Midwest Memo: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

GM is hiking prices for its cars and trucks. Photo courtesy of Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

General Motors cars and trucks are getting more expensive. The Detroit based car company says it will raise the prices of its vehicles by about $123 dollars to make up for jumps in the cost of oil and metal starting May 2nd. GM is the third company recently to announce an increase in auto prices, joining Toyota and Ford.

In other auto news, electric cars have won the favor of the Obama administration. Now, hydrogen fuel cell cars are trying to do the same. Supporters say hydrogen powered cars are ready for the mass market, but U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu disagrees. Since there’s not federal funding backing up the research, these cars – such as the Honda FCX Clarity – costs about $600 a month to lease.

Not long after Borders filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, huge banners advertising liquidation sales were raised on many of the booksellers stores. If you haven’t hit up one of those sales yet, this is your last chance. Hilco Merchant Services, the company taking care of the liquidation sales, says most of the stores being liquidated will close by this weekend.

U.S. Senator Mark Kirk from Illinois says he’s got a solution to reduce rapidly rising gas prices. His solution: a mix of permanent tax credits and off-shore drilling. He thinks that would take care of the problem of market instability, often caused by overseas conflict, like the ongoing events in Libya.

In a bit of brighter economic news that usual, more people are choosing to build new homes. Home construction was up 7.2 percent in March from February. Building permits has risen 11.2 percent since February, when they actually hit a 50 year low.

Still looking for work? The Sound of Ideas from WCPN 90.3 looked at what fields are hiring, and how to snag those jobs. Jobs in information technology and manufacturing as well as efforts at retraining the local work force were all covered.

This year, Ohio has 14,000 EdChoice vouchers available. Those give families the option to leave low-performing public schools. But the program has outgrown the number of vouchers available – 15,397 families are asking to switch to better schools. Governor John Kasich wants to expand this program, more than doubling it by next year.

A $1 billion dollar construction project for a new seven story headquarters for tiremaker Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, has been delayed for three years because of the Great Recession. Now, a new funding deal including $161 million in public financing from the project from state and local governments means shovels are finally hitting the ground.

A new bill in Ohio would require people applying for welfare to take a drug test first. Lawmakers supporting the idea say those benefiting from public tax dollars shouldn’t be taking illegal drugs, so it’s only fair to ask them to prove they aren’t. But opponents say taking away the resources of people who rely on drugs won’t solve the root of their problems.

Ohio drivers can expect to see more orange cones when they hit the highway. Photo by Perfesser via Flickr.

Ohio lost a lot of construction jobs during the recession, but now the Ohio Department of Transportation is announcing almost 700 new construction projects statewide. Some of those will be to replace or maintain crumbling bridges, others to widen and rebuild roads, and the rest will be to repave highways. ODOT will be spending tens of millions of dollars on the projects, and drivers should prepare for slow downs due to construction.





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