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.

Midwest Migration: What’s So Great About Austin? Plenty, According To Former Midwesterners

This week Changing Gears is taking a closer look at the Midwest Migration, and we’re talking with people who have left the region. Reporter Peter O’Dowd met with some of those former Midwesterners living in Austin, Texas, and brings us this report:

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The Brookings Institution reports that 20-somethings fled Detroit and Chicago at the end of the last decade for places like Seattle and Portland. Cities they thought were cool. “Cool” has become a selling point for young professionals. And perhaps no city has it figured out better than Austin, Texas. Over the next few days Changing Gears will profile people who have left the Midwest, and that’s where we go next – to the home of music festivals known around the world.

John Livingston at the Pour House in Austin, Texas / Credit: Peter O'Dowd

John Livingston and his friends say Austin has a soul, and on a gorgeous Friday night in March you can see why.

Livingston is a lot like any other 24-year old. He and his friends still like to party, and on this night, they’re doing it on the north side of town.

Not long ago, Livingston and four others moved to Austin from Bloomington, Indiana.

It was January 2010. College was coming to an end. The friends were drinking at their favorite hang-out, and wondering what to do next in life. It was pretty clear that Bloomington – a city of 80,000 and home to Indiana University – didn’t have what they wanted.

“We just started thinking of places to go – something different, something new. By the end of the night we were all just chanting Austin. We wanted to go to Austin. We were all about Austin,” says Livingston.

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Indiana’s GOP Senate Primary Will Be A Doozy

Back in February, we gave you a heads up about the tough fight shaping up in Indiana for veteran U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar.

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar

He has not had a primary opponent since he first won election in 1976, and he’s been one of the most prominent Republicans in the Senate, leading the Foreign Relations Committee and serving as an advisor to numerous presidents.

But Lugar is being challenged by the state’s treasurer, Richard E. Mourdock, amid criticism from Tea Party members over his record. He’s also been embroiled in controversy over exactly where he lives.

Now, as a primary election approaches next month, his battle to keep his seat is getting even more intense.

Monica Davey in The New York Times takes a look at the race today. She reports that the Howey/DePauw Indiana Battleground Poll showed Lugar leading Mourdock by 42 percent to 35 percent among likely primary voters. That is within the poll’s margin of sampling error of plus or minus five points.

 

Midwest Memo: Tracking Tax Incentives, Rebounding RVs And Foreclosure Numbers

Not tracking incentives Few states are doing a good job tracking their business tax incentives. That’s according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States. The AP has a writeup. Among Midwest states, Pew says Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri are “leading the way.” Michigan and Ohio have “mixed results.” And Illinois and Indiana “trail behind.” The full report is here.

Revved up for RVs PBS Newshour reports on the rebounding RV industry in Indiana. The town of Elkhart was struggling just a few years ago because of a downturn in RV sales. Elkhart turned to electric vehicle maker Think to help boost jobs. Now, Think is in bankruptcy, and the RV companies are hiring again.

Now, on to the budget Detroit mayor Dave Bing will present his budget plan to city council this morning. It will be the last budget proposal from the mayor before a new financial advisory team takes over the city’s finances.

In full bloom A report from Michigan State University says the state’s agricultural sector grew dramatically during the recession. Partner station Michigan Radio has the details of the report, which claims agriculture now contributes $91.4 billion to the state economy.

Foreclosures New foreclosure numbers are out from RealtyTrac. The Midwest still has 7 states in the top 20 for highest foreclosure rate.

Midwest Memo: Fixes For The L, Strapped Schools In Indiana And Selling The State Fairgrounds

Loop repairs The Loop’s elevated rail in Chicago will get $39 million worth of repairs starting in April. The Chicago Tribune reports about half of the total track on The Loop will be replaced.

Property tax problem A cap on property taxes in Indiana is leaving some schools strapped for cash, even in well off communities. The AP reports towns that managed to attract business and industry are doing well.

Fracking lobbyists The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the state’s booming oil and gas industry is turning into a lobbying powerhouse in Columbus.

Fairgrounds for sale Partner station Michigan Radio reports Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign legislation today that would allow the sale of the Michigan State Fairgrounds. The state fair ended its annual run in 2009 because of a lack of funds.

How to turn around a neighborhood Partner station WBEZ reports Chicago has received $169 million to help neighborhoods struggling with foreclosures, but turning those neighborhoods around has been more difficult than expected.

Midwest Memo: Detroit Assembles A Team, Indiana’s Accounting Errors And Chicago’s Tourism Offices

Detroit looking for accountants Detroit has a deal to avoid state takeover. Now, the Detroit Free Press reports leaders have to pick the members of the new panel that will oversee the city’s finances.

Whoopsie An error by the state of Indiana shortchanged county governments by $206 billion over the last year, according to the Indianapolis Star. The paper says it’s the second budget error announced by the state in the last four months. The two mistakes amount to half a billion dollars in accounting miscalculations.

Poised to strike Partner station WBEZ reports teachers at more than 150 Chicago schools are ready to go on strike, if contract negotiations with the Mayor’s office fail. Mayor Emanuel is pushing for a longer school day, a new calender and new teacher evaluations.

Appealing to tourists The city of Chicago will open new tourism offices in Brazil, Germany and Japan this year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Last year, the city launched tourism offices in London, Toronto and Mexico City.

It can happen anywhere WKSU found new oil and gas drilling happening in some unexpected places in Ohio. One of the sites for a new “fracking” operation in the state is right under a school.

Midwest Memo: Still No Deal In Detroit, Indiana’s Welfare Woes And Ohio Gas Stats

Still no deal Partner station Michigan Radio reports the Detroit City Council decided not to vote last night on a proposed consent agreement with the state to resolve the city’s financial crisis. A judge has blocked any agreement from going forward. Michigan governor Rick Snyder is appealing that decision. If no deal is reached by the end of the day tomorrow, Detroit will likely face a takeover by an emergency manager.

Indiana in court The state of Indiana is facing off in court with IBM over who was at fault when a $1.4 billion deal to handle the state’s welfare caseload went bad. IBM says the state broke off the deal because of budget problems. A lawyer for the state says IBM failed to meet its obligations, according to the Associated Press. The Department of Labor lists Indiana as the worst state in the nation when it comes to improper payments for welfare assistance. The DoL says Indiana has a 44% improper payment rate. The state disputes that number.

Groupon’s bad week It’s been a rough couple of days for Chicago-based Groupon. The coupon website was forced to revise its previous financial statements, and admit it has “material weakness” in its accounting practices. The SEC is reportedly looking into the problems. And now, the Chicago Tribune says a shareholder has filed a class action lawsuit.

A big fat check Whirlpool will write the state of Indiana an $800,000 check, after deciding to move jobs out of the state.

2.6 billion cubic feet That’s how much natural gas Chesapeake Energy pumped from Ohio shale formations last year, according to BusinessWeek.

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.

Midwest Memo: Amazon Invests In Indiana, Snyder Takes Questions And Cash Mobs Swarm Stores

Amazon’s deal Amazon will build a $150 million distribution center in southern Indiana. The decision to build came after Indiana agreed to let the retailer go two more years before forcing it to collect Indiana sales tax. BussinessWeek reports the distribution center could eventually have 1,000 jobs.

Ask Snyder Partner station Michigan Radio reports that governor Rick Snyder will take questions from Detroiters today. The governor says he wants people to know the facts about the state’s negotiations to fix the cities finances. Many Detroiters worry they’ll lose local control.

Judge assists A judge in Michigan says the state was wrong to cut off about 11,000 families from welfare assistance last year. The families were cut off because of a new federal five-year limit on receiving benefits. But the families were still eligible for the benefits under state law.

Still planning to protest An official with the Chicago Police says there’s been no drop in interest from protesters since the announcement that Chicago would not host the G-8 Summit. He says just as many protesters are planning to show up for the NATO meeting.

Ready for tourists Cleveland has a new five-year plan to attract more tourists to the city. Partner station WCPN Ideastream takes a look at the ideas.

The good mob Reuters looks at a new trend in local boosterism: cash mobs.

Exaggerated Right To Work Claim Gives Fuel To The Law’s Opponents In Indiana – And Elswhere

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Welp, looks like Mitch Daniels stepped in it.

The Indiana governor held a press conference on Monday to reflect on accomplishments made in the latest legislative session. He talked about getting approval for full-day kindergarten, a smoking ban and a new agreement to have Amazon collect Indiana sales tax. He also talked about Right to Work, the most controversial, and significant, change in Indiana law in the past year.

Daniels said, after passing Right to Work, three companies have decided to expand their business in Indiana. Only one company, the MBC Group, has been identified publicly. Daniels said even more companies are in negotiations with the state, thanks to Right to Work.

“I probably underestimated how important an addition to our already excellent business climate this was going to be,” Daniels said during the press conference.

There’s just one thing: the one company Daniels named that expanded because of Right to Work didn’t actually expand because of Right to Work.

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