Groupon CEO Responds to Company’s Critics As Chicago Business Community Awaits IPO

Financial analysts have expressed skepticism over Groupon’s business model and some of its accounting practices in recent weeks, as the Chicago-based company’s prepares for an upcoming initial public offering.

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason has taken umbrage at the criticism. This week, he labeled it “insane” and “hilarious” in a three-page memo distributed to employees Thursday.

“We’ve bitten our tongues and allowed insane accusations … to go unchallenged publicly, it’s important to me that you have the context necessary to brush this stuff off,” Mason wrote in the memo, first reported by Reuters.

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Report Card: Rahm Emanuel’s First 100 Days as Chicago Mayor

Rahm Emanuel reached the 100-day milestone of his tenure as mayor of Chicago earlier this week. All week, our partner station WBEZ has examined the early accomplishments and shortfalls of the Emanuel administration. Using his own 72-page transition report as a checklist, WBEZ graded his progress. Here are some highlights:

Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel meets with WBEZ's Alison Cuddy during a recent talk. Photo courtesy Micki Maynard.
  • Goal: Structural changes totaling $75 million savings in 2011 budget. Progress: Complete. Emanuel cut $75 million from the budget on his first day in office.
  • Goal: End revolving door between government service and lobbying. Progress: Complete. Emanuel signed an executive order banning mayoral appointees from lobbying former colleagues for two years.

Midwest Memo: Michigan Names Struggling Schools, Small-Business Owners Lament Dearth of Qualified Candidates

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan’s low-achieving schools named. A list of 98 schools in Michigan deemed “low achieving” was released Friday by the state’s Department of Education. More than half of the schools are located in Wayne County, which includes Detroit. Fifty-eight of the schools also earned the same designation last year, according to the Detroit Free Press. In 2010, the state enacted a law that created a state reform district to include the state’s worst-performing schools.

2. Chicago teachers reject proposal. A proposal to lengthen the school day for Chicago students by 90 minutes has met swift rejection from the Chicago Teachers Union. District officials said teachers would receive a 2 percent raise, but union president Karen Lewis tells our partner WBEZ, “they’re asking us to do 28 percent more work for 2 percent – so do the math, it’s not coming out.” Chicago students receive 166 fewer hours of classroom instruction than the nationwide average, school district officials said.

3. Hard to find good help? Some small-business owners in Ohio say they’re having a hard time filling job openings in the Cleveland area because they cannot find workers will needed skills – or with much interest in working. They tell the Plain Dealer in Cleveland that some workers appear complacent because they can fall back on unemployment benefits. “With this economy, I’m very shocked at how hard it is to find skilled help,” car-care center owner Mike Paradise tells the newspaper.

Your Story: Why a Serial Entreprenuer Keeps Trying

Brendan Doms has launched more than a dozen ventures. Most of these are tech websites designed to do something new and useful. By his own admission, none of the start-ups have been particularly successful. Nevertheless, he’s getting ready to launch the next one “within the next month.”

Doms is a serial entrepreneur. These are people who start businesses again and again, apparently impervious to outside pressures like a bad economy, tight lending environment, or failure.

“My dream has always been to be a small-business owner,” said Doms. “But not very many businesses are successful. In some ways, it’s just a numbers game.” Continue reading “Your Story: Why a Serial Entreprenuer Keeps Trying”

A Glance at Rahm Emanuel’s First 100 Days as Chicago Mayor

Richard Daley served 22 years as mayor of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel has held the position for all of 100 days. It would, at first glance, appear to be an insufficient amount time to measure the effectiveness of the new mayor. But Emanuel’s not shy about claiming a few early achievements.

There has already been, “a paradigm shift of revolutionary proportions,” he said Wednesday night, regarding an agreement with some Chicago workers to have public employees compete with private-sector peers to perform service at lower costs.

That’s not all. Emanuel has hired a new police superintendent and new schools chief, and announced jobs for a region that carries a 10 percent unemployment rate, according to our partner station WBEZ, which hosted a summit of Emanuel and key advisors to mark the 100-day milestone. He says he’s added 750 police officers to street beats.

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Why Do You Want To Work In a Factory?

We know manufacturing jobs are disappearing. And plants are a tough environment.

But whenever a company announces it’s hiring, thousands of people show up, as they did at Ford in Louisville, KY. Likewise, our engineering schools, like Kettering University in Flint, MI, still graduate hundreds of people aiming for manufacturing careers.

So, we’d like to know: why do you want to work in a factory? What do you see as the most appealing part of the manufacturing life?

Please take our survey and help us tell your story.

Midwest Memo: Michigan Lawmakers Approve Health Benefit Limits, Federal Court Won’t Intervene in Asian Carp Case

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan approves health-care changes. The Michigan state Legislature approved a proposal Wednesday that requires local municipalities, school districts and counties to pay no more than 80 percent of their employees’ health-care costs or limit payments to no more than $15,000 per family. The vote was 25-13 in favor, largely along party lines. Proponents of the legislation say it gives local governments the means to trim benefit spending. Critics say the bill is an attack on middle-class families and public employees.

2. Courts won’t stop carp. On Wednesday, a federal appeals panel denied a request from five Great Lakes states to close shipping locks in the Chicago area. The states had asked for court intervention to prevent Asian carp from reaching the Great Lakes, but the court panel ruled the invasive species did not appear to be an imminent threat, according to the Chicago Tribune. Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had asked the courts to close locks at the Cal-Sag Channel and Chicago River.

3. JobsOhio announces partner. A jobs-creation group in Cincinnati has won a $4 million grant to help facilitate job growth at existing companies in the region. The Cincinnati USA Partnership announced Thursday a “grow your own” strategy that is supported by Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s JobsOhio plan, according to Ohio’s unemployment rate inched upward to 9.0 percent in July, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cincinnati USA Partnership is one of six organizations that will officially be supported by JobsOhio.

A Manufacturing Close Up From the Federal Reserve

The Changing Gears team is getting ready to take a look at manufacturing in September. And, there are some eye opening numbers about manufacturing, the auto industry and our region in a new report from the Federal Reserve.

Federal Reserve of Chicago

According to Paul Traub, senior economist for the Chicago Fed’s office in Detroit, auto industry employment in the Fed’s 7th district — Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin — is now just below 204,000 people, or about 9.3 percent of manufacturing jobs here.

The district does not include Ohio, which is one of the nation’s biggest automotive and manufacturing states.

In 2000, auto industry employment in those states alone was 474,000, or about 14.4 percent of all manufacturing jobs here. That loss of 270,000 jobs represents a 57 percent decline in auto jobs over the past decade in those states.

“It’s quite dramatic,” Traub said. “The question is whether we’ll see some recovery.”

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The First 100: How Is Rahm Emanuel Doing On The Economy?

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel marks his first 100 days in office this week. Tonight, he’ll be taking

part in The First 100, a forum put on by our partner station WBEZ. Changing Gears will be there and we’ll be paying close attention to what he says about the city’s economy.

But there’s already a report card on his performance — based on the goals Emanuel set out in February — and the results are mixed.



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Midwest Memo: Big Three Eye Ohio, Indiana Snags Illinois Company, Toyota Banks On Revamped Camry

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chrysler invests in Toledo. Ohio Gov. John Kasich emerged from meetings with Big Three officials with a promise from Chrysler to invest $72 million in a Toledo-area machine plant that retains 640 jobs. That may just be the beginning. The auto companies see Ohio as fertile ground for future investments. “We’re very encouraged by the changes we see happening in Ohio,” GM executive director Bryan Roosa tells the Columbus Dispatch. “The attitude toward manufacturers is very supportive.”

2. Toyota unveils 2012 Camry. After two years of setbacks associated with a widespread recall and Japanese catastrophe, Toyota is banking on its 2012 Camry to reestablish itself as an industry leader. Unveiled Tuesday, the ’12 is its first redesign in five years and attempts to match competitors in styling. “It’s critical they get this right,” Michael Robinet, VP of global vehicle forecasts at HIS Automotive tells AOL Autos. “They are facing a deluge of competitors that are really getting it right.”

3. Indiana snags Illinois company. Modern Drop Forge, a manufacturer of vehicle parts, said Tuesday it will move operations from Illinois to Merrillville, Ind. The company, which employs 700 in four states, received incentives worth as much as $2.2 million from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. Business owner Greg Heim told partner station WBEZ the cost of doing business in Illinois had crept too high, with the state raising its corporate income tax from 4.7 to 7 percent until 2015.