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Andy Balaskovitz

Andy Balaskovitz

 
 
Managing editor, covers energy, policy and economic development.

Twitter: @ABalaskovitz
Email: [email protected]

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has unveiled a $5.6 billion pandemic recovery spending plan that primarily uses federal funding to help control the spread of COVID-19, which state officials and economists say is crucial to ensure broader economic recovery.

The next 10 months will culminate in a landmark year for Michigan politically as new legislative district boundaries are drawn by an independent commission tasked with quashing partisan gerrymandering.

Enbridge Inc. plans to continue operating Line 5 in the Straits of Mackinac until a tunnel is completed to house the twin oil and natural gas liquids pipelines, a company official said in a letter Tuesday to the Whitmer administration.

Michigan is moving into the next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, allowing seniors and some essential frontline workers to receive doses starting Jan. 11, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday.

A Michigan Public Service Commission order in a sweeping Consumers Energy rate case last month includes a three-year pilot program to study the roll-out of electrified commercial fleet vehicles.

GRAND RAPIDS — Randy Thelen describes the COVID-19 pandemic as an “inflection point” that can shift the course of economic development in West Michigan.

Wednesday, 30 December 2020 05:50

MiBiz.com’s top-read stories of 2020

MiBiz readers showed a strong interest in our COVID-19 coverage this year, as well as news about free tuition, business layoffs, bankruptcies, restaurants, beer and marijuana. 

An electric grid engineering and energy storage expert will fill a new vacancy on the Michigan Public Service Commission.

The Whitmer administration has announced revised statewide COVID-19 orders that continue banning indoor dining until Jan. 15 but begin to reopen various entertainment facilities based on positive public health trends.

An hour-long conversation this month with three other small business executives was “therapeutic” for Jonathan Jelks.

Mark Burton took over the Michigan Economic Development Corp. just days before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her first state of emergency to curb the spread of COVID-19. Since then, the agency’s strategic plan has shifted dramatically. It has overseen 20 programs that delivered more than $170 million in relief funds, including a $10 million small business grant program last week in which demand far exceeded program limits. Burton has worked with Whitmer for years, including as her chief strategist prior to joining the MEDC and as her chief of staff while she served in the Senate.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order in late September creating a long-term climate change plan calling for the state to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Like many utilities, Consumers Energy is at the beginning of a decades-long transition that will fundamentally change the way electricity is generated. Utilities are gradually replacing large, centralized coal plants with more distributed resources like wind and solar along with battery storage. Consumers announced in February a target to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2040. Its broader long-term Clean Energy Plan was announced in 2019 under former CEO Patti Poppe, who this month started a new job leading California’s largest utility, PG&E. The reins have been passed to new President and CEO Garrick Rochow, who’s been with the Jackson-based utility for 16 years, most recently as senior vice president of operations.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer created the Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry within the Department of Natural Resources in May 2019, hoping to elevate the state’s status as a recreation destination. It’s tough competition with states like Utah, Colorado, Vermont and Maine, but Michigan has its own set of recreational assets, anchored by the Great Lakes and vast amounts of public land for backcountry activities. Brad Garmon was tapped to lead the office, and he says elevating the industry here means making connections with more traditional sectors like manufacturing. Aligning those sectors, which has accelerated during the pandemic, has been among Garmon’s priorities since taking the job.

State leaders expressed cautious optimism on Tuesday as key metrics involving COVID-19 case trends, test positivity rates and hospitalizations are improving under recent emergency restrictions.

LANSING — State officials expect Michigan to receive nearly 260,000 initial doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., based on federal estimates.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is preparing to appoint her third member to the Michigan Public Service Commission in less than two years as another vacancy is expected by the end of the month.

The Whitmer administration has extended restrictions on indoor dining and various indoor entertainment facilities for 12 more days to help curb the surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Calls to support small businesses during the holiday shopping season have perhaps never been louder than this year.

Grand Rapids resident Kelsey Perdue was one of 16 people appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last month to the state’s newly created Black Leadership Advisory Council. The group will advise the administration on policy recommendations and also “identify state laws, or gaps in state law, that create or perpetuate inequities.” Perdue brings to the council experience in grassroots organizing for equitable policies in West Michigan.

LANSING — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer offered no new details Tuesday on whether the state’s three-week “pause” that has shuttered indoor dining and entertainment facilities will be extended beyond Dec. 8, though she expressed concern about rising cases and hospitalizations associated with holiday traveling.

Municipal officials from across Michigan are calling on state lawmakers to pass bills they say would provide certainty and continuity in the face of revenue declines stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A West Michigan Republican state lawmaker is calling for a state law requiring masks in indoor spaces and crowded outdoor areas as COVID-19 cases surge and strain hospital capacity.

JACKSON — Consumers Energy has agreed to expand a solar energy program that advocates say is crucial to continue the sector’s growth in Michigan.

Two hundred and forty six days passed between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first stay-at-home order to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and new state restrictions scaling back and closing some businesses.  

In a move sought for years by environmental advocates, tribes, and hospitality and tourism businesses, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer this month notified Enbridge Inc. that it would no longer have the state’s permission to operate the Line 5 pipeline in the Straits of Mackinac.

Roughly three-quarters of West Michigan business executives and other professionals support a statewide mask mandate for indoor gatherings as well as another round of federal stimulus funding, according to a survey last week of nearly 400 MiBiz readers.

Megan Sall Rydecki comes to Consumers Energy amid major short- and long-term changes at the state’s largest energy provider. Not only is the company in the early stages of a sweeping 20-year transition to clean energy, but its charismatic leader, President and CEO Patti Poppe, last week announced a new job leading California’s largest utility, PG&E Corp., effective Dec. 1.

The Whitmer administration has announced new restrictions on restaurants, high schools and colleges, and some entertainment venues that will last for three weeks, starting Wednesday.  

The state is moving to terminate an agreement that has allowed the Line 5 pipeline to operate in the Straits of Mackinac for the past 67 years, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a bombshell environmental announcement Friday.