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.
A place for the latest news on innovations and innovators throughout the Midwest.
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.
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.
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 RoboCop statue is definitely happening in Detroit.
That’s the update today from the Detroit News. For those who haven’t been following along, last year, a Twitter user in Massachusetts jokingly tweeted to Detroit Mayor Dave Bing that the city should erect a statue in honor of RoboCop, the cyborg public servant featured in the 1987 film based in Detroit. The mayor dryly responded that there were no plans for a statue, and suddenly everyone became interested.
Along the way, there has been controversy. Some don’t like how the RoboCop films portrayed Detroit – as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, run by an evil corporation. Some didn’t like the idea that people would spend money on a statue to honor a movie character, when so many other worthy projects go unfunded in the city.
By the time you read this, Detroit leaders may have already reached a deal to avoid a state takeover. Or not. City council was scheduled to meet as of this posting to decide whether to sign a consent agreement with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder’s administration.
The agreement could still be blocked in the courts, causing further confusion and panic in a city that’s already had plenty of both. According to state statute, a deal must be signed by midnight Thursday, or the governor will be forced to appoint an emergency manager.
It is against this political and economic backdrop that the Detroit-based electronic indie-pop band Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. has decided to release its latest video for the song “We Almost Lost Detroit.”
“We Almost Lost Detroit” began for us as an homage to one of the great artists of our time, Gil Scott Heron. We were so affected by its continued relevance as a piece of work some 30+ years later that just simply attempting to reinterpret it as a creative exercise seemed like a good enough idea on its own. While the song was originally penned as a reaction to a partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor halfway between Detroit,MI and Toledo,OH, so much of the imagery contained in Gil’s words seemed to ring true with the news of today.
This morning, the White House Council on Environmental Quality announced that it’s reached an agreement that will speed up the permitting process for offshore wind energy in the Great Lakes. The agreement comes in the form of a memorandum of understanding with five of the eight states that border the Great Lakes.
On a conference call this morning, officials said the total potential for wind energy in the Great Lakes is about equal to building 700 nuclear power plants. They said wind on the Great Lakes could power millions of homes.
The MOU includes nine federal agencies, and the states of Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania. Not included are Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin, though they can sign on later.
But what’s actually in the memorandum of understanding? Very little, but what’s there could still make a difference.
Sixty years ago Wednesday, the first rock and roll concert happened in Cleveland.
The Moondog Coronation Ball was kind of a disaster. It ended in a riot. One person was stabbed. But it was also the first public indication of how hot this new rock and roll trend had become. Organizers originally hoped for about 10,000 people. Twice that number showed up.
The Ball was the idea of Alan Freed, the Cleveland disc jockey who first coined the phrase “rock and roll.” He’s the reason Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. And every time you find yourself in a packed concert venue, listening to music that’s a little too loud and a little too fast, you’re taking part in a tradition that began in Cleveland at the Moondog Coronation Ball.
Officially, the anniversary was on Wednesday. But the Ball was held on a Friday, and right now it’s almost quittin time across the Midwest.
Not too long ago, jobs in the new green economy were seen as the number one solution to transform the Midwest economy. You almost couldn’t go to any sort of economic luncheon or policy briefing without hearing about it.
So, how is the Midwest actually doing when it comes to creating these “green jobs”?
Meh. We’re doing all right. Not great. Not horrible.
Yesterday, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics for the first time released data on how many jobs there are in “green goods and services.” The figures include construction jobs for people who weatherize homes, manufacturing jobs for people who make fuel efficient cars and scientific jobs for people who try to come up with environmental solutions, among many other kinds of jobs.
The headline is that the U.S. had about 3.1 million of these green jobs in 2010, accounting for about 2.4 percent of all jobs in the country.
If you just look at the sheer number of jobs, the Midwest did pretty well: Both Illinois and Ohio rank in the top ten. But those are also big states, with lots of jobs. So, if you look at the numbers just based on the percentage of the states’ overall jobs that can be classified as “green,” then the numbers are less impressive.