Toyota Is Back To Its Old Self, Growing Again

Over the past few years, Toyota’s world was Total Recall — not the movie, but the struggles it faced over defects. But this year, Toyota is back to its old self, adding jobs and making  investments.

It’s already spending $400 million to hire 400 more people in Princeton, Ind., and it’s brought its Blue Springs, Miss., plant up to full staff. Now, Toyota is expanding again, at its newest Canadian plant in Woodstock, Ontario.

Toyota said today it’s investing $80 million (Canadian) and hiring 400 more people as it increases production of the small RAV4 sport utility. The company will go from building 150,000 RAVs a year to 200,000 annually.

Toyota has operations all over the Midwest, including its big design and research center in Ann Arbor, Mich., its headquarters outside Cincinnati and many suppliers scattered everywhere. So, any step Toyota takes is important to our region.

Here’s a look at some of the strategic thinking behind what Toyota is doing.

Watch Live: Governor Snyder To Take Questions From Detroiters At 11 a.m.

Watch live streaming video from snyderlive at livestream.com

On Monday, the state appointed financial review team for Detroit held its final meeting, and members got an earful from Detroiters who are worried that their city could face a takeover. Today, governor Rick Snyder is speaking in the city, and he’s expected to take questions. The governor has until April 5th to reach a consent agreement with Detroit leaders. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll likely appoint an emergency manager to run the city.

The event will stream live at 11 a.m.

To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future

Sarah Alvarez contributed to this story.

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Unemployment numbers in the Midwest are bad. Not as bad as when the recession was at its worst, but there are still a lot of people looking for jobs. Even so, we keep hearing that some employers can’t find enough skilled workers. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder says in his state alone, there are more than 77,000 job openings that can’t be filled.

Wendy Whitmore. Credit: Preeti Upadhyaya

There is really only one way to bridge that gap. People need training. And the way people are getting that training is changing.

Wendy Whitmore is the CEO of EMR Approved, a company in Chicago that works with doctors and hospitals that are making the switch to electronic medical records.

Four years ago, EMR Approved didn’t exist. Back then, Wendy Whitmore was running SSG Consulting, an IT consulting firm that wasn’t doing so well.

So she decided to try something new, and she took 12 of her employees with her.

Whitmore still runs SSG Consulting, and some of her employees straddle both businesses, but what they’re doing now is totally new.

Continue reading “To Prepare Workers, Retraining Programs Try To Predict The Future”

Midwest Memo: Amazon Invests In Indiana, Snyder Takes Questions And Cash Mobs Swarm Stores

Amazon’s deal Amazon will build a $150 million distribution center in southern Indiana. The decision to build came after Indiana agreed to let the retailer go two more years before forcing it to collect Indiana sales tax. BussinessWeek reports the distribution center could eventually have 1,000 jobs.

Ask Snyder Partner station Michigan Radio reports that governor Rick Snyder will take questions from Detroiters today. The governor says he wants people to know the facts about the state’s negotiations to fix the cities finances. Many Detroiters worry they’ll lose local control.

Judge assists A judge in Michigan says the state was wrong to cut off about 11,000 families from welfare assistance last year. The families were cut off because of a new federal five-year limit on receiving benefits. But the families were still eligible for the benefits under state law.

Still planning to protest An official with the Chicago Police says there’s been no drop in interest from protesters since the announcement that Chicago would not host the G-8 Summit. He says just as many protesters are planning to show up for the NATO meeting.

Ready for tourists Cleveland has a new five-year plan to attract more tourists to the city. Partner station WCPN Ideastream takes a look at the ideas.

The good mob Reuters looks at a new trend in local boosterism: cash mobs.

House Prices Are Still Falling In The Midwest, Unless You Live In Detroit

Chicago suburbs, by flikr user Scorpions and Centaurs

New numbers on house prices in the U.S. are out today, and they’re not great. Prices are still falling in most of the 20 cities included in the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indeces. Detroit was one of only three cities where prices increased from January 2011 to January 2012. The other two were Denver and Phoenix.

Prices in Chicago, Cleveland and Minneapolis continue to fall. Chicago is down 36 percent compared to its peak in 2006. Cleveland is down 28 percent. Minneapolis is down 35 percent.

Detroit’s numbers may have been a bit brighter over the past year, compared to other Midwest cities in the index, but house prices in Detroit are still far below all other cities in the index. Detroit’s house prices have dropped 46 percent since the peak.

The average decline for the index as a whole is 34 percent.

What do you see where you live? Are prices bottoming out?

Job Retraining: Tell Us What Works — And What Doesn’t

Changing Gears is taking a look at job retraining, one of the hottest topics in our region.

Tomorrow, Meg Cramer reports on a new business-focused approach that calls for companies to to oversee training, so that workers get the skills they need. Later on, we’ll also be looking at how to measure whether retraining is effective.

You can help us figure this out. Employees, have you gotten training to acquire new skills, or to start a new career? Companies, is your business training workers to meet its needs, rather than counting on them to have them?

Take our survey and let us know what works and what doesn’t. We’re also hoping you’ll chat with us about retraining. Tell us how we can get in touch with you.

Happy Birthday, Mies Van Der Rohe, Architect Who Influenced Midwest Cities

We don’t often send birthday wishes to architects, but Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe is special to the Midwest. On what would have been his 126th birthday, he’s being honored with a Google Doodle that brings to mind his famous saying, “less is more.”

Chicago sunrise over two of Mies' Black Boxes/photo by Micki Maynard

Much of his best-known work was built in the 1950s and 1960s, when urban identities were an active topic. Mies was instrumental in designing the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, which includes some of the best examples of his Chicago portfolio.

I lived in a Mies designed apartment building in Chicago, one of the Four Black Boxes that sit at the bend on Lake Shore Drive. Even more than 50 years after it was built, it is a modern marvel.

Mies also played a big role in Detroit, too, helping create what is now known as Lafayette Park.

Here’s a video from WDET on Mies’ contribution in the Motor City.

WDET Presents: Mies van der Rohe (The Detroit – Berlin Connection) from WDET on Vimeo.

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Have We Reached The Final Countdown For Detroit?

Detroit's financial review team listened to impassioned arguments during public comment at yesterday's meeting. Credit: screen shot of streaming coverage from wdiv.com.

We told you yesterday would probably be a historic day for the city of Detroit. Well, not so much.

The state-appointed financial review team for the city did hold a meeting, as expected. It was a pretty raucous meeting, as our partner station Michigan Radio reported. The reviewteam was required by law to make a recommendation to the governor about how to handle Detroit’s “fiscal crisis.”

There were basically two options: Recommend a consent agreement with the city, or recommend appointing an emergency manager who has the power to toss out union contracts, sell assets and balance the books. At the time of the meeting, no consent agreement had been reached with the city, so the emergency manager option – an option no one really wants – was starting to look more likely. But instead of taking option 1 or 2, the review team took option 3: Restate that there is a fiscal crisis in the city, restate that the team prefers a consent agreement and restate the obvious fact that there is currently no consent agreement. Not exactly a historic decree.

Essentially, the team kicked the can.

Continue reading “Have We Reached The Final Countdown For Detroit?”

Midwest Memo: No News In Detroit, Michigan’s $1 Billion Year And Transit Worries In Chicago

Nothing yet There’s still no consent agreement between the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan. The team that’s been reviewing the city’s finances re-affirmed yesterday that they believe the city is in severe financial stress. But they did not recommend that the governor should appoint an emergency manager. Partner station Michigan Radio says the state and the city now have 10 days to reach a deal, before the governor is forced to take action.

Pure money Michigan’s tourism bureau says the Pure Michigan ad campaign helped attract a record $1 billion in travel sales last year. Partner station Michigan Radio reports that number is up from $605 million the year before.

Tripping up transit Chicago could lose $1.2 million per day if Congress doesn’t approve an extension of the country’s transit legislation by Saturday. The Chicago Tribune says the funding shortfall could jeopardize plans to buy buses, and modernize railway equipment in the Windy City.

Bigger, faster A study panel in Wisconsin has recommended a $207 million dollar expansion for the Lake Parkway in southern Milwaukee County.

Lottery online Illinois became the first state to sell lottery tickets online. The state made $15,000 on the first day of online lottery sales, according to NBC Chicago.

Off the hook Ohio legislators are considering a law that would allow phone companies to drop landline phone service in some areas of the state. Partner station WCPN Ideastream reports a collection of consumer groups say the change would hurt seniors and low-income people who don’t have cell phones.

Happy Oberon Day! Michiganders Celebrate The Beer That Signals The Start Of Spring.

Kalamazoo-based Bell's Brewery has managed to turn its Oberon into more than just a beer - it's a symbol of Spring's arrival in Michigan. Credit: flickr user edwin.bautista

You won’t find it marked on any official calendars, but today is a special day for many Michiganders. It’s Oberon day.

If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you are probably not a follower of MIchigan’s beer scene. But these are boom times for craft brewers in Michigan. The Kalamazoo Gazette reported last year that the state’s breweries invested more than $70 million in facilities upgrades. They hired workers. And the number of craft breweries in Michigan continues to grow (there’s even a fight song for Michigan craft beer).

Larry Bell was one of the early leaders of this new industry, and Bell’s Brewery has become one of the biggest players among the state’s small beer makers. Oberon, the golden-hued Summer brew from Bell’s, is distributed in 18 states. But in Michigan, Oberon has become more than just a beer. It’s an official symbol of the end of winter.

In northern states, Oberon is only available in Spring and Summer. Keeping Oberon off the shelves during the cold winter seems to make people love it more. When Oberon comes back, people in Michigan go nuts.

Continue reading “Happy Oberon Day! Michiganders Celebrate The Beer That Signals The Start Of Spring.”