Sunday, December 2, 2012

Closing tabs: Following up on Twinkies and the Wixom plant

Time to do what I did on my LiveJournal for more than a year--write about tabs and windows that I'd had open for a while so that I could close them and move on.  Today's installment involves Detroit Free Press articles and a WXYZ video about two topics, one I've blogged about here recently and another that I blogged about at LiveJournal three years ago.

First up, a link to an Associated Press article, so no quoting, that confirms what I've been saying since January; Twinkies and the other Hostess products are still valuable and someone will make them.

Bidders for Hostess virtually assure survival of Twinkies

The good news is that there are 110 bidders.  The bad news is that the incompetent executives who ran the company into the ground will be eligible for $1.8 million in bonuses if they meet their liquidation goals.  Meanwhile, the 18,000 workers will still lose their jobs.  Ugh, vultures.

Second, here's what I wrote about the Wixom Ford plant three years ago.

Detroit Free Press: 'Green is the new gold' in Michigan
In its heyday a generation ago, the Ford Motor Co. assembly plant at the Wixom Road exit off I-96 employed 5,000 people. About two years after it shut down, the 320-acre site is coming back to life as the home of several government-subsidized manufacturers of alternative-energy products, such as solar panels and the batteries to store the sun power that such panels capture.

That doesn't mean 5,000 people will ever be working there again. But 3,000 is within the realm of possibility if the alternative-energy center grows as projected over the next several years. More important, though, the developments at Wixom and other projects now sprouting up around the state signal that Michigan is earnest about becoming a hub of alt-energy and related technology -- a field with a future.

It won't be the next auto industry. But it will be around -- and it's growing. Michigan cannot afford to be left back as global demand grows for energy from sources other than oil, driven by costs, conservation and concern about climate change. China, for example, is aggressively pursuing a plan to get 15% of its electricity from renewable sources, mostly wind, by 2020, and expects to spend $190 billion to do it.
It turns out that didn't quite go as planned, as the Detroit Free Press reports.
Strip mall retail is a much different redevelopment prospect for the site than was envisioned three years ago, when then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm joined Executive Chairman Bill Ford to announce the possibility of a $725-million renewable energy park with as many as 4,300 new jobs.

That project was to be anchored by battery maker Xtreme Power of Austin, Texas, and California solar company Clairvoyant Energy. But those ambitious plans fell apart by spring 2011, when the two companies failed to obtain about $500 million in financing from the U.S. Energy Department.
Yes, you read that right, "strip mall retail."  Instead of using all the property for a green industry, Ford is going to use some of the land for a big box store--more suburban sprawl, anyone?
The automaker's real estate arm is in talks with home improvement retailer Menards to purchase a 45-acre section of property close to I-96 off Wixom Road. The Wixom City Council recently agreed to Ford's request to split that parcel from the 317-acre site, in addition to sectioning off a landfill area at the back of the property.
For what it's worth, while the article points out that this would be the 23rd Menards store in Michigan, it would be the first one in Metro Detroit.  Menards' own store locator shows the nearest locations to be in Toledo, Jackson, Lansing, and Flint (actually Davison, but close enough).  The store will have plenty of competition nearby, as there is already a Home Depot on the other side of the freeway and a Lowes one exit to the west, but I've seen Lowes and Home Depot right next to each other with enough business for both.  As long as business as usual (BUA) continues, this is likely to be a viable proposition.  Let's see how long BUA lasts, as these aren't BUA times.

Demolition has already begun, as this raw WXYZ video shows.

Ford tears down part of shuttered Wixom plant.

Not all hope for a green energy plant is lost, as the Free Press notes.
But a separate, high-tech prospect for the old plant could still be in the works. Last year, Townsend Energy Solutions of Hunt Valley, Md., proposed opening a manufacturing operation at Wixom for, among other things, producing energy-efficiency products for fuel-efficient vehicles. The project was forecast to create 36 jobs in its first year and perhaps 875 jobs over five years.

The Michigan Economic Growth Authority board approved multiple rounds of tax credits for the project: a $6.3-million tax credit and two, $10-million brownfield tax credits. These tax credits are only to be used for industrial purposes -- no retail.
No manufacturing, no tax credits.  That should be enough incentive for a green energy factory to be built, even if it's only on part of the land.

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