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Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cleveland counts on small growth. In the past, economic development approaches in Cleveland have centered around big-ticket items. A new stadium. A new arena. The Medical Mart and Convention Center. That strategy is changing. Under Cuyahoga County’s new governing structure, executive Ed FitzGerald will target small-and-medium-sized business growth rather than large-scale projects. Our partner station Ideastream examines a proposal for a $100 million economic development fund that FitzGerald calls “a major commitment to business development.”

2. Tennessee GM plans will re-open. The contract agreement between the United Auto Workers and General Motors calls for the hiring of an additional 6,400 employees. Approximately 1,700 will be located at the company’s plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The plant was initially shuttered in June 2009, but in a move that’s considered rare among industry insiders, the plant will re-open as GM seems to gain market share from Toyota. According to an Atlanta Fed analyst, the re-opening is one such reason “Tennesee could be viewed as a leader of the pack in automotive manufacturing strength,” throughout the nation.

3. Business school applications down. As prospective students grow leery of accumulating massive amounts of student debt, applications to most Chicago-area business schools have fallen. Crain’s Chicago Business reported Monday that applications at Loyola University’s Graduate School of Business have fallen 9.5 percent this year, applications at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management declined 5.6 percent. Applications at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business dropped 3.0 percent. DePaul was the only university in the Chicagoland region to buck the trend, noting a 13 percent jump.

VIDEO: Chef Marlin Kaplan Dishes on Cleveland Independents

Posted in BizTechCivic AffairsDrinksEatsEntrepreneurialismHotNewNewsPreviewShopLOCALThomas MulreadyVideo

  VIDEO: Chef Marlin Kaplan Dishes on Cleveland Independents Restaurant Week Happening 11/1-13 With Cleveland Restaurant Week around the corner, Cool Cleveland spoke with Chef Marlin Kaplan outside his new place, Dragonfly on West 25th Street. And with the Cleveland area emerging as a national leader for cuisine and foodie culture, Cleveland Independents’ 90+ [...]

Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate unchanged. American’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September even as the economy added 103,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday. Among those struggling to find work, more than 1 in 4 respondents to a Rutgers University survey said they are opposed to a renewal of extended unemployment benefits. An extension proposal is part of President Obama’s jobs bill, according to The New York Times, which explored the sentiments of the unemployed. Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical rep from Detroit, tells the newspaper she once shared skepticism about prolonged benefits, but after 17 months of unemployment, her views have changed.

2. Software chief: Michigan needs more education. For Michigan companies, a strong education base is more important than lower taxes. That’s the opinion of Bill Wagner, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software firm SRT Solutions, who writes the dismantling of education throughout the state has painted a grim picture to prospective global employers in an AnnArbor.com op-ed published today. He believes budget cuts have harmed the state’s education infrastructure, and that savings from reduced business taxes, among other things, amount to less money than his company spent last year on a summer intern.

3. Sara Lee may move headquarters. The headquarters of Sara Lee has only been based in Downers Grove, Ill. for six years. Its’ already looking to move. Our partner station WBEZ reports the company is exploring a move within Illinois, possibly to downtown Chicago or another suburb. “We do believe that a downtown location would provide our new North American Meat Co. with an environment that will be energetic, that will foster breakthrough thinking,” a company spokesperson told WBEZ. Sara Lee currently employs 1,000 workers in Downers Grove.

 

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate unchanged. American’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September even as the economy added 103,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday. Among those struggling to find work, more than 1 in 4 respondents to a Rutgers University survey said they are opposed to a renewal of extended unemployment benefits. An extension proposal is part of President Obama’s jobs bill, according to The New York Times, which explored the sentiments of the unemployed. Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical rep from Detroit, tells the newspaper she once shared skepticism about prolonged benefits, but after 17 months of unemployment, her views have changed.

2. Software chief: Michigan needs more education. For Michigan companies, a strong education base is more important than lower taxes. That’s the opinion of Bill Wagner, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software firm SRT Solutions, who writes the dismantling of education throughout the state has painted a grim picture to prospective global employers in an AnnArbor.com op-ed published today. He believes budget cuts have harmed the state’s education infrastructure, and that savings from reduced business taxes, among other things, amount to less money than his company spent last year on a summer intern.

3. Sara Lee may move headquarters. The headquarters of Sara Lee has only been based in Downers Grove, Ill. for six years. Its’ already looking to move. Our partner station WBEZ reports the company is exploring a move within Illinois, possibly to downtown Chicago or another suburb. “We do believe that a downtown location would provide our new North American Meat Co. with an environment that will be energetic, that will foster breakthrough thinking,” a company spokesperson told WBEZ. Sara Lee currently employs 1,000 workers in Downers Grove.

 

 


Next week, Changing Gears reporters will tackle a subject that’s long been a part of the Midwest mindframe: magic bullets.

By magic bullets, we mean the big ideas and big projects that politicians and government officials say their cities and states must embrace, in order to boost the economy. But what is their track record? Should we really be shooting for the stars, or trying to create jobs one at a time?

Kate Davidson kicks things off Monday with a look at the history of magic bullets (remember AutoWorld in Flint?) Later in the week, Niala Boodhoo tackles small business, and whether big programs actually help companies grow. Dan Bobkoff looks at a subject dear to Cleveland’s heart: health care.

We’ll also look at whether the race to build casinos and battery plants is actually having the economic impact that mayors and governors hope.

Find our reports on Michigan Radio, WBEZ Chicago and ideastream Cleveland. And check back here for special features related to our Magic Bullets series.

Contribute to our coverage: What are past magic bullet ideas that fell flat?


Sarah Alvarez

An abandoned building in Elk Grove Villiage, Illinois.

An abandoned building can be a potent symbol of a depressed area or a bad economy. Ruin porn has been decried and criticized as unhelpful voyeurism, but the pictures of crumbling buildings in places like Gary, Indiana and Detroit, MI continue to multiply on photo sharing sites across the web.

Perhaps it is too hard for aspiring photographers to resist. The Midwest is littered with abandoned property. Michigan and Illinois have home foreclosure rates among the highest in the country, with Ohio following not far behind. For commercial real estate, everything from strip malls to old factories to office buildings, the picture is not much better.

Despite the tough market, redevelopment is happening. Cities, private developers, even individuals with vision are trying to take advantage of a buyer’s market.  But, some of these buildings will never be revived, being left empty or demolished. We want to know about, and chronicle, this transformation of the landscape.

Contribute to our coverage.  What do you think makes a building worth saving? Tell us if there is anabandoned building in your neighborhood that drives you crazy. If you are redeveloping an old building, we are interested in how it’s going. And we want to see the transformation. Send us your pictures of abandoned buildings in your area, and rehabilitated ones.


Sarah Alvarez

An abandoned building in Elk Grove Villiage, Illinois.

An abandoned building can be a potent symbol of a depressed area or a bad economy. Ruin porn has been decried and criticized as unhelpful voyeurism, but the pictures of crumbling buildings in places like Gary, Indiana and Detroit, MI continue to multiply on photo sharing sites across the web.

Perhaps it is too hard for aspiring photographers to resist. The Midwest is littered with abandoned property. Michigan and Illinois have home foreclosure rates among the highest in the country, with Ohio following not far behind. For commercial real estate, everything from strip malls to old factories to office buildings, the picture is not much better.

Despite the tough market, redevelopment is happening. Cities, private developers, even individuals with vision are trying to take advantage of a buyer’s market.  But, some of these buildings will never be revived, being left empty or demolished. We want to know about, and chronicle, this transformation of the landscape.

Contribute to our coverage.  What do you think makes a building worth saving? Tell us if there is anabandoned building in your neighborhood that drives you crazy. If you are redeveloping an old building, we are interested in how it’s going. And we want to see the transformation. Send us your pictures of abandoned buildings in your area, and rehabilitated ones.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mixed Midwest real estate news. Home sale prices in Michigan increased significantly over the past three months, according to a new report from Clear Capitol. “Michigan overall is actually up even more so than the Midwest Region,” said Alex Villacorta, a Clear Capitol spokesperson. Villacorta tells Michigan Radio that prices are up 8.5 percent on a quarter-over-quarter basis, but cautions prices could decline by more than 3 percent in Michigan this winter. Elsewhere in the region, distressed sales in northeast Ohio pushed the decline in area home prices to almost double the national rate, according to Crain’s Cleveland. Prices in the Cleveland area fell 7.9 percent in August compared to a year earlier.

2. Milwaukee streetcar’s street fight continues. Two Milwaukee alderman asked Congress to kill a streetcar line in the city by giving its $54.9 million in federal funds to the cash-strapped city bus system. The alderman and opponents of the streetcar line, said Wednesday that the city could not afford to operate the streetcar. Their efforts face long odds, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. House rules may ban such a financial shift, and the city’s council has already voted to start final engineering on the $64.6 million streetcar project.

3. Closer confines in Chicago. The Chicago Sun-Times reports today the Chicago Police Department will have some company in its headquarters. The Chicago Fire Department is moving in late next month as part of cost cutting ordered by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, a source tells the newspaper. Moving boxes have already arrived, and the fire department will abandon its lease on two floors at 10 W. 35th Street. “Everyone hopes everyone will get along,” the source tells The Sun-Times.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced a measure to repeal the city’s head tax on company employees. And he says the proposed repeal is why Ford is agreeing to create 1,100 more jobs in the Windy City.

 Photo by Slobodan Stojkovic via Flickrobs in his city.

Chicago charges $4 per person per month to companies with 50 or more employees in the city. The mayor, who proposed the repeal to city council this week, calls it a “job killer,” according to our partner station WBEZ.

He said the proposed repeal, which would reduce city revenue by $23 million, is already making the city more attractive to companies like Ford.

As part of a new contract with the United Auto Workers, the company is pledging to add 12,000 jobs nationwide. Government officials said earlier this week that the company would add 1,100 jobs at the Chicago Assembly Plant, and possibly 900 more at a stamping plant.

Workers are voting on the contract now.

The proposed repeal “has been a significant piece in our ability to win those jobs at that Ford plant and add a third shift in the Ford plant in the city of Chicago,” the mayor said.

Currently, Ford employs 3,500 people at its Chicago plants. Removing the head tax would save the company $168,000 a year at those factories. If Ford were to add the additional 2,00 jobs, it would not have to pay an additional $96,000 annually.

Meanwhile, Ford might get even more help from the state of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported today company officials are in talks with Gov. Pat Quinn’s office about an incentive package. The governor declined to be specific, saying the negotiations are continuing.


When contract negotiations stumbled last month between the United Auto Workers and Chrysler, the automaker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne criticized his union counterpart in a public letter. When deadlines passed, he declared new ones rather than continue open-ended extensions. Now he wants to remove a cap on the number of entry-level workers.

UAW president Bob King has already reached agreements with General Motors and Ford this fall. Negotiations with Marchionne and Chrysler will likely be the most arduous yet.

“Chrysler is in a different situation because their balance sheet isn’t as beautiful and the profits haven’t started to fall in,” Kristin Dziczek, a labor analyst at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Center for Automotive Research, tells Bloomberg News while explaining Chrysler’s harder-line stance.

According to her organization, Chrysler’s hourly labor costs, including benefits, averaged $49 per hour, compared with $56 at GM and $58 at Ford before the contract negotiations began, according to the Detroit Free Press. Chrysler has not yet returned to profitability since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009.

King said the UAW brings some leeway to the negotiating table, but that “we’re not going to give one company an economic advantage over another company,” he tells the Detroit News. “… But as flexible as we were at Ford and did some things differently, we’re flexible at Chrysler.”