In The Race For “Green Jobs,” The Midwest Is Doing OK At Best

Credit: flickr user agrilifetoday

Not too long ago, jobs in the new green economy were seen as the number one solution to transform the Midwest economy. You almost couldn’t go to any sort of economic luncheon or policy briefing without hearing about it.

So, how is the Midwest actually doing when it comes to creating these “green jobs”?

Meh. We’re doing all right. Not great. Not horrible.

Yesterday, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics for the first time released data on how many jobs there are in “green goods and services.” The figures include construction jobs for people who weatherize homes, manufacturing jobs for people who make fuel efficient cars and scientific jobs for people who try to come up with environmental solutions, among many other kinds of jobs.

The headline is that the U.S. had about 3.1 million of these green jobs in 2010, accounting for about 2.4 percent of all jobs in the country.

If you just look at the sheer number of jobs, the Midwest did pretty well: Both Illinois and Ohio rank in the top ten. But those are also big states, with lots of jobs. So, if you look at the numbers just based on the percentage of the states’ overall jobs that can be classified as “green,” then the numbers are less impressive.

Continue reading “In The Race For “Green Jobs,” The Midwest Is Doing OK At Best”

Midwest Memo: Budget Cuts In Illinois, Surprising Home Sales And The UAW Plans Protests

Budget cuts Illinois Governor Pat Quinn outlined plans yesterday to cut the state’s pension costs and Medicaid programs. Partner station WBEZ Chicago says Quinn also plans to close two prisons and consolidate dozens of state offices.

Teacher teacher The Wall Street Journal looks at a shakeup for poor performing schools in Chicago, and sees a trend. More Democratic mayors are challenging teacher unions.

Clean energy ballot push Partner station WCPN Ideastream Cleveland reports there’s a new ballot initiative underway that would let voters choose whether the state should borrow billions to invest in clean energy. Turns out, environmentalists have nothing to do with the ballot initiative.

Surprise! It sold A busy real estate market is surprising some sellers in Northeast Ohio. Home sales were up more than 25 percent for the region in January, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

UAW protest plans The conservative web site, The Daily Caller, says it’s found evidence that the UAW plans to train 100,000 people for “The 99% Spring” protest movement. The Detroit News has a story. Changing Gears has discussed the UAW’s connection to the movement before.

Going private Proposals in Michigan would open the door to privately-run prisons.

Windy city The city of Milwaukee’s wind turbine is officially up!

Midwest Memo: Michigan’s Unemployment Rate Drops, Indianapolis Plant Stops Using Coal, Hearing Held On Milwaukee Streetcar

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan’s unemployment rate drops. Michigan’s unemployment rate fell a half-point to 10.6 percent in October from 11.1 percent in September, according to numbers released Wednesday from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. It was the second straight month the state’s rate declined. The decline came “due primarily to a reduction in the number of unemployed individuals actively seeking employment,” Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives, said in a statement. Nationally, unemployment claims fell to a seven-month low Wednesday, according to our partner station WBEZ. The four-week average fell to 396,750, the first time the average has been below 400,000 in seven months.

2. Indy Plant Eschews Coal For Natural Gas. A plant that generates steam for heating some of Indianapolis’ biggest downtown institutions will convert its coal-burning boilers to natural gas. Citizens Energy Group CEO Carey Lykins tells the Indianapolis Star the project will “mean cleaner air for downtown Indianapolis and provide significant savings for our customers compared to continued use of coal.” The conversion could be completed as early as 2014 and save the company $5 million in annual operating costs. The Perry K plant heats many downtown businesses and institutions, including Lucas Oil Stadium and the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.

3. Milwaukee Streetcar Support Swells. Supporters of a Milwaukee Streetcar project outnumbered its detractors by a 2-to-1 margin at a public hearing held Wednesday night on the planned streetcar line’s environmental impact. Supporters said the streetcar project will improve city transportation and stimulate economic development along the line. Opponents believe the cost is one the city cannot afford. City alderman have already voted to approve the project and move ahead with engineering, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but have withheld final approval “until more details are fleshed out.”

Special Report: Can Detroit Airport Experiment Help Aviation Biodiesel, Local Economy Take Off?

One mile south of Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a field of oriental mustard seed plants is part of an aviation-biodiesel experiment.

ROMULUS, Mich. — The runways at Detroit Metropolitan Airport rank as some of the nation’s busiest, handling some 452,000 takeoffs and landings each year along with more than 32 million passengers.

The land adjacent to them, on the other hand, sits mostly unused. Other than creating a buffer for noise-prevention and security reasons, that land has little useful value.

Officials at Detroit Metro and three other Michigan airports are hoping to change that. They’ve partnered with a Michigan State University researcher to grow oriental mustard seed and other plants on that property. Those plants will be harvested and processed into aviation-grade biodiesel that’s then used at the facility.

The project is believed to be the first of its kind in the Midwest, and it’s attracting attention from airlines, government agencies and even a former high-profile Ford Motor Company executive.

In the short term, it’s an experiment to see whether researchers can create an alternate fuel source grown in close proximity to airport users. In the long term, officials believe the biofuel industry in general and aviation-grade biodiesel in particular can make a significant economic impact in Michigan.

“It is going to take a concerted effort by farmers, by industry, by airlines and engineers and developers in order to see this all come to fruition,” said Dennis Pennington, a bioenergy educator from the MSU Extension leading the project, which is funded by a $476,000 state grant. Continue reading “Special Report: Can Detroit Airport Experiment Help Aviation Biodiesel, Local Economy Take Off?”

Midwest Memo: Ford Reaches Agreement With UAW, Wisconsin Aims to be Energy Industry Leader, Coal at Crossroads

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW and Ford reach tentative deal. The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., announced Tuesday, that calls for $6,000 in signing bonuses and the creation of 5,750 new jobs at plants in the United States. Workers could vote on the agreement by the end of the week. “The American auto industry is on its way back,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement, adding the jobs will be added by the end of 2012. Crucial to the deal was consensus on entry-level wages of approximately $17 per hour. The tentative agreement means that Chrysler is the only automaker of the Big Three without a deal.

2. Coal at a crossroads. Coal produces nearly half the electricity used in the United States, but benefits associated with coal are outweighed by pollution and health problems that cause more economic harm than good, according to a recent study from the American Economic Review. Our partner station Ideastream begins a multi-part series today examining the economic impact of coal and its future in the Midwest. First up in the series: the natural gas boom has given coal added competition. Coal’s share of the nation’s electricity production was at its lowest level in more than 30 years through the first quarter of 2011.

3. Wisconsin announces microgrid project. On Monday, Wisconsin officials announced a new project that aims to make the state a national center for energy microgrids, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. By using energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid “energy islands” maximize the use of energy from renewable sources, according to the newspaper, and could help if main power grids are disrupted. Several Milwaukee-area companies and the state’s four largest engineering schools are among the participants in the project.

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.

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.”