Team Gears Welcomes Food Writer Michael Nagrant

Everybody in the Chicago food scene knows (or knows of) Michael Nagrant, and we’re happy to announce he’ll be a contributor to Changing Gears. Mike is taking charge of Reinvention Recipes, our look at chefs and food purveyors across the region who are taking new approaches to cuisine. Watch for Reinvention videos and recipes to run here soon.

In my short stint in Chicago, I’ve found Mike to be an encyclopedia of the local food scene. Ask him for a recommendation, as I did today, and you’ll get a synopsis of the menu, the backgrounds of the chefs and a description of the atmosphere and prices.

His work has appeared in Saveur, as well as New York Magazine’s Grub Street blog. He’s a regular contributor to Chicago Magazine and the Chicago Sun Times, and the regular food columnist for and CS-Modern Luxury. He also was — drum roll — an essayist in the Alinea cookbook by chef Grant Achatz that won the James Beard Award. Continue reading “Team Gears Welcomes Food Writer Michael Nagrant”

Team Gears: On The Scene in Ann Arbor

I’m Kate Davidson and I am delighted to be joining Changing Gears as our Ann Arbor based reporter.  Ann Arbor is just lovely this time of year.  For one thing, it’s cooler than Washington D.C., where I grew up.  (When we moved to D.C. from Buffalo, my brother was four.  He greeted the sweaty capital by stepping off the plane and promptly fainting.)

Until my things arrive, I’m staying in temporary university housing, where kids criss-cross the yard in the morning, practicing martial arts.  They defy neighborhood naps with trumpet practice.

Ann Arbor has always had the reputation of being a place apart from the rest of the Detroit area.  A local landlord summed it up this way:

“Ann Arbor – twenty-eight square miles surrounded by reality.”

But that reality is exactly what Changing Gears is about.  And I need your help to understand it. Continue reading “Team Gears: On The Scene in Ann Arbor”

Radio Times: The State of the U.S. Auto Industry

On Monday, Senior Editor Micki Maynard spent an hour on Radio Times from WHYY in Philadelphia, discussing the state of the American auto industry. If WHYY sounds familiar, that’s because it is the public radio home of Fresh Air with Terry Gross. Micki joined Case Western Reserve University economist Susan Helper and host Marty Moss-Coane, fielding questions from listeners and even one from Twitter.

Take a listen and feel free to weigh in on the discussion below.


Team Gears: Our Man in Cleveland

Dan BobkoffI’m Dan Bobkoff, and as the Cleveland reporter for Changing Gears, I’ll be holding down our fort on Lake Erie.

If you’re a regular listener to our partner station WCPN ideastream, you’ve already heard me for the past three years, doing reports on business and politics in northern Ohio. Many of those have run on NPR shows like All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Here’s one I did recently for Weekend Edition on interesting new uses for excess infrastructure.

One thing I’ve learned since I moved here nearly four years ago is that Cleveland and Northern Ohio don’t have as clear a national image as Michigan and Chicago. That’s both good and bad. Many outside the Midwest have no real conception of what’s happening here and what it’s like to live here. For some, the image is stuck in a 40-year time warp conjuring up images of a Cuyahoga River on fire and late night comics picking on Cleveland as the “mistake on the lake.” Sure, foreclosures, population loss and the decline of manufacturing have taken their toll, but Northeast Ohio is also home to a world class orchestra, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a fantastic hospital, food scene, and a downtown that’s looking better every year. Continue reading “Team Gears: Our Man in Cleveland”

From the Senior Editor: Meet Team Gears

It’s an exciting week for the Changing Gears team. All of our reporters are now in place — Dan Bobkoff, who is working from partner WCPN ideastream in Cleveland; Kate Davidson, based at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor, and Niala Boodhoo, who is our Chicago reporter based at WBEZ in Chicago.

To reach any of us, send an email to changinggears (at) And welcome, Team Gears!

The Future of the Automobile Industry

Senior Editor Micki Maynard appeared on The Diane Rehm Show on NPR stations Monday to discuss the future of the automobile industry.

The show featured a number of callers from the Changing Gears region, who had interesting stories and opinions on federal assistance for General Motors and Chrysler. Other guests included David Shepardson, the veteran Washington automotive reporter for the Detroit News.

Did you listen to the program? Let us know your thoughts on the industry’s future.

From the Senior Editor: Obama’s Victory Lap

This week and next, President Obama is taking a victory lap. But is it too soon?

On Friday, the president was set to visit General Motors and Chrysler plants in Detroit. Next week, he’ll be in Chicago to visit the Ford Motor factory.

At the two Detroit plants, workers literally owe their livelihoods to the president, whose administration provided the carmakers with more than $60 billion to assure their survival. You can argue the Ford workers should be grateful as well, since Ford’s future would have been threatened had its two Detroit rivals gone into liquidation.

I talked about the automobile industry’s situation on NPR’s Morning Edition with my good friend Don Gonyea, who spent many years on the car beat when he was based in Detroit. This is a story of deep interest to the Changing Gears region, and its outcome will play a huge role in determining the future of the Manufacturing Belt. Continue reading “From the Senior Editor: Obama’s Victory Lap”

Updated: An Oil Spill Of Our Own

The oil spill in the Kalamazoo River looks worse than originally thought. It now covers more than 25 miles of the Kalamazoo River, according to the latest information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm declared a state of disaster in Calhoun County and potentially affected areas along the Kalamazoo River downstream of Talmadge Creek in response to Monday’s oil spill from a pipeline near Marshall, Michigan.

“This disaster declaration reinforces our efforts to ensure the safety of Michigan citizens and the environment by making any needed state resources readily available,” said Granholm.

Continue reading “Updated: An Oil Spill Of Our Own”

Volt and Leaf: Auto Companies Changing Gears?

General Motors is finally giving some of the most important details about the Chevrolet Volt. It’s a plug-in hybrid car that goes on sale late this year.

G.M. says the Volt will cost $41,000 (buyers may be eligible for a $7,500 federal tax credit for alternative fuel vehicles). The automaker also will offer leases on the Volt for $350 a month, since its sticker price puts it in the range of a small BMW or a Lexus.

G.M. has been talking about the Volt for a long time. Here’s a story I did for the New York Times in November 2008.  Back then, G.M. used the Volt as the centerpiece of its efforts to win a federal bailout from Congress. Those efforts failed, and G.M. went through a government-sponsored backruptcy a year later. Continue reading “Volt and Leaf: Auto Companies Changing Gears?”