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.
“This week we sent out over 500 letters to property owners in Hubbard Farms, Springwells Village and Southwest Detroit,” he announced, “telling them if they own a home adjacent to a vacant city-owned lot, they can purchase this lot for a mere $200.”
“No coming downtown,” the mayor said. “No added bureaucracy. The city will mail back the deed.”
The initiative is a response to the overwhelming problem of abandoned property in Detroit. It’s a problem we explored in our stories about Detroit “blotters” — which you can see here and here.
Blotting describes what happens when homeowners annex the vacant lot, or lots, next door. They create expanded properties, between the size of a lot and a city block. Sometimes, residents can purchase these side lots. Often, they’re constrained by bureaucracy or money, so they may just throw up a fence to ward off the dangers of abandonment. Continue reading “Blotting Update: Detroit Wants To Sell You This Lot”
Americans owe close to a trillion dollars in student loan debt. Changing Gears has been reporting on that debt, a lot of which comes from attending private, for-profit schools. They’re the fastest growing part of higher education, popular for non-degree technical training. Call them career colleges, technical schools or trade schools … just don’t call them cheap.
So I’m at Cobra’s the Grind, eyes-avoiding-buttocks, walking up dimly lit stairs to meet the manager. Steve is a big guy; he started here as a bouncer. He lays his gun down next to us as we talk. He had different life plans after graduating high school in 2006. Continue reading “Student Debt: When Fixing Cars Breaks The Bank”
A nugget is just a little clump of very pure iron. Big deal? Well, here’s why the new nugget technology matters … and why Cliffs spent years studying it in cooperation with Kobe Steel of Japan.
Remember, the iron-rich regions of Michigan and Minnesota:
1) provided the iron ore
2) that made the steel
3) that helped the industrial Midwest become the industrial Midwest.
However, miners extracted so much high-grade ore, for so long, that mostly low-grade ore remains today. Companies like Cliffs spend a lot of time and money processing that ore — essentially upgrading it into a product that contains more iron. That product, called a pellet, is what they ship to steelmakers.
Nuggets have a far higher iron content than the pellets typically produced in the region. They look like Junior Mints, but they’re almost 100% iron. Very pure. Which could make them very valuable to the next generation of steelmakers.
Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews is special to us at Changing Gears. He gave us his song “Right to Complain,” for the Changing Gears theme song. He’s doing his part to help kids in New Orleans, in the same way that people are trying to help out in the Midwest.
Now, Andrews has gotten the ultimate New Orleans honor. He’s the subject of this year’s Jazz and Heritage Festivalposter. It’s called Porch Song, and shows Andrews on the porch of his home in Treme. The artist is Terrance Osborne.
Andrews, 25, is joining a heralded group of musicians who’ve appeared on the poster, including Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Louis Prima, Jimmy Buffett, and Fats Domino.
We talked to him not long after Changing Gears went on the air in 2010. Hear his interview a few months ago with our friends Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis on Sound Opinions, from our partner station WBEZ.
LAINGSBURG, Mich. – Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder gives his second State of the State address tonight. He’s already signed more than 300 public acts. That’s a new law for almost every day in office.
Over the next few weeks, Changing Gears is looking at how changes in state government are impacting lives and wallets across the region. Here in Michigan, people are riveted by some of Snyder’s big ticket changes, like giving emergency managers the power to strip control from elected officials in failing cities and school districts.
Our mission at Changing Gears is to report the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest, through the stories of people driving and experiencing this change.
Recently, our stations aired an hour-long encore presentation of our favorite series from the fall, as well as other stories from throughout 2011.
Have you ever wondered if small business really plays an important role in job creation? Or why our region seems to focus so much on one magic thing that will save the entire economy? And, have you wondered what will become of all the thousands of the empty houses and factories that litter our region?
We also went to a few factory floors to see what manufacturing is like these days – including one place where the machines continue to work at night, unattended, long after the human workers punch out.
We hope that these stories – about the Magic Bullets that are supposed to save our economy, innovative ways people are filling Empty Places, and what the modern factory looks like, help fulfill our mission.
Our partners at WBEZ are featuring our special on their site. You can check it out here.
Depending on the analyst and the statistic, the Midwest economy is on the mend or still in trouble or somewhere in between.
Getting By, a year-end special from Changing Gears, went beyond the experts and numbers.
Senior editor Micki Maynard and WBEZ’s Steve Edwards gathered at a dining room table with eight Illinois residents from different places and different points of view to discuss the economy’s real world impact on their lives.
We talked about how the recession is affecting everyone, from veterans to business owners, single mothers to people struggling to find work.
Listen to Getting By here and see more photos of the people who took part.
Many of our participants came to us through our PIN network, and we’re always looking for people who can lend their insight. If you’d like to become a source for us, click here.
The industrial Midwest might not be the industrial Midwest if it weren’t for the iron-rich regions of northern Minnesota and Michigan. These iron ranges have long supplied domestic steelmakers, depleting the highest quality ore along the way. Now, a plant in Minnesota is testing a process to dramatically upgrade the low-grade ore that remains.[display_podcast] Continue reading “Can Technology Breathe New Life into the Midwest’s Old Iron?”