The Material Girl Shows Her Midwest Love, We Wonder: Who’s The Greatest Cultural Ambassador For The Midwest Today?

Madonna talked about her love of the Midwest during an interview on the NFL Network yesterday. She's performing the halftime show at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on Sunday.

This year’s Super Bowl is between two east coast teams, but everything else about it is a showcase for the Midwest. The game itself is in Indianapolis, which gives the city global media exposure.

And then there’s the halftime show performance by Madonna. Before she was the Material Girl, Madonna was just a Midwestern girl.

Yesterday, Madonna sat down for an interview with the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, and the conversation seemed to promote the Midwest as much as it promoted football.

Continue reading “The Material Girl Shows Her Midwest Love, We Wonder: Who’s The Greatest Cultural Ambassador For The Midwest Today?”

Conflicting Feelings About Growing Up in the Midwest

Name:Geoffrey Taylor
Midwest Home: Sioux City, IA
New Home
: Eddyville, OR

My knowledge of my hatred of and my love of the Midwest is informed by many years spent there.

My high school is now a vacant lot, where scabrous alley cats urinate in the dirt, and the cold wind blows old papers in the same spot where I had to study algebra.  Yet my mind goes back to the room where Miss Edith Pollock taught me how to write.

I love Sioux City so much it hurts.  I wish to hurt it back.

Would I move back to the Midwest? Not if they made me the governor of Iowa.  Not for a million dollars in cash.  Not at gunpoint.  Not if I got to relive it all, and be a teenager again.  But the memories of that place and time are precious.

Midwest Memo: Stopping Super Bowl Sex Trafficking In Indianapolis, Paying For Arts In Detroit

The part that’s not so Super It’s Super Bowl weekend in Indianapolis. Cities that host the Super Bowl are usually hoping for a big economic boost. But there’s one kind of economic activity that Indiana officials are hoping to avoid: sex trafficking. Reporter Michael Puente from partner station WBEZ had a look at the city’s efforts last week.

Land for sale If you’re looking to buy some land, you might want to check in with Cleveland-based the Forest City real estate company. The company, which built its empire on land purchases, is now looking to unload more than 6,500 acres of land.

An art tax? The Detroit Institute of Arts has a world class reputation, but lately it hasn’t been making world class money. Institute leaders are exploring the option of a new regional tax to pay for operations.

The (not so much) money train Leaders in West Michigan have rounded up $4.6 billion in funds to improve regional rail lines. But that’s still $2.6 billion short of what they need for what they’re hoping to do.

On air NPR’s Talk of the Nation took on the future of American manufacturing jobs yesterday.

Chrysler’s Belvidere, the Timex of Assembly Plants

Call it the Timex of assembly plants. Chrysler’s Belvidere, Ill, factory takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

Dodge Dart at the Detroit Auto Show

On Thursday, the carmaker said it will add 1,800 jobs at Belvidere, in northwestern Illinois, not far from the Quad Cities area. Some of the workers will make the new Dodge Dart, a revival of the 1970s nameplate, which Chrysler unveiled at the Detroit Auto Show. Others will produce the Jeep Liberty and Compass.

For Belvidere, and surrounding Boone County, the jobs are welcome. The area, where one in five people work in manufacturing, had a 14.4 percent unemployment rate in December, far higher than the national average. Continue reading “Chrysler’s Belvidere, the Timex of Assembly Plants”

Trombone Shorty Gets The Ultimate New Orleans Honor

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is special to us at Changing Gears. He gave us his song “Right to Complain,” for the Changing Gears theme song. He’s doing his part to help kids in New Orleans, in the same way that people are trying to help out in the Midwest.

Trombone Shorty

Now, Andrews has gotten the ultimate New Orleans honor. He’s the subject of this year’s Jazz and Heritage Festival poster. It’s called Porch Song, and shows Andrews on the porch of his home in Treme. The artist is Terrance Osborne.

Andrews, 25, is joining a heralded group of musicians who’ve appeared on the poster, including Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Louis Prima, Jimmy Buffett, and Fats Domino.

We talked to him not long after Changing Gears went on the air in 2010. Hear his interview a few months ago with our friends Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis on Sound Opinions, from our partner station WBEZ.

Our How-To Guide For Making A Hardscrabble, Gritty, Post-Industrial Documentary About Detroit

The Michigan Central Depot is a must-have shot for any documentary about Detroit.

Detroit is a city that fascinates a lot of people.

Its story is not a simple one, though it has sometimes been a dramatic one. So maybe it’s not surprising that we seem to hear every week about a new documentary film being made about Detroit.

Changing Gears hasn’t had a chance to see all of these documentaries, but we’ve heard about an awful lot of them.

And we’ve noticed some patterns that we thought could be helpful in case you ever decide to make a documentary about the Motor City.

So, here is our DIY guide for how to make a Detroit documentary:

Surviving Layoffs and Leaving Anyway, “The Writing Was on the Wall”

Name: Stephany Wilkes
Midwest Home: Michigan
New Home: San Francisco, CA

I left Michigan in August 2001 after my employer,, sold their online division to Amazon and laid off most of my colleagues. Though I was not among them, the writing was on the wall.

In addition, I didn’t find Midwest work culture particularly friendly or flexible. There is thinking that one should be grateful to have a job, any job, no matter how awful it might be.

Stephany Wilkes

I moved to San Francisco in 2007 where I work in data science and software development.

Being in San Francisco and the Bay Area has made me realize that geography does still matter. I am not sure how I would find the number of highly skilled, highly educated engineers I need in Michigan. I wouldn’t be able to conduct frequent meetings with venture capitalists on short notice. I’ve also fallen in love with the Bay Area’s “work to live” culture, its mild weather, the huge diversity of people and lifestyles, and other quality of life aspects.

Midwest Memo: A Busy Day In Indiana, More Money In Cleveland and Google Owes Us 700 Jobs

Indiana’s busy day Yesterday, the big news in Indiana was that legislators approved a new Right to Work law. But that wasn’t all the legislature accomplished. They also put the nail in the coffin of a $1.3 billion transit plan.

What the frack Bloomberg News says Ohio officials are hoping to stop the flow of fracking waste into their state. Meanwhile gas companies are still pushing their new natural gas drilling techniques further. Get ready for “super fracking.”

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Police The city of Cleveland is getting a  $10 million tax windfall this year thanks to new construction. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the money will help pay for an extra 20 police officers.

Notable tax credit news A new report in Michigan says tax changes will hit poor families 1000 times as hard as families that are well off. One of the main reasons is the elimination of the state’s child tax credit. Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proposed adding child credit in his State of the State speech last night.

700 jobs short Google is celebrating its fifth birthday in Ann Arbor. When the company first opened its Ann Arbor office in 2006, it was huge news for the state. The company said it would hire 1,000 workers in the first five years. The actual number is closer to 300. (We tried asking Google: “Where are the rest of our jobs?” The search didn’t turn up anything useful.)

Love Your Region? There’s A Shirt For That

The Michigangster tee from Michigan Awesome

The story of the economic transformation in the Midwest is a story about new jobs, new industries and economic growth.

But it’s also a story about how we regain our swagger.

And part of regaining our swagger is reminding ourselves what we love about where we live. There are now countless official PR and advertising campaigns aimed at doing just that. But there’s also a growing movement of young entrepreneurs who want us to wear our local pride. Wear it like a shirt.

The explosion of new businesses selling custom-designed t-shirts is not a local thing. And the growth of the “t-shirt economy” has been going on for at least the last several years.

But here in the Midwest, selling t-shirts with a local message isn’t just a business plan. It’s a transformative idea. Whenever you see one of these shirts on the street, you’re seeing a person that’s invested in the survival, growth and reinvention of our region. At the very least, they’re willing to invest $15 in it.

And wherever you live in the Midwest, there’s a now a t-shirt to show your local pride. Here’s a list of some of the t-shirt companies we’ve found:

Continue reading “Love Your Region? There’s A Shirt For That”