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.

Your Story: A Retraining Success, But Not In The Industry You’d Expect

Jennifer Knightstep

Jennifer Knightstep was a researcher in the media archives at General Motors until she was laid off in 2008. Her first reaction was fear.

“I panicked for a few minutes, and then I tried to think of what I wanted to do next,” she says. “There’s not a big demand for archivists in Metro Detroit or anywhere else for that matter.”

So instead of trying to get a similar job, Knightstep decided to go in a new direction.

“I thought maybe I should start trying to do what I really wanted to do, which was be a writer.”

When she filed for unemployment, she learned about No Worker Left Behind, a program in Michigan that offered up to $10,000 in tuition for degrees in emerging industries. NWLB was scaled back in 2010 following federal funding cuts.

When most people think about growing fields, freelance writing is not the first job that comes to mind, but Knightstep made it work.

Continue reading “Your Story: A Retraining Success, But Not In The Industry You’d Expect”

A Look At Two New Trends In Midwest Manufacturing

Manufacturing has been at the center of the Midwest’s long-term decline, shedding some 8 million jobs over the past three decades. More recently, it has been at the forefront of the region’s economic recovery.

In October, manufacturing was the leading sector in the Midwest Economy Index, which measures economic activity in the region. It was, in fact, the only sector to make a positive contribution to the index, produced monthly by the Chicago Fed.

Changing Gears reporters Kate Davidson and Dan Bobkoff examined the current state of manufacturing in the Midwest recently for American Public Media’s Marketplace. They found that today’s successful Midwest manufacturers look “more like startups than smokestacks.”

Continue reading “A Look At Two New Trends In Midwest Manufacturing”

Midwest Economy Improves, Emergency Manager Appointed in Flint, Lawmakers Reject Incentives For Chicago Mainstays

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Midwest Economy Gains Ground. The Midwest Economy Index showed improvement in the regional economy in October for the first time in six months, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The monthly index, a combination of 134 state and regional indicators, ticked upward from -0.37 to -0.33. Manufacturing was the only sector measured to make a positive contribution to the index at +0.20, although it had ebbed from +0.23 in September. The pace of manufacturing activity decreased in Iowa and Wisconsin, but increased in Illinois and Michigan. Indiana held steady. The service sector and consumer spending showed improvements overall, while construction and mining activity fell.

2. Emergency Manager Takes Over Flint. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency financial manager for the city of Flint on Tuesday. On Thursday, Flint’s former mayor, Michael Brown, will begin serving in the position. Under the state’s revamped emergency manager law, Brown will have authority to control the city’s operations and finances, including the power to terminate employee contracts, merge departments and reduce pay. It’s the second time an emergency manager has been appointed in Flint, which had a $15 million deficit in the 2010 fiscal year. Emergency managers are already in place in Benton Harbor, Pontiac, Ecorse and Detroit Public Schools.

3. Illinois Lawmakers Reject Incentives Bill. Two of Chicago’s most visible companies, CME Group and Sears Holdings Corp., have threated to move elsewhere if they weren’t given tax incentives to stay. Illinois lawmakers are calling their bluffs. The Illinois House of Representatives rejected a bill, 99-8, that would have provided $200 million in incentives Tuesday, the final day of the legislature’s fall session. House Republicans wanted the bill to focus solely on tax breaks for businesses they hoped would lead to job growth, while Democrats wanted tax relief for workers and low-income families included, according to the Chicago Tribune. Gov. Pat Quinn said “ample” time remained to reach a deal, but in a written statement, a Sears spokesperson said, “Our timeline for making a decision about our future by the end of the year has not changed.”

Midwest Memo: Ohio Unemployment Rate Steady, Chicago Food Deserts Dwindle, Wisconsin Owes $1 Billion To Government

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chicago food deserts dwindle. Fewer Chicago residents are living in food deserts, according to a recently released report. In the past five years, the number of residents living in so-called food deserts – a low-income census tract where a substantial number of residents lack access to a grocery store – has dropped 40 percent. The study’s author, Mari Gallagher, tells partner station WBEZ that some “big name” stores have arrived in poorer communities, but that the remaining problem lies in African-American neighborhoods on the city’s south and west sides.

2. Ohio unemployment rate holds steady. Ohio’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It marked the third consecutive month the Buckeye State’s unemployment rate was at or above the 9 percent mark. State officials found some promise in the numbers. “We’re in a recovery, we just think it’s going to take some time,” Angela Terez, spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, tells our partner station Ideastream. “We’re seeing some good things like initial unemployment claims going down, and the number of layoffs going down.”

3. Wisconsin repaying $1.18 billion. The state of Wisconsin owes the federal government $1.18 billion borrowed to pay unemployment benefits, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The state has made $42.4 million in interest payments to date in 2011, and is taking several steps to pay the money back, including enforcing a one-week waiting period for people seeing unemployment benefits. Among 27 states that owe the federal government money, Wisconsin ranks 11th. California takes dubious top honors, owing $8.63 billion, according to the newspaper.

Here & Now’s Robin Young Will Moderate Changing Gears’ Town-Hall Meeting Next Wednesday in Ann Arbor

Next Wednesday, Changing Gears will co-host a town hall-style discussion that explores the global economic crisis and its impact throughout the Great Lakes region.

Robin Young, host of public radio’s Here & Now program, will moderate the event, which begins at 7 p.m. in the Blau Auditorium at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

Panelists include Linda Lim, Professor of Strategy at the Ross School, Doug Rothwell, President and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan and Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard.

Michigan Radio and the Ross School of Business are co-sponsoring the event with Changing Gears.

Midwest Memo: UAW Ratifies Ford Contract, Great Lakes Shipping Report, Milwaukee Unveils Lakefront Proposal

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ford deal official. In a final tally, the United Auto Workers announced today that 63 percent of production workers and 65 percent of skilled-trade workers voted in favor of ratifying a four-year contract with Ford. “I believe UAW Ford workers understood the importance of each and every vote,” UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles said in a written statement. Earlier this month, UAW workers approved a new contract with General Motors by similar margins. Chrysler is the only Big Three automaker without a new contract, although voting began Tuesday on a tentative agreement.

2. Great Lakes crucial to economy. Cargo shipping throughout the Great Lakes supports 227,000 jobs and channels billions into the U.S. and Canadian economies, according to a report released Tuesday. “This report bears out what we’ve long known – that the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway is crucial to the U.S. economy,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told WBEZ, our partner station. In July, Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson examined the economic impact of Great Lakes shipping – and found a dredging backlog threatened to cripple the regional shipping industry.

3. Milwaukee lakefront plan unveiled. An “ambitious” plan to redevelop Milwaukee’s lakefront was unveiled Tuesday at a public hearing,calling for better pedestrian access to waterfront attractions and room for several blocks of development. The plan, submitted by Milwaukee County’s Long-Range Lakefront Planning Committee, endorsed tearing down freeway ramps, terracing O’Donnell Park and bulldozing the Downtown Transit Center, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Let’s take downtown and take it to the lake and vice versa,” Parks Director Sue Black said of the pedestrian portion of the plan.

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-UAW Contract Support Increases, Report: Illinois’ Business Climate Still Sturdy

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois still strong business center. Reports of Illinois’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least that’s the conclusion of Crain’s Chicago Business, which examined the business climate of the state and its neighbors in the wake of headlines about rising corporate taxes and companies threatening to relocate. The crux of the analysis: Illinois’ workforce, market size, capital available for investment and transportation infrastructure outweighs rising taxes and the state’s budget deficit, which puts it in better position than neighboring states.

2. Ford-UAW contract gains ground. Sixty-two percent of voters now support the tentative agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers, according to the UAW Facebook page. Several large local unions voted over the weekend on the deal and moved it closer to ratification. Voting ends Tuesday. Last week, initial votes had showed weak support for the agreement, which offers signing bonuses but does not restore cost-of-living increases.

3. Wisconsin home sales up, prices down. In September, existing home sales in Wisconsin rose 17.7 percent year over year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sales in the Milwaukee area were particularly strong, growing 26.8 percent from September 2010. The media sales price fell 1.5 percent, however, to $134,900. It was the smallest decline this year, and considered good news by members of the Wisconsin Realtors Association. New listings are down 17.4 percent this year, the newspaper reported, while an inventory backlog remains.

Obama, Werewolves and Silver…Er…Magic Bullets

Curtis Sullivan says silver bullets are for killing werewolves.

While we’re on the subject of magic bullets, please indulge this brief sidebar.

Schisms happen.  There was once a tremendous split between the (now) Roman Catholic Church and the (now) Eastern Orthodox Church.  Today there’s also a Great Schism in the bullet world.

Namely, between those who say magic bullet and those who say silver bullet — both parties referring to an economic quick fix.

On one side, you have President Obama, who may be the highest profile proponent of the term silver bullet. While pitching his jobs plan to a recent joint session of Congress he said, “It should not be nor will it be the last plan of action we propose. What’s guided us from the start of this crisis hasn’t been the search for a silver bullet. It’s been a commitment to stay at it, to be persistent, to keep trying every new idea that works.” Continue reading “Obama, Werewolves and Silver…Er…Magic Bullets”