One Year Later, Still Singing In Wisconsin

It’s been a year since people first started filling the Wisconsin capitol building to protest changes in the state’s collective bargaining rules. Every day at noon, a group that calls itself the “Solidarity Singers” gathers at the Capitol. Reporter Niala Boodhoo took this video on a reporting trip there last week. Tomorrow, Niala will have a story looking at what’s changed. For now, though, check out the Solidarity Singers.

An Indiana Battery Maker Goes Bankrupt, Creating New Questions For A Growing Industry

An advanced battery made by EnerDel, a division of Ener1

The name Ener1 may not be familiar to you.

But the company does have some of your money.

Indiana-based Ener1 is one of the major players in the new advanced battery economy that we reported on back in October. Advanced battery manufacturing has received well over a billion dollars in federal, state and local investment. The biggest chunk for Ener1 came in the form of a $118.5 million grant as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus program (the company was called EnerDel at the time).

Not surprisingly, Ener1’s bankruptcy has led to some vigorous finger-pointing in Washington.

But what will the bankruptcy mean for the battery industry in the Midwest, and the jobs it created?

Continue reading “An Indiana Battery Maker Goes Bankrupt, Creating New Questions For A Growing Industry”

Right to Work May Be Law Tomorrow in Indiana

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is on the verge of achieving the top item on his agenda. Indiana’s Senate is expected to cast a final vote tomorrow on Right to Work legislation, and Daniels most likely will sign it soon after

Right to Work States/Source: Drscoundels.com.

Right to Work laws prohibit a union from collecting mandatory dues at a workplace, even if they are representing the employees. Both houses in Indiana have already approved a Right to Work measure, but one house is required to agree on the other’s bill.

This morning, there were protestors at the Indiana State Capitol, singing “Solidarity Forever” as Democratic lawmakers prepared last-minute amendments to the bill, said the Indianapolis Star.

One would seek a statewide referendum on the issue. The other would let companies choose whether to continue mandatory dues.

Neither proposal is expected to be successful, because Republicans have a strong grip on the Indiana Senate.

Indiana is set to become the 23rd state to adopt Right to Work legislation, and the first since Oklahoma in 2001.

A “Midwestern Boy at Heart” Riding Out the Recession in Maryland

Name: Ben Bradley
Midwest Home: Minneapolis, MN
New Home: Maryland

I graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in May of 2009. I had been applying for jobs in the Twin Cities area and the Midwest in general since the previous October, but hadn’t gotten a single interview.

After I graduated I continued to apply for jobs and ended up spending 9 months unemployed. By that point I had started applying to any engineering job that I was qualified for, and some that I wasn’t.

I eventually got an interview and was offered a job working on flight tests for the Navy in Maryland. The economy is booming where I live now, thanks almost exclusively to defense spending. Economically, I am in a much better position than I was, but I don’t quite fit in with the local culture.

I would love to move back to the Midwest. I grew up there and prefer the culture to that of the east coast. I’m a Midwestern boy at heart, but it seems like there aren’t any jobs for me there right now. It is my hope that once the economy picks up a bit more, I will be able to find a job in the Twin Cities.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.

4 Things $100 Million Could Buy The Midwest (Besides Political Ads in Wisconsin)

Talking Points Memo, an influential political blog, is estimating that as much as $100 million could be spent on the recall fight involving Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

$100 million and this turkey is yours

It quotes analysts saying spending could be two or three times the $44 million that candidates and their supporters spent during state Senate recall races last year. Walker, at least, is getting ready for a pitched battle. He raised $4.5 million in just over a month, and has more than $2 million on hand, according to TPM.

But, given the state of our economy, that got us thinking: what else could $100 million pay for in the Midwest? We found all kinds of things that carry that price tag. Continue reading “4 Things $100 Million Could Buy The Midwest (Besides Political Ads in Wisconsin)”

Midwest Memo: A $3 Billion Idea To Stop Asian Carp, New Plans For Navy Pier And Streetcars In Milwaukee

The $3 billion fish What’s the best way to keep invasive Asian Carp from entering the Great Lakes and terrorizing the sport fishing industry? A new report says Lake Michigan should be disconnected from the Mississippi River. The two water bodies have no natural connection, but they’ve been connected by a series of man-made canals. Problem is, undoing that work will cost at least $3 billion.

Plans for the Pier Chicago’s Navy Pier is planning an $85 million face-lift. The Chicago Tribune has a look at five ambitious plans for the pier. One official admits to the paper that all the plans would exceed the budget for the project. But he’s hoping to generate enthusiasm for the Pier – and maybe some donations.

Streetcars in Milwaukee A plan to put streetcars in downtown Milwaukee moved one step forward yesterday. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that federal regulators say the plan will have no negative environmental impact. The question of paying for the rail line is more complicated.

Homeless, not hopeless The number of homeless children in Ohio has nearly doubled since 2006. Partner station ideastream Cleveland has a look at one program trying to keep those kids in school.

A visit from the Veep Less than a week after President Obama visited Ann Arbor, Mich., Vice President Biden will be in the Mitten State for a speech in Grand Rapids on Wednesday. Partner station Michigan Radio has the details.

The Midwest and Manufacturing, From Changing Gears

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The rebound in manufacturing is making news all over the country, especially here in the Midwest.

Last fall, in one of our best-received series, Changing Gears devoted a month of reports to exploring how manufacturing has changed. The plants of today are not your father’s factories, and the workers they are employing are not the same people who worked in plants a generation ago.

Ford's Rouge plant, by Charles Sheeler

Here, to refresh your memory, is our series on Midwest Manufacturing.

TEMPS: Think there are no jobs in manufacturing? Kate Davidson found there are plenty — for temporary workers. Staffing agencies that provide workers to manufacturing plants are finding that they can’t keep up with the demand.

ADVANCED MANUFACTURING: Here in the Midwest, you often hear the term “advanced manufacturing. But what it is? And why do we need to remain leaders in this field? Dan Bobkoff explained in this story.

RON BLOOM: One of the most controversial men in manufacturing during the past few years was Ron Bloom, the Obama administration official who helped oversee the $82 billion bailout to Detroit’s automakers. Bloom recently moved back to Pittsburgh, and he has plenty to say about the role of manufacturing in our national economy. Bobkoff talked to him for Changing Gears.

BATTELLE: Steve Jobs’ death last fall reminded us that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products. That’s because ideas need a push – and in some cases, a big one, from from science, to become reality. That’s especially true for manufacturers. Niala Boodhoo told the little-known story of Ohio’s Battelle Memorial Institute.

The Two Most Important Lines You’ll See Today

Line graphs are usually nothing to get excited about. But this particular graph released today by the Chicago Fed tells the story of manufacturing over the last decade. Represented in that one bold line are the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people in the Midwest. The bold line shows the jobs that were lost, the factories that were shut down and the products we no longer make. We can learn a lot from where that line has been, and where it seems to be headed. Continue reading “The Two Most Important Lines You’ll See Today”

Prince Fielder’s Economic Impact for Detroit — and Milwaukee

If you’re a baseball fan, you already know that the ground shook last week when the Detroit Tigers signed slugger Prince Fielder. His nine-year, $214 million contract cost the Tigers as much as Ford plans to spend on a new engine plant in Brazil.

Prince Fielder at his first Detroit Tigers press conference

But Crain’s Detroit Business says the Tigers — and Detroit — can afford the former Milwaukee Brewers star.

That word comes from Chris Ilitch, the son of Tigers’ owner Michael Ilitch, and the president of Illitch Family Holdings, Inc., the family’s group of companies that includes pizza giant Little Caesar’s Enterprises.

Those companies, including the Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings, and Detroit’s Motor City casino, generate about $4 billion in annual revenue.

In 2010, the latest year for which information is available, the Tigers had annual revenue of $192 million, according to Forbes.com. Continue reading “Prince Fielder’s Economic Impact for Detroit — and Milwaukee”

Finding the Right Cultural Vibe After a Reluctant Move

Name: Zoe Johnson
Midwest Home: Detroit, MI
New Home: Portland, OR

My former husband worked for a company which was a support arm of the auto industry. We left the city of Detroit in 2007 and moved to Portland. I have mixed feelings about the move but overall it was a good choice. I am self-employed which has been challenging.

My youngest daughter, who is 25, just moved from the Metro Detroit area in October of 2011. She had been without employment in Michigan for several years. She found a job immediately after arriving in the Portland Metro area and is much happier overall.

I would not move back to the Midwest. The culture and mindset is much different, the economy has suffered, and the infrastructure is grounded on old belief systems.

The values of the people here in the Pacific Northwest are more closely aligned with my own philosophy and values.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.