Monday, Mar 19, 2018
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Change in Michigan law boosts state's fireworks sales

SOUTHGATE, Mich. -- A new law is sparking fireworks sales -- and the Michigan economy.

Roughly 500 certificates have been granted so far to businesses seeking to sell fireworks that had been prohibited for years, the state Bureau of Fire Services reports.

Bottle rockets, aerial cakes, Roman candles, firecrackers -- all can be sold and used legally after lawmakers and Gov. Rick Snyder erased the ban.

It means no more clandestine trips to Ohio and Indiana for fiery summer fixings.

Michigan residents were returning home with illegal fireworks, but enforcement wasn't strict.

"It's about time. Now we can sell stuff people were smuggling across the border," said Steve LaFleur, co-owner of Southgate Fireworks in Southgate, south of Detroit.

Sean Conn, a vice president at Big Fireworks in Lansing, said: "This is gigantic."

A lawmaker who led the effort, Rep. Harold Haugh (D., Roseville) predicts it could add $8 million to $10 million to the state treasury.

Permits range from $1,000 for a permanent retail location to $600 for a temporary spot, such as a tent. Fireworks carry a 6 percent sales tax as well as a 6 percent fee that will go to a firefighter safety fund.

Sellers must be inspected, undergo a background check, and show proof of $10 million in liability insurance. A lawsuit challenging the high level of insurance is pending in federal court in Bay City.

"That's in there to keep the bad players off the streets," Mr. Haugh said.

Southgate Fireworks has embraced the law, stocking shelves with new fireworks that shoot in the air.

"The important thing to note is all this stuff is federally approved. It's considered safe," Mr. LaFleur said. "Michigan finally got on the bandwagon and realized they were losing a lot of tax money to other states."

Big Fireworks is a subsidiary of American Eagle Superstore Inc. in Lansing, which supplies fireworks to retailers across the country. Until the law changed, the company couldn't sell in Michigan what it was providing to people in other states, Mr. Conn said.

"It was all ground effects and sparklers before. Now you can get a cake aerial that can go 150 to 300 feet in the air. It impresses everyone," he said.

In Brimley, in the Upper Peninsula, Jim Miller has been running Mel's Fireworks for more than 20 years. Because his store was on an Indian reservation, he could get around the state ban on most major fireworks. But now that the law has changed, he's moving off the reservation so he can get more visibility.

"There's going to be a lot of competition. I had exclusive territory for 250 miles," said Mr. Miller, who advertises on TV.

Michael Fales of Gladwin, former president of the Michigan Pyrotechnics Arts Guild, puts on big fireworks shows for cities.

He said he's excited about being able to go into a store and buy a big bang for his own use.

"Fireworks create a sense of awe or beauty," he said. "There's an adrenalin rush from the sky filling up with color."

Mr. Haugh is pleased with the reaction, but don't expect him to light a fuse on July 4.

"I don't like fireworks much, going back to my childhood," Mr. Haugh said. "I come from a family of seven boys. One of my brothers got burned."

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