Midwest Memo: GE Jobs, Nobel Laureates, Obama Campaign, CG Events

GE Adds Jobs, Faces Protestors: General Electric said Tuesday it is adding 300 jobs in Van Buren Township, Mich., at an advanced engineering center that it announced in 2009. That’s on top of 850 jobs for which the company is still hiring. But GE chief executive Jeffrey Immelt faced protests at a meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers in Detroit. Members of the 99% Spring movement are planning to protest Immelt’s pay and other issues at GE’s annual shareholders meeting, which will be held in Detroit on Wednesday. Read our coverage of the 99% Spring here

Nobel Laureates In Chicago: Former presidents, activists and actors are in Chicago for a three day meeting of the world’s Nobel Laureates. It’s one of the high-profile efforts by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to stake Chicago’s claim as a world-class city. On Monday, students in a Chicago classroom got a visit from former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, one of many visits paid by the laureates to Chicago schools.

Obama Campaign Blankets Ohio: The president was just at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio last week, talking about job retraining. Now, Barack Obama’s campaign plans to blanket the state in coming weeks, with the auto bailout as a main topic. Bob King, president of the United Auto Workers, says the number of auto workers in Ohio has increased from 105,000 to 120,000 since the administration rescued General Motors and Chrysler. However, Ohio’s biggest automotive employer is Honda, which has announced a series of new investments in the state.

Changing Gears Live Tomorrow: Make sure to mark your calendars tomorrow for a Changing Gears live call-in show and chat. It’s at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT. Read more here.

Detroit’s Proposed Budget: 2,500 Layoffs, $250 Million In Cuts

The city of Detroit, which recently reached a deal for the state to oversee its finances, is

Photo submitted by Nathan Barnes

proposing a budget that  cuts more than 2,500 jobs in an effort to reduce its annual expenses by  $250 million.

The Detroit Free Press says the 2,500 layoffs would be on top of 1,000 job cuts Mayor Dave Bing sought earlier.

The proposed budget, laid out for city council’s review, also calls for the Detroit Department of Transportation, the city’s troubled bus system, to be privatized. It would transfer operations of the city’s lighting department to an independent authority.

Many homeowners have complained about broken street lights and problems with Detroit’s power grid, which is separate from the rest of the area.

Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is set to speak about the city’s future today. 

 

On Wednesday, Join Us For “Hidden Assets,” A Call-In Show And Live Chat on Immigration

Throughout the past two years, Changing Gears has looked at the role that newcomers play in the Midwest. On Wednesday, we’ll be talking about them — and talking with you. 

Join us at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT for “Hidden Assets,” a call-in show airing on WBEZ Chicago, Michigan Radio and ideastream Cleveland. We’ll also be holding a live chat here at ChangingGears.info.

WBEZ’s Steve Edwards will host with a variety of scheduled guests, including Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder. They’ll be looking at ways the Midwest is trying to attract immigrants, and how they can be a competitive business advantage for our region.

“Hidden Assets” welcomes your participation, on the air and here.

Where Did Everybody Go? – A Changing Gears Special

Former Detroiter Alex Ozark on the Hyundai-Kia proving grounds in California / Credit: Charla Bear

Many of us have friends or family members that have moved away from the Midwest.

In the Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go?” we’re talking with some of those people who have moved out of the region – asking them why they left, what they found, and if they’ll ever come back.

We also take a look at what their departure means for the region.

You can listen to some of those stories here.

Part I: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners

Part II: The Appeal Of Portland

Part III: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip

Part IV: A Generation Moves Off The Farm

You can listen to the hour long Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go” Sunday, 9 pm ET, on Michigan Radio; Monday, 10 am CT, on WBEZ Chicago; or Tuesday, 8 pm, on ideastream Cleveland.

Detroit Has Tons Of Vacant Land. But Forty Square Miles?

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Vacancy is easy to see, hard to quantify

DETROIT – Forty square miles.  That’s how much of Detroit lies vacant, nearly a third of the city.  You could fit Miami or San Francisco inside all that emptiness.  At least, that’s what we’ve heard for years.  The thing is, it might not be true.

This is a story about a number – an estimate, really – and how it became a fact illustrating Detroit’s decline. I’ve read about 40 square miles in the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Washington Times. I’ve heard it on Fox and I’ve said it on the radio. That’s why Margaret Dewar called me out.

“Wait, this can’t be true.”

Dewar is a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan. She thinks there’s tons of vacant land in Detroit. Just not 40 square miles, dramatic as it sounds.

“It’s too good a number to let go of,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful number, it’s so shocking.” Continue reading “Detroit Has Tons Of Vacant Land. But Forty Square Miles?”

Indiana’s GOP Senate Primary Will Be A Doozy

Back in February, we gave you a heads up about the tough fight shaping up in Indiana for veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar

He has not had a primary opponent since he first won election in 1976, and he’s been one of the most prominent Republicans in the Senate, leading the Foreign Relations Committee and serving as an advisor to numerous presidents.

But Lugar is being challenged by the state’s treasurer, Richard E. Mourdock, amid criticism from Tea Party members over his record. He’s also been embroiled in controversy over exactly where he lives.

Now, as a primary election approaches next month, his battle to keep his seat is getting even more intense.

Monica Davey in The New York Times takes a look at the race today. She reports that the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll showed Lugar leading Mourdock by 42 percent to 35 percent among likely primary voters. That is within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus five points.

 

Undergrads At Case Western Build A Better Pothole Patch, Score One For Midwest Innovation

Credit: flickr user _chrisUK

Innovation is a tricky thing to track. Everyone talks about it, but it’s almost impossible to predict where it will happen, or what it will be. But you know it when you see it.

And so it is with a new invention out of Case Western University. A group of five undergraduate students at the Cleveland school have come up with a potentially brilliant solution to a nagging problem. They’ve built a better pothole patch.

They’ve done it with something called a non-Newtonian fluid. Without getting too technical, a non-Newtonian fluid is a material that acts like a liquid in some situations, and a solid in others – like the ketchup that stays stubbornly stiff when you shake the bottle, but pours out evenly when you coax it with a butter knife.

Another example is a mixture of cornstarch and water, which appears to be a liquid, but acts like a solid if you run across it. If you’ve never seen how this works, it’s pretty incredible.

The Case Western students took this principle, and applied it to potholes. Continue reading “Undergrads At Case Western Build A Better Pothole Patch, Score One For Midwest Innovation”

Are Tax Incentives Working? Many States Don’t Even Check

The Pew Center on the States checked all 50 states to find out which ones are evaluating their tax incentive programs. Credit: Pew Center on the States.

Tax incentives have become the weapon of choice among states battling for new business investments. Niala Boodhoo reported in December that offering incentives has become a sort of strategy game for Midwest states hoping to one-up each other as everyone fights to grow jobs. But, as Niala reported, these are games with millions of dollars in tax breaks and thousands of jobs on the line.

Now, the Pew Center on the States is taking a look at incentives from a different angle. The Pew Center tried to figure out whether anyone is actually checking to see whether the incentives are worth it.

Turns out, a lot of states do very little follow-up once they approve incentives programs.

Continue reading “Are Tax Incentives Working? Many States Don’t Even Check”

One More Thing About Ethanol

The price spread between gasoline and ethanol. Credit: Reuters

Today, I reported that ethanol, despite losing its hype, is bigger than ever in the U.S. 

The chart above, from Reuters, shows one more reason people in the ethanol industry are optimistic. The chart shows the price difference between gasoline and ethanol. And, right now, according to Reuters, gas prices are at an all-time high compared to ethanol. A gallon of the biofuel is more than a dollar cheaper than gasoline.

Craig Hoppen, the president of J&H Oil Co. in West Michigan told me that this margin makes a big difference when people decide whether to pump E-85.

“Lately, as gas prices went up, we’ve sold a lot more [E-85], because it’s very price competitive today,” Hoppen said. “When the margin goes down … the volume drops accordingly.”

Hoppen says as of this month, E-85 sales are up about 50 percent at J&H Oil’s filling stations.

But still, E-85 only makes up about 1 percent of total sales. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that there were only about half a million E-85 capable vehicles on the road as of 2009.

That’s why the ethanol industry isn’t counting too much on E-85 for the future of the fuel.