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.
A new era began in Chicago this morning, when Rahm Emanuel was sworn in as the city’s 47th mayor. Emanuel is the first new mayor in Chicago since Richard M. Daley took office 22 years ago, and the former White House chief of staff made clear to the city what his first priorities will be.
“Today, more than any other time in our history, more than any other place in our country, the city of Chicago is ready for change,” Emanuel said during his inaugural address at Millenium Park.
The 51-year-old father of three said he plans to tackle Chicago’s biggest problems: education, violence, the city’s financial problems and creating more jobs.
Interesting news on the consolidation front: The Detroit Free Press reports that Detroit and Wayne County are considering merging their public health departments.
The idea has come up before, but a few factors could give it more traction this time. Michigan’s new governor, Rick Snyder, is pushing cash-strapped local governments to share services and cut costs. Calls for consolidation are ringing out across the region, and creating a good deal of controversy along the way. (Here’s the reaction from Ohio, where small cities are “suspicious” about the benefits of combining health departments.)
Did you miss any of our Changing Gears coverage this week? Not to worry, we have all that and more in this week’s podcast.
First, we take a look at what’s happening with the region’s libraries. Around the Midwest, cities are trying to balance their budgets. One way to do that is to close libraries. Chicago reporter Niala Boodhoo traveled to Gary, Indiana to find out how closing the local library affects the community. In Gary, it’s the main library that will be shutting its doors permanently.
Chrysler will start its regular summer shutdowns at three of its factories in June instead of July this year. That’s due to parts shortages because of the Japan earthquake on March 11. The rest of Chrysler’s plants will have their regularly scheduled shutdowns in July and August.
General Motors’ powertrain plant in Bay City, Mich., got a $25 million investment today and will be hiring several new workers. Workers will be making engine parts for the new 2012 Chevrolet Sonic. GM’s Flint Engine Operations plant is also getting $84 million to hire 78 new workers.
After a bruising couple of years, companies around the Midwest are planning to expand, rehiring workers and in some cases, adding new ones. But some also have used the recovery as an opportunity to hint that they might move elsewhere. In response, cities, states and local communities have come up with significant financial incentives aimed at convincing these companies to stay put. Continue reading “Companies Win Incentives To Stay In Town”
Ford Motor held a quick, uneventful annual meeting this morning in Wilmington, Del. The company’s executive chairman, William Clay Ford Jr., praised employees for helping the Dearborn, Mich., company return to financial success. But some shareholders asked why Ford’s stock price isn’t reflecting the company’s profits.
Despite cutting spending over the last few years, consumers still doled out cash for certain items like cosmetics, candy, and contraceptives, as well as high end accessories, designer clothes, alcohol and cigarettes. WBEZ’s Eight Forty-Eight looked at what makes a business recession proof.
Chrysler pulled off a once in a lifetime moment during this year’s Super Bowl with its two minute ad featuring scenes in Detroit. Now, that ad, which many credit with transforming the formerly bankrupt carmaker’s image, has updated on YouTube to include the Detroit Red Wings, which are trying to stay alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The video, by YouTube user raz4la, intersperses footage of Wings fans and the team with the same throbbing Eminem song, “Lose Yourself” that is featured in the Chrysler ad.
General Motors announced it plans to invest $2 billion in 17 of its U.S. auto plants. That means the company will hire back 1,375 workers it had previously laid off, and possibly hire more employees. Ford and Chrysler are also building back up their workforce. Ford plans to hire another 7,000 employees over the next two years. Chrysler plans to hire 1,000 more, and already hired 4,300 last year.
Japanese automaker Toyota is getting off to a tougher start this year than its American counterparts. Its fourth quarter net income fell by more than 75 percent, partly due to the tsunami and earthquake that shook Japan two months ago, and it is expected to post a loss for its first quarter. Toyota is the world’s biggest automaker, but production losses due to the earthquake could cost it that spot.
The Midwest is getting more than $400 million in railroad funding from the federal government. Michigan was awarded nearly $200 million yesterday to improve rail service between Detroit and Chicago. Officials say the money will be used to upgrade the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, and push maximum speeds up to 110 mph. Illinois will also be working to improve the railways between Chicago and St. Louis. The money was part of $2 billion Florida had rejected earlier this year.