Rediscovery of a long-forgotten mineral deposit located under two West Michigan counties is set to spark a new multibillion industry in Michigan that will quickly position the state as the nation’s leading source for a critical agricultural tool that is in demand internationally.
Potash — potassium chloride — is an essential plant nutrient and critical ingredient in fertilizer. Currently mined in only three locations in the nation, supplies are dwindling and prices skyrocketing. Now, one of the highest-quality potash ore deposits in the world has been identified below the surface of West Michigan.
The discovery was made by using the treasure trove of geologic data that is housed at Western Michigan University’s Michigan Geological Repository for Research and Education. The result of the rediscovery, say geologists, will be the introduction of a new industry in Michigan worth as much as $65 billion, easily surpassing the state’s historical oil and gas production revenues and triggering explosive job growth in Osceola and Mecosta counties.
“This is conceivably one of Michigan’s most valuable resources,” said Theodore A. Pagano, a potash geologist, engineer and general manager of Michigan Potash Co. LLC. That firm now controls the rediscovered potassium ore reserve called the Borgen Bed that lies under more than 14,500 acres in the two counties. His company has worked quietly over the past three years to ensure the reserve could be technically, economically and logistically put into production and compete head to head with the New Mexico and western Canadian mines that are now the major North American sources of potash.
“This is the United States’ only shovel-ready potash project,” Pagano said. “Michigan is New Mexico untapped. What we’re looking at is the introduction of an industry that is critical to the economic health of the state. We’ll be producing a Michigan product for Michigan farmers that would dramatically reduce the expensive transport costs on the more than 300,000 tons of potash consumed in our state annually.”
Verification of the quality and amount of the potash in the Borgen Bed was done by using core samples provided by WMU geologists under the direction of Dr. William B. Harrison III, professor emeritus of geosciences and director of his department’s Geological Repository for Research and Education, which is also now the permanent home to the Michigan Geological Survey.
In 2008, Harrison and his wife, Linda, an administrator with the repository, came into possession of geologic core samples collected in the early 1980s when a Canadian company was prospecting for potash in Michigan. That company established a mine and small processing plant in Michigan but pulled back from fully commercializing the deposit. Over the years, changing business plans and corporate mergers pushed the Michigan operation into the background, and mineral leases for the area lapsed. The sample cores came to WMU by chance and were added into the University’s statewide collection of core samples.
“Without Bill and Linda Harrison, Michigan and the United States would be without the rediscovery of a multi-billion dollar potash deposit,” said Pagano, adding that he learned through industry sources that the Harrisons might be able to help him in his quest to define the scope and quality of the Borgen Bed.
Potash is found in just a few areas once covered by inland seas. The seas evaporated and the potassium and sodium chloride deposits crystallized into potash ore and were covered by successive layers of rock and soil.
The Michigan deposit, WMU’s Harrison said, is the purest and highest-grade potash being produced globally — 600 percent higher than that being produced in New Mexico’s vast Permian Basin. It is also twice the grade of deposits found in Canada and Russia, the two nations that control more than 80 percent of the world’s potash reserve.
“One of the things that makes this so valuable is that it is an incredibly rich deposit that is in easy reach of the enormous demand from Midwest corn and soybean farmers who operate within a 500-mile radius of this deposit.” Harrison said. “This is an opportunity for new wealth to come from the use of natural resources never tapped before.”
This Spotlight feature is sponsored by Western Michigan University. More at http://www.wmich.edu.
For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I am a huge Tigers fan.
You might think that by now, with all the money building owners and managers can save through energy conservation, every building in Michigan would have had an energy audit.
But you would be wrong.
The good thing about that is, there’s plenty of business out there for a company like Walker-Miller Energy Services LLC in Detroit.
“I would say 99 percent of buildings have never had an energy audit,” said Carla Walker-Miller, who founded the company in 2000.
Conservation is the lowest-hanging fruit of making a building greener. And over the course of a major building’s lifetime, it can literally save millions, Walker-Miller said.
Walker-Miller said most owners make the mistake of building a structure they’ll occupy for decades based on the lowest bid, without considering how spending a little more on construction will pay off big over the years.
As for existing buildings, she said there are plenty of steps most building owners and managers can take to button up their buildings and install more efficient heating, cooling, lighting and controls technologies. And frequently, there are government and utility rebates and other support for such projects.
Walker-Miller is a native of who got engineering degrees from Tennessee State University in 1981 and later worked for big companies like Westinghouse selling big electrical equipment to utilities. She came to Detroit in 1990 to work for ABB, the company that had purchased Westinghouse, and eventually went into business for herself.
But when the last recession hit, sales tightened, and the focus of her business shifted to energy conservation services. And while she’ll still sell you big electrical system hardware, the conservation part of the business is what’s really growing.
Walker-Miller said her company has 30 employees; among them are electrical and mechanical engineers, certified building analysts, certified energy managers — green building experts.
And there’s more growth ahead: Draft legislation was introduced in April to increase renewable energy targets through 2021. The issue is under review by Gov. Rick Snyder, the Michigan Public Service Commission and the Michigan Energy Office. If passed, there will be financial incentives to encourage additional investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.
To find out how Walker-Miller can make your company and its buildings greener, visit http://www.wmenergy.com.
In The Spotlight: Faurecia Says, When It Comes To A Vehicle’s Image, What You See — And Hear — Is What You Get
With so many new-generation models rolling out of auto plants around the globe, consumers are finding it a bit tougher to make their own vehicles stand out in a highly diverse crowd of nameplates. While traditional thinking suggests that a car’s image relies on its overall look, feel and operation, Faurecia has recognized that the sound a vehicle makes and the materials it sports often are just as important.
Imagine opening a glove box with a mere wave of your hand or watching the driver’s seat slide to the perfect angles and dimensions for your body automatically, without fussing over any switches or knobs. Technology from Faurecia that is on display at the Frankfurt Motor Show demonstrates how far the industry has come from the days of control buttons and switches. Faurecia vehicle interiors respond in entirely new ways not just to the actions that drivers take but also to the actions they are about to take.
The election this November is one of the most important elections we have ever had in our city. Who we choose for mayor and for city council will set the tone for where we go from here. So, those running need to lose the rhetoric about the bankruptcy and the emergency manager and concentrate their campaigns on Detroit’s future.
What is the plan to keep our city’s transformation alive during and after the bankruptcy and Kevyn Orr is gone? What’s the new business model for Detroit? What’s the new social model for Detroit? How will you work with the business community to create and deliver those new models? How will you work with the neighborhoods to create and deliver those new businesses and social models? How will you work with law enforcement to ensure our city is safe and secure?
To earn their seats these candidates must offer solutions … solutions followed by quick actions. They must be committed to collaboration with the region, the neighborhoods and the business community. Businesses in Detroit are committed to its transformation. They must know city government is committed to working with them. We won’t always agree on the solutions but we all must be at the table.
One of the major solutions that must be found quickly is for safety and security. Our new police chief James Craig is quickly taking steps to do just that. First he’s clearing up some major problems with how Detroit’s numbers are reported. Those numbers have been splashed over front pages everywhere.
Reports say it takes an average of 58 minutes for officers to respond to life-threatening emergencies and that homicide investigators solve only 11 percent of the city’s murders. The numbers are flawed. Response time has been counted from the time the 911 call is placed. Most other law enforcement agencies start the clock after the 911 operator assigns the call to an officer since dispatchers can spend several minutes getting the information from the caller.
The Chief changed that. Now the clock starts when the dispatcher assigns the run to an officer.
In addition, many non-life-threatening calls such as break-ins, burglar alarms and other crimes with no immediate life-threatening danger were classified as emergencies. According to the Chief, half of all calls were classified as emergencies. A close examination of real “life-threatening emergency” calls showed it took officers an average of 15 minutes to respond. The Chief wants that to drop to 7-8 minutes.
As far as homicides go, the Chief says the department has closed about 35 percent of the cases. That’s not great and a lot of work has to be done, but it’s not 11 percent.
I don’t know about you but I’m very tired of having Detroit, its inability to collaborate and its police force bashed in the national and international media and used as a punch line on late night TV. Let’s get the right numbers out there and let’s show the world Detroit knows how to collaborate.
Kettering University’s historic automotive legacy is part of the North American International Auto Show, which runs through Jan. 27 at Detroit’s Cobo Center. Kettering, one of the nation’s leading Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) universities, is well represented at NAIAS – one of the most prestigious auto shows in the world.
“Kettering’s presence at the auto show is critical because automotive education is our ‘sweet spot’ and is at the core of both our business and the tradition we were born of,” said Jack Stock, director of external relations at Kettering. “Even though we have evolved to 14 majors, automotive is still our most important co-op employment area.”
There are lots of ways to connect with Kettering at NAIAS this year, Stock said. Students from Kettering’s Society of Automotive Engineers program are manning the booth in Michigan Hall for nine days of NAIAS. Read more on Kettering at NAIAS: http://www.kettering.edu/news/kettering-north-american-international-auto-show
Matt Birt, a senior from Urbana, Ohio, said the SAE Collegiate Design teams are featuring two vehicles in Booth 77Y in Michigan Hall. “We’ll take our SAE Clean Snowmobile Challenge Team and the Formula SAE Team,” Birt said. “We’ll be side-by-side with big universities, which says a lot for a small, private school like Kettering.” See Birt featured in a story in USA TODAY College
Education Day on Wednesday, Jan. 23
Kettering is participating in NAIAS’s Education Day on Wednesday, Jan. 23. “The auto show’s Education Day brings busy students by the busload to come see what their future may hold when it comes to careers in the industry,” Stock explained. Kettering will host two presentations at 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on “The Kettering Advantage” during Education Day.
Presentations will focus on Kettering as a top-ranked institution for providing quality, hands-on education that leads to successful careers, Stock said. “We’re inviting alumni, prospective students and their families, corporate partners, friends and anyone interested in experiential learning to participate.” Presentations are at Kettering’s booth 77Y in Michigan Hall.
Family Day, Friday, Jan. 25
Kettering has partnered with WXYZ-TV Detroit’s Channel 7 for Family Day at the NAIAS. From 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., the public is invited to join Kettering and WXYZ for a day of fun that includes entertainment, free giveaways and prizes. “And remember, last year’s Family Day at the NAIAS shattered Friday attendance records — so especially with the automotive industry rebounding, it shapes up nicely for an exciting show,” Stock added.
Today’s Spotlight was sponsored by Kettering University. To find out how you can sponsor content in the Spotlight, contact Jeff Lasser at (248) 455-7319 or email email@example.com.
Every week CBS Detroit puts out a newsletter that spotlights employees at CBS Radio here in Detroit.