Street Talk: Road less traveled


Looking forward to some vehicle insurance relief this summer?

Those premium savings might not be automatic. A report from the personal finance website WalletHub indicates location still will play a role in savings.

The site lists Holland and Kalamazoo among its top 5 “least expensive” cities for car insurance. Conversely, Detroit and Dearborn land on the opposite end of the spectrum.

So, what should drivers know?

“Age isn't too much of a surprise factor, but I think many people will be surprised to learn just how much it impacts the cost of car insurance in Michigan. For example, 16-year-olds are paying an average of 513% more than 66-year-olds on car insurance premiums,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said. “You would think that car insurance companies would have gotten a bit more sophisticated in terms of how they evaluate age-based risk in pricing by now, given all the data analysis tools and predictive modeling at their disposal. Not all young people are so much riskier than older folks on the road.

“What makes more sense, however, is the impact of different coverage levels on your policy’s price. In Michigan, if you add comprehensive and collision coverage to your policy, expect to pay 52% more than drivers who keep basic coverage.”

She said drivers also should try to take advantage of any discounts.

“You should be able to get discounts if you're a veteran, have a good driving record, bundle policies or have an anti-theft system, just to name a few things. You can also choose a higher deductible, which can save you money if you never have an accident.”

Valued service

West Michigan Works! last month recognized 10 area service workers with the 2019 Beverly A. Drake Essential Service Awards.

Honorees are “hardworking individuals in service positions who go above and beyond,” and they “display pride in their job, a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and habits, punctuality and complete work on time,” according to the agency.

Employers and community members submit nominations. A committee of the West Michigan Works! Development Board chooses the winners.

The honorees were recognized at The Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ January meeting at the JW Marriott and were each given a $100 Meijer gift card.

“These 10 hardworking individuals perform their jobs with passion and enthusiasm, improving the lives of the people around them, one interaction at a time,” said Mark Bergsma, chair of the West Michigan Works! Workforce Development Board. “Many of these workers are on the front line or behind the scenes. However, their contributions allow our community and economy to thrive and they deserve to be celebrated.”

Essential Service Awards categories include hospitality, retail, health care, transportation, government, food service, general labor, child care, nonprofit and custodial, housekeeping and groundskeeper.

The honorees:

Mitch Adams, lead teacher, All for Kids CDC

James Greenland, cook, Spectrum Health

Anna Coronado, laundry/public area/inspector, Hampton Inn Holland

Amelia Lopez, community health worker, Health Net of West Michigan

David DeLeon, bus driver chauffeur II, Hope Network Transportation

Vickie Rick, salesclerk, Fabulous Finds

Ruth Evitts, laundry, Metron of Belding

Amber Garner, materials management/customer service, Michigan Spring and Stamping

Fernando Villagomez, lead operator, Nova Steel USA

Job cuts surge

Job cuts announced by U.S.-based employers jumped 106%, from December’s total of 32,843 to 67,735, according to a report released Feb. 6 from global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Last month’s total is 27.8% higher than the 52,988 cuts announced in the same month last year. It is the highest total since February 2019, when employers announced 76,835 cuts.

Technology companies led in announced job cuts last month with 13,869, 1,828.9% higher than the 719 cuts announced in that sector in December 2019 and 2,073.4% higher than the 638 cuts from technology firms announced in the same month last year. Technology companies cut 64,166 jobs in 2019, compared to 14,230 in 2018.

“We have seen large technology companies shed workers as they pivot to new products or services. In some cases, longstanding bellwether companies are reducing bureaucracy and removing layers of management to become nimbler,” said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger Gray.

“Tech is not the only industry embarking on this kind of restructuring. Companies across all industries are reexamining their hierarchies, particularly in automotive and retail, where innovations in technology are changing the landscape.”

In fact, retail announced the second-highest number of cuts with 10,444, many due to bankruptcies. Of the 3,852 bankruptcy cuts last month, 2,631 were in retail. Another 6,924 cuts in the sector were due to store closings.

Industrial goods manufacturers continue to shed workers, announcing 6,098 cuts in January, 1,740 of which cited the causes as market conditions and financial losses. Companies in this sector announced 70,894 cuts last year.

“Industrial manufacturing continues to be in recession. This industry has been hit hard by slowing orders, lower corporate investments and trade concerns over the past 12 months,” Challenger said.

The automotive sector has felt the impact of trade concerns, technological innovations and cutting bureaucracy, as well. Automotive companies announced 5,437 cuts in January, after cutting 50,776 in all of 2019.

Media companies, which announced 25,675 cuts between January 2018 and December 2019, announced 794 cuts in January, the highest monthly total since May 2019, when the industry announced 1,120 job cuts.

Star turn

Allied Mechanical Services recently was selected by PBS as an industry leader for its corporate culture and cutting-edge use of technology. AMS will be featured in a segment on the television series, Information Matrix, hosted by actor and philanthropist Laurence Fishburne.

Information Matrix is an educational television series highlighting the evolution of education, medicine, science, technology and industry through inspiring stories.

The Information Matrix episode featuring AMS highlights businesses creating a more diverse and inclusive corporate culture.

“We are on the precipice of great change in the workforce. We believe that America is a melting pot where each ingredient maintains its individuality and compliments one another,” said Steve Huizinga, AMS president.

Huizinga said the trades were predominately made up of white males when he first entered the industry. He said AMS now is starting to see the fruits of its labor by deliberately adding women in its workforce. The company most recently hired three women in the pipe trades and one as a welder.

“The natural gifts that have been given to us — each gender — is a thing I embrace,” Huizinga said.

Information Matrix also highlighted the use of technology as another area of significant importance to construction and to AMS. Over 15 years ago, AMS stepped out as one of the first contractors in Michigan to use building information modeling technology. AMS also was the first contractor in Michigan to use a 3D laser scanner.

“Our focus on implementing bold ideas in technology has given us the ability to identify and solve problems before the job starts, and through the use of tablets and other electronic devices, information is at our fingertips,” Huizinga said.

For 11 consecutive years, AMS has won the Safety Training Evaluation Process award from Associated Builders and Contractors – Western Michigan, a national construction trade organization.

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