Where Did Everybody Go? – A Changing Gears Special

Former Detroiter Alex Ozark on the Hyundai-Kia proving grounds in California / Credit: Charla Bear

Many of us have friends or family members that have moved away from the Midwest.

In the Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go?” we’re talking with some of those people who have moved out of the region – asking them why they left, what they found, and if they’ll ever come back.

We also take a look at what their departure means for the region.

You can listen to some of those stories here.

Part I: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners

Part II: The Appeal Of Portland

Part III: Detroit Coney Dogs On The Sunset Strip

Part IV: A Generation Moves Off The Farm

You can listen to the hour long Changing Gears special “Where Did Everybody Go” Sunday, 9 pm ET, on Michigan Radio; Monday, 10 am CT, on WBEZ Chicago; or Tuesday, 8 pm, on ideastream Cleveland.

Toyota Is Back To Its Old Self, Growing Again

Over the past few years, Toyota’s world was Total Recall — not the movie, but the struggles it faced over defects. But this year, Toyota is back to its old self, adding jobs and making  investments.

It’s already spending $400 million to hire 400 more people in Princeton, Ind., and it’s brought its Blue Springs, Miss., plant up to full staff. Now, Toyota is expanding again, at its newest Canadian plant in Woodstock, Ontario.

Toyota said today it’s investing $80 million (Canadian) and hiring 400 more people as it increases production of the small RAV4 sport utility. The company will go from building 150,000 RAVs a year to 200,000 annually.

Toyota has operations all over the Midwest, including its big design and research center in Ann Arbor, Mich., its headquarters outside Cincinnati and many suppliers scattered everywhere. So, any step Toyota takes is important to our region.

Here’s a look at some of the strategic thinking behind what Toyota is doing.

Zingerman’s Turns 30 And Shares Some Secrets to Its Success

It was 30 years ago today that Ari Weinzweig and Paul Saginaw opened the doors to Zingerman’s, a New York style deli on an Ann Arbor, Mich., side street. 

Nobody knew if their concept of high quality, high priced and highly stuffed sandwiches would work. But it did.

Now, Zingerman’s is a $40 million collection of eight businesses with hundreds of people, all based in Ann Arbor, the only place where the company wants to be. And Weinzweig is out with a new book, “Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader.”

Packed inside the book are tons of tips to turn employees into energy filled, creative staffers. One of Weinzweig’s ideas is that leaders shouldn’t be the ultimate authorities: they should be servants. How do you instill servant leadership? Continue reading “Zingerman’s Turns 30 And Shares Some Secrets to Its Success”

Student Debt: When Fixing Cars Breaks The Bank


Victor Gregory teaches high schoolers about cars. He worries when they take on debt after graduation.

Americans owe close to a trillion dollars in student loan debt.  Changing Gears has been reporting on that debt, a lot of which comes from attending private, for-profit schools.  They’re the fastest growing part of higher education, popular for non-degree technical training.  Call them career colleges, technical schools or trade schools … just don’t call them cheap.

Fact: For-profit schools cost more than community colleges.  Fact: For-profit students borrow more, then default more than students from public colleges.  Fact:  All this explains why I ended up at the strip club in Detroit.

So I’m at Cobra’s the Grind, eyes-avoiding-buttocks, walking up dimly lit stairs to meet the manager. Steve is a big guy; he started here as a bouncer. He lays his gun down next to us as we talk.  He had different life plans after graduating high school in 2006. Continue reading “Student Debt: When Fixing Cars Breaks The Bank”

After Laying Low, Toyota Is Back On A Production March

Toyota put a lot of things on hold the past few years, when its sales were devastated by recalls, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and supply problems due to floods in Thailand. But now, it appears to be back on a production march that could affect the Midwest.

Last week, Toyota’s North American president, Yoshi Inaba, said the company was looking at expanding production in North America, including building more vehicles at its plants in Ontario, just a few hours from Detroit in southwestern Ontario.

According to the Globe and Mail, those steps would include producing its Prius hybrid models in North America for the first time and boosting production of Lexus models at its Cambridge, Ontario factory.

The steps have a direct effect on our region, because Toyota has hundreds of engineers in Michigan, and parts suppliers all over the Midwest. It also has a big assembly plant in Princeton, Ind., which just built its 3 millionth car, and where Toyota is investing another $400 million. Continue reading “After Laying Low, Toyota Is Back On A Production March”

Winter Classic To Mean Big Business for Detroit, Ann Arbor

The Winter Classic on New Year’s Day has become a National Hockey League tradition. Now, the 2013 game is going to be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, with a barrage of accompanying events in Detroit.

The Comerica Park tiger decked out in a Red Wings jersey

The NHL said Thursday it expects 115,000 tickets to be available for the main event, pitting the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs. That would break the previous record for attendance at a hockey game, set when The Big House hosted 104,173 fans at The Big Chill in 2010.

The Winter Classic game will be accompanied by the Hockeytown Festival, to be held in Detroit, about 45 miles away. Another rink will be set up at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, which like, the Red Wings, are owned by Michael Ilitch.

“Where’s my skates? I’m all fired up,” Ilitch said at a news conference. Continue reading “Winter Classic To Mean Big Business for Detroit, Ann Arbor”

The Material Girl Shows Her Midwest Love, We Wonder: Who’s The Greatest Cultural Ambassador For The Midwest Today?

Madonna talked about her love of the Midwest during an interview on the NFL Network yesterday. She's performing the halftime show at the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on Sunday.

This year’s Super Bowl is between two east coast teams, but everything else about it is a showcase for the Midwest. The game itself is in Indianapolis, which gives the city global media exposure.

And then there’s the halftime show performance by Madonna. Before she was the Material Girl, Madonna was just a Midwestern girl.

Yesterday, Madonna sat down for an interview with the NFL Network’s Rich Eisen, and the conversation seemed to promote the Midwest as much as it promoted football.

Continue reading “The Material Girl Shows Her Midwest Love, We Wonder: Who’s The Greatest Cultural Ambassador For The Midwest Today?”

Midwest Memo: A Busy Day In Indiana, More Money In Cleveland and Google Owes Us 700 Jobs

Indiana’s busy day Yesterday, the big news in Indiana was that legislators approved a new Right to Work law. But that wasn’t all the legislature accomplished. They also put the nail in the coffin of a $1.3 billion transit plan.

What the frack Bloomberg News says Ohio officials are hoping to stop the flow of fracking waste into their state. Meanwhile gas companies are still pushing their new natural gas drilling techniques further. Get ready for “super fracking.”

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Police The city of Cleveland is getting a  $10 million tax windfall this year thanks to new construction. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the money will help pay for an extra 20 police officers.

Notable tax credit news A new report in Michigan says tax changes will hit poor families 1000 times as hard as families that are well off. One of the main reasons is the elimination of the state’s child tax credit. Meanwhile, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn proposed adding child credit in his State of the State speech last night.

700 jobs short Google is celebrating its fifth birthday in Ann Arbor. When the company first opened its Ann Arbor office in 2006, it was huge news for the state. The company said it would hire 1,000 workers in the first five years. The actual number is closer to 300. (We tried asking Google: “Where are the rest of our jobs?” The search didn’t turn up anything useful.)

The Speech Behind Him, Obama Heads To The Midwest

You might have heard something about a speech last night. From his claim that GM is back on top (rated “half-true” by PolitiFact.com), to his mention of a battery plant worker from Holland, Mich. (which, by the way, we’ve covered before), the Midwest got plenty of attention from the President during his State of the Union address.

And he’s not done with us. This afternoon, the President is in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to talk manufacturing jobs. He’ll also be traveling to Arizona and Nevada. This Friday, the President returns to the Midwest for a stop in Ann Arbor, Mich. This time, he’ll be talking about higher education.

During the State of the Union speech, President Obama said higher education shouldn’t be a luxury, and he’s committed to funding it. That was the carrot for colleges and universities. This was the stick:

“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,”

The idea is similar to a law passed in Michigan last year for the state’s public universities. They raised tuition anyway.

In Ann Arbor, Crosswalk Law Reaches A Crossroads

Local laws serve as the blueprints for their communities.

Zoning codes and other local ordinances control nearly every aspect of how we function in our environments – how we shop, live and move. Those local laws are being increasingly rethought as cities around the industrial Midwest look to reinvent themselves.

Earlier this year, Changing Gears brought you a story from Streetsboro, Ohio, where town officials scrutinized the way zoning laws affected economic development and created a car-centric culture that favored big-box stores.

Now comes another story, perhaps of once city’s overreach in an earnest effort to become more friendly for pedestrians. Council members in Ann Arbor, Michigan passed an ordinance last year that mandated motorists stop if they think pedestrians are approaching the street, even if they haven’t yet entered the road.

Continue reading “In Ann Arbor, Crosswalk Law Reaches A Crossroads”