Midwest Memo: Friday, April 29, 2011

A lot of empty seats can be seen at the average Cleveland Indians game lately. Photo by Eric Wellman.

Population loss across the Midwest is contributing to a lot of empty seats in the region’s baseball stadiums. Baseball teams in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit and Pittsburgh are having a hard time filling seats, despite lowered prices and various attempts to get fans back to watching the ball game live. Eric Wellman of WCPN 90.3 recently filed this report on how the Cleveland Indians are using new social media tactics to get fans to fill the many empty seats.

Detroit is one of the few Midwest cities that can boast good baseball crowds. Sportscaster Mario Impemba is offering Tiger fans on active military duty a DVD of the team’s opening day ceremonies and the game.

Ford and Whirlpool aren’t the only Midwest companies that had good first quarters this year. Three Michigan based companies also saw an increase in revenue. Sales for Dow Chemical rose 20 percent to $14.7 billion dollars from the same quarter last year. CMS Energy netted $135 million in the first three months of this year, compared to $85 million last year. And Penske Automotive saw a 51.7 percent increase in operating income compared to first quarter last year.

General Motors is facing scrutiny from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for what may be inaccurate fuel gauges in 865,000 of its S.U.V.s. The agency has received hundreds of complaints about cars running out of gas and stalling, despite the fuel gauge showing that there is still some gas left in the tank.

The unemployment rate for blacks in Michigan rivals what it was during the Great Depression, according to the liberal-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The brief by the group says the average unemployment rate for African-Americans in Michigan is 23.4 percent, and 15.9 percent nationwide during 2010. That’s compared to an average unemployment rate of 10.8 percent in Michigan, and 8 percent nationwide for White workers.

CEO’s for Cities is offering one million dollars to the U.S. city that can increase its number of post secondary degree holders the most. The group says education is key to a thriving city, and the revitalization of struggling cities.

Detroit may be the next city to hand finances over to an emergency manager. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said yesterday that if the state doesn’t allow the city to extend income and utility taxes, it will lost about $100 million in revenue. If that happens, an emergency city manager may have to be called in to deal with the city’s budget crisis.

In 2009, Ohio voters approved the groundwork for the state to get four new casinos. But those casinos have now hit a bit of a snag with Governor John Kasich. The casinos need a license from the state to open, but Kasich says he’s okay with holding off construction on the casinos until he’s sure the state will get its fair share of revenues.  The casino set to be built in Cincinnati has already delayed its opening day because of this issue.

In this week’s Happy Friday segment, Detroit  zoo goers may soon get to see a baby zebra. The baby Wild Grevy Zebra, named Jimmy, learned to stand in just a few hours. This particular type of zebra is an endangered species because of loss of habitat and competition with livestock.