Midwest Memo: More Casino Jobs, High Speed Rail, Debtors in Jail

Casino Jobs in Cleveland: Want to work at the new Horseshoe Casino? They’re hiring again, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The casino, located on four floors of the old Higbee  Department store, will be filling 40 different kinds of jobs, with 750 new positions open. The work ranges from security officers and slot machine supervisors to chefs. It’s the second wave of hiring for the Horseshoe, which hired its first 650 people in September. The casino hopes to open in late March.

High Speed Rail: Consultants have until today to submit their proposals to study how to solve a crucial problem for high speed rail between Detroit and Chicago, reports our partner station Michigan Radio. At issue is a railroad bottleneck between northwest Indiana and Chicago. A high volume of passenger and freight traffic already overwhelms the existing rail lines and threatens to put the brakes on high speed trains. Once a winning consultant is chosen, it will probably take about two years to lay out a solution.

Debtors to Jail: With a slow economy, the number of debtors going to jail in Illinois is on the rise, reports our partner station WBEZ. It’s illegal in Illinois to throw a debtor in jail for not being able to pay, but some creditors are getting around that. A collection agency can file a lawsuit which might require a court appearance. If the debtor doesn’t appear at the hearing, a warrant can be issued for their arrest. Legal aid attorneys have said this is more of an issue in rural parts of the state.






Midwest Memo: Kasich Downplays Ohio’s Sears Hopes, Rail Improvements On Chicago-Detroit Line Come With Delays

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Kasich downplays Sears hopes. Gov. John Kasich says he “wouldn’t bet on” Ohio’s chances of convincing Sears to relocate its headquarters within its borders, The Plain Dealer reported today. During a visit to the Ford Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, he said Ohio remains in the running, but that it would be hard to pry Sears away from its long-time Chicago-area home. Last week, news outlets reported that Ohio had offered $400 million in tax incentives to bring the company and its 6,100 employees to Columbus. Illinois lawkmakers had rejected a proposal to give Sears $100 million in incentives.

2. Delays ahead on Detroit-Chicago rail line. Faster service is coming along a 135-mile stretch of train tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo . It’s just going to take a while. Construction will begin on a series of improvements in May or June, officials said yesterday, but the project will not be completed until 2015 or 2016. In the meantime, passengers can expect more delays. The Detroit Free Press reports today the project to fix tracks, cross ties, grades and crossings will cause further disruption. In four years, Amtrak expects new locomotives, new cars, smoother tracks and better signaling along the route. The improvements were funded as part of $403.2 million Michigan received from the federal government.

3. Indy community protests gas station development. The difference between refurbishing a dilapidated building and continuing a community eyesore? It’s largely in the eye of the beholder in one Indianapolis neighborhood, where residents of Northside are fighting the rebuilding of a gas station on the corner of 16th Street and Central Ave. In a lawsuit filed last week, opponents say the gas station no longer fits the area, and that they want something more friendly for pedestrians, such as shops or outdoor cafes, according to the Indianapolis Star. The newspaper reports the suit underscores the area’s progression from a “fixer-upper to up-and-coming.”

Canadian Mayors Share Rail Vision Outlined By Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, But Less Confident Of Funding

Last week, Gov. Rick Snyder extolled the economic importance of Michigan’s rail industry. He believes it could transform Detroit into an international transportation hub that sits at the center of a line extending from St. Louis to Toronto or Montreal.

The mayors of four Canadian cities met today to discuss the development of just such a project on their side of the border.

Although they all support it, they’re less optimistic it could reach fruition. A study by the Canadian government last month concluded that high-speed rail between Windsor and Toronto is “not financially viable.” Estimated costs of that project have been approximately $20 billion, according to CBC News.

Continue reading “Canadian Mayors Share Rail Vision Outlined By Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, But Less Confident Of Funding”

Five Things We Learned This Week At The Michigan Rail Summit

On Monday, Gov. Rick Snyder delivered the keynote address at the inaugural Michigan Rail Summit, an industry conference that examined several topics related to rail transportation in Michigan.

It was a timely speech for Snyder. Last week, he unrolled a major initiative to seek $1 billion for investments in Michigan’s transportation infrastructure. Rail’s portion of that is still to be determined, but Snyder called the rail industry a “lifeline” for Michigan business.

He wasn’t the only speaker at the Rail Summit. Others included John Porcari, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation and Kirk Steudle, the director of the Michigan Department of Transportation, among others.

Here’s five things of interest we learned at the Rail Summit:

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Midwest Memo: Ohio Voters Clobber Issue 2 In Polls, Icahn Acquires Navistar Stake

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio’s Issue 2 trails at polls. A Quinnipiac Poll conducted last week showed Ohio voters are likely to vote down Issue 2 by a 25-percent margin, according to The Columbus Dispatch. Such a vote, which would scuttle Senate Bill 5 legislation signed earlier this year, would lead to more questions than answers, says the newspaper. Even if Issue 2 falls, Republicans still believe the state’s collective-bargaining laws need an overhaul. And although polls show fierce opposition to SB5, The Dispatch says there is strong support for portions of it, including merit pay and seniority-based raises.

2. Snyder addresses Michigan’s rail future. Gov. Rick Snyder will deliver the keynote address today at the Michigan Rail Summit in Lansing, a conference that will details the state of rail service in the state. Last week, the governor called for more than $1 billion in infrastructure improvements throughout Michigan. Snyder’s spokesperson, Sara Wurfel, tells our partner station Michigan Radio that Snyder believes “rail is very important to that mix, both passenger and freight.” Michigan recently secured a federal grant to purchase and upgrade 140 miles of track to be part of accelerated service between Detroit and Chicago.

3. Icahn acquires stake in Navistar. Regulatory filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that billionaire investor Carl Icahn has acquired a large stake in Navistar International Corp. The Warrenville, Ill.-based truck-maker released a statement after the documents were made public, saying “Navistar’s board and management team are committed to acting in the best interests of all the company’s stockholders.” Icahn acquired 9.8 percent of Navistar’s stock. Although he’s usually a harsh critic of the companies he acquires, according to the Chicago Tribune, he was optimistic about Navistar. “If you look ahead a few years with Navistar, you see good things,” he told CNBC. Last month, Changing Gears reporter Niala Boodhoo profiled the company, and examined a year’s worth of changes that perhaps preserved jobs in the Midwest and put the company on more competitive footing.



Midwest Memo: Michigan seeks union negotiations, and SB5 faces uphill fight in Ohio

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan starts negotiations. Administrators from Gov. Rick Snyder’s office will begin contract negotiations this week with state workers, who face wage and benefit cuts as Michigan grapples with a budget deficit. According to our partner station Michigan Radio, workers must agree to re-open contracts before negotiations commence. State officials say layoffs are possible should employees not green-light concessions.

2. Ohio’s SB5 faces uphill fight. Voters in the Buckeye State will find a referendum on SB5 on the ballots in November. An early poll shows the controversial state bill that limits collective bargaining rights of public employees faces a formidable challenge. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that 56 percent of voters favor repealing the law, while 32 percent believe it should be kept, according to The Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

3. Political divide on Wisconsin rail projects. A proposal for a commuter rail from Milwaukee to Racine and Kenosha could be dropped today. Tomorrow, the Milwaukee Common Council could approve a downtown streetcar line. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the transportation issue has become a “defining” one for politicians. What comes next in Wisconsin? To some extent, it depends on how people get to work.

Midwest Memo: Wisconsin reports job growth, U.S. sells Chrysler, and high-speed rail’s future

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Wisconsin reports job growth. Citing a resurgent tourism industry, Wisconsin officials reported a gain of 12,900 private-sector jobs from May to June. It’s the largest one-month gain in the Badger state in nearly eight years, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. But the state’s unemployment rate nonetheless ticked upward from 7.4 percent in May to 7.6 percent in June. Gov. Scott Walker noted that Wisconsin’s growth accounted for nearly half of the nation’s job creation.

2. U.S. sells stake in Chrysler. Italian automaker Fiat purchased the U.S. government’s remaining stake in Chrysler on Thursday, a move that ends federal involvement with the automaker. Fiat paid $560 million to the Treasury Department in exchange for its 98,000 shares, according to our partner Michigan Radio. The government had helped rescue the automaker from bankruptcy, with Chrysler receiving $12.5 billion. Of that amount $11.2 has been repaid.

3. Is high-speed rail dead? That’s the opinion of The Urbanophile’s Aaron M. Renn, who argues that a poorly executed federal plan combined with Republican resistance at state levels has crippled the future of high-speed rail in the U.S. More than $8 billion in funds were provided in President Obama’s stimulus package, but major initiatives still aren’t off the ground. “It’s time to take a major gut check on high speed rail in America and re-think the direction,” Renn writes.

Midwest Memo: Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Look for high speed rail improvements coming to the Midwest soon. Photo by Greg Raisman via Flickr.

The Midwest is getting more than $400 million in railroad funding from the federal government. Michigan was awarded nearly $200 million yesterday to improve rail service between Detroit and Chicago. Officials say the money will be used to upgrade the tracks between Dearborn and Kalamazoo, and push maximum speeds up to 110 mph. Illinois will also be working to improve the railways between Chicago and St. Louis. The money was part of $2 billion Florida had rejected earlier this year.

General Motors will be adding 250 to 400 jobs at its transmission factory in Toledo, Ohio. GM is investing $260 million to develop eight-speed, fuel efficient transmissions, in response to soaring gas prices.  That’s part of a wider plan to add or preserve about 4,200 jobs in eight states, including 2,000 in the Detroit area.

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Midwest Memo: Monday, May 9, 2011

Michigan may be getting more federal dollars to modernize its railway system. U.S. Transportation officials will be in Detroit today to make an announcement, probably about Michigan and New York splitting the $2 billion dollars in high speed rail funds Florida recently declined.

MOVE Detroit want to get 1,100 people to move into downtown Detroit by November 11, 2011. What’s the best way to get young people to move downtown? Throw some loft parties! Continue reading “Midwest Memo: Monday, May 9, 2011”

Ohio, Wisconsin Lose High-Speed Rail Funding (Quickly)

Bloomberg reports that the feds have pulled funding for high speed rail projects in Wisconsin and Ohio. (Though, Ohio’s planned “high speed” rail struggled to approach highway speeds.) So much for that. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood transferred the $1.2 billion to states he said are “eager” for trains.

Read Bloomberg’s Report

And, from the Plain Dealer

Continue reading “Ohio, Wisconsin Lose High-Speed Rail Funding (Quickly)”