Midwest Memo: Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Throughout the Great Recession, investment in start-up companies has been viewed as a central component in recharging the economy.

The Midwest, in particular, has been fertile ground for small-business incubators, as local governments have encouraged and funded these public-private business collaborations. The city of Cleveland has seven incubators alone.

But are cities getting good returns on their investments? That’s the question our partner station Ideastream explored in a report about the proliferation of incubators in northeast Ohio. Here’s a glimpse at what was found: these companies fail at a high rate.

While signs of economic rebound have emerged on a small scale in recent months, home prices continue their decline. The Associated Press reported today that major areas, including Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, are seeing their lowest price points since the housing bubble burst in 2006.

Elsewhere in the Midwest today:

A hearing will be held today in East Lansing, Mich. that examines agricultural opportunities for Michigan contained in the 2012 federal farm bill. The hearing will focus on the upcoming reauthorization of the farm bill, and look at agriculture, as well as energy, conservation and other policies that affect Michigan.

Meanwhile, one Ohio farmer’s quandary over weeds has become a cautionary tale on the, ahem, thorny issues involved in consolidating municipalities, reports the Columbus Dispatch. It’s also a glimpse of issues found at the crossroads of farmland and suburbia.

There’s more pushback aimed at Newsweek for including Grand Rapids, Mich. in its list of “dying cities.” Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert calls the city’s response, a lip-dub video set to Don MacLean’s “American Pie” that’s gone viral in recent days, “the greatest music video ever made.”

The federal government has earmarked $400 million for high-speed rail projects in Michigan. Six public meetings will be held across the state in coming months, according to Michigan Radio, to discuss the future of passenger and freight rail service.

What else is in store for Michigan? Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to detail plans that include an overhaul of the state’s teacher tenure system at this week’s Mackinac Policy Conference.

In Illinois, lawmakers spent Memorial Day approving legislation that would “dramatically expand gambling,” according to the Chicago Tribune, including plans for a Chicago casino supported by the city’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel.

Amid uncertainty over a push to limit collective-bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees, some of the state’s school districts have gained concessions from unions in benefits to ward off layoffs and program cuts, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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