The Future of Manufacturing, All This Month, From Changing Gears

What’s different about our factories? How are things changing in the Midwest, from the way people are trained to what’s being produced?

This month, Changing Gears’ regular Wednesday reports will be devoted to the future of manufacturing.

The days are long gone when all you had to do to get a factory job was know someone. These are not the same places your dad or mom or grandfather worked in. And the expectations of what employers need from you have changed, as well.

We’ll kick the series off tomorrow with a report from Dan Bobkoff. Meanwhile, we’d like to pick your brain.

What kind of factories do you think we’ll be seeing in the Midwest? Which industry will be next to catch hold here?

We’re looking forward to exploring our manufacturing future with you.

Midwest Memo: Upbeat Report From Illinois Manufacturers, Ohio Teachers Face Job Insecurity

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Job insecurity for Ohio’s teachers. Entering the school year, Cleveland Metropolitan Schools officials thought they had a $23 million surplus. But that was before the district accounted for the loss of 2,000 students from seven closed schools. Our partner station Ideastream reports that means a decrease in state funding and an increase in unpredictability for the district’s teachers, some of whom have faced layoffs multiple times in the past six months.

2. Illinois manufacturers are upbeat. Manufacturers in Illinois are more optimistic about the state of their industry than counterparts nationwide, according to a survey released Monday. Crain’s Chicago Business reports that 52 percent of Illinois companies polled were thriving or growing compared to 44 percent nationwide.  Sixty-four percent in Illinois said they planned to add to their workforce in the coming year, but 60 percent also fear a weak economy will slow their business.

3. One company’s trash, another’s treasure? Two Cleveland-based firms are using green technology to improve the efficiency of garbage trucks, and hopefully their profits. The Wall Street Journal reports today that Eaton Corp. and Parker Hannifin Corp. have designed rival hydraulic systems that could save on fuel, reduce pollution and brake wear. The technologies can be applied to other vehicles. The Journal also reports the two firms have engaged in some, ahem, trash talking, about their rival’s product.

Midwest Memo: U.S. Unemployment Rate Doesn’t Budget, Americans Narrowly Support Unions

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Labor report: No new jobs. Friday’s monthly report from the U.S. Labor Department showed that the nation’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in August. Financial markets feared the report signaled a weakened recovery, and edged lower on the news. Approximately 14 million people were unemployed last month, and nearly 43 percent of them have been without work for six months or longer.

2. Americans narrowly support unions. Fifty-two percent of Americans approve of labor unions, according to a new Gallup poll reported by The New York Times. The rate was unchanged from a previous poll in 2010 and up four percentage points from 2009. The poll showed a sharp divide in how Republicans and Democrats viewed unions. In the poll of 1,008 adults, 78 percent of Democrats approved of unions while 26 percent of Republicans did, the lowest percentage ever for Republicans in an annual poll taken ever year since 1936.

3. Ohio politicians reach agreement. Ohio’s Republican Secretary of State and Cuyahoga County’s Democratic executive have reached a compromise on how the state will handle absentee ballots in two upcoming elections, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Secretary of State Jon Husted will mail applications to all 88 counties for next year’s presidential election, in exchange for Ed FitzGerald’s agreement to not mail them this year. “Through a productive exchange of ideas, we were able to develop a plan and achieve consensus to preserve the uniform standards I have sought statewide,” Husted said in a statement.

White House More Optimistic on Jobs Than Others in DC

There’s an interesting chart buried in the latest economic forecast from the White House. It shows that the Obama administration is more optimistic on jobs than other Washington forecasters.

In the report, called the Mid-Season Review, the White House forecasts that unemployment will average 8.8 percent for 2011. (The July national unemployment rate was 9.1 percent.)

But the Congressional Budget Office is forecasting a 9.4 percent unemployment rate for the year, while the federal budget is based on a projection of 9.3 percent for 2011.

The forecasts by the White House were made in June and July, respectively, while the federal budget forecast dates back to last November. Continue reading “White House More Optimistic on Jobs Than Others in DC”

Midwest Memo: Illinois Casino Bill Jeopardized, Ohio Scales Down Prison Plan, GM Sales Rise

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois casino bill teeters. As Chicago alderman and Mayor Rahm Emanuel continued lobbying for a gambling expansion bill, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has intensified his criticism of it, according to our partner station WBEZ. The governor said he has reservations about slot machines at horse tracks around the state. Lawmakers have not yet sent a gambling bill, which paves the way for a Chicago casino, to the governor yet for fear he would veto it.

2. Prison plans scaled down. Ohio will sell the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to a private corporation for $72.7 million, but officials have backpedaled from initial plans to sell four other facilities. The Columbus Dispatch reported the development Thursday. Ohio administrators released a statement  that said “it was not in Ohio taxpayers’ best interest” to pursue further sales. As Ohio readies to make one sale, The St. Petersburg Times carries a cautionary tale today about the shift toward private prisons.

3. General Motors sales rise. U.S. sales of General Motors autos increased 18 percent in August, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday. GMC led the gain with sales climbing 40.3 percent year-over-year. The Chevrolet Cruze sold more than 20,000 cars for the fifth straight month, and was GM’s best-selling car for the third consecutive month. GM has gained market share in 7 of the past 8 months, the company’s vice president of U.S. sales operations told the Free Press.


Coal Regulations Could Reshape Midwest Energy

A coal power plant in West Virginia.

The Midwest relies so heavily on one source of power that some call us the “coal belt.” It’s cheap and plentiful. But that’s about to change. A wave of government regulations is about to hit the electric industry. It has a name for all the new rules coming down the track:

“The train wreck.”



Continue reading “Coal Regulations Could Reshape Midwest Energy”