What’s More Important — Big Cities or Smaller Places?

Can Michigan prosper without a healthy Detroit? Or should places like Traverse City, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo become the new goal?

Chicago might seem like nirvana, but do its needs outrank those of Peoria? How about the counties surrounding Cleveland — can they be successful if Cleveland is not?

Changing Gears wants to know what you think. This Friday, Chicago Public Radio, Michigan Radio and ideastream in Cleveland will simulcast a live, listener call-in program, hosted by broadcaster Katherine Lanpher and me. We’ll talk to experts, and we want to talk to you, too.

Continue reading “What’s More Important — Big Cities or Smaller Places?”

Lights, Camera, Economy! Changing Gears Premieres


Changing Gears, a new series looking at the revival of the industrial Midwest, is on the air! We kicked off on Monday with a look at The Film Factory — the race to attract movie crews to the region. Here is the inaugural report from Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor, Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland and Niala Boodhoo in Chicago.

Download the audio here

Towns and cities across the Midwest are trying to look like mini Hollywoods, thanks to generous tax incentives that have attracted dozens of film crews. Some think the silver screen is a silver bullet.

But California still dominates the $57 billion film industry – and some — including Michigan’s state Senate fiscal agency — are asking whether Great Lakes states are offering too much. Continue reading “Lights, Camera, Economy! Changing Gears Premieres”

Introducing Reinvention Recipes: Smoque BBQ

All across the industrial Midwest, a reinvention is going on. Chefs, restaurant owners, food purveyors and farmers are taking a fresh look at the food they make, serve and grow. Changing Gears’ contributing food writer Michael Nagrant brings you the first in an exclusive series called Reinvention Recipes — new ideas for the way we eat.

You might call Barry Sorkin, chef/partner of Smoque BBQ located in Chicago’s Irving Park neighborhood, the James Dyson of barbeque. For, like the designer behind the bagless vacuum cleaner and the scary efficient jet-like bathroom hand dryer, it seems everything Sorkin touches, at least when it comes to smoking meat, he makes better.


Sorkin started out by reinventing himself. Uninspired by a job in corporate IT, he attended night classes at Chicago culinary school Kendall College. After earning a certificate, he and his future partners, weekend warrior pitmasters, asked themselves why there wasn’t better Southern BBQ in Chicago? ¬†They planned, dreamed and traveled across the country studying the ways of America’s legendary grizzled pitmasters. Continue reading “Introducing Reinvention Recipes: Smoque BBQ”

Movies Starring The Midwest


Batman, roller dames and road warriors have all starred in movies filmed in the Midwest over the past few years. Here’s a walk of fame of Midwest-made pictures, picked by Team Gears and our Facebook friends. Got more? List them in the comments and we’ll add the most popular ones.

Film incentivized

The Dark Knight, 2008 (Filmed in Chicago and other global locations) Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his portrayal of the Joker, with Christian Bale reprising the main role as Batman. Easily the most successful film ever made in the Midwest, it has earned over $1 billion internationally. Continue reading “Movies Starring The Midwest”

How The Film Factory Looks From Outside The Theater


It costs a lot to go to the movies these days, and to bring them to your state.

Many are questioning whether the Midwest is right to pursue film production, arguing that California still has the bulk of the $57 billion industry. It’s hard to replicate the infrastructure, from technical personnel to the labs needed for processing.

However, California’s grip may be loosening.

Continue reading “How The Film Factory Looks From Outside The Theater”

Changing Gears: Our Opening Lineup

Changing Gears goes on the air and on the Web Monday with a full week of reports on reinventing the Industrial Midwest.

Here’s the lineup: IMG_0049

MONDAY: Reporters Dan Bobkoff, Niala Boodhoo and Kate Davidson present The Film Factory, a look at the race across the Midwest to land movie deals. You’ll hear Mayor Daley, Clint Eastwood and the family that got a visit from Wes Craven.

On the Web, we have a list of movies that star the Midwest.

Continue reading “Changing Gears: Our Opening Lineup”

Hungry? You Will Be Monday


There’s nothing like a yummy peach cobbler — but this one has a twist. It’s from Smoque BBQ in Chicago, the first restaurant we’re featuring in Reinvention Recipes.

Come back to ChangingGears.info on Monday, when our food writer Michael Nagrant tells the story of Smoque and how it serves dessert with a surprise touch.

Sneak Preview: The Film Factory


Changing Gears goes on the air Monday with our first story: The Film Factory.

As industrial jobs have gone away, states across the Midwest are looking at everything. Some think the silver screen may become a silver bullet. Team Gears — Niala Boodhoo in Chicago, Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor — visit movie sets and talk to experts about the generous film incentive programs that pit state against state and even city against city. Continue reading “Sneak Preview: The Film Factory”

One Week to Go! Gearing Up for Changing Gears

Next week, public radio listeners will meet the Changing Gears team for the first time on the air. Niala Boodhoo in Chicago, Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor and Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland are preparing their reports for our launch the week after next.

You’ll be hearing their voices — and mine — throughout next week, as we talk about the stories we’ll be doing about the reinvention of the Great Lakes Region.

Continue reading “One Week to Go! Gearing Up for Changing Gears”

What is Changing Gears All About?

You’ve heard Changing Gears reports on the air, and found us on the Web. Maybe you’ve seen us on Twitter or Facebook. But what is the mission behind Changing Gears — and what’s in the works? We thought we’d devote this week’s podcast to helping you understand our goals.


The Changing Gears region covers a lot of ground, from Wisconsin to Ohio. And our reporters have covered a lot of ground, from movies filming in the Midwest to the future of our cities and budget battles in our states to a backlog at the tax tribunal.

Continue reading “What is Changing Gears All About?”