From the Senior Editor: Obama’s Victory Lap

This week and next, President Obama is taking a victory lap. But is it too soon?

On Friday, the president was set to visit General Motors and Chrysler plants in Detroit. Next week, he’ll be in Chicago to visit the Ford Motor factory.

At the two Detroit plants, workers literally owe their livelihoods to the president, whose administration provided the carmakers with more than $60 billion to assure their survival. You can argue the Ford workers should be grateful as well, since Ford’s future would have been threatened had its two Detroit rivals gone into liquidation.

I talked about the automobile industry’s situation on NPR’s Morning Edition with my good friend Don Gonyea, who spent many years on the car beat when he was based in Detroit. This is a story of deep interest to the Changing Gears region, and its outcome will play a huge role in determining the future of the Manufacturing Belt. Continue reading “From the Senior Editor: Obama’s Victory Lap”

In South Chicago, A Neighborhood Faces Change

As Changing Gears gets underway, we’re featuring stories from our partner stations about the issues facing the Manufacturing Belt.

South Chicago, once a vibrant industrial neighborhood, has been hit hard by the decline of the steel industry. Thousands of jobs have disappeared at U.S. Steel, the biggest industrial presence in the area. Now, the city council has taken another step toward formalizing plans for a new development that could mean condos, new stores and the potential for jobs on land that is co-owned by the steel maker.

It’s just the kind of project that would show the area is Changing Gears and moving toward a new future. But not all residents are happy about the prospect. Michael Puente, a reporter with Changing Gears partner WBEZ, looked at the situation last month.

Continue reading “In South Chicago, A Neighborhood Faces Change”

From the Senior Editor: Carmakers, One Year Later

A year ago this month, a new version of General Motors emerged from a government sponsored bankruptcy, only weeks after the new version of Chrysler came to live with federal help. On July 7, NPR’s Neal Conan invited me on Talk of the Nation to discuss what things look like now.

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In short, things are better. Auto sales are rebounding modestly from the awful levels of last year. But the industry is a long way from the boom days of the mid-’00s, and Detroit companies still have far to go. How does each company look now — and what role with they play as the manufacturing belt transforms itself? The auto industry’s story is a crucial part of Changing Gears.

Continue reading “From the Senior Editor: Carmakers, One Year Later”