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400-plus year old tree to get big makeover

Updated: Friday, June 20, 2014 |
400-plus year old tree to get big makeover story image
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A 400-year-old tree in Kalamazoo County is getting a big makeover.

The huge tree in Portage died last year, but one local developer just couldn't let it go.

So now, he's working to turn its stump into something really special.

Matt Milks says he worked tirelessly to keep the old tree alive for the past 17 years.

Now, he hopes the tree's spirit will live on, thanks to a dream and a chainsaw.

Professional wood carver Jerry Ward isn't destroying the tree, but rather transforming it.

"I want something that's very ferocious looking," he said.

Although you can't see it quite yet, Ward says he's got plans for the tree.

"This is going to be a bear, as powerful looking a bear as I can present with that stump to do justice to the tree," he said.

The 400-year-old tree would have been chopped down years ago, and gone forever if it weren't for the determination of local developer Matt Milks.

"We came across this tree and I said, 'this tree is not gonna come down,'" Milks said.

Milks is the Vice President of construction for Meijer C. Weiner, and says when they started developing the complex for Gander Mountain, he took on the tree as a passion project.

"We tried to nurture the tree through hot summers, cold winters, things like that, and it just wasn't making it," Milks said. "I thought, 'well, we would like to keep it alive or keep some part of it alive versus just cutting it down, slabbing it out and maybe making a table out of it,' I thought, let's try to get a hold of a carver."

Ward still has several days of work to do on the old tree, but once he's done, the old bear will stand guard over Portage for generations to come.

"The spirit of the tree itself is there," Milks said.

Everyone is welcome to come check out the carving in action over the next few days.

Ward expects to be done carving the bear by next Wednesday.
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Last Update on September 15, 2014 07:31 GMT

ECONOMY-THE DAY AHEAD

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Federal Reserve will release the industrial production numbers for August this morning.

Tomorrow, Fed policymakers will begin a two-day meeting to set interest rates.

Also on Tuesday, the Labor Department will release the Producer Price Index for August.

EUROPE-FINANCE MINISTERS

MILAN (AP) -- European finance ministers are discussing proposals for leveraging private investments to re-launch the continent's moribund economy.

Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan told reporters at a meeting Saturday of finance ministers from the 28 EU nations that most of the resources for the envisioned investment fund would come from private sources.

Padoan said the ministers were focusing on ways governments could leverage those investments. That could include incentives, regulatory simplification and better use of public money. Padoan said `'it is up to governments to facilitate private investments."

European ministers are holding their first meeting since European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi outlined a three-pillared strategy to save the eurozone economy.

Saturday's session was focusing on a proposal for 300 billion euros ($388 billion) in investments to revive the economy.

CHINA-ECONOMY

BEIJING (AP) -- China's factory output in August slowed to 6.9 percent from a year earlier amid waning export demand and a slump in real estate development that has undermined steel and cement production, according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics.

The growth rate for industrial production in August was down sharply from 9.0 percent in July.

In other data, fixed assets investment in non-rural areas of China rose 16.5 percent in the January-August period compared with the same period a year earlier.

Industrial production was slowing amid weaker exports to major markets in Japan, Europe and the United States and the saturation of China's domestic markets for vehicles and mobile phones after years of rapid growth, the bureau of statistics said.

The cooler summer months this year in eastern China, one of the country's most economically active areas, also helped cut the national electricity production by 2.2 percent in August, the first time power production decreased since 2009, the bureau said.

FOOD AND FARM-SLOW MONEY

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) -- Consumers who want to support local food and farms now have another way in addition to buying locally produced veggies, meats and cheeses. The so-called "Slow Money" network links entrepreneurs with investors who want to support a stronger local food system.

Since 2010, Slow Money networks and investment clubs around the country, including in Maine, Massachusetts, California, North Carolina, and in cities like Boston and New York, have made a total of $38 million in investments in 350 small food enterprises. Vermont and its vibrant local foods scene is about to launch its own network on Sept. 16.

Many of the Slow Money chapters organize events where food entrepreneurs put on presentations to investors. Then the interested investors deal directly with the businesses.

WEALTH GAP-STATE MONEY

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Income inequality is taking a toll on state governments.

The widening gap between the wealthiest Americans and everyone else has been matched by a slowdown in state tax revenue, according to a report being released today by Standard & Poor's.

Even as income for the affluent has accelerated, it's barely kept pace with inflation for most other people. That trend can mean a double-whammy for states: The wealthy often manage to shield much of their income from taxes. And they tend to spend less of it than others do, thereby limiting sales tax revenue.

As the growth of tax revenue has slowed, states have faced tensions over whether to raise taxes or cut spending to balance their budgets as required by law.

Credit analyst Gabriel Petek says rising income inequality is more than a social issue because it "presents a very significant set of challenges for the policymakers."

Income inequality isn't the only factor slowing state tax revenue. Online retailers account for a rising chunk of consumer spending. Yet they often manage to avoid sales taxes. Consumers are spending more on untaxed services, too.

100 PERCENT RENEWABLE

BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) -- Vermont's largest city has a new success to add to its list of socially conscious achievements: 100 percent of its electricity comes from renewable sources.

With little fanfare, the Burlington Electric Department crossed the threshold this month with the purchase of a nearby hydroelectric project.

The Washington Electric Co-operative, which serves parts of northern and central Vermont, reached the goal earlier this year.

Some question the accounting methods used to make the claim because the utilities sell the rights to the renewable energy to other utilities. But the utilities then buy less expensive credits to offset the sale.

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