Who Are Manufacturers Hiring? Answer: People With Skills

The numbers from manufacturing are looking good, I reported last week. Bill Strauss from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago told me that of the 2.3 million manufacturing jobs lost in the recession, at least 300,000 of those jobs have come back. That’s about 13 percent – and where we left off last week. Today, we look at why employers say it’s hard to find those skilled workers. I started in Greenville, Michigan.


Dan Spohn found a new job within two weeks of being laid off last November. (Sarah Alvarez)

In 2008, Dan Spohn was laid off from his West Michigan manufacturing job. It took him six months of effort: going online every day, knocking on doors, passing out resumes, before he found new work. He said at that point, trying to even land an interview was “almost non existent”.

“I think people were in a mode of wait and see,” said Spohn, who has had 22 years of experience, including management, in the quality control side of manufacturing. Spohn ended up leaving the automotive sector where he had worked and moved into medical parts manufacturing. He figured that was a safer bet. But in November, that company downsized, and he was out of work again. But this time, it was a lot easier – within a week of being laid off, he’s had two interviews and two offers.

“Within two weeks of that, I was starting a new job,” said Spohn.

From Spohn’s perspective, the labor market has really loosened up. He’s not alone. Continue reading “Who Are Manufacturers Hiring? Answer: People With Skills”

All Eyes In Detroit Are On The Auto Show

Media previews for the North American International Auto Show kicked off this week, with plenty of panache and swagger.

Carmakers are rolling out dozens of new models at the show, ranging from Cadillac and Chevrolet, to Ford and Lincoln, and German automaker BMW.

Japan’s two struggling giants, Honda and Toyota, hope to make a comeback in 2012 after dismal results in 2011.

The auto show always features splashy introductions. Here’s a look at the new Ford Fusion from our friends at Michigan Radio.

Are you visiting the show? Do you some favorites?

Midwest Money Question: What Do I Do With My Retirement Accounts?

Last month, Changing Gears teamed with authors and CNN anchors Ali Velshi and Christine Romans to collect your questions on the personal finance issues that you’re facing because of the recession.

Here’s the next-to-last question in our series of Midwest Money answers from Ali and Christine, based on their new book, How To Speak Money: The Language and Knowledge You Need Now. (Each person whose question is used will receive a copy of the book.)

Chris Borrensen from Sugar Grove, IL asks,

I have two 401(k) accounts and a Roth IRA. The IRA continues on, steadily. The 401(k) accounts are with different brokers, and while my strategy is similar with both, the older one outperforms the one I have through my current job. Is there benefit or more risk in combining these accounts in some way?

Ali and Christine respond,

Chris, we think you should combine those two 401(k) accounts, for simplicity and for better investing. For this question, we turned to Ryan Mack from Optimum Capital Management for a gut-check, since he advises clients every day on issues just like this one.

“Combine the two accounts,” says Mack. “Regardless of performance differences between them, the older account (with your previous employer) is sitting stagnant, dead in the water.” Continue reading “Midwest Money Question: What Do I Do With My Retirement Accounts?”

Honda Revives NS-X Sportscar, Will Build It In Ohio

The concept Acura NS-X/photo by Micki Maynard

Honda made history in 1990 when it introduced the high powered Acura NS-X sports car. But it discontinued it in 2005 to focus on more fuel efficient models.

Now, NS-X is coming back. And instead of Japan, where it built the original car, it will build it in Ohio.

Honda made the announcement this afternoon at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. It showed a concept version of the NS-X unveiled by its CEO, Takanobu Ito.
Continue reading “Honda Revives NS-X Sportscar, Will Build It In Ohio”

Court Wrangling Steps Up In Wisconsin Recall Fight

Wrangling over the potential recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is heating up, as a Jan. 17 deadline to turn in recall petition signatures approaches.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

On Thursday, Waukesha County Circuit Judge J. Mac Davis ordered the State Government Accountability Board to pro-actively screen signatures on the recall petitions of Walker and five other state officials.

In the past, those gathering the recall signatures were the only ones responsible for ensuring signatures on petitions were not fake or otherwise invalid.

Walker’s campaign committee and the state Republican Party brought the suit against the Accountability Board, claiming concern over fake and duplicate signatures. Continue reading “Court Wrangling Steps Up In Wisconsin Recall Fight”

Gary Gets A New Mayor With Challenges Galore

On Saturday, Gary, Indiana officially swears in its new mayor, Karen Freeman-Wilson. She’s actually been on the job since last weekend, though, with a long agenda of big and small goals.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson

Freeman-Wilson is the first African-American woman mayor in Indiana, where she served as the state’s attorney general. She’s a Gary-raised, Harvard-educated lawyer who has worked in Washington, but feels an obligation to her hometown.

“I know about the good things and the good places. It’s irresponsible to know about the good, to know about the potential, and not do anything about it,” Freeman-Wilson says.

I talked to Freeman-Wilson for this profile in The Atlantic Cities. She also spoke with our partner station WBEZ late last year about the challenges that she’ll face, namely a high crime rate, shrinking population, and citizens who feel they face obstacles in getting what they need.

On a grander scale, she wants to increase service at Gary’s under-served airport, which sits adjacent to Interstate 90; land a major hotel for downtown and spur broader economic development activities. Continue reading “Gary Gets A New Mayor With Challenges Galore”

Changes in Our Great Lakes States: What Matters To You?

It’s been a tumultuous year in many of the Great Lakes states.

Wisconsin State Capitol

New Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio have pushed for legal and policy changes. Illinois has faced a fiscal crisis. And Indiana’s governor is now backing a Right to Work law.

We know what the political debate has been like. But we’d like to know how the changes are affecting you. What did state government do that mattered to you?

Let us know, and then check in as Changing Gears covers how these leaders are changing the way things are in our states.

Right To Work Drama Heats Up In Indiana

Last month, Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels finally put his weight behind years-long effort to pass a Right to Work law in Indiana. He is making it a priority in the new legislative session in Indianapolis, and is facing immediate opposition from Indiana Democrats.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Democrats stalled business on Wednesday, the first day of the 2012 session, when they did not report to the House floor, according to the Associated Press. They continued to block action Thursday on a bill that would make Indiana the first state in a decade to enact a Right-to-Work law.

The laws bar private sector unions from automatically collecting dues from employees that do not join organized labor groups. None of the Great Lakes states, long union strongholds, have Right-to-Work laws. Some economic development proponents say Midwestern states need them to compete with the Right-to-Work friendly South.

The Indiana Democrats aren’t getting off easy: last year, Indiana lawmakers enacted a $1,000 a day fine for not showing up. The fines could take effect today.

Meanwhile, protestors are beginning to gather at the state capitol in Indianapolis, much as they did in Wisconsin and Ohio last year when governors sought to strip state employees of collective bargaining rights.

Michael Puente at our partner WBEZ reported this week on what’s at stake in Indiana.

Changing Gears Special: A Retrospective on 2011

Our mission at Changing Gears is to report the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest, through the stories of people driving and experiencing this change.

Recently, our stations aired an hour-long encore presentation of our favorite series from the fall, as well as other stories from throughout 2011.

Have you ever wondered if small business really plays an important role in job creation? Or why our region seems to focus so much on one magic thing that will save the entire economy? And, have you wondered what will become of all the thousands of the empty houses and factories that litter our region?

Corey Greenwald's machines are shaping intricate designs in metal blocks, largely unattended.

We also went to a few factory floors to see what manufacturing is like these days – including one place where the machines continue to work at night, unattended, long after the human workers punch out.

We hope that these stories – about the Magic Bullets that are supposed to save our economy, innovative ways people are filling Empty Places, and what the modern factory looks like, help fulfill our mission.

Our partners at WBEZ are featuring our special on their site. You can check it out here.

Midwest Money Question: Is It A Good Idea To Go Back to School?

Last month, Changing Gears teamed with authors and CNN anchors Ali Velshi and Christine Romans to collect your questions on the personal finance issues that you’re facing because of the recession.

Today, we’re bringing you the next in our series of Midwest Money answers from Ali and Christine, based on their new book, How To Speak Money: The Language and Knowledge You Need Now. (Each person whose question is used will receive a copy of the book.)

Today’s question comes from Regina Baldwin of Bowling Green, Ohio.

I am returning to school, while continuing to work full-time, to try to expand on my experience and enhance my ability to get a better job with a degree.  I’m concerned that I am on the correct path as I am over 40.  I am keeping my student loan debt at a minimum by attending a community college.  I am worried that I will not get a better paying job by the time I finish.  (If it makes a difference, I am pursing a BS in Business Administration-Computer Information Sciences with a focus on Accounting, and I currently work in healthcare.)

Ali and Christine answer,

If we were writing another book, we’d highlight you as an example of someone with exactly the right attitude and initiative in a new, more difficult jobs market. You are making exactly the right investment in yourself with this education and retraining, and the student debt you are taking on is what we consider “good debt.” Continue reading “Midwest Money Question: Is It A Good Idea To Go Back to School?”