We Asked For Your Best Economic Recovery Ideas. You Answered.

In his jobs speech to a joint session of Congress last night, President Obama made it clear he’s betting on small businesses and government-works projects to create jobs. Prior to the speech, we asked people across the Midwest which industry they would bet on to turn around the economy. Several were on the same page as the President. Although many of them lacked his optimism, and think small business is a safe bet.

William Mayor of Barbeton, Ohio said, “I doubt that any single industry, in the normal sense of the word, can salvage our economy.”

Jeremy Peters of Ypsilanti echoed that sentiment. “Economic prosperity will only come from teamwork,” he said. Rather than picking an industry, Peters would like to see officials focus “on a plethora of small businesses across all genres and offering help and credits where needed.”

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Midwest Memo: China Seeks Chevy Volt Secrets, Ohio Could Retreat from Green Energy Standards

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. China jolts Chevy Volt. China is increasingly looking to leverage access for Western Markets in exchange for concessions on advanced technologies. The latest example, reports The New York Times, is a press for General Motors to share core technology from the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The Chinese government will not let the Volt qualify for subsidies worth up to $19,300 per car unless G.M. agrees to share engineering, a possible violation of World Trade Organization rules, according to some international trade experts.

2. Ohio’s green power retreat? Three years after legislators voted nearly unanimously to require Ohio power companies to meet new green energy standards, some Republicans tell The Columbus Dispatch it’s time to repeal the rules. State Sen. Kris Jordan said in a release that the standards, which require at least 12.5 percent of energy generation come from renewable sources by 2025, will drive up energy costs for Ohio businesses and families. Environmental groups have criticized the proposed repeal.

3. Michigan begins entrepreneurial law program. The University of Michigan Law School launches a new program this fall that will train student lawyers to better serve start-up and existing entrepreneurial businesses. The program, which also establishes a clinic to offer free legal advice to Michigan’s student entrepreneurs, will contain opportunities for students across the university.

Here’s what U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Found In Visit To Detroit Schools

Two days after 55 percent of enrolled students showed up for the first day of classes at Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan told a Motor City audience Thursday that he “couldn’t be more hopeful” about the future of the city’s public schools.

In a stop along his Midwestern bus tour at the Charles H. Wright Academy in the Motor City, Duncan had kind words for Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and Roy Roberts, the emergency manager that Snyder appointed to run a new statewide reform district.

“You all have the building blocks to do something remarkable here,” Duncan told Michigan Radio. “Has Detroit struggled? Absolutely, no question about it. But my challenge, and the opportunity here is: Can Detroit become the fastest-improving urban district in the country?”

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Midwest Memo: Illinois Braces for Budget Cuts, Ohio Senator Proposes Fracking Moratorium

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cuts coming in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to outline deep cuts to the Illinois budget today, according to our partner station WBEZ. Quinn said he must make the cuts to stay within the budget approved by lawmakers. Parole officers and tax collectors appear on the list of likely cuts. Administrators said proposals have been shared with the General Assembly this week.

2. Ohio may halt fracking. A Democratic state senator in Ohio has introduced legislation that would mandate a two-year moratorium on the controversial practice of hydrofracking according to our partner Ideastream. Sen. Michael Skindell says the quiet period would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency time to study the practice. A spokesperson from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association says a halt would worsen the state’s unemployment rate.

3. Head of AFL-CIO leaving. Mark Gaffney, the head of the Michigan’s largest labor coalition for the past 12 years, told the Detroit Free Press today that he would not seek another four-year term at Michigan’s AFL-CIO convention in October. “I’m going to leave the fight on the front lines to others,” he told the newspaper. He is expected to be replaced by former UAW official and Wayne County consultant Karla Swift.

September a Key Month for Nation’s Uneasy Economic Path

It’s a truism of Wall Street that September and October often bring the sharpest downturns in financial markets. Given that pretext, it’s easy to understand why so many investors, government officials and unemployed workers are jittery about this week’s economic developments.

This perhaps marks a key stretch in shaping the direction of the nation’s economy.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department issued an encouraging report that companies advertised the most jobs in three years and slowed layoffs. Also on Wednesday, the Federal Reserve said in its latest beige book that economic activity in most parts of the U.S. has been sluggish and, in some regions, weakened considerably amid a manufacturing slowdown.

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The Future of Manufacturing, Circa 1927

What’s this photo?

Ford's Rouge plant, by Charles Sheeler

It symbolizes what many people thought was the future of manufacturing, 84 years ago. As Changing Gears looks at where manufacturing is headed, this iconic picture reminds us of the importance of industry to our region.

This is one of a series of photographs by Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), an artist and photographer who was fascinated by modern America. Continue reading “The Future of Manufacturing, Circa 1927”

Are You Afraid of Detroit?

Efforts to revitalize downtown Detroit have been ramped up in recent months.

In July, the city and five of its major employers announced an initiative in which employees would receive cash incentives for relocating to certain city neighborhoods and sprucing up their homes. The plans for “Live Downtown” were modeled after an earlier pilot program that urged others to relocate to the city’s Midtown area.

Downtown Detroit. Photo by David Tansey.

Also in July, The New York Times reported on an influx of “socially aware hipsters” within the city’s borders and a 59 percent increase in college-educated residents under age 35. The migration so great, one resident told The Times, “Believe it or not, there is not enough housing in the greater downtown area for all the young people moving to Detroit.”

Emily Bingham can probably relate.

She’s a writer who moved to Detroit and found excitement in the vibrant city. “The house was gorgeous, the price was right, the neighborhood was charming and yet not gentrified, and the city was anything but boring,” she writes on her Found Michigan blog. “What an interesting place to start the next chapter of my Michigan life.”

And then came The Fear.

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Midwest Memo: Help Wanted at Cleveland Casino, Groupon May Postpone IPO

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cleveland casino hiring. Today marks a milestone in the development of Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish a downtown building, the gambling company is now seeking employees. It is filling 500 positions for dealers – no experience necessary – in positions that will pay as much as $40,000 per year, according to The Plain Dealer. A professor from nearby John Carroll University predicted the jobs would have a multiplier effect on the region. “This is the evidence that it wasn’t just hoopla or overstatement,” LeRoy Brooks told the newspaper. “They’re actually putting up the capital, the training costs.”

2. Sun power, meet sunflower. A Wisconsin energy company is building one of the largest solar projects in the state, and allowing individual investors to buy a stake in the project. The Convergence Energy Solar Farm began construction last year on 14 acres, and will be the state’s second-largest solar farm when completed. “We’re really striving to build local economies,” Steve Johnson, the company’s VP of business development told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s providing an opportunity for people who want to invest in solar and put a little more clean energy on the grid.”

3. Groupon may postpone IPO. Chicago-based Groupon may postpone its upcoming IPO, a delay it attributed to market volatility, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the development. That may not be all. Marketwatch reported today that the company may be skirting the “quiet period” required by businesses once they file papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and opines that Groupon CEO Andrew Mason appears “hell-bent on becoming the poster child for business schools and budding entrepreneurs on how not to go public.”

Barack Obama’s Labor Day Speech Hints At Broader Jobs Proposal To Come

Consider President Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit a preview of coming attractions.

Speaking before an audience of union supporters Monday, he hinted at some of the major initiatives he is expected to outline during a speech Thursday before a joint session of Congress. He suggested his plans will include road and bridge construction that utilizes private companies, but did not expand upon the scope of the project.

“Because I want you all to tune in on Thursday,” he said, “I’ll give you just a little bit.”

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