Midwest Memo: The Campaign Effect, A Not-So-Bright Ending And Your Chance To Be Like Mike

The political campaign economy The GOP Presidential primary race is headed to Ohio. The Columbus Dispatch looks at what campaign spending means for the state’s economy. The Detroit News has a similar look at what it meant in Michigan.

Another one bites the dust Indiana-based Bright Automotive is shutting its doors, after failing to receive a new round of funding from the Department of Energy.

Soot riddance Chicago’s two coal-fired power plants are closing, partner station WBEZ reports.

Bringing the big gun Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to make a jobs announcement today on the West Side of Chicago. And the Chicago Tribune reports the mayor is bringing Bill Clinton along.

We’re #1 (and #1)! Illinois has both the top county for corn production and the top county for soybean production.

$63 million That’s how much visitors to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore spent in nearby communities in 2010.

Turning a corner? The Federal Reserve says there are some bright spots in Cleveland’s economy. Partner station WCPN Ideastream has the story.

$29 million That’s all you have to spend if you want to own Michael Jordan’s suburban Chicago home.


Midwest Memo: GM’s Record Year, R&D Decline In Chicago And Wisconsin Politics Are Wisconsin Politics

That’s a lot of clams GM made $7.6 billion last year. It was a record profit.

Mixed foreclosure news New foreclosure data is in. The numbers are down in Ohio and Michigan. But they’re up in Illinois.

Research and Decline R&D jobs dropped 43% in Chicago between 2000 and 2010, according to a new study. Crain’s Chicago Business has the write-up.

Collegial process The Columbus Dispatch reports Ohio’s 37 colleges and universities have agreed on a construction wish list for this year’s state budget. Governor John Kasich called the unified process “unprecedented.”

Small power plants, big effect? The closure of four small, little-used power plants is stoking speculation that energy prices in Ohio could rise. The Cleveland Plain Dealer says the common sense analysis would say that the change should have little effect on prices. But, the new world of online auctions for power prices “don’t necessarily make common sense.”

Bus cuts Detroit will cancel early-morning bus service in an effort to save cash.

Mining bill advances A special committee has been disbanded, and a controversial piece of mining legislation has been put on the fast track in the Wisconsin Senate, proving once again that nothing is simple in Wisconsin politics these days. The bill would loosen regulations to help open an iron mine in northern Wisconsin.

Midwest Memo: Michigan Pays Up For Movie Studio, Fracking With Indiana’s Plans And Chicago Corruption

On the hook The State of Michigan paid $420,000 to the bondholders of a Pontiac movie studio, according to The Detroit News. The studio couldn’t make the payment on its own, and, under an agreement with Governor Jennifer Granholm, the bonds are guaranteed by the state. But with the cutback in state incentives for filmmaking, no projects have filmed at the studio since December.

Santorum’s surge Rick Santorum is not only leading Mitt Romney in Romney’s home statea new poll shows Santorum is ahead in Ohio as well.

The Fracking Factor A plan to use coal to make natural gas in Indiana may be a bust, according to the Indianapolis Star. A utility executive in Indiana says the boom in shale-gas production, or “fracking” has brought down the cost of natural gas, and the coal-to-gas plan no longer makes sense. Governor Mitch Daniels had touted the coal-to-gas plant as a way to help consumers and boost the economy in Southern Indiana.

Boeing’s big order Chicago-based Boeing has finalized the details of the largest order in its history.

Kohl’s says no to downtown The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that retailer Kohl’s has decided against building a new company headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.

Cincinnati jobs Ohio Governor John Kasich announced yesterday that two new companies are moving to the Cincinnati area.

We’re shocked – shocked! A former city alderman, turned political science professor says he’s done the calculations and Chicago is, in fact, the most corrupt city in the country.

Midwest Memo: Detroit Suburbs Seek Spurned Transit Money, Wisconsin May Revisit Controversial Case

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Contenders seek spurned transit funding. The city of Troy, Michigan rejected federal funds to build a mass-transit center. Now other suburban Detroit municipalities are lining up in hopes of claiming part of the $8.5 million. A U.S. Congressman pledged to have the money allocated to Royal Oak and Pontiac. The Detroit Free Press reports today a high-speed “turnaround area” for buses could be built in Pontiac while a rail facility could be built in Royal Oak. Meanwhile, Troy has faced a backlash for its decision. Gov. Rick Snyder wrote a letter saying he was “disappointed” in the decision, and Magna International, which employs more than 1,000 in Troy, said it will no longer seek expansion or job creation in the city.

2. Wisconsin fight not over yet? The Wisconsin Supreme Court could be asked to reopen a controversial case about collective bargaining legislation because a justice who presided in the original hearing received free legal service from an attorney involved in the case. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Dane County district attorney Ismael Ozanne is “taking a hard look” at asking the Supreme Court to reopen the case. Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman cast the deciding vote in a ruling that said state legislators had not violated the open meetings law when mulling the controversial legislation, which allowed a decision to limit collective bargaining for public workers to stand.

3. EPA mandates could cost Ohio. Many utilities in Ohio and elsewhere must cut 90 percent of the mercury emitted from their power plants under toughened air pollution limits announced Wednesday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “This is a great victory for public health, especially the health of our children,” said an EPA spokesperson. Industry representatives say the new rules mean more expensive electricity for customers and job losses because older plants may shut down rather than overhaul. The Columbus Dispatch says Ohio typically ranks No. 1 in the nation for the amount of toxic pollutants emitted by industry, largely because of power plants that burn coal.

Midwest Memo: Michigan Debates International Bridge, Ohio Foreclosures Rise, U.P. Coal Plant Could Close

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Detroit bridge project scrutinized. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder absorbed his first major political defeat since taking office – and it came at the hands of his own Republican party, which refused to green-light the construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Expectations are growing, according to the Detroit Free Press, that Snyder will try to circumvent the legislature, a strategy that will raise legal questions about the range of the governor’s executive authority. Last week, Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard detailed the skirmish over the new bridge for The Atlantic Cities, and examined forceful opposition from Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

2. Ohio foreclosures on the rise. After enjoying their lowest level of foreclosures in five years, Ohio residents saw a foreclosure uptick in the third quarter of 2011, mirroring a nationwide trend. Our partner station Ideastream reports foreclosures in Cuyahoga County increased 17 percent from the previous three-month period. Experts attribute the jump to mortgage lenders resuming the foreclosure process after last year’s robo-signing scandal had halted proceedings. Over the summer, less than 1 percent of Ohio home loans entered the foreclosure process, Ideastream reports. Currently, 9.3 percent of Ohio mortgage holders are late on their payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

3. Future of Michigan coal plant unclear. The only major power plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is at a crossroads. A coal-fired plant owned by We Energies could be shut down over the next five or six years as new environmental rules go into effect. One alternative would be a switch to natural gas, a conversion being employed by numerous plants across the Midwest. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the future of the plant is of high concern in Marquette, where We Energies employs 180 workers and plays 17 percent of the city’s property taxes. “A closure would be devastating for our community,” Mayor John Kivela tells the newspaper.

(Clarification: An earlier version of this entry contained dated information. It has been revised to indicate that a Michigan state senate committee defeated a proposal regarding a new bridge linking Detroit to Canada last month.)

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.”

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.”



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