Analysis offers free export opportunities

By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Michigan growers and processors can gain access to market research without paying thousands of dollars, thanks to a new, free export opportunity analysis.

Euromonitor International and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s International Marketing Program developed the analysis. Euromonitor International provides strategic market research.

“The analysis gives companies additional information of where new export opportunities are and the top export markets for their products,” said Jamie Zmitko-Somers, international marketing program manager for the department.
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Statewide unemployment drops below 5 percent but northern counties still struggle

By JOSH BENDER
Capital News Service

LANSING- The percent of unemployed Michigan workers dropped below five percent last January for the first time since 2001, the  Department of Technology, Management & Budget reported recently.

But many workers in the northern part of the state didn’t fare as well as the rest of the state.

Montmorency, Presque Isle and Schoolcraft counties all have double the state’s unemployment rate. Cheboygan and Mackinac counties have triple, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That may be due to which industries are leading the state’s economic growth.
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Clean energy can produce jobs, economic growth, study says

By JASMINE WATTS

Capital News Service

LANSING — Thousands of Michigan jobs in the clean energy industry could be created in coming years, according to a recent report.

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council and Clean Energy Trust report that more than 87,000 Michigan residents already work in that industry.

And Michigan leads 12 Midwestern states in clean energy transportation jobs, is second in renewable energy jobs and third in overall highest number of clean energy jobs, according to the study.
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Regulation of medical marijuana could generate millions for state

By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Medical marijuana could generate up to $63.5 million in revenue for Michigan, according to a recent study.

Hillsdale College economist Gary Wolfram’s analysis shows how a proposed regulatory framework for medical marijuana could boost the economy by getting more patients registered for medical marijuana and allowing more forms of use.

“In 2008 medical marijuana became legal in Michigan,” said Wolfram. “This analysis is a matter of what would happen if it was regulated and taxed.”
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Lawmakers seek permanent ban on funding Planned Parenthood

By JOSHUA BENDER

Capital News Service

LANSING – A new bill would make permanent last year’s ban on state funding for abortion providers.

Many proponents of the bill want measures ensuring state funds aren’t used to violate what they believe is the public’s consensus on abortion in Michigan.

“This bill does not close a single Planned Parenthood or outlaw abortion,” said Genevieve Marnon, public affairs associate at Right to Life of Michigan’s Mid-Michigan Resource Center. “It only addresses the use of state taxpayer dollars.”

Some opponents of the bill argue it would harm the ability of agencies receiving state funds to fulfill their obligations to the public.
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Vocational, technical programs draw more student interest

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The education pendulum that directed so many students toward college degrees is swinging the other way, education experts say, now pointing students more toward skilled trade training as well as college.

The push for young students to attend college, which negatively affected those who weren’t interested in it, went too far during former Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration, said Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association (MEA).

The MEA is the state’s largest union of teachers and other school employees.
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Outdoor activities can boost tourism economy, influence Great Lakes restoration, study says

By COLLEEN OTTE & ERIC FREEDMAN

Capital News Service

LANSING — Ecosystem assets in the Great Lakes region, such as sport fishing, boating, beach use, park visits and birding, contribute significantly to the tourism economy of shoreline communities and can help shape restoration priorities for the lakes, according to a new study that incorporates highly detailed maps.

Such “cultural ecosystem services” are valuable to society and have “great potential for benefiting natural resource management and conservation,” it said.

Those services or activities vary in where they take place, and so do stressors, threats, to the Great Lakes, said the lead author of the study, David Allan, a professor emeritus at the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.
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Job creation cuts unemployment rate

By STEPHANIE HERNANDEZ McGAVIN

Capital News Service

LANSING — The unemployment rate in Michigan had a significant drop of 1.6 percent from September 2014 to September 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The creation of additional jobs cut Michigan’s unemployment rate to 5 percent. That is less than the national average and 9.9 points below the state’s unemployment peak during the Recession.

One of the sectors leading the charge in job creation is manufacturing.
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Poverty challenges Michigan schools

By ZHAO PENG

Capital News Service

LANSING— Numerous studies show that poverty and income are the two best predictors of a student’s success in school. This has been proven in Michigan recently, according to education experts.

The average scores of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress (M-STEP) are low, with 12 percent proficient in science at the bottom and 50 percent proficient in English at the top, according to the Education Department. Meanwhile, 16 percent of Michigan children live in school districts with concentrated poverty, one of the largest percentages among the states, according to a Kids Count in Michigan report by the Michigan League for Public Policy.

Gretchen Dziadosz, executive director of the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s largest teacher and school personnel union, said the increase in poor students and poor school districts hurts students’ academic performance. She attributed that increase to the fact that Michigan hasn’t fully recovered from the recession.
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Number of uninsured Michigan residents drops

By SIERRA RESOVSKY
Capital News Service

LANSING— Although Michigan isn’t one of the top five states to see a decrease in the number of residents without health insurance, the number without insurance continued to decline last year, according to data released by the Census Bureau.

In 2013, 11 percent of residents were uninsured, especially those living in rural areas, compared to 2014 when only 8.5 percent lacked coverage.

Of the top five counties with the most significant decline, Van Buren County showed the biggest difference. 15.6 percent of its residents were uninsured in 2013, compared to 8.9 percent in 2014.
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