Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
The latest from companies and employers around the Midwest.
Today, Chrysler, which is based in Auburn Hills, Mich., said it earned $473 million in the first quarter, its best results since the SUV-profit fueled first quarter of 1998, and almost four times what it earned in the same period last year. Chrysler’s revenue in the quarter was $16.4 billion, up 25 percent from a year ago.
The Chrysler earnings keep it on track to reach its goal of earning $1.5 billion for 2012, and $25 billion in revenue. The results are the best since Chrysler began reporting quarterly profits again after its bailout.
The strong results mean that Chrysler’s 26,000 U.S. hourly workers will get bonuses of $1,750 each for 2011.
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.
Northeast Ohio is no longer the home of giant smoke-belching factories that typified the Industrial Revolution. The economy is slowly but surely striking out in new directions as the region works to diversify. Medical devices and services, polymers, processed foods, even fracking, are all in the vanguard of long-term change. Mr. Feagler looks at the big picture with Thomas A. Waltermire, President and CEO of Team NEO.
It’s a mantra among politicians and CEOs across the Midwest and the country: we need to graduate more engineers in order to stay competitive in the world economy. It’s pitched as a way to create jobs and innovation. But all that might be wrong.
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.
This week Changing Gears is taking a closer look at the Midwest Migration, and we’re talking with people who have left the region. Reporter Peter O’Dowd met with some of those former Midwesterners living in Austin, Texas, and brings us this report:
The Brookings Institution reports that 20-somethings fled Detroit and Chicago at the end of the last decade for places like Seattle and Portland. Cities they thought were cool. “Cool” has become a selling point for young professionals. And perhaps no city has it figured out better than Austin, Texas. Over the next few days Changing Gears will profile people who have left the Midwest, and that’s where we go next – to the home of music festivals known around the world.
John Livingston and his friends say Austin has a soul, and on a gorgeous Friday night in March you can see why.
Livingston is a lot like any other 24-year old. He and his friends still like to party, and on this night, they’re doing it on the north side of town.
Not long ago, Livingston and four others moved to Austin from Bloomington, Indiana.
It was January 2010. College was coming to an end. The friends were drinking at their favorite hang-out, and wondering what to do next in life. It was pretty clear that Bloomington – a city of 80,000 and home to Indiana University – didn’t have what they wanted.
“We just started thinking of places to go – something different, something new. By the end of the night we were all just chanting Austin. We wanted to go to Austin. We were all about Austin,” says Livingston.
Last year, everyone in the auto industry was chuffed about Detroit’s comeback.
The carmakers were enjoying a healthy rebound from the bankruptcies at General Motors and Chrysler. And for a while, at least, Chrysler outsold Toyota to make the Detroit Three the Big Three again.
But this year, Detroit’s market share has been slipping, and that has ramifications all across the Midwest.
In fact, the auto companies have fallen back to the market share level they held in 2009, as GM and Chrysler were struggling. In a piece for Forbes.com, I look at what happened to the Detroit companies during the first quarter.
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.