Midwest Memo: The PR Problem For Manufacturing, New Jobs At Chrysler And A Deadline In Detroit

Who wants to work in a factory? The Cleveland Plain Dealer has an excellent story about what local manufacturers are doing to find new talent. Business-owners say they can’t find enough skilled young people to fill open positions. So they’ve launched a PR push to change the perception of factory work.

1,600 Jobs in Illinois Chrysler is expected to make a big jobs announcement this week in Illinois.The Chicago Tribune, quoting Dow Jones Newswires, says CEO Sergio Marchionne will announce 1,600 new job openings at Chrysler’s Belvidere assembly plant on Thursday. The story says Chrysler also plans to hire new workers at plants in Detroit and Toledo.

Deadline in Detroit Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he wants to see new concessions by the city’s unions approved by tomorrow. The city is trying to fill a nearly $200 million dollar deficit and avoid being taken over by a state-appointed emergency financial manager.

Sharing is caring Partner station WBEZ reports on a new website that seeks to create a sharing economy.

A Sudden End For Chicago’s Hull House

Jane Addams founded the Hull House in 1889

In 1889, on Chicago’s Near West Side, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr opened the Hull-House as a way to give their less fortunate neighbors an education in the arts and literature. The role of the Hull-House quickly expanded, offering English class, child care and job training to the city’s rapidly growing immigrant population. Jane Addams went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize. The House she created has been helping Chicagoans in need ever since.

But that ends today.

At 5p.m. Chicago time, Hull House will close its doors forever. The museum that honors Jane Addams and the house she built will remain open. But, for those seeking help, the Jane Addams Hull House Association will no longer be there to give it.

The leaders at Hull House say the closure is unavoidable. They say revenue has dropped from $40 million a decade ago, to half that today. But the staff at Hull House has been telling a different story on the Association’s Facebook page.

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Your Story: A Cautionary Tale of Sub-Prime Leasing

Lisa Nichols took out a sub-prime lease on a used car

Kate Davidson just reported on the risks and rewards for Buy Here-Pay Here car dealers and customers across the region.

Lisa Nichols didn’t buy her car at one of those lots, but she ended up in a similar situation. She sees her tale as a cautionary tale of “buyer beware.”

When her car broke down, Nichols’ credit score was low enough that she fell in the sub-prime lending category. She went to lots of dealerships, but couldn’t get a loan.

“The funny thing is when you have bad credit, they won’t finance a car that you can afford,” Nichols said. “I wanted to buy one for four or five thousand dollars, but they won’t finance a car for that little money if you have bad credit.”

Another dealer sent her along to Summit Place Kia, a dealer that works with sub-prime customers. She was offered a two-year lease on a used Hyundai Accent. “It was a nice car, it was way more car than I had any business trying to buy,” said Nichols. But she needed a car to get to work. “I didn’t feel like I had any choice.” Continue reading “Your Story: A Cautionary Tale of Sub-Prime Leasing”

The States Of Our States

So far, three Midwesterner governors have delivered their state of the state addresses. The image above is a word cloud created from the prepared texts of the speeches in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. As usual, the speeches offer optimistic visions of what each governor has accomplished in the past year, and what they’re capable of accomplishing this year. We’ll be tracking what the rest of the Midwest governors say in their speeches. And, as we parse through what’s been said and unsaid in the speeches so far, we want to know: What do you think of your governor’s speech? Were you surprised by anything, or did it all sound like what you’ve heard before? Let us know in the comments.

Leaving the Midwest – and the Country – to Teach

Name: Ryan Brevard
Midwest Home: Kalamazoo, MI
New Home: Mexico City, Mexico

When I graduated college the unemployment rate in Michigan was the highest in the country. I sent out over 150 resumes to all 50 states. Over half were sent to schools in Michigan. This resulted in 5 interviews. Only 2 of those were in person. Only one was in Michigan.

Not being able to find a teaching job, I came across AmeriCorps and was hired to serve with the American Red Cross. After completing two years of service I promised myself I would go on a trip abroad. It was something I had never done before.

I decided that I did not want to spend the little money I had saved from my poverty level income on sipping cocktails on a tropical island. I wanted to have a productive vacation.

So I signed up with an organization that recruits volunteers to teach English to Palestinian refugees. I spent a month living in a refugee camp where electricity was sporadic and fresh, running water nonexistent. It changed my life. It motivated me to continue teaching and traveling abroad.

Currently, I teach second grade English and Health at Instituto Thomas Jefferson in Mexico City. I know I’m not the only individual from the AmeriCorps program in Michigan who has gone on to work internationally instead of in the Midwest or even in the United States. I still would love nothing more than to move back to Michigan, Detroit specifically, to be a part of the rebuilding and revitalization that is taking place as we speak.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.

Trickle Down Effects of Changes in Education, A Student Perspective

Wednesday we heard from some teachers at Saline High School in Michigan about changes in education over the past year. Today, we’ll hear from two students at the school about how these changes have trickled down to them. Christine Houle and Aaron Mukergee are the co-founders of a student group called STRIVE.


They work on school reform issues. Aaron says their voice, as students, has been lost in the debate over changes in education.

Saline is an affluent district and its high quality schools are known to draw people to the community. But Christine says even in Saline, funding cuts are affecting students in very real ways.

“The largest effect just this year that we’ve seen as some of the policy changes here at Saline are our larger class sizes,” Christine explained. “Now you can have up to 42 people in a class and I know almost all of my classes have been at the 42 maximum. It just makes it really difficult to have any kind of class discussions.”

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Midwest Memo: Big Profits For Ford, Heading Down The Rabbit Hole In Wisconsin

Party like it’s 1998 Ford is reporting its highest annual earnings in over a decade. The Wall Street Journal says the auto industry’s profits are part of its new math: sell fewer cars, make more money (subscription required).

Curiouser and curiouser Keeping track of Wisconsin politics gets more complicated by the day. While the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is still busy counting recall petitions against Gov. Scott Walker, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that two of the governor’s former aids have been charged with illegal campaigning. The charges are part of an ongoing “John Doe” investigation of Walker’s staff during his time in county government. Despite the investigation and the recall threat, Walker’s poll numbers are rising.

Meanwhile, in actual economic news, the Wisconsin Assembly voted to ease the way for a proposed Iron ore mine in the state’s northern region. Republicans say it will create jobs. Democrats say the changes could lead to environmental harm.

190 Acres of transformation In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, a 190-acre industrial site represents, in microcosm, the changes facing the Midwest. Officials in the town of Beachwood are hoping to rezone the property as the industrial sector declines and other sectors grow. Officials say they want to see the property used for health care, retail and residential investment.

Obama talks higher ed President Obama will be in Ann Arbor, Mich. today to talk about his ideas for higher education funding.

Despite Recall Threat, Walker’s Approval Rating Rises in Wisconsin

Although he faces a much-publicised recall effort, Wisconsin voters aren’t negative on Gov. Scott Walker,

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker a new survey shows.

A poll by Marquette University shows that Walker’s approval rating is above his disapproval rating for the first time since he took office, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

Voters approve of Walker’s performance 51 percent to 46 percent disapproval. Fifty percent believe the state is headed in the right direction, versus 46 percent who do not.

Walker also has single-digit leads over Democrats who might face him in a recall election.

The governor’s performance ratings bounce around a bit, depend on which organization is conducting the poll, the Journal-Sentinel says.

The most recent nonpartisan public polls on Walker were done last fall. Walker’s approval rating was 38% in a November survey by Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert College; it was 47% in an October survey by Public Policy Polling; 49% in an October survey by Rasmussen; and 42% in an October survey by Wisconsin Policy Research Institute. These polls all have different methodologies, so some variation is normal.

Six Tips on Buy Here-Pay Here

Used Cars

Earlier today, we brought you the story of Buy Here-Pay Here dealerships in the Midwest. These are places where the dealer finances car loans himself (BHPH is sometimes called in-house financing.).

Basically, he is the bank and he takes on all the risk. That’s especially true because BHPH dealers cater to people with bad credit – deep subprime customers who typically have credit scores less than 550.

It’s not hard to find people who are out of luck, out of work, and grateful for the opportunity to finance a car at all. But that opportunity comes at a steep price, which is either folded in or added on in the form of interest rates up to 25%.

So here are six tips to consider if you’re thinking about Buy Here-Pay Here:

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Midwestern Migrants Are Putting Down Roots in the Sun Belt

Name: Andrew Reed
Midwest Home: Kalamazoo, MI
New Home: Atlanta, GA

I left because there were no jobs in Michigan, and the Sun Belt seemed to be thriving by comparison. A secondary reason had to do with long, cold, snowy winters. Is it better here? Yes, I think so, although nowhere is good in this depressed economy.

I have two sons who were born and raised in Georgia, and I bought a small farm here almost three years ago. I have two sisters back in Michigan, as well as many friends, and I go to visit every few years, but I will not move back there.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.