being committed or set aside for this initiative; rather, it is in large part education for our client base and awareness building through MAMA's intricate relationships in aerospace and our intricate understanding of how to finance aerospace …"

Business Journal: “So you are not commenting at this time on the state of credit in general for Michigan manufacturing?”

"That is correct," said No. 2. "Sorry."

Cascade applauds gov’s energy plan

Cascade Engineering is behind Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s proposed renewable energy plan, which she outlined in her State of the State address last week.

“As a Michigan-based manufacturer that has invested millions in research, development and new channels of distribution to meet the growing demand for renewable energy, Cascade Engineering welcomes the bold plan for a ‘new energy industry’ as outlined by Gov. Granholm in her 2009 State of the State address,” said Fred P. Keller, Cascade’s president and CEO. “While renewable energies like wind and solar have played an increasingly prominent role in Michigan’s economic development strategy, we as a state are late to the renewable energy party.  Gov. Granholm’s significantly expanded proposal would accelerate the adoption of renewable energies as a primary catalyst for the state’s economic diversification and recovery.”

In a press release on Wednesday, Cascade Engineering encouraged lawmakers, the business community and consumers to give careful consideration to the governor’s plan, noting that goal of reducing Michigan’s fossil fuel dependence by 45 percent is indeed aggressive, but “necessary and doable.” Granholm’s proposal to enable businesses and residents to become energy “entrepreneurs” is a “critical element to rapidly accelerating the development of the renewable energy industry in Michigan.”

EPA back at the throttle?

There may be even more applause for the governor from the business community on Thursday. Then, again, there may not be. Thursday is the day she is set to present her operating budget for next year. She indicated Thursday cuts are coming across the board, including revenue sharing. But further leaks are expected to spring this week.

Granholm has told legislators that her spending plan contains some “painful cuts” with Michigan facing a deficit of $1.6 billion for the next fiscal year.  One cut that Grand Valley Metro Council Executive Director Don Stypula sees coming could cause environmentalists in the state great pain.

He thinks Granholm will try to end some of the state’s regulatory programs, like protecting wetlands. Stypula, a veteran Lansing political observer, is guessing that the governor will send these jobs back to the Environmental Protection Association and let the regulators in Washington, D.C., have a greater impact on state lands. If she does, let’s hope the regulators at the EPA do a better job of watching over our properties than the Securities and Exchange Commission did as it looked over our money.

On a computer near you

Residents will be able to count the Kent County Board of Commisioners’ resolutions that get approved or tabled this year on a 24/7 basis. Kent County Executive Assistant Jim Day said that commission meetings will soon be shown on the county’s Web site, perhaps as early as this month. Right now, those meeting are broadcast on Comcast Cable. Viewers can watch the cable’s digital delivery of county commission meetings freeze, break up and regenerate every Monday and Wednesday. Accesskent.com will be the new channel.

“You’re the glue that holds us together,” said Sandra Parrish, Kent County commission vice chairwoman, of Day.

Maybe the county could lend Day to Comcast for a few weeks and then he could paste the company’s digital picture together.

Good news from cloudy days

What does the city’s sewer maintenance department have to do with an analyst in the city Treasurer’s office? (Hint: It has nothing to do with manhole covers.) City commissioners honored both last week as Team of the Year and Employee of the Year.

The sewer maintenance group, comprised of six city employees, won the team award for its outstanding response to the severe rainstorm that flooded much of the city last summer. “This is our front line of defense,” said Interim City Manager Eric DeLong of the group’s members. “They do a great job.”

The city’s employee of the year is Cheryl Maier, an administrative analyst in Treasurer Al Mooney’s office. Maier was selected for her unique ability to collect money from things such as overdue parking fines without ruffling too many feathers. DeLong said over the last eight years, Maier has collected $1.5 million for the city, and she does so with style.

“The important thing here is she has done it with grace and respect and has been a good customer-service representative,” said DeLong.

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