Midwest Memo: Fracking Taxes, Manufacturing Grants And Head Start Problems In Detroit

Taxing the fracking Bloomberg reports that Ohio Gov. John Kasich has a new proposal to tax oil and gas drilling in his state. Taxes on the new kinds of drilling, known as “fracking,” could raise $1.02 billion for the state by 2016, according to the report.

$1 billion for manufacturing President Obama plans to be in Virginia today to promote a new $1 billion grant program to fund innovation in manufacturing. The plan requires approval from Congress.

Turning it around Wisconsin added jobs last month. But previous months’ figures were revised, creating a more mixed jobs picture.

Head Stop The federal government will stop sending $50 million a year to the city of Detroit to administer Head Start programs. The Detroit Free Press says the decision follows reports that city officials mishandled the money. Now, the government will try to find other organizations to run Head Start in the city.

Lower funds for higher ed Michigan is losing about $4 million in federal higher education funds. The loss is because the state cut its own budget for higher education, according to the Gannett news service.

Big Events Are Crucial For Economic Development. Here Are Five Tips For How To Create A Good One.

Austin during the 2011 SXSW Festival. Credit: James Buchan/SXSW

Starting this week, well over 100,000 people will be picking up their laminated badges, concert tickets and drink tokens to take part in the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

On a related note, in Grand Rapids, Mich., where I live, more than one thousand people will come out in the next few weeks for Gilda’s LaughFest (don’t make fun, I’m super excited about it).

LaughFest and SXSW really don’t have anything in common, except that they both represent how cities can create economic development through events. In Grand Rapids, this idea has become a bit of a thing, with LaughFest in the Spring, and ArtPrize in the fall.

Events like this may start small, but they can have a big economic impact. SXSW is estimated to have a $167 million impact on Austin. ArtPrize, in only its third year, had an estimated $15 million impact. The numbers for these events aren’t nearly as big as they are for the Super Bowl, or maybe even the G-8 and NATO summits, but those events move from place to place (even at the last minute).

The real problem is that lots of cities have events. How do you take yours to the next level, where you get national attention and big money? We’ve put together some tips.

Continue reading “Big Events Are Crucial For Economic Development. Here Are Five Tips For How To Create A Good One.”

How A Focus On The Positive Is Building Connections Between Cleveland And Its Suburbs

Barbera Anderson is one of the people involved in Cleveland's first "The Good News Tour." She's trying to renovate a house for homeless veterans. Credit: Inner Visions of Cleveland

Much of the economic turmoil that happened in the industrial Midwest over the past 20 or so years has played out in our central cities. Even during times when the suburbs thrived, cities like Cleveland, Dayton, Detroit, Pontiac, Flint, Gary and parts of Chicago were being hollowed out.

Sometimes it has seemed like people in the cities were facing completely different realities than people in the suburbs. Sometimes the differences have led to open hostility.

But yesterday, Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Margaret Bernstein wrote a story about a new project there that’s building a bridge between the city and suburbs. The project represents a different way of looking at our cities’ problems.

Continue reading “How A Focus On The Positive Is Building Connections Between Cleveland And Its Suburbs”

A Recipe for Trinidadian Pelau, Courtesy of Niala Boodhoo

Niala Boodhoo as a girl with her family

Today is the last day to enter our recipe contest. Enter here.

My parents are from Trinidad and Tobago, an island perhaps known for its Carnival, great cricket players (and Nobel-winning writers!) as well as one of my personal favorites: fantastic food. My great-great grandparents immigrated to Trinidad from India. Today, families like mine who have Indian ancestry make up a slight majority of Trinidad’s population, about 40 percent, but the nation is a mix of people of African, Chinese and European heritage. That’s why I think Trinidad has the best food in the Caribbean, although I know that opens me up to controversy from other islands!

I was born and raised in Miami, with at least a similar tropical climate – and my mom and especially my maternal grandmother, on visits here and there, provided the food. As I’ve grown up, my uncle on my mom’s side has taught me much more about how to cook – although I’m not sure I can ever reach his culinary standards!

The standard, of course, is Trinidad’s variation of curry, a green curry that’s hard to describe – it’s not like Thai curry, and in my exploration of South Asian food, I haven’t come across a similar version. But I haven’t perfected my mom’s or Uncle Victor’s curry, which is hard to top, and a great favorite with my nieces and nephews in Michigan and California. I do make my mom’s pelau – a chicken and rice dish, all in one pot, flavored with pigeon peas, coconut milk and the essential scotch bonnet pepper. I base my recipe on a cookbook my mom gave me a few years ago from her high school. I’ve yet to find parboiled rice in Chicago – which is essential to this recipe, because otherwise the rice gets mushy, so I import it from Miami, along with the brown sugar. Trinidad no longer produces the caramel, rich demerara sugar that is a standard for stew chicken – it now all comes from Guyana, but having a good quality brown sugar makes a difference, too.

As any West Indian will tell you, “seasoning” is key to imparting the flavor of this recipe. It’s best to let the chicken marinate in this green seasoning at least overnight. I also find that pelau always tastes better the day after it cooks, and like my mom, I like to serve this with a creamy, tart coleslaw as a foil for the spice of this dish. My parents also like to add ketchup as a condiment.

Continue reading “A Recipe for Trinidadian Pelau, Courtesy of Niala Boodhoo”

Arriving in a New Land, Alone at Seventeen

Most Americans have ethnic and cultural roots outside of the U.S. We’re asking you to share cultural traditions that are still important to you.

Changing Gears is looking for stories, recipes, songs, and pictures. We’ll be collecting these stories  on the Your Family Story page. They’ll also appear at changinggears.info and we’ll even put some on the air. You can share your story here.

In the early 1900’s our widowed great grandmother, Soledad Perez, left the USA and went back to La Piedad in Mexico to raise her four daughters: Luz, Angelina, Esther & Carmen.

In the winter of 1948 my mother, Esther, a young newly married 17 year-old, found herself in a Mexican border town boarding a train headed for the USA. Her husband (my father Antonio Ramirez Manzo) gave her an address of a Catholic parish in Detroit, MI.

My father had to stay at the border until his papers were fixed. My mother was alone and frightened but she came to the USA for a better future. She spoke no English and knew no one. But still, this frightened young seventeen year old came back to the country she was born in.

My father’s family comes from Sahuayo, Michuacan. His family surname Manzo is Italian. Many Manzos come from Colima, Mexico. My mothers family comes from La Piedad, Michuacan. Her father’s surname Perez is Spanish.
My father played guitar and sang traditional classical Mexican music. He retired from Ford Motor Company, but also supported our family with his music. He would play traditional Mexican music at social events & at the El Nibble Nook in Livonia, MI for many years.
-Carlos Manzo

Your Story: If You Love Michigan, Give Stuff Away for Free

Kedron Rhodes showing off some of the designs he's giving away during February

A lot of people like where they live, but there are also people like Kedron Rhodes-who love, love, love, where they live.

The 34 year-old professional designer lives outside of Grand Rapids.

He just can’t think of enough ways to show his appreciation for Michigan. But he’s trying. One of his ideas is to run a design challenge of sorts.

Each day in February, Rhodes is making a new graphic design and posting it online.

Anyone can download the designs and use them as they see fit.

“Take it and put it on a product,” said Rhodes. “Sell it, give it away, I don’t care.”

Rhodes is one of a number of young(ish) professionals dedicating themselves to earnest, old fashioned boosterism. It seems uncool and anti-hipster, but strangely-its not.

“I think the state has fantastic energy right now,” said Rhodes. “Maybe it’s that this re-birth is something my generation can really have an appreciation for.”

Rhodes grew up in western Michigan and then left the state for Florida, but he returned three years ago because he says he missed his family, the seasons, and even the snow.

Last year was the first year he ran his design challenge, and he’s seeing more interest this year.

Rhodes typically spends about an hour to an hour and a half each evening creating the designs. He says he has yet to see somebody walking by with one of his designs on a t-shirt, but he hopes too, soon.

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

Contest! Send Us Your Recipes For Our Midwest Family Collection

As part of our Your Family Story series, we’re collecting recipes that have been passed down within families. Send in your mother’s, grandfather’s, or cousins’ famous recipe for goulash, pozole, dumplings, babka — anything that’s descended from your ethnic roots.

We’re collecting recipes from this very second until midnight on Wednesday. Changing Gears will publish all the recipes in our Midwest Family Collection. The winning recipe, to be selected by the Changing Gears team, will be announced here and on our partner websites. As a prize, the winner will collect a grab bag of public radio goodies.

So, get cooking! We want to include you in our collection.

Midwest Memo: Lighting Up The Economy, Speedy Job Training And A Compromise In Wisconsin

The big question A blog post at the Harvard Business Review asks, “Just How Important Is Manufacturing?”

Bright future The National Resources Defense Council says Ohio has become a leader in making high efficiency light bulbs. It says the industry has created 1,500 jobs in the state. The Columbus Dispatch has the story.

The long (distance) con European investors who thought they were helping Detroit’s struggling housing may have actually been victims of a scam. The Detroit News reports that at least a dozen overseas investors say they bought homes in Detroit, but the homes were never repaired, and tenants were never found.

Faster ed Why are community colleges so important to manufacturers? Speed.

Final resort After much debate and disagreement over a controversial plan to open up mining in northern Wisconsin, lawmakers are trying a new approach: compromise.

All About Paczki: The Polish Jelly Donut That Ate The Midwest

The day before Ash Wednesday has many names — Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. Shrove Tuesday. But all over the Midwest, it’s become known as Paczki Day.

Happy Paczki Day! photo via About.com

From Green Bay, Wis., to Lorain, Ohio, from Calumet City, Ind., to Hamtramck, Mich., people are snapping up the jelly donuts that have their roots in Polish cuisine.

One Chicago bakery alone expects to sell 80,000 paczkis, so we’re going to go out on a limb and predict there may be millions sold in the Midwest on Tuesday. (On a slightly smaller scale, we stopped into Zingerman’s Next Door in Ann Arbor this noon. They had pre-orders for 600. All were gone before dawn.)

Changing Gears has been taking a look at immigrant traditions and culture across the Midwest, but the paczki seems to have transcended its beginnings and become a pre-Lenten staple.

Originally, the paczki (pronounced poohnch-KEY) was meant to use up the last of a Roman Catholic household’s fat and sugar before the Lenten fast began the next day.

Small ethnic bakeries used to be the only place that carried them. (When I was growing up in Michigan, you had to know somebody who could bring them over from Hamtramck, the Polish enclave that borders Detroit.) Continue reading “All About Paczki: The Polish Jelly Donut That Ate The Midwest”

Welcome, Political Reporters! Your How-To Guide for Midwest Primary Stories

First, Changing Gears brought you a handy guide to making a hard-scrabble documentary about Detroit. Now, we’re welcoming the flocks of political reporters who are descending on the Midwest with our How-To Guide For Midwest Primary Stories.

Photo via Greentech.com

We’re dividing this into two parts: Michigan, which holds its primary on Feb. 28, and Ohio, which is part of Super Tuesday. Save it for this fall, because you can do these stories all over again!

Today, we’ll tackle the Great Lakes State.


It’s possible to cover the Michigan primary by staying within 60 miles of Detroit. Why drive farther than you have to?

Here are suggestions that barely require you to move from your room at the Marriott in the Renaissance Center or the Westin Book Cadillac (or the Holiday Inn Express, if your news organization is on a tight budget):

Continue reading “Welcome, Political Reporters! Your How-To Guide for Midwest Primary Stories”