Changing Gears is a public media project about the future of the industrial Midwest. Each week, reporters Dan Bobkoff in Cleveland, Niala Boodhoo in Chicago and Kate Davidson in Ann Arbor cover issues of interest to the Great Lakes region. Changing Gears also sponsors public events and conversations.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.