A Cinnamon Bomb That Exploded For A Chicago Bakery

Small businesses are gems in our region, and the Fraiche bakery near Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is a jewel in the eyes of its customers.

But, according to the Chicago Tribune, a dispute with a departing chef has turned into a lawsuit, all over the recipe for a cinnamon bomb. (You can see it here.)

In court papers, Fraiche owner Susan Davis Friedman alleged that the chef, who was not named, quit the restaurant, then returned a few days later and took a pair of ringed binders that contained a series of recipes.

They included the cinnamon bomb, a donut like muffin that ranked as No. 87 on Time Out Chicago’s List of the top 100 things its reporters ate in 2011.

The lawsuit alleges that the chef, Maryann Huppert, who helped develop the recipes with the restaurant, told a manager that Friedman would have to sue to get the recipes back. “If she wanted the recipes, why didn’t she make copies?” The lawsuit claims the chef told the manager.  Continue reading “A Cinnamon Bomb That Exploded For A Chicago Bakery”

Midwest Migration: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners

This week Changing Gears is taking a closer look at the Midwest Migration, and we’re talking with people who have left the region. Reporter Peter O’Dowd met with some of those former Midwesterners living in Austin, Texas, and brings us this report:

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The Brookings Institution reports that 20-somethings fled Detroit and Chicago at the end of the last decade for places like Seattle and Portland. Cities they thought were cool. “Cool” has become a selling point for young professionals. And perhaps no city has it figured out better than Austin, Texas. Over the next few days Changing Gears will profile people who have left the Midwest, and that’s where we go next – to the home of music festivals known around the world.

John Livingston at the Pour House in Austin, Texas / Credit: Peter O'Dowd

John Livingston and his friends say Austin has a soul, and on a gorgeous Friday night in March you can see why.

Livingston is a lot like any other 24-year old. He and his friends still like to party, and on this night, they’re doing it on the north side of town.

Not long ago, Livingston and four others moved to Austin from Bloomington, Indiana.

It was January 2010. College was coming to an end. The friends were drinking at their favorite hang-out, and wondering what to do next in life. It was pretty clear that Bloomington – a city of 80,000 and home to Indiana University – didn’t have what they wanted.

“We just started thinking of places to go – something different, something new. By the end of the night we were all just chanting Austin. We wanted to go to Austin. We were all about Austin,” says Livingston.

Continue reading “Midwest Migration: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners”

Detroit Has Tons Of Vacant Land. But Forty Square Miles?

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Vacancy is easy to see, hard to quantify

DETROIT – Forty square miles.  That’s how much of Detroit lies vacant, nearly a third of the city.  You could fit Miami or San Francisco inside all that emptiness.  At least, that’s what we’ve heard for years.  The thing is, it might not be true.

This is a story about a number – an estimate, really – and how it became a fact illustrating Detroit’s decline. I’ve read about 40 square miles in the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit News, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and The Washington Times. I’ve heard it on Fox and I’ve said it on the radio. That’s why Margaret Dewar called me out.

“Wait, this can’t be true.”

Dewar is a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan. She thinks there’s tons of vacant land in Detroit. Just not 40 square miles, dramatic as it sounds.

“It’s too good a number to let go of,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful number, it’s so shocking.” Continue reading “Detroit Has Tons Of Vacant Land. But Forty Square Miles?”

Midwest Migration: The Appeal Of Portland

Carla Danley / Credit: Chris Lehman

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If you wanted to start life over in a new place, would you choose somewhere with a chronically high unemployment rate and struggling schools, or one that’s known as a haven for slackers? The latter is one way to describe Portland, Oregon.

It seems like everyone is talking about Portland these days. Part of that has to do with the success of Portlandia, a sketch comedy show that pokes fun at Portland’s young hipster crowd. As one character explains, “Portland is a city where young people go to retire.”

But not everyone who moves to Portland is a twenty-something slacker. The city still draws out-of-state transplants, including highly educated professionals.

More than half of all Oregon residents were born somewhere else. As part of our Changing Gears project, reporter Chris Lehman introduces us to two families who moved to Portland from the Midwest. Continue reading “Midwest Migration: The Appeal Of Portland”

Changing Expectations: How Are You Planning For What Comes Next?

It’s tax time, and today is the last day before the filing deadline. If you spent your weekend filling out your tax forms, you have come face-to-face with your 2011 finances. Now is a time for reflection and reckoning – it’s also a time for planning. What will this year look like for you?

Credit: Flikr user 401k

Over the next two weeks, Changing Gears will be sharing stories about how people are planning ahead in a tough economy, and how their expectations have changed in light of the recession.

You can read some of the stories about changing expectations on our tumblr page: http://chgears.tumblr.com.

You can also tell us about your own experiences. How are you planning for what comes next? Are you coming up on a milestone like retirement, marriage, or a new career? How have your plans changed since the start of the recession? Follow this link to share your story.

Are Tax Incentives Working? Many States Don’t Even Check

The Pew Center on the States checked all 50 states to find out which ones are evaluating their tax incentive programs. Credit: Pew Center on the States.

Tax incentives have become the weapon of choice among states battling for new business investments. Niala Boodhoo reported in December that offering incentives has become a sort of strategy game for Midwest states hoping to one-up each other as everyone fights to grow jobs. But, as Niala reported, these are games with millions of dollars in tax breaks and thousands of jobs on the line.

Now, the Pew Center on the States is taking a look at incentives from a different angle. The Pew Center tried to figure out whether anyone is actually checking to see whether the incentives are worth it.

Turns out, a lot of states do very little follow-up once they approve incentives programs.

Continue reading “Are Tax Incentives Working? Many States Don’t Even Check”

Don’t Call It A Comeback: Ethanol Is Bigger Than Ever

The Carbon Green BioEnergy Refinery in Lake Odessa, Mich. Photo courtesy of Carbon Green BioEnergy

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The ethanol refinery for Carbon Green Bioenergy rises up out of the cornfields outside Lake Odessa Michigan.

The refinery was built in 2006. Mitch Miller, the CEO of the company, says a lot of refineries were popping up then.

“Five years ago, ethanol was a craze,” he says. “It was the next best thing.”

Now, not so much. Refineries aren’t being built. Politicians aren’t stopping by with platoons of reporters.

Seriously, when is the last time you heard anyone talk about ethanol?

Here’s the crazy thing though: When the ethanol hype went away, the ethanol industry got bigger than ever.
Continue reading “Don’t Call It A Comeback: Ethanol Is Bigger Than Ever”

It’s Tax Season, Let’s Talk About Money And Your Future

Changing Gears is collecting stories about how people are planning ahead in a tough economy, and we’d like your help. What’s on your mind as you plan for what comes next?

Tax forms shelved at a US Post Office. Credit: stevendepolo / Flikr

You can follow this link to share your thoughts.

We want to hear from you – whether you’re planning for retirement, saving for a home, sending kids to college, or just starting a career. If you’re retired, have you had to make some adjustments?

Are things different from what you expected? Tell us what kinds of choices you’re making.

Glosowac Na Najlepszy Zespol Polka! (*Translation Below)

The Midwest is home to tens of thousands of Polish-Americans. Now, here’s your chance to take part in a great Detroit tradition: Polish American Night at Comerica Park.

The Detroit Tigers are giving their Facebook fans the chance to vote for the polka band that will perform on Friday evening, June 1.

(Or basically, what our headline says.)

You can see videos and vote for these five polka masters: The Natural Tones; The Kielbasa Kings; The Big Daddy Orchestra; The Misty Blues and The Steve Drzewicki Band. Continue reading “Glosowac Na Najlepszy Zespol Polka! (*Translation Below)”

Chicago Finally Gets A Longer School Day

Chicago has been notorious in the education community for one thing: its short school day. Elementary school students spend only five hours and 45 minutes a day in class, the shortest of any major city, while high schoolers spend only seven. Now, that’s about to change.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

City officials announced today that the elementary school day will be seven hours this fall, while the high school day will rise to seven and a half hours.

That’s something long sought by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, who has faced obstacles in lengthening the city’s school day. First, he tried unsuccessfully to cajole individual schools into voluntarily adopting a longer day. Then, he proposed an even longer day for elementary school students.

But after meetings with parents upset by the plan, the city announced a calendar that includes these features. Continue reading “Chicago Finally Gets A Longer School Day”