Blizzard of cash obscures bridge issues

By Nancy Derringer/Bridge Magazine

The list of supporters for the planned New International Trade Crossing in Detroit reads like a roll call of distinguished Michigan stakeholders. Five governors. Five automakers. Twenty-three chambers of commerce. The state’s largest newspapers, corporations and most influential movers and shakers all have signed on in agreement that the state needs a new, modern link between the United States and Canada.

Why, then, did more than 477,000 residents sign petitions for a ballot proposal that would put its construction up for a popular vote?

Because the organization that stands to lose the most from the new bridge’s construction – the Detroit International Bridge Co. of Manuel Moroun and family, which wholly owns the 82-year-old Ambassador Bridge – has mounted a furious battle to preserve its own stake, bankrolling a campaign it calls “The People Should Decide” and represented by Proposal 6 on the November ballot.

Proposal 6 would require all new international bridges and tunnels built in the state to be pre-approved by voters statewide and in the individual municipalities where they would be erected. Further, it defines “new” retroactively, to those not open for business on Jan. 1, 2012, potentially undoing the international agreement for the new bridge signed by Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper in June. In that agreement, the Canadian government agrees to carry Michigan’s $550 million share of the costs.

While much has been made by opponents of the bridge’s $2.2 billion price tag, the NITC project is small potatoes compared to other major public works now under way. California has embarked on a high-speed rail project with an estimated cost nearing $70 billion; New York City is spending $6 billion to drill a new tunnel to bring water to the city.

No other state with an international border that crosses water – Maine, New York, Minnesota and Texas – has a similar law to what Proposal 6 would impose in Michigan, although Texas and Minnesota are like Michigan in having privately owned bridge crossings. (See box below right.)

Proposal 6 also would treat international crossings differently than other public bridges in Michigan, which number more than 10,000, according to a calculation by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

What happens after the vote?

“If it passes, people would realize very quickly that the unintended consequences are way more than they bargained for,” said Brad Williams, vice president for government relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, who added that he didn’t think it would necessarily stop the NITC from being built, even with its retroactive clause.

“(The crossing agreement between the U.S. and Canada) is a contract, and you can’t break a contract with an election,” he said.

Not all see it that way.

At an October news conference to announce the findings of an analysis commissioned and paid for by The People Should Decide, financial consultant Patrick O’Keefe said his company had found that the NITC project was unnecessary, not economically feasible and would end up costing the state $325 million in lost revenue from existing border crossings, including the Ambassador and Blue Water bridges and the Detroit-Windsor tunnel, as well as other costs involved with maintenance of stateside infrastructure

“The NITC is being built prematurely in advance of demand,” O’Keefe said.

Proponents say building demand is the whole point of the NITC.

“If Michigan is going to be competitive going forward, we need a bridge that moves at the speed of the global economy, and that means an expressway-to-expressway connection,” said Mike Johnston, vice president of government affairs for the Michigan Manufacturers Association. One of the criticisms of the Ambassador Bridge is that it doesn’t connect to Ontario’s 401 highway, and trucks arriving in Canada must go through more than a dozen stoplights to get there. The NITC would connect to I-75 on the U.S. side, and to the 401 across the river.

A duel with numbers

The Center for Automotive Research, in an analysis of the new bridge’s potential impact released in June, estimated the project will create thousands of jobs, both short- and long-term, in construction and new private investment. As many as 6,800 permanent jobs could be created, the report said, increasing Michigan’s gross state product by $630 million per year, with personal income and related revenues rising accordingly.

The automotive industry has been a particularly vocal supporter of the NITC. Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co., issued a statement at the time of the agreement’s announcement, “strongly supporting” the bridge, “which is projected to bring in new jobs and investment into the state, as well as strengthen its role as a center of international trade.”

Figures kept by the Public Border Operators Association, which gathers data on truck and tunnel crossings between the U.S. and Canada, show traffic has been slowly rising on the Ambassador Bridge since it hit a trough in 2009. PBOA President Robert Horr said traffic is not only dependent on general economic health, but in differences in the exchange rate between the Canadian and U.S. dollar. The two currencies have been almost at par in recent years, which tends to flatten out traffic.

The other side has its own set of numbers.

Many of them were laid out by O’Keefe at the October news conference. They point out to reduced crossing traffic since the start of the recession and estimated cost overruns at the NITC to be at least 10 percent, which they claim puts the Canadian “unrecovered investment” at $8 billion, based on the bridge’s announced $2.1 billion cost.

O’Keefe defended the independence of his analysis, noting his firm insisted on being paid up front. He said its conclusions are defensible because “we were the first to pull together the disparate pieces of information,” and said economic analysis until now has been “conducted in silos.”

“The rhetoric doesn’t support the facts,” O’Keefe said. “Everyone wants to turn Michigan into a transportation hub.” However, “We believe this is being implemented in a way that could do economic damage to existing crossings.”

In December 2011, Bridge Magazine looked at the business case for a second Detroit-Windsor span.

“If freight traffic crossing the Ambassador is lower, and there’s no reliable data on the cost of delays, why is a new bridge (with a price tag of $2.2 billion for the proposed public bridge and $500 million for the Moroun bridge) needed?,” the report asked.

Proponents’ answers centered mainly around two ideas: redundancy and capacity. The more of both, the more likely Michigan was to benefit, they argued then – and still argue now.

But if Proposal 6 passes, don’t expect a vote on the NITC anytime soon. Tom Shields, spokesman for  Taxpayers Against Monopolies, an anti-Prop 6 group, says the most likely immediate effect will be more litigation from the Moroun family, as they seek to stop the NITC.

If Prop 6 fails, Shields said, construction won’t begin immediately. That process depends on the issuance of a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of State, and the public-comment period for that only ended recently.

On TV: lots of misinformation

Pro-Prop 6 interests have been advertising heavily, running spots on TV and on the Web, as well as other media. The Michigan Truth Squad has generally found its ads to be misleading. The most recent crop include what appear to be average Michiganians (they’re not identified) making claims that are not supported by facts, including “How can they tell us there’s no money for education and schools, but there’s money for a bridge,” and “Do you know how many police, firefighters, teachers, could we hire with the money they’re going to spend on this bridge?” Truth Squad investigation has found no valid basis for any of those claims, concluding:

“The battle over a second bridge is about money – the Moroun family’s (owners of the Detroit International Bridge Co.) money. The expectation is that a second bridge will reduce traffic on the existing Ambassador, thereby costing the Moroun family money. There is a reason that the family interests have spent millions in campaign contributions, lobbying efforts and TV ads in recent years to stop the NITC project – not to mention what sums have been spent by Moroun interests in legal challenges to the project. Michigan voters may want to ask themselves one question: Why are Moroun family interests spending millions to ‘protect’ the average taxpayer?”

“We’re up against one billionaire who will say or do anything to protect his monopoly,” said Williams. “He has unlimited resources and no obligation to tell the truth.”

Staff Writer Nancy Nall Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in Metro Detroit for seven years, and was a co-founder and editor of, an early experiment in hyperlocal journalism. Before that, she worked for 20 years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she won numerous state and national awards for her work as a columnist for The News-Sentinel.

At a glance: Proposal 6

WHAT VOTERS WILL DECIDE: If you vote for Proposal 6, it is effectively a vote to stop – or at least delay – the New International Trade Crossing bridge between Detroit and Windsor. If the measure passes, additional elections may decide whether the project proceeds. If you vote against Proposal 6, effectively you are supporting the New International Trade Crossing and existing state policy on the construction of bridges, international or otherwise.

WHAT THE ADS SAY: Proponents of Proposal 6 have used ads to argue that the NITC is not economically viable; that politicians are untrustworthy; that the bridge will cost far more than anticipated; that, somehow, Michigan taxpayers will pay for it. Opponents of Proposal 6 have used ads to argue the bridge is a vital economic link; that Canada will bear the cost of the bridge; that the backers of Proposal 6 are motivated by thei personal financial interests.

WHAT THE TRUTH SQUAD SAYS: Reports by the Michigan Truth Squad have found that ads favoring Proposal 6 were inaccurate and misleading. A flurry of fouls, from flagrant to technical to regular, have been called on the pro-Prop 6 side. The pro-Prop 6 campaign appears to be the least accurate ad series in the short history of the Truth Squad. The Truth Squad found that ads opposing Proposal 6 were mostly fair, though warnings were issued on definitive statements about the life expectancy of the Ambassador Bridge and about the nature of international trade traffic.



This proposal would:

Require the approval of a majority of voters at a statewide election and in each municipality where “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” are to be located before the State of Michigan may expend state funds or resources for acquiring land, designing, soliciting bids for, constructing, financing, or promoting new international bridges or tunnels.

Create a definition of “new international bridges or tunnels for motor vehicles” that means, “any bridge or tunnel which is not open to the public and serving traffic as of January 1, 2012.”

Should this proposal be approved?

YES ___

NO ___

Governor Rick Snyder guest-hosts Paul W. Smith Show, discusses auto industry comeback and NITC

Governor Rick Snyder guest-hosted the Paul W. Smith Show yesterday and discussed a wide range of topics including the comeback of the auto industry in Michigan and the importance of the New International Trade Crossing. Click on the links below to listen to the podcasts.

Interview with Bill Ford, Executive Chairman of Ford Motor Company

Interview with Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada

Experts say new international bridge won’t cost Michigan taxpayers

By John Gallagher
Detroit Free Press Business Writer

Claims that have bombarded Michigan voters for months that taxpayers will be stuck with the bill for a multi-billion dollar bridge to Canada are not based in reality, said three independent law professors asked by the Free Press to review an international Crossing Agreement signed in June.

The advertising campaign from the People Should Decide, a group financially backed by Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his family, has pushed that consistent message in several rounds of anti-bridge ads that are misleading, said two advertising experts who reviewed a recently released ad, also at the request of the Free Press.

Jennifer Henderson, a law professor at University of Detroit Mercy, John Mogk, a law professor at Wayne State University, and Marcia Valiante of the University of Windsor said the Crossing Agreement between Gov. Rick Snyder and Canadian Transport Minister Denis Lebel is crystal clear that Canada pays for the bridge and then recoups Michigan’s share, about $550 million, from future bridge tolls — not from Michigan taxpayers.

“It very clearly says it’s not funded by Michigan. … And throughout the agreement those words are repeated,” Henderson said.

Even so, the two ad experts say the anti-bridge message might be resonating because it’s working like political attack ads — thumping a single message even if it’s short on context or supportable facts.

The People Should Decide says its analysis of bridge finances is sound and that approval of Snyder’s New International Trade Crossing, and other projects like it, should be put to citizen votes. They say its consultant has determined costs for the bridge will skyrocket and that other “hidden costs” will saddle Michigan taxpayers with unwanted expenses for the next 50 years.

Recent ads claim the new bridge will end up costing $8 billion — nearly four times the official estimate — and force Michigan to lay off police and teachers and even tap senior citizen pensions to cover the cost.

“Will the ad be effective? Probably. Is it legal? Probably. Is it ethical or fair? Probably not,” said Hugh Cannon, a professor of advertising at Wayne State University.

Ballot issue in play

The Free Press asked the local professors for their opinions in light of a Moroun-backed ballot referendum, which, if approved, would create a constitutional requirement that any new international bridge or tunnel get a statewide and local vote before Michigan could spend any money. The referendum language says it would apply retroactively, impacting the NITC, to be built 2 miles downstream from the Ambassador. That issue, however, likely would be decided in court if the referendum passes, legal experts have said.

Mickey Blashfield, director of government relations for the Moroun business network and head of the People Should Decide effort, points out that the Crossing Agreement contains a clause that allows the terms to be changed in the future, which, he says, could mean a reshuffling of financial responsibilities. And a reworking of that agreement, he said, is more likely in the event of construction cost overruns and shortfalls in future toll revenue, according to the recent study paid for by the Moroun-backed group.

“Different experts have tackled this cost issue from different angles, but the one thing they all seem to agree on is the fact that there’s no such thing as a free bridge,” said Blashfield, whose group commissioned O’Keefe & Associates financial consulting firm of Bloomfield Hills to examine the new bridge project’s financial structure. “With so much on the line, the people deserve the right to decide how public money is best spent.”

Major corporations, including Detroit’s three auto companies, Honda, Toyota and various auto suppliers, back the NITC project, plus multiple business groups across the state, including the three largest chamber organizations — Detroit Regional Chamber, Grand Rapids Chamber and Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. They call the bridge a boon for Michigan’s economic future, saying traffic across the NITC inevitably will increase as the economy in Michigan and Ontario expands and the advantages of the new modern bridge become apparent to users.

Brad Williams, vice president of government relations for the Detroit chamber, said Detroit needs another international crossing option because drivers who cross the Ambassador Bridge have to contend with 18 stoplights in Windsor.

He said many European goods making their way into the U.S. arrive to Canada at its deepwater port in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but the trucks carrying those goods need a more efficient way to cross the border into the U.S.that doesn’t involve navigating Windsor traffic.

“Detroit is a logical choice. There’s a real opportunity here to build out a transportation, distribution and logistics industry,” Williams said. “The auto industry is completely integrated between Ontario and Michigan.”

Checking the claims

The Michigan Truth Squad, an effort connected with the nonprofit Center for Michigan think tank, issued a “flagrant foul,” its toughest verdict, against the People Should Decide’s claims made in advertisements, mainly that Michigan taxpayers will end up paying for the bridge and that the state’s debt load will increase because of it. The group characterizes a flagrant foul as a “statement that distorts or incorrectly states a fact.”

The group explains its verdict on its website: “These ads repeat claims, or advance new variants of old claims, that do not match available documents. The agreement with Canada puts the financial onus on Michigan’s neighbor, not Michigan, for paying the bills, including interest. Since Michigan is not appropriating construction dollars, no dollars are being diverted away from other public uses. Michigan is not increasing its debt load with the NITC project.”

The group said it is evenhanded in its assessments and looks at political commercials and speeches, issue advertisements, news releases, political websites and white papers. The group examines claims suggested by the public.

There have been several rounds of Moroun-backed ads that all push the idea that the cost of the bridge to be covered by Canada will somehow backfire on Michigan taxpayers. The Moroun-backed group has spent an estimated $10 million so far on the ads.

A recent ad called “Tough Choices,” says the bridge will become so expensive that Michigan would be forced to lose “quality teachers, cops on the beat, firefighters and EMTs,” and to reduce pension payments to seniors.

“Real cuts hurting real people,” the voice-over says. “Now that we know how much this bridge could cost us, shouldn’t the people decide?”

Cannon of WSU said the ad and others like it are dangerous because they are “deliberately using misleading imagery to “push the electorate to a certain decision,” which “undermines the very foundations of our political system.”

At the same time, Michael Bernacchi, a professor at University of Detroit Mercy, said the ads may be effective simply because they’re so bold and aggressive.

“I wouldn’t like to be combating this from the other side,” he said. “They’re out there first. They’ve been out there for a considerable amount of time with a single message. It’s developed a whole brand — it’s simple: ‘No bridge.’ “

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who serves as Snyder’s point man on bridge issues, condemned the “Tough Choices” ad.

“Their claims keep getting more bizarre,” he said. “They’re throwing out numbers. I don’t know what’s next. One hundred billion? A trillion? They don’t seem to be bound by any factual information.”

New anti-NITC ads starting this week follow the same story line as the others, depicting ordinary people worrying about their finances as the expense of a new bridge looms, threatening their futures. Central to the Moroun case is the claim that Michiganders will get stuck paying for the bridge despite contractual assurances to the contrary.

The legal ties

The Free Press asked the three law professors to review the Crossing Agreement language and give their opinions about the strength of protections for Michigan taxpayers in the document.

Valiante of the University of Windsor said, “The basic concept is that Canada will pay for everything up front then will recoup those costs through tolls and other revenues.”

Mogk, an expert at WSU on development issues, said, “I think it’s airtight on that question.”

On the first page of the agreement, it says the project will be built “with funding approved by Canada, but with no funding by the Michigan Parties. The Michigan Parties are not obligated to pay any of the costs of the new International Crossing.”

And on page 30 of the agreement, it says, “The Michigan Parties shall not be required to fund any International Crossing Costs, Michigan Interchange Costs, U.S. Federal Plaza Costs, Crossing Authority Costs or International Authority Costs.”

There are multiple similar references throughout the agreement.

Henderson noted that the agreement does state that the parties could amend the document in the future, which could mean some new payment scheme that might include a cost to Michigan. But she said major changes are only a theoretical possibility and not something likely to happen.

Change of heart?

Blashfield, head of the People Should Decide, contends it’s more than theoretical and a likely scenario as the Canadians find themselves responsible for a bridge that cost too much and with fewer tolls than predicted to cover the tab.

He pointed out that any shortfall in tolls allows Canada to collect its amount due plus interest from future revenues, creating a snowball effect moving forward that will push up the bridge cost to more than $8 billion, according to a study commissioned by the People Should Decide from the O’Keefe & Associates financial consulting firm of Bloomfield Hills.

Patrick O’Keefe, founder and CEO of the firm, told the Free Press the figure assumes a 10% cost overrun on construction costs, a 20% shortfall on toll revenue and a 50-year time frame for the mounting debt and interest to grow.

The analysis doesn’t explain how Michigan taxpayers would become responsible for the financial burden — which, according to the crossing agreement, belongs to Canada — nor does it assess the likelihood of toll revenues falling short.

According to the firm’s website, O’Keefe “is recognized as an expert in the fields of corporate reorganization, debt restructuring, turnaround consulting, refinancing solutions, due diligence support, valuation and litigation support.”

Blashfield said other “hidden costs” of the project also will burden Michigan taxpayers over the years. Among those:

• Tolls on the Blue Water Bridge that now go to Michigan will in part go to Canada in the future as some traffic diverts to the new bridge.

• Homeowners in Detroit’s Delray neighborhood, where the new bridge will land, will no longer pay property taxes once they’ve been moved out.

• Workers employed by the Ambassador Bridge who might lose their jobs to competition from the new bridge will pay less income tax.

Backers of the new bridge respond that new commerce generated by a more modern and efficient bridge will more than make up for any incidental economic losses, including employing its own bridge operators and construction workers. The new bridge will be wider, have more modern plazas on either end and provide seamless connections to expressways on both sides of the border.

The backers, including the governor’s office, point out that Delray is an economically downtrodden area with high unemployment, and most residents there are happy to be bought out so they can move.

Carl Smith, 60, favors construction of a new bridge, even if it means he will be forced to move from the Delray neighborhood where he has lived most of his life.

“It’s going to create jobs. It’s going to create jobs during construction and it’s going to create jobs when it opens,” he said.

Car Makers Report Big August Sales Growth

The Wall Street Journal

By Christina Rogers

Consumers flocked to dealer showrooms last month, throwing off higher gasoline prices and worries about the economy, as Chrysler Group LLC, General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. each reported double-digit sales gains in August from a year earlier.

The solid showing by the Detroit Three lifts hope August could be one of strongest sales months of the year, especially since many Japanese auto makers are expected to post big volume gains. A year ago sales of Japanese cars were depressed because of shortages stemming from the March 2011 earthquake that disrupted production.

General Motors’ U.S. auto sales rose 10%, Chrysler’s rose 14%, and Ford’s results improved 13%. Toyota Motor Corp.’s U.S. auto sales climbed 46% and Honda Motor Co. posted a 60% gain, both from year-ago weakness.

GM and Chrysler estimated the industry’s annualized sale pace was 14.6 million cars and light trucks. August new-car sales are expected to rise 20% from a year ago and 12% from July, car-shopping website said last week.

Buyers seeking to replace aging cars and trucks boosted auto sales last month as did an improving housing market, which contributes to higher pickup truck sales.

“Though we are seeing most of the economic conditions stabilizing and job market not improving as much as we hoped for, I think pent-up demand really is the driving force for retail sales,” said Jenny Lin, a senior economist for Ford.

“We believe that the recovery in the housing sector is continuing to support our full-size pickup truck sales,” she said. Sales of Ford’s F-Series pickups and Chrysler’s Ram trucks each climbed 19% while GM said its Chevrolet Silverado rose 4% from a year earlier.

Pickup truck sales made up 11.2% of the total market, up nearly a percentage point from earlier in the year, Ford said.

GM’s overall August sales rose 10% to 240,520 cars and light trucks, with the increase led by its Buick brand. Sales of Chevrolet vehicles, the company’s largest brand, were up 11% and total Buick sales improved 12%. Total Cadillac sales grew 11%. GMC sales improvement lagged, rising just 3.7%

Ford U.S. sales rose 13% to 196,749 in August. Sales of its Focus compact were up 35% to 19,053 vehicles, the company said.

Chrysler, majority owned by Italy’s Fiat SpA, said its sales rose 14% last month to 148,472 vehicles for its best August sales since 2007. Fiat posted the biggest increase with sales up 34%. Sales of its namesake Chrysler brand were up 25%, reflecting a 10% rise in Chrysler 200 sales and 65% growth for the Chrysler 300.

Honda, which like Toyota was hobbled a year ago by natural disasters, said it sold 131,321 vehicles, up 60% from year earlier sales on strong demand for its Civic and Accord cars.

Nissan Motor Co., which recovered fast from Asia’s natural disasters last year, said its U.S. sales rose 8% in August to 98,515 cars and light trucks, with its namesake brand up 6% and the Infiniti luxury brand rising 24%.

Hyundai Motor Co. said its U.S. sales climbed 4% last month to 61,099 cars. Its affiliate, Kia Motors Corp., reported U.S. sales climbed 21.5% over a year ago to 50,028.

Month-end dealer inventory in the U.S. stood at 687,354 units, up 3.6% from the prior month.

August had 27 sales days, while the year-ago month had 26.

Toyota has bounced back from the impact of last year’s Japanese earthquake and tsunami and reported monthly year-over-year sales gains since November. Last month, Toyota posted its highest quarterly profit in four years and lifted its full-year production forecast to an industry-record 10.05 million vehicles.

Toyota reported it sold 188,520 vehicles in the U.S. last month, up from 129,483 a year earlier and 14% above July’s total of 164,898.

Want More Jobs and a Stronger Michigan Economy? Build the Bridge to Canada

by Rick Snyder For Michigan

Today’s national jobs report shows that the U.S. economy is still growing slowly and millions remain unemployed. The good news is that there’s one big thing we can do in Michigan to help create new jobs — build the new bridge to Canada, helping to increase trade with our neighbor to the north and put people to work, all at no cost to Michigan taxpayers.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder explains how the bridge will positively impact our state:

Today, we have an opportunity to greatly improve our border crossing, give businesses more of a reason to grow and expand in our state, and help make Michigan the global transportation hub that it can and should be. And we can do it at no cost to the people of Michigan, thanks to our friends in Canada. The New International Trade Crossing will be a great accomplishment for the people of our state, and it will be another giant step toward reinventing Michigan.

Trade with Canada supports 257,000 jobs across Michigan, and the bridge project is expected to create 10,000 jobs related to building the bridge, 750 long-term jobs, and generate and/or preserve as many as 25,000 jobs within Michigan. The best part is, it won’t cost Michigan a thing. That’s because Canada has agreed to provide up to $550 million to cover the State of Michigan’s share of the cost. And Michigan has no responsibility to repay Canada’s funding.

Given all the great things about the bridge, it’s not surprising that the list of those who support the project is growing day by day. It includes Ford, GM, Chrysler, Meijer, The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, The Grand Rapids Press, former governors, labor unions, chambers of commerce, and other community leaders and organizations. Bill Ford explains how the bridge will help Ford Motor Company:

This will help our business enormously. Ford Motor Company alone sends about 600 trucks a day across the bridge, and they get hung up often, particularly on the Windsor side. Any time you get hung up like that, it costs you time and it costs you money. This will be a huge boost to us as we send parts and powertrains back and forth across the border.

Read more about the benefits of the bridge at Here’s a list of those who support the New International Trade Crossing:

Access Engineering
Advanced Geomatics
Alfred Benesch & Company
Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
American Council of Engineering Companies of Michigan
American Axle & Manufacturing, Inc.
Amway Corp.
Ann Arbor SPARK
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce
Argus-Press and Guide
Associated General Contractors of Michigan
Auto Dealers of Michigan
Automation Alley
Automotive Parts Manufacturers Association
Backstrom McCarley Berry & Co., LLC
Barton Malow
BC CAL KAL Port Development Corporation
Battle Creek Unlimited
Building Owners and Managers Association of Metro Detroit
Business Leaders for Michigan
Campbell Soup Company
Canadian Auto Workers
Canadian Automotive Partnership Council
Canadian Industrial Transportation Association
Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters
Canadian Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association
Canadian Teamsters, Local 879
CCN Matthews News Distribution Experts
Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg
CH2M Hill
City of Sault Ste Marie
City of Wixom
Clairvoyant Energy
Cliffs Natural Resources, Inc.
Consumers Energy
Corradino Group of Michigan, Inc.
Cornerstone Chamber of Commerce
County Road Association of Michigan
David Bing, Mayor of Detroit
Dearborn Press & Guide
Delta Airlines
Delta County Area Chamber of Commerce
Detroit City Council
Detroit Free Press
Detroit Logistics Company
Detroit News
Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce
Detroit-Windsor Truck Ferry
DLZ Michigan, Inc.
Dow Corning Corporation
Downtown Development Authority of the City of River Rouge
Economic Alliance for Michigan
Eddie Francis, Mayor of Windsor
Elaham Shayota LLC
Elsey Construction Products
Evans Group
Ex-Imp Global
Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber, Inc.
Ford Motor Company
Gannett Fleming of Michigan, Inc.
Gateway Communities Development Collaborative
General Motors
Governor Rick Snyder
Governor Jennifer Granholm
Governor James Blanchard
Governor John Engler
Governor William Milliken
Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce
Grand Rapids Press
Grand Valley Metro Council
Great Lakes Commission
GreenStone Farm Credit Services
Herman Miller
HH Engineering, Ltd.
HNTB Michigan, Inc.
Holland Area Chamber of Commerce
Honda North America, Inc.
International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324
International Union, UAW
Jackson Citizen Patriot
Jackson County Chamber of Commerce
James Group International
Kellogg Company
Kevin Hinkley, Mayor of Wixom
L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive
Laborers International Union of North America, Local 625
Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce
Lake Superior Community Partnership
Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce
Lansing State Journal
Loblaw Companies Ltd.
Masco Corporation
Meijer, Inc.
Meritor, Inc.
Michigan Aggregates Association
Michigan Agri-Business Association
Michigan Allied Poultry Industries Inc.
Michigan Association of Counties
Michigan Bankers Association
Michigan Chamber of Commerce
Michigan Farm Bureau
Michigan Infrastructure & Transportation Association
Michigan Manufacturers Association
Michigan Milk Producers Association
Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters & Millwrights
Michigan State AFL-CIO
Monroe County Industrial Development Corporation
Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association
Muskegon Area Chamber of Commerce
National Association of Manufacturers
Northwest Consultants, Inc.
Novi Chamber of Commerce
NTH Consultants, Inc.
Oakland County Business Roundtable
Ohio Senate
OHM Advisors
Ontario Chamber of Commerce
Ontario Road Builders’ Association
Ontario Trucking Association
Opus International Consultants, Inc.
Original Equipment Suppliers Association
Parsons Brinkerhoff
Potato Growers of Michigan Inc.
Robert A. Ficano, Wayne County Executive
Robert M. Thompson
Road Commission for Oakland County
Ryder Supply Chain Solutions
Sault Area Chamber of Commerce
Somat Engineering, Inc.
Southern Wayne Regional Chamber of Commerce
Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition
Steelcase, Inc.
Steve Tobocman, former State Representative
Surveying Solutions, Inc.
TesTech, Inc.
The Daily Tribune
The Holland Sentinel
The Mannik & Smith Group, Inc.
The Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council
The News Herald
The Right Place
Toledo Blade
Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce
Traverse City Record-Eagle
TY Lin International
Universal Forestry Products
URS Corporation
URS Corporation Great Lakes
Utility Workers Union of America
U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Wayne County Commission
Wolverine World Wide, Inc.
Xtreme Power

New study estimates the New International Trade Crossing will add thousands of jobs to Michigan’s economy

ANN ARBOR, Mich., June 14, 2012 – The construction of a new bridge connecting Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario will provide an estimated 12,000 jobs per year for each of the four years of the construction phase according to a recently released analysis published by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), an Ann Arbor-based nonprofit research organization. Furthermore, the analysis concludes that once the bridge is operational, more than 8,000 permanent jobs will be created in Southeast Michigan.

The study, “Analysis of the Economic Contribution of Constructing the New International Trade Crossing: A New Bridge Linking Detroit and Windsor,” indicates numerous opportunities will be generated from both the construction and operation of the bridge, the New International Trade Crossing (NITC).

“Initially the construction of the bridge itself  will serve as an economic stimulus, providing jobs and tax revenues. Once construction is completed and bridge operations have begun, the region’s additional freight shipping capability could attract private-sector investment, augmenting the gross regional product and creating more employment opportunities,” said Kim Hill, director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies at CAR and the study’s lead.

“Additionally, the bridge project will make Michigan eligible to receive Federal matching funds that can be used on other highway infrastructure projects throughout the state, helping to improve Michigan’s highway system and supporting the state’s transportation employment. Clearly, a project of this scale, along with the federal matching funds, will have employment and economic effects that will impact many diverse industries throughout the state,” said Hill.

CAR has significant experience conducting economic impact analyses and has carried out the majority of national level automotive economic contribution studies completed in the United States since 1992.

This report is the product of research performed by the Sustainability & Economic Development Strategies and the Transportation Systems Analysis groups at the Center for Automotive Research. The report was written by Hill, Richard Wallace, director of Transportation Systems Analysis, Deb Menk, senior project manager and Joshua Cregger, industry analyst. Financial support for this study was provided by the Michigan Manufacturers Association and the Consulate General of Canada in Detroit.  Additional support was provided by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The complete study is available at

The Center for Automotive Research’s mission is to conduct research on significant issues related to the future direction of the global automotive industry, as well as organize and conduct forums of value to the automotive community. CAR performs numerous studies for federal, state and local governments, corporations, and foundations. The Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies group offers objective analysis and advice while encouraging collaboration between the automotive sector, academia, and communities, with the goal of long-term sustainability of both the industry and communities.


Center for Automotive Research to Release Study on Job Creation, Economic Impact of New International Trade Crossing

Representatives of the statewide coalition in support of the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) will gather across the state this Thursday as the Center for Automotive Research releases a study outlining the job creation and economic impact of building the new bridge. The study, “Analysis of the Economic Contribution of Constructing the New International Trade Crossing: A New Bridge Linking Detroit and Windsor,” which will be available for the first time, highlights the opportunities that will be generated from both the construction and operation of the NITC.


Who: International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton; Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill; Ford North America Manager of Supply Chain Management, Material Planning and Logistics Bill Storves; and Detroit Regional Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Brad Williams.

When: 9:30 a.m.

Where: Detroit Regional Chamber, One Woodward Ave., Suite 1900, Detroit, MI


Who: Michigan Manufacturers Association Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Johnston; Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill; and Ford North America Manager of Supply Chain Management, Material Planning and Logistics Bill Storves. International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton.

When: 12:30 p.m.

Where: Michigan Manufacturers Association, 620 S. Capitol, Ave., Lansing, MI


Who: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rick Baker; International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 324, General Vice President and Business Manager John Hamilton; and Center for Automotive Research Director of Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies and Associate Research Director Kim Hill.

When: 2:30 p.m.

Where: Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, 111 Pearl St. NW, Grand Rapids, MI

When it comes to politics of the highest bidder, we have the best government money can buy


By Jack Lessenberry

What would you think if you learned, say, that Gov. Rick Snyder gave me a thousand dollars to write a favorable column about him?

Naturally, you’d conclude that nothing I wrote would ever have any credibility again. Not that you would be reading me any longer; the Metro Times would fire me or any other columnist immediately if they found out I was on the take. So would any decent publication.

Now what would you think if I could prove that your lawmakers were taking thousands of dollars in thinly disguised bribes to vote against a project very much in the public interest?

Keep reading; I am about to do just that.

First, imagine there was a badly needed project that conservatives and liberals agreed the state needed. The governor said it was not only necessary, it wouldn’t cost us one cent.

Ford, General Motors and Chrysler endorsed this project. So did every chamber of commerce in sight. Economists said this would create at least 10,000 good-paying jobs, some of them permanent.

Both Washington and the Canadian national governments wanted this project so much they offered Michigan two incredible deals.

Canada would cover every penny of Michigan’s costs. We can pay them back later, interest-free, when the project starts making money for the state. Washington said we could use the $550 million Canada was willing to loan us to qualify for $2.2 billion in badly needed highway funds to fix Michigan roads.

Yet the project was opposed by one 84-year-old billionaire, because while it would do wonders for Michigan, it might hurt his ability to make even more money. So he began paying off lawmakers.

He spent millions to run TV commercials to confuse the public, ads that independent analysts agree are lies from beginning to end. He poured cash into campaign coffers, and slipped money to officeholders in other ways. And that’s still happening now.

What’s more, we have documented proof of at least some of it, thanks to what flimsy campaign finance reporting laws we do have. For those of you who have been trapped in a mine shaft, I am talking, of course, about one Manuel “Matty” Moroun, who is to our community what a large and bloated tick might be to a poor little dog.

New campaign finance reports released last week show that last year, Matty Moroun, along with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, gave at least $242,000 to various state-related political funds.

The total figure was probably considerably higher, because under our inadequate laws, political action committee spending for the last two months of 2011 doesn’t have to be disclosed until April.

The Morouns didn’t give this money to help democracy. They own the aging Ambassador Bridge, which was constructed in 1929 and remains the only way to effectively get mass amounts of heavy freight across the Detroit River — something like $125 billion worth every year.

There is no backup for that bridge, and no way we could avoid an economic disaster if anything happened to it.

That’s why everyone agrees a second span is necessary. Except the Morouns, who might be forced to survive on the $1.5 billion they are worth now. They’ve been determined to stop it.

So for years, they gave lavishly to the campaign committees of lawmakers; including those who were most instrumental in preventing any bill supporting a new bridge from reaching the full Legislature.

Click here to read the full column.

The toll collector from hell

The Toronto Star

By David Olive
Business Columnist

There really is a troll under the Ambassador Bridge spanning the Detroit River at one of the world’s most congested transit points. His name is Manuel “Matty” Moroun. It’s a name worth remembering as symbolic of what’s toxic about America’s political culture.

A second crossing, by the reckoning of Michigan political and business leaders, would kick-start economic recovery in one of America’s states hardest hit by the global recession.

Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, regards a second crossing as “critically important” to his vision of a rejuvenated Detroit as a major hub of international trade. The influx of Canadian tourists alone, no longer dissuaded by the notorious Ambassador Bridge bottleneck, could boost Michigan’s GDP by some 10 per cent. It’s all good, as the kids say.

And also not to be, after a five-year battle. On Thursday, a Michigan legislative committee killed a proposed joint Canadian-U.S. consortium’s bid to build a $2.2-billion bridge to compete with Moroun’s.

Moroun’s fingerprints were all over the outcome. The Ambassador Bridge owner dipped into his estimated net worth of $1.7 billion for a $5-million campaign of TV ads spreading the disinformation that a second crossing would be a taxpayer albatross.

Moroun recruited the Tea Party-funding Koch brothers, Charles and David, to kick in more millions for a mass-mailing to Michiganders spreading the same untruths. In the most recent election cycle, Moroun spent $565,000 in campaign donations to influential lawmakers in Lansing, the state capital. Moroun even recruited the slippery Dick Morris, strategist for hire for both major political parties and lately a Fox News talking head, as an advisor on legislative arm-twisting.

At 84, Moroun is two years older than the rickety Ambassador, world’s longest suspension bridge on completion in 1929, when a crank-handle was still required to start most cars then on the road.

An octogenarian relic no less than Moroun, who expects politicians who are bought to stay bought, as the saying goes, the Ambassador accounts for annual delays of 5.2 million hours for the 7,200 trucks crossing it each day.

The cargo of those vehicles is worth a staggering $150 billion a year. And the delays are costing Ford Motor Co. alone an estimated annual $13.5 million in productivity losses on the 600 or so trucks Ford sends across the U.S.-Canada border each day.

An estimated eight million jobs in the U.S., mostly in the economically crippled Midwest, depend on the Detroit-Windsor crossing.

For Canada, border delays add to production costs as manufactured goods repeatedly cross the border in the process of assembly. That costs Canada – and mostly the Ontario economy – between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of GDP, or between $15 billion and $30 billion a year.

Those costs, by the calculation of Université d’Laval economist Stephen Gordon, are big enough to offset the benefits of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

But the public interest does not overly tax Moroun’s thinking. Neither does logic.

In fact, Michigan’s costs would be minimal for a second bridge. Bonds issued by a newly created authority financing the bridge would not be guaranteed by Michigan. And Canada has offered Michigan $550 million in loans to finance the U.S. approach roads to a new bridge, to be recouped from tolls. “This is Canada’s No. 1 national infrastructure priority,” says Roy Norton, Canada’s consul general in Detroit.

That the proposed second bridge would be publicly owned but privately run is a distinction that doesn’t matter to the Kochs. The free-market ideologues have bought Moroun’s self-depiction as a beleaguered private citizen crushed under the iron boot of the state.

Yet there’s not a thimble’s worth of validity to Moroun’s stated justifications in defending his monopoly.

He claims that with Ambassador traffic having dropped 40 per cent since 2000, his bridge would be put out of business by a second crossing.

Yes, traffic has declined as Moroun’s bridge has become more decrepit. Many frustrated truckers schlep to the Blue Water Bridge at the Sarnia-Port Huron crossing, which was twinned not long ago. Or they try their luck with the three bridges at Niagara.

Yet Moroun also insists he wants to build his own second bridge. It would be another privately owned and thus, by his lights, wholesome enterprise. Except that Moroun’s been making this pledge for eons. And why would he do it if, as Moroun claims, a second crossing would put his Ambassador Bridge out of business?

With a straight face, Moroun’s son, Matthew, celebrated this week’s family victory by claiming “The Ambassador Bridge is the most efficient border crossing in North America.” He should pass that news to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, which last month asserted that “Few would deny the traffic jams on the Ambassador are anything other than epic.”

Think of it as amoral leverage: the reckless or calculated self-interest of just one or a tiny group of people in triggering a global recession. Or in turning on its head the centuries-old philosophy of the greatest good for the greatest number.

Moroun has long been scorned locally for his toll hikes, aging customs-inspection plazas and treacherous access roads. Yet he has held sway over two national governments that want a second crossing, two mayors, a U.S. county executive, most of the Democratic caucus in Lansing, and pretty much the entire Southwest Michigan business establishment, including chief mascot Bill Ford Jr.

That says more about the supine character of the bridge supporters than Moroun.

Rarely but occasionally in this capitalist part of the world, private property rights are trumped by the public interest.

In the dead of night, then-Chicago mayor Richard Daley simply bulldozed a seldom-used regional airport that stubbornly held out against the Millennium project for his city’s justly famed waterfront.

In the 1990s, then-Texas Rangers executive George W. Bush prevailed on Austin to expropriate private land in a Dallas-Fort Worth suburb for his new Ballpark at Arlington. Pierre Trudeau invoked eminent domain in seizing land in Pickering, when he had designs on a second Toronto airport.

“Everyone wants a private bridge,” says Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Snyder’s point man in trying to win legislative approval for a second crossing. “The question is, do they want a private bridge for one politically active family with exclusive access to a monopoly.”

So far, that view has not proved winsome in Lansing. Instead, Moroun’s undisguised self-interest has won the day with legislators whose campaign war chests are stuffed with who knows how many tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the troll under the Ambassador Bridge.