A Notice From Changing Gears

The economic transformation of the industrial Midwest will continue to be a principal reality in the communities served by our stations, WBEZ, Michigan Radio, and WCPN ideastream, and the coverage of that change will continue to be our priority.

But change, as our project name implies, is inescapable, and we are not immune. This blog will continue to be a repository for coverage about this topic, However it will not continue to be updated with the frequency it has for the past two years.

Gloomy News For Our Cities In A Housing Forecast

Big cities around the country are finally seeing the bottom for their dropping house prices, according to Zillow, Inc. The only problem is that it isn’t happening in two of our big cities —

Home prices are still dropping in Chicago/photo by Frank Gruber

Chicago and Cleveland.

Zillow, a real estate forecaster, says it doesn’t expect home prices in either of those two places to bottom out in 2012. That’s even though home prices nationally rose 0.5 percent, according to the Zillow Home Value Index.

Nationally, Zillow says home prices remain 25 percent below their levels in 2007. It doesn’t  expect much of an increase in prices nationally this year. You can read a Bloomberg story about the Zillow forecast here. 

Chicago and Cleveland are among 11 cities that are still seeing home prices fall. Others are San Francisco, Charlotte, Seattle and Atlanta. Places where home prices are rising include Phoenix and Miami, according to Zillow.

Home values are one of the things that are prompting people to adjust their expectations about the future. Read our Changing Gears Tumblr on Changing Expectations.

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.

Midwest Migration: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip

Alex Ozark on the Hyundai-Kia proving grounds / Credit: Charla Bear

No city has been more affected by Midwestern out-migration than Detroit.

Based on the latest census numbers, the city is losing about 2 people every hour.

Changing Gears has been talking with some of those people who are leaving our region.

Alex Ozark grew up in Detroit. He always wanted to work in the auto industry, but he’s not doing it with the Big Three. He’s doing it in California.

Charla Bear brings us this report:

[powerpress]

Alex Ozark drives like a maniac in his company’s cars, treating a black SUV like a cross between a tank and a sports car.

“So we’ll do, we’ll do a hot lap.”

He deliberately hits potholes, runs over lane dividers, and takes corners really fast. So fast, I have a death grip on the grab handle.
Continue reading “Midwest Migration: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip”

On Earth Day, Turning The Motor City Into Cycle City

Let’s face it: Detroit’s reputation as the Motor City is unshakeable. But it’s gaining ground as a city for cyclists.

Racing enthusiasts have revived a velodrome, cycle clubs are growing, it’s easy to find a bike tour and tourism officials took journalists on a ride around Detroit last year. Grown Men on Bikes, a Detroit cycle club, even has its own theme song.

On Sunday, which is Earth Day, the Detroit Tigers want to take all that a step further.

The Tigers' mascot, Paws, with cyclists who rode to Opening Day 2012/ Courtesy Detroit Tigers

The team is hosting its first Ride to the Ballpark event, testing its theory that baseball fans and bicyclists are one and the same.

“Detroit has a very cool, strong cyclist culture,” says Eli Bayless, the Tigers’ director of promotions and in-game operations.

The Tigers are offering a $14 package that includes an upper deck ticket to the game, and a ticket for a bicycle valet. Cyclists will pull up to Columbia Plaza in front of Comerica Park’s Gate A entrance, and check their bikes.

Tickets must be purchased by midnight tonight: there will be no same-day Ride to the Ballpark sales.

As of Thursday, more than 100 people had already bought their tickets, said Bayless, and the team hopes to attract a total of about 250 cyclists/fans. Continue reading “On Earth Day, Turning The Motor City Into Cycle City”

Midwest Migration: A Generation Moves Off The Farm

This week on Changing Gears we’re talking about people who are leaving the Midwestern industrial corridor. Some of the areas hardest hit by out-migration are small rural communities. They are facing a triple whammy – the decline of manufacturing, farming and shipping sectors.

North Country Public Radio’s Brian Mann tracked the journey of one woman who moved from a tiny town to New York City. He brings us this report:

[powerpress]

Mark Scarlett and his daughter, Becca Johnson, on their farm in Rossie, NY.

It’s hard to imagine just how small Becca Johnson’s hometown is. Her parents moved to Rossie, in upstate New York, in the 1970s, part of the farming and manufacturing belt that stretched from the Northeast to the Midwest.

Their family homesteaded in an old abandoned barn.

“No running water and no toilet, or anything like that,” says Johnson. She was practically a teenager before her family got indoor plumbing. “It had an interesting influence on my social life,” she says.

Continue reading “Midwest Migration: A Generation Moves Off The Farm”

Grand Rapids Tries To Re-Brand A Former Auto Plant

When General Motors went into Chapter 11 protection three years ago, it closed factories all over the Midwest. 

One of them was the Grand Rapids Metal Center, a 2 million square foot stamping plant in Wyoming, Mich. Once the biggest employer in that Grand Rapids suburb, it was the first site sold by Motors Holdings, the company created to liquidate GM’s unwanted locations.

Now, new owners are trying to give the 75-year-old factory a new identity, reports Lindsey Smith at our partner Michigan Radio. They’ve demolished most of what was once they’re and re-branded the location as Site 36 (the factory’s address was 300 36th Street).

The developers would like to attract a global company, but they know there’s limited cache to trying to peddle a former GM plant. Thus, the new name.

Can it work? Many communities around the region are trying to find their own solutions, from Janesville, Wis., to Wixom, Mich., and Dayton, Ohio.