Midwest Memo: Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport is about to get a makeover. Photo courtesy of Rick Jackson / ideastream.

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport is getting a $1.6 billion makeover. Some of the work is already underway, but completing the construction can take anywhere between 10 to 24 years. Airport officials say the current airport is poorly functional and too small.

Ohio Governor John Kasich is discouraging voters from approving school levies in November. Many school districts say if the proposed cuts in Kasich’s budget become reality, they’ll be forced to ask taxpayers for support. But the governor said no school district will be cut by more than 8 percent, and raising taxes will only discourage businesses from moving in.

Cleveland’s lakefront development has a new supporter: the Cleveland Browns. The Browns, along with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson have announced plans to create a mixed-use project on the shores of Lake Erie. The plan is still
in its infant stage, but the team hopes that a combination of their local popularity and (they hope) investment from the Cleveland Clinic will be enough to push the project past any potential real estate challenges.

Walgreens plans to install 30 more charging stations for electric cars in their store parking lots. According to the Chicago Sun Times, some 280 similar charging stations are set to be implemented at various locations around the Chicago area. To help customers find those charging stations, Google is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Energy to map their locations.

Detroit has become the poster-city of the Great Recession. But it turns out that Miami, Florida has passed the auto city in its unemployment rate. Since the auto industry has shown signs of recovery, Detroit’s unemployment rate fell from 14.5 percent a year ago to about 11 percent now; Miami-Dade is stuck at almost 13 percent. Of course, a closer look at the numbers reveals a more complex picture. Part of the reason Detroit’s unemployment rate dropped is because a lot of people just stopped looking for work, but Miami’s labor pool actually grew last year.

Toyota is cutting back on U.S. production - again. Photo courtesy of Francesc Esteve via Flickr.

Japanese auto production in the U.S. is being slowed even more. Automakers from the devastated island nation have announced they’re further cutting back production in the States. Toyota is suspending production at plants in Kentucky, Indiana and elsewhere on Mondays and Fridays, and operating plants at half capacity the rest of the week from April 26 through early June. This graph demonstrates just how interconnected the Japanese auto industry is with the rest of the world.

A few weeks ago we told you about a professor from the University of Michigan whose e-mails are being subjected to the Freedom of Information Act. Now, he and his colleagues are asking the University not to give out the requested information to preserve “academic freedom.” The FOIA request is coming from the conservative think-thank the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. They say they suspect illegal political goings-on at the university surrounding the recent debate about union rights in Michigan.

Michigan’s Senate budget committee is back tracking on proposed cuts to education. Instead of cutting a proposed $300 per student, the new proposal would only trim $170 per student. But the state’s schools superintendent says while he’s grateful for any extra money that goes to K-12 education, he hopes reductions in cuts to his department won’t mean cuts to crucial programs elsewhere.

Michigan is betting that tax breaks to automotive and food processing companies will bring in nearly 1,400 jobs. The state is trading tax incentives with five companies in exchange for millions of dollars in private investments and job creation.

Finally, poet and essayist Elizabeth Alexander will present the 2011 Hopwood Lecture at the University of Michigan today. The program awards cash prizes to students for outstanding creative work. Alexander performed one of her works at the 2008 inauguration of President Obama.

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