Some Data Behind the New Data Center Proposed by the Boji Group

According to today's City of Ludington Daily News(COLDNews) reports to be published later today:

 

"The State of Michigan needs a new data center — a big one. The proposed millions of dollars in new construction may find a new home in Pere Marquette Township next to the Ludington Pumped Storage Plant if the state accepts this proposal, one of 12 in areas across Michigan.

The Boji Group of Lansing has teamed with Consumers Energy, Hewlett Packard and other nationally known partners to create a proposal promoting the area as the best of the 12.

The proposals go before the state in late April. The state will make its decision several months later.

Ron Boji, president of Boji Group, shared the plans with area community leaders Tuesday, including bringing the idea before the P.M. Township Board of Trustees.

The project would bring in high quality jobs, developers told the Ludington Daily News, including 30 to 50 technology-type jobs at the center, in addition to the many temporary construction jobs."

The Mason County Press elaborated further this last evening: 

 

"Mason County may soon be home to the state’s data center. Representatives from Consumers Energy and the [Boji Group] were at the Pere Marquette Township board of trustees meeting Tuesday night to ask for a resolution of support for the project.

If it is approved by the state Department of Energy, the project will mean a major stimulus to the economy, especially in construction jobs.

A data center is where the majority of an enterprise’s servers and storage are located, operated and managed. The current state data center is located in the Lansing area.

Doug Roberts, director of government affairs with Consumers Energy, said Consumers will most likely move its data center facilities to Ludington from Jackson, if the state center is built.

The proposed Mason County site is located on the north side of the pumped storage facility between Chauvez and Bradshaw roads, east of South Lakeshore Drive. The properties are currently owned by four different groups: Consumers, Harvey Walton, Dr. Donn Dougherty and the Michelle and Jeff Kramer.

[Ron] Boji said three other sites are in the running for the data center. He said he believes the Ludington site has the best chance, though, based on several factors including its closeness to back-up power sources, the Consumers Energy Pumped Storage Facility. .

“Jobs are a very important part of this,” Boji said. “The governor has made it very clear that this must be about economic development. This will mean construction jobs and in the long term, not quantity but quality jobs. These will be highly paid professionals.”

The proposal must be submitted by April 26, Boji said."

Sounds pretty good.  Almost too good to be true.  Well, there's a couple of interesting back stories that are behind this latest batch of good news.  And, on the surface, I would call it the bad news.

 

 

11-19-2011 by Ross Jones

(WXYZ) DETROIT - On a Friday night in September in Downtown Detroit, forty thousand fans packed the stands to watch the Tigers take on the Cleveland Indians. But few had a seat as good as the fans sitting in Wayne County’s suite. Ron Boji has been a guest many times. His brother-in law is Asst. Wayne County Executive Nader Fakhouri.

<-----Boji is a developer with real estate projects far and wide. He and his family have been some of Robert Ficano’s most reliable campaign contributors. Not long ago, Boji held a birthday party fundraiser for Ficano at his sprawling Orchard Lake home.

Boji’s name surfaced in the widening Wayne County scandal back in October, when the FBI named his company, The Boji Group, in a federal subpoena. At issue tonight: did his relationship with Ficano’s office help land his company federal money for a big development in Wayne County? And did Fakhouri stand to benefit from the deal?

Boji used that federal money to build the Inkster Marketplace, a sprawling two-block, four-building development that couldn’t have materialized had it not been for federal funds provided by Wayne County. It passed along government grants totaling almost $2 million that ultimately went to Boji’s company. And the county official who handed over the money? Fmr. Economic Development Chief Turkia Mullin. ------>

Last summer, the Wayne County Building Authority bought one of those buildings from Ron Boji, paying about $7 million. What building authority officials didn’t know when they bought it? Boji’s brother-in-law, the assistant county executive, had a 20% stake in the Inkster development. It’s an investment he only disclosed in October, a month after we told Ron Boji we were looking into his work with the county.

But that’s just part of this story, and this development project. A few hundred feet down the street, Boji was also working on a new headquarters for the local YWCA.

For that building to be developed, the Y first needed to sell its old headquarters to the city of Inkster for its new police headquarters. But they needed to find an appraiser, first. According to a memo written by the then director of the YWCA, Ron Boji recommended one person: Jumana Judeh. She’s a Dearborn based commercial real estate appraiser and she just happens to be County Executive Robert Ficano’s girlfriend.

She received about $2,000 for her appraisal. And not long after, the City of Inkster purchased the old YWCA. Construction on their new headquarters is still ongoing, but it stopped for several months when the Y ran out of money. It started up again in the summer after the county awarded the Y another $300,000 in federal money that would go to Boji. Once again, Turkia Mullin signed off on the money.

Ron Boji denies having the inside-track to any federal money awarded by Wayne County. We were scheduled to meet with Boji today at 3 o’clock about this story, but late yesterday his spokesman abruptly cancelled our interview.

As for Boji’s access to the county’s Comerica Park suite, Ficano spokeswoman Brooke Blackwell says it’s not a sign of favoritism.

http://www.wxyz.com/dpp/news/local_news/investigations/did-local-de...


Two developments on this story have surfaced into this year, one showing their was impropriety, the other showing that the investigation is getting more results that bring the Boji Group closer to the fires of unethical behavior.

January 3rd, 2013, http://www.deadlinedetroit.com/articles/3222/ex-ficano_aide_made_a_...

Just three days into 2013 and it's clear the scandals involving Wayne County government aren't going away.

The latest: The Detroit News reports that Nader Fakhouri, 44, ex-top aide to Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, said in a deposition unsealed this week in federal court that he made a few hundred thousand dollars in a land deal that's under FBI scrutiny.

The deal involved the county's 2010 purchase of an office building in Inkster from the Boji Group, a Lansing real estate firm owned by his father-in-law, Ron Boji, the News reported.

The News reported:

The Boji Group, whose principals have hosted fundraisers for Ficano, were named in grand jury subpoenas delivered to the county in fall 2011 as part of wide probe into Ficano's operations and fundraising.

Fakhouri acknowledged the profit during a deposition involving a federal lawsuit from a former county graphics designer, James Wallace, who alleged he was forced to perform campaign work on county time.

The News reported that Fakhouri said he has a passive, 20 percent interest in the land deal that was engineered by Turkia Mullin.

On March 6, 2013, the scandal continued as reported by Charlie Le Duff, Fox 2 News:

"...And man what a fundraiser! He got Ficano paid and Fakhouri got himself paid. Remember we reported last year about a building in Inkster? Fakhouri is related to the Boji family, developers and big contributors to Ficano. They got $2 million in federal money through Turkia Mullin, and they built the place and then sold it back to the county for $7 million. Remember we reported that Fakhouri was 20 percent partner in that deal. We were right, and in that deposition he admitted that he got paid $1.5 million over two years.

And remember we told you about an "office suite" that was actually a mailbox in Oakland County where Fakhouri working as Ficano's fundraiser mailed $400,000 in checks. When asked about that, Fakhouri took the fifth."

And yet, the self-admitted white-collar criminal, Nader Fakhouri (pictured to the left) has a prominent bio on the Boji Group's website that doesn't mention his 'ethical shortcomings', just a wide range of positive characteristics.   The site also fails to cite the above controversies among its press releases or articles.  or any of the above on its timeline or milestones

Even with all the benefits Ron Boji and his family seem to have received from their friends in Wayne County, and the pending results from the federal investigation began in late 2011 where his brother in law obviously violated ethical laws under the banner of the Boji Group, Governor Snyder on January 7 this year, in a fairly low key move, appointed Ron to the Michigan Strategic Fund (MSF) board of directors.  The MSF is an 11-member board that  "promotes economic development and job creation" in the state, according to a news release from Snyder's office. 

 

In fact, the board, in part, has the power to approve grants and loans under the Michigan Business Development Program and the Michigan Community Revitalization Program.  It can also approve the use of Private Activity Revenue Bonds and authorize the submittal by local units of government of Community Development Block Grant applications.

 

What a great springboard for a developer to oversee his activities and more directly veer state grants and benefits his way in projects like the proposed data center.  Particularly, a developer group that looks to have overlooked so many ethical standards in Inkster, in beautiful Wayne County.  Do we really want to entrust Mason County to development by such a suspicious group?

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Good find X.

When I first started reading this topic and before I saw the video, something seemed very fishy about this entire proposed project. First of all why does the State need 12 data centers and why would one of them be built up in the sticks near Ludington? The State has had their data center in Lansing for many years and has not needed to expand. The computers that were used years ago were the size of a refrigerator and with the advent of small computers and compact memory storage, data storage now takes up a much smaller area. Another concern is, why is Consumers involved with this obvious robbery of taxpayers dollars. I would have to surmise that something is very wrong here. Having said that, I am very concerned about the possible corruption that seems evident with the Boji Group and it's related business partners. My guess is that if one would follow the family tree of any Ludington's City Councilor the mayor or Shay one would find relatives linking them to Boji's group of shysters.

These people [Boji] are fairly new on the scene. They purchased lansing's tallest building in 1998. This family has ties to Iraq and the middle east.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boji_Tower

Ron's father, Louie Boji immigrated to America from Iraq in 1965 and built the foundations of the group so as to be able to get the Boji Tower.  His offspring and in-laws constitute the group primarily.  He has also been a Governor Snyder appointee, to the Michigan Education Trust Board of Directors. 

I am thinking that there are 12 sites they are choosing from to build one data storage center, from what I've read, but I have not been able to get a good source to find out more.  This whole project is sketchy at this point.  I may have to FOIA state agencies to check further into it.

Boy did I get that wrong. I was a bit tired when I read it. So, only 1 center but 12 potential sites. Got it. I'm still wondering why it's not planned for Lansing since the seat of Government is there.

Here was part of Ron Boji's presentation at the PM Township Commissioner's meeting.  The typical mention of partnerships between government and private industries are touched on, which strikes me as a fascinating way of looking at things from someone whose serving the State of Michigan as a director of the Michigan Strategic Fund and simultaneously bidding to be the developer of this local site.  Ron Boji could be effectively voting on grants that would find its way back into his pockets, and even if he abstains from voting due to a conflict of interest, his company's involvement up to this point still smells of corruption, much like the Wayne County episode with his group.

I know a guy from Wayne County whose mentioned this group before as a suspicious cast of characters.  The Boji Group must have done there homework to find a county and nearby city that would allow them the best ability to get grants for this project without any regard to ethics.  Doesn't Mason county government use Ludingtons Turkia Mullen (Heather Venzke) for grant writing? 

This sounds a lot like the boondoggle of that First Street industrial park you reported on.  Good reporting by the action news team of channel seven, and of course, the Torch.

If it sounds too good to be true, look at the storytellers history.

Heather (Venzke) Tykoski does do some grant writing work for Mason County, just earlier this month being signed on to do CDBG work.  Thanks for your affirmation:

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