Street Talk

Street Talk: Diesel fuels electric’s cause

Overage charges.

November 2, 2018
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Electric vehicles may be one step closer to truly being the future of transportation in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced it plans to leverage $64.8 million toward sustainable air quality improvements.

The money is the outcome of the 2016 Volkswagen Diesel Settlement, whereby an Environmental Mitigation Trust was established to resolve the U.S.’s concerns of excessive emissions from Volkswagen vehicles that were equipped with “emissions control defeat devices.”

Volkswagen publicly admitted in 2015 that it had installed software designed to cheat emissions tests in certain Volkswagen-, Porsche- and Audi-branded 2.0-liter and 3.0-liter diesel engine vehicles.

The trust allocates more than $2.8 billion to the U.S., Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia to fund environmental mitigation actions. The state of Michigan, as a beneficiary to the trust, had been allocated $64.8 million from the total.

The trust money will be spent over the next nine years to fund environmental mitigation actions to reduce oxides of nitrogen from diesel engine emissions.

Specifically, the plan calls for replacing eligible local freight trucks, shuttle buses, transit buses, school buses, airport ground support equipment, port cargo handling equipment and forklifts; repowering eligible freight switchers, Great Lakes ferries and tugs; and empowers the Michigan Agency for Energy to spur development of zero-emission vehicle charging and fueling infrastructure across Michigan.

Clean Fuels Michigan, a 30-partner advocacy group for growing the clean mobility sector in the “auto capital” of the world, was pleased by the outcome.

Mike Alaimo, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan, said because a significant amount of the money would go toward electric vehicle charging infrastructure, the funding will be a key step toward expanding vehicle electrification in Michigan.

“We look forward to continue working with the state of Michigan, policymakers and leaders to expand the use of clean fuel technologies as these funds are allocated in the coming years,” Alaimo said.

Alaimo previously told the Business Journal there currently are 346 electric vehicle-charging stations in Michigan, not including home chargers, and their increased availability should inspire drivers to purchase electric vehicles.

Winning combo

A local restaurant group is offering a tasty incentive for folks to donate coats.

Grand Rapids-based Meritage Hospitality Group is expanding its annual Coats for Combos drive to include five Midwest regions — West Michigan, metro Detroit, northern Michigan, Toledo and, new this year, Indiana.

Community members who donate a new or gently used coat at participating restaurants between Nov. 5 and 11 will receive a voucher for a free Wendy’s combo to redeem on their next visit.

Wendy’s and partners West Michigan Spartans and Duckett Enterprises have collected almost 2,700 coats since the inaugural campaign in 2013. Last year alone, the companies collected 1,287 coats and donated them to schools and organizations for children in need.

Duckett Enterprises and West Michigan Spartans will match the number of coats donated this year with contributions of hats and gloves.

“Giving back is a huge part of our Wendy’s culture, and this campaign is something our group is really passionate about,” said Mike Baldwin, director of operations-north, Meritage Hospitality Group. “The program continues to grow and expand annually as new restaurants are added.”

Coats, hats and gloves will be distributed to local schools and organizations within the community in which the donations were collected.

School rallies will take place Nov. 14 and 15 at Sibley and Comstock Elementary schools. Former NFL player and MSU alumnus T.J. Duckett will speak to students at both rallies about the importance of community and giving back. The rallies include coat donations, giveaways from Wendy’s and a visit from MSU’s mascot, Sparty.

The coat drive kicks off Wendy’s of Michigan’s annual “Change a Child’s Life” campaign, which has raised about $3 million for local charitable children’s organizations since its inauguration and will run from Nov. 12-Dec. 31 at all West Michigan Wendy’s restaurants.

Those seeking more information regarding Coats for Combos, including a list of participating West Michigan locations, should contact Olivia Ross, Meritage marketing manager, at

Community links

The community development organization LINC UP honored several organizations and individuals working to revitalize greater Grand Rapids and Kent County.

LINC UP works to impact families, houses, businesses and neighborhoods in the area through involvement in a host of projects and services.

Honorees highlighted at the organization’s ninth annual event include:

  • Outstanding Collaborations Award: A partnership between the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation, NAACP of Grand Rapids and the Nehemiah Project
  • Youth Community Spirit Award: Ke-Shawn Smith, senior at Grand River Preparatory High School
  • Health & Wellness Award: Parents for Healthy Homes
  • Community Spirit Award: Shanda Vaughn
  • Innovation Award: Spectrum Health
  • Nonprofit Project of the Year: West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT)
  • Enterprise Award: R&R Mechanical Services
  • Visionary Award Honorees: Bill and India Manns

Give and receive

Ottawa County was named the most charitable county in Michigan, and Kent County was listed sixth.

The top 10 “most generous” counties in the state were named in a study by SmartAdvisor, a branch of the personal finance company SmartAsset.

The company looked at two aspects to make its determination — total charitable contributions and total net income — indexing and equally weighting the two factors to yield the most charitable counties score.

To determine the overall donation rate, the company divided each county’s total charitable donations by total net income.

To determine the proportion of people in each county who made charitable donations, the company divided the total number of tax returns with charitable donations by the number of total tax returns.

The county rank and overall indexes are:

1. Ottawa, 55.496

2. Oakland, 55.496

3. Leelanau, 52.496

4. Washtenaw, 51.896

5. Livingston, 51.696

6. Kent, 48.596

7. Midland, 44.396

8. Clinton, 42.696

9. Allegan, 41.496

10. Macomb, 40.896

Deep cuts

For the third time this year, one company's announcement has made up the bulk of job cuts for one month, as U.S.-based employers announced plans to cut 75,644 jobs from their payrolls in October, according to a report released last week from global outplacement and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Over half (58.2 percent) of October job cuts come from Verizon's announcement that it will offer voluntary severance packages to 44,000 managers in an effort to save $10 billion. This comes after Wells Fargo's announcement of 26,000 cuts, or 10 percent of its workforce, in September. The Wells Fargo announcement made up 47.9 percent of all cuts in September. Meanwhile, the Toys R Us announcement, which comprised 33,000 job cuts, was 54.7 percent of the 60,357 job cut announcements in March.

"All three of these companies are in industries facing serious disruptions, requiring companies to pivot to meet consumer demand. Buyout offers are a significant indicator that while companies are attempting to cut costs, they are also in a position to help facilitate the change process and take care of their workers," said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

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