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.
Innovation is a tricky thing to track. Everyone talks about it, but it’s almost impossible to predict where it will happen, or what it will be. But you know it when you see it.
And so it is with a new invention out of Case Western University. A group of five undergraduate students at the Cleveland school have come up with a potentially brilliant solution to a nagging problem. They’ve built a better pothole patch.
They’ve done it with something called a non-Newtonian fluid. Without getting too technical, a non-Newtonian fluid is a material that acts like a liquid in some situations, and a solid in others – like the ketchup that stays stubbornly stiff when you shake the bottle, but pours out evenly when you coax it with a butter knife.
Another example is a mixture of cornstarch and water, which appears to be a liquid, but acts like a solid if you run across it. If you’ve never seen how this works, it’s pretty incredible.
It’s tax time, and today is the last day before the filing deadline. If you spent your weekend filling out your tax forms, you have come face-to-face with your 2011 finances. Now is a time for reflection and reckoning – it’s also a time for planning. What will this year look like for you?
Over the next two weeks, Changing Gears will be sharing stories about how people are planning ahead in a tough economy, and how their expectations have changed in light of the recession.
You can also tell us about your own experiences. How are you planning for what comes next? Are you coming up on a milestone like retirement, marriage, or a new career? How have your plans changed since the start of the recession? Follow this link to share your story.
Empty buildings, full of danger The Detroit Free Press looks at the harrowing walk to school for many of Detroit’s children. The Freep has a two–part series at the dangers children face from the 33,000 vacant buildings near Detroit schools.
For many of us in journalism, Edward R. Murrow is an icon.
He was a ground breaking foreign correspondent, investigative reporter and program host who had an enormous influence on our profession from the 1940s through the 1960s. You might also know him as the central character in the movie, “Good Night and Good Luck.”
So, it’s with great pride that we let you know that Changing Gears has won a regional Murrow Award from the Radio Television Digital News Association, for our series on manufacturing. (This is the same series that was awarded a National Headliner Award.)
We were the winner in the audio news series category in RTDNA’s Region 7, which includes entries from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.
Winners from each region go on to compete in the national Murrow Awards, which will be announced this summer.
Thanks to members of the Changing Gears team — Dan Bobkoff, Kate Davidson, Niala Boodhoo, our former colleague Pete Bigelow, and our colleagues Sarah Alvarez, Meg Cramer and Dustin Dwyer.
Now, the Pew Center on the States is taking a look at incentives from a different angle. The Pew Center tried to figure out whether anyone is actually checking to see whether the incentives are worth it.
Turns out, a lot of states do very little follow-up once they approve incentives programs.
Not tracking incentives Few states are doing a good job tracking their business tax incentives. That’s according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States. The AP has a writeup. Among Midwest states, Pew says Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri are “leading the way.” Michigan and Ohio have “mixed results.” And Illinois and Indiana “trail behind.” The full report is here.
Revved up for RVs PBS Newshour reports on the rebounding RV industry in Indiana. The town of Elkhart was struggling just a few years ago because of a downturn in RV sales. Elkhart turned to electric vehicle maker Think to help boost jobs. Now, Think is in bankruptcy, and the RV companies are hiring again.
The chart above, from Reuters, shows one more reason people in the ethanol industry are optimistic. The chart shows the price difference between gasoline and ethanol. And, right now, according to Reuters, gas prices are at an all-time high compared to ethanol. A gallon of the biofuel is more than a dollar cheaper than gasoline.
Craig Hoppen, the president of J&H Oil Co. in West Michigan told me that this margin makes a big difference when people decide whether to pump E-85.
“Lately, as gas prices went up, we’ve sold a lot more [E-85], because it’s very price competitive today,” Hoppen said. “When the margin goes down … the volume drops accordingly.”
Hoppen says as of this month, E-85 sales are up about 50 percent at J&H Oil’s filling stations.