As Two Airlines Merge, A Tale of Two Cities

It’s a new era of airline consolidation. On Monday, Southwest Airlines announced plans to buy regional rival AirTran Holdings. The mega-merger between Continental and United becomes official on Friday. The new United becomes the country’s largest carrier and will call Chicago home. As our Changing Gears team chronicles the Midwest’s economy, Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, and Niala Boodhoo in Chicago present a tale of two cities.

At Chicago O’Hare International Airport, Terminal One is full of United Airlines passengers rushing to their flights. But stop and ask people how they’re feeling about the upcoming merger with Continental Airlines, and the response from Libertyville, Ill., resident Roger Janczek is typical.

Continue reading “As Two Airlines Merge, A Tale of Two Cities”

Still Working: Tom Malvetis of the Unicorn Tavern

Still WorkingThe number of older Americans working full time has been rising steadily for years.  Many work because they have to.  Some work because they want to and they feel they have something to offer that would otherwise disappear.  In an occasional series called “Still Working,” Changing Gears is profiling workers still on the job in their 80s and 90s.  We found one of them behind the bar in Lansing, Michigan.

Tom Malvetis, owner Unicorn Tavern. Photo by Kyle Leppek

Continue reading “Still Working: Tom Malvetis of the Unicorn Tavern”

Coming Up This Week From Changing Gears

Here’s what Changing Gears has planned for the week beginning Sept. 27.

Still Working: Kate Davidson begins an occasional series called Still Working. Many Americans work beyond retirement, some because they have to, some because they feel they have a contribution to make. But a number of people are working in their 80s and beyond. Davidson talks to Tom Malvetis, 88, the owner of the Unicorn Tavern in Lansing, Mich. Once it was a bar for auto workers, now it has a new clientele, all watched over by Malvetis.

A Tale of Two Cities On Friday, the merger between United Airlines and Continental Airlines is set to become official. Two cities in the region are watching the deal: Chicago, which becomes the big airline’s corporate headquarters, and Cleveland, long a Continental hub. Reporters Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland look at the implications for both places.

Continue reading “Coming Up This Week From Changing Gears”

We Started The Conversation. Now You have the Mic.

CG call-in show 016


Thanks for joining Changing Gears for its first live call-in show and Web chat. We appreciated all your calls and great ideas. Now we’re giving you the microphone.

What’s on your mind about the industrial Midwest? Jobs, the cities, education, the arts? Tell us here. Post on our Facebook page. And Tweet us @chgears.

If you have specific information for stories, email us at changinggears (at) And welcome to the future.

Welcome to Our Changing Gears Live Chat

Welcome to the first live chat from Changing Gears, a new public media project that looks at the future of the Midwest. We kicked off on the air this week, with reports on The Film Factory, Sandusky, Ohio, Reversal of Fortune and Brownfields. But this is a two-way conversation. And now we want to hear from your ideas.

We’re discussing Big vs. Small — What’s the Future of Our Great Lakes Cities? Vince Duffy, the news director at Michigan Radio, is your moderator. Listen along to our call-in show at 3 pm ET/2 pm CT on WBEZ, Michigan Radio and ideastream, and post your thoughts below. Rules: keep it clean, keep it thoughtful.

Brownfields: Emptying Them Out Is Just The First Step

The Plant Takes Root in the Stockyards from The Plant Chicago on Vimeo.

Long-abandoned factories have scarred the Midwest landscape for generations. Tens of  thousands sit vacant across the region, the tally growing by the day as companies shut more plants down. There may be as many as one million such properties across the United States. Some spaces are now being used in innovative ways, but there are huge challenges to renovating these sites. Changing Gears reporter Niala Boodhoo in Chicago takes a look at what’s involved in taking these places apart – and in putting them back together.


On the edge of the Old Stockyards on the South side of Chicago, John Edel is in the process of converting his second abandoned factory. He’s not a famous industrialist, or a millionaire. It’s just how he feels he can help the city.

Continue reading “Brownfields: Emptying Them Out Is Just The First Step”

Become Part of Team Gears. Then, Talk to Us

Many of you are discovering Changing Gears for the first time. Maybe you heard us on your NPR station. Or found out about us on We want you to be part of Team Gears — right now.

Please “like” the Changing Gears page on Facebook. Follow @ChGears on Twitter. Sign up for daily emails (in that little box on the right). Send us emails to changinggears (at) Tell us what you think in our comments section.

Continue reading “Become Part of Team Gears. Then, Talk to Us”

At Auto Plants, A Reversal of Fortune

Two Years, Two TiersThe American Dream is that each generation will do better than the last.  But many families of auto workers no longer have that expectation.  As Detroit car makers sped towards financial ruin, their union agreed to a dual wage structure,  plus deep cuts in benefits.  Now, new hires earn about half what traditional workers make.  Changing Gears Ann Arbor reporter Kate Davidson tells how this reversal of fortune has altered their lives.[audio:20100921_davidson.mp3]

To download this MP3 or listen on a smartphone that doesn’t allow flash, click here.

The newest workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have an unusual name.  They’re called “two-tiers,” meaning their wages fall on the second tier of pay in their union contracts.

Will Dunlap is one of them.  He says the two-tiers joke that, “If two two-tier people died in a fire, they’d save one GM employee lost.  You feel like half an employee.” Continue reading “At Auto Plants, A Reversal of Fortune”

Sandusky: A City on a Roller-coaster


Most people when they hear of Sandusky think Cedar Point: the amusement park that has been bringing millions of people to Northern Ohio for 140 years. Despite its tourism, the city is on a roller coaster of its own. As Changing Gears kicks off this week, we also start a series about Sandusky, a place we’ll follow as it wrestles with the problems affecting the whole region.

Photos: Adee Braun

Continue reading “Sandusky: A City on a Roller-coaster”