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Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW nears Ford deal. Local leaders in the United Auto Workers union have been called to Detroit for a Tuesday meeting, a “strong sign” that a contract has been reached with Ford Motor Co., according to the Associated Press. A UAW spokesperson said Monday that no deal has been finalized, although the union is hoping it will have one to present at tomorrow’s meeting. The four-year deal is expected to be more lucrative than the one UAW workers reached with General Motors last week, and include profit sharing instead of annual wage increases.

2. Emanuel hosts airline leaders. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will hold a summit today with airline executives. He will discuss what kinds of improvements they’d like to see in Chicago’s workforce and infrastructure to maintain the city’s status as a transportation leader. United Air Lines and Boeing are based in Chicago, and American Airlines uses O’Hare as one of its major hubs. “I do not want to just sit on that lead. I want to build it,” Emanuel said last week. The CEOs of United, American, Boeing and electronic-booking agent Orbitz, as well as government officals, are expected to be in attendance.

3. Chicago native wins Nobel Prize. Bruce A. Beutler, a genetics professor born and educated in Chicago, is one of three winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine. The prizes were announced Monday. Buetler was born in Chicago and earned his medical degree from the University of Chicago in 1981. He currently works at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif, where officials credit his groundbreaking work in immunology for the prize. “I awoke in the night, looked at my cell phone and saw that I had a message that said, ‘Nobel Prize,’” Beutler told the San Diego Union-Tribune.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Porsche’s place in Cleveland economy. Is there something illogical about opening a Porsche dealership in the midst of northeast Ohio’s economic turbulence? Not really, says Mark Naymik of The Plain Dealer. Porsche buyers are faring just fine, according to U.S. Census data. Naymik attended the grand opening of a Porsche dealership in suburban Beachwood, and examines the trickle-down role of such luxury purchases and the complexities of the regional economy — while also providing details on the regal evening.

2. Standard & Poor’s upgrades GM. After reviewing the four-year contract agreement between the UAW and General Motors, Standard & Poor’s announced today that it has upgraded the automaker’s debt rating from BB- to BB+. “We believe the contract will allow for continued profitability and cash generation in North America,” S&P’s Robert Schulz said in a written statement.

3. Michigan banks receive small-business boost. The U.S. Treasury announced today that five Michigan community banks would receive a total of $28.8 million in funding as part of the Small Business Jobs Act that President Obama signed into law. The money, distributed through the Small Business Lending Fund, encourages community banks to help small businesses expand operations and create new jobs. The Treasury said in a release that small businesses account for approximately 60 percent of job creation, but that such businesses are facing “disproportionate challenges in the aftermath” of the credit crisis.


There may be no joy in Boston or Atlanta, but there is plenty among baseball fans in the Great Lakes. The Detroit Tigers and Milwaukee Brewers are headed to division playoff series in the American and National Leagues, respectively.

The Brewers have a leg up on their neighbors across Lake Michigan: they’ve clinched home field advantage in the best of five series. They play the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday and Saturday at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

The Tigers face the New York Yankees those same days at Yankee Stadium in New York, then return to Comerica Park on Monday.

Both teams have been big economic drivers for their home towns, and both cities will get another economic boost from post-season games, which could last all this month, depending on how far each team goes. That’s good news for everything that benefits from a sports team: restaurants, parking lot attendants, hotels, souvenir sales and the guys who hawk peanuts.

Even before the playoffs start, the Brewers have sold more than 3 million tickets this year, breaking an attendance record set in 2009. That gave them seventh place in Major League Baseball.

Milwaukee did not raise season ticket prices for 2011, and has offered inexpensive deals such as a $14 combo ticket to a baseball game and the Wisconsin State Fair.

Aside from baseball, Brewers’ principal owner Mark Attanasio remains optimistic about the economy in general. Last month, the long-time investment manager said he expected the country to avoid a double-dip recession, despite doom surrounding financial markets.

Alex Avila and Jose Valverde celebrate the Tigers' Central Division title

Alex Avila and Jose Valverde celebrate the Tigers’ Central Division title

In Detroit, the Tigers drew 2.6 million fans during the regular season, good for 13th place among major league teams. All year, they’ve had the drawing power of Justin Verlander, the American League’s likely Cy Young Award winner and candidate for most valuable player.

As far back as June, the Tigers drew 5,000 more fans per game when Verlander pitched than on an ordinary night.

Although the Tigers failed in their goal to get home field advantage, Verlander provided an economic gift to the Metro Detroit area, at least in one way: magazine sales. He made the cover of Sports Illustrated earlier this month.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ford stops controversial ad campaign. Ford has curtailed an ad campaign that featured an indirect rebuke of the federal bailout of the auto industry. The Detroit News reports the White House had “questions” about the marketing campaign, which featured a “real person” explaining his decision to buy a Ford instead of a car from a company bailed out by the government – a shot at rivals General Motors and Chrysler. “This thing is highly charged,” a source tells the newspaper. Ford “never meant it to be an attack on the policy.”

2. Ways to close Chicago’s budget gap. Chicago’s City Hall watchdog agency has proposed more than $2.8 billion in spending cuts and revenue increases, according to our partner station WBEZ. Ideas include a city income tax, tolls on Lake Shore Drive and privatizing trash collection, among others. The proposal from Inspector General Joe Ferguson includes 63 ideas to help Chicago contend with a projected $635 million deficit in 2012. Among the more controversial cuts is the possibility of laying off more than 700 firefighters and more than 300 police officers to save $190 million.

3. Critics: Ohio too cozy with industry. When the state of Ohio decided to set air-pollution standards on shale-gas wells earlier this year, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency sought advice from Chesapeake Energy, a drilling company. That’s one example of a too-cozy relationship between Ohio officials and industry, critics charge. Their concerns have mounted as gas-shale has boomed. “These agencies have an open-door policy with industry that they don’t with the public,” Teresa Mills, director of an environmental advocacy group tells The Columbus Dispatch.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio eyes energy jobs. Ohio Gov. John Kasich hosted an energy summit Wednesday on the Ohio State University campus that brought together members of the oil and gas industries, utilities officials and environmentalists. The Plain Dealer reports there was widespread enthusiasm over the prospect of Chesapeake Energy Corp. investing $200 billion in Ohio that could bring more than 200,000 jobs. Kasich held some skepticism. “I want to make sure we are steady in this,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t want to get ahead of the curve.”

2. Ford next in UAW talks. While United Auto Workers began to vote today on a four-year deal reached last week with General Motors, the UAW has shifted its focus to negotiations with Ford. The only U.S. automakers that avoided bankruptcy in 2009, Ford workers will likely expect more lucrative terms than the ones reached in the GM deal. Reuters reports there’s some resentment among UAW Ford workers over the $26.5 million compensation package Chief Executive Alan Mulally received, one that UAW president Bob King called “morally wrong.”

3. Wisconsin median income plummets. Adjusted for inflation, median household income in Wisconsin plunged 14.5 percent between 1999 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau Data released today. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the median household income dropped, when adjusted, from $57,316 to $49,001 last year. “The middle class is taking a beating,” Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells the newspaper. “We were manufacturing our pants off. But times are changing.”

 


In 2006, Moshe Davis thought he found the right site to expand the Orthodox Jewish elementary school he ran in Chicago.  An abandoned building that formerly housed an audio electronics company in Evanston seemed like the perfect new home.

He bought the building knowing the property was zoned for industrial use, but assumed the community would change that. It didn’t. Four years later, a lawsuit the school filed against Evanston is ongoing.

At the heart of the conflict is a dilemma that municipalities all across the Midwest have confronted throughout the recession: Do communities jump at the first chance – any chance – to fill vacant buildings or do they wait for the return of a tax-yielding business?

In Evanston, the answer is clear. The city’s attorney tells our partner station WBEZ the city must “consider the tax ramifications for land-use applications.” And while some neighbors concerned about property values want to see an empty building filled, others in the town prefer to hold out hope that manufacturing  will someday return.

“Just because it’s vacant doesn’t mean it doesn’t have the potential to become a viable commercial property at some point,” says Michelle Hays, a resident who lives 1.5 moles away from the property.

Five years later, Davis wonders how long he must wait.

He has searched for a buyer. But he purchased the building just before the real-estate crash. He has sunk millions into the building and maintenance, tens of thousands on property taxes. And his students still attend classes in their overcrowded Chicago facility.


Tomorrow, Changing Gears’ senior editor, Micki Maynard, will be in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., to talk about the outlook for the economies of Michigan and the Midwest. It’s an uncertain time, with unemployment back above 11 percent in Michigan, and budget crises in many of our states. But there’s also some optimism in the new UAW-GM contract, and the return of profits for Detroit auto companies.

Join Micki and the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce at the Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort. Details are here.


What makes a city powerful?

According to The Atlantic, cities bring together talented, ambitious people, whose ideas and

Chicago's lakefront

innovations make it a place of economic growth. And, one of the world’s most powerful is right here in the Midwest.

Chicago ranks No. 4 on The Atlantic’s list of the world’s 25 most economically powerful cities, second only to New York in the United States (it also ranks behind Tokyo and London). The list is part of The Atlantic’s new Cities page, which debuted today. It looks at issues facing urban areas around the world.

The Global Economic Power Index, developed by the Martin Prosperity Institute, reflects three key  dimensions of economic power—economic, financial, and innovative.

Economic Power is measured as economic output or gross regional product. Financial Power is based on the Global Financial Centers Index, which ranks the banking and financial power of cities across the world. Innovation is based on patent activity.

The Atlantic says Chicago’s annual economic output is $460 billion, while its global economic power score is .915, a batting average that anyone in baseball would dream of having. Its financial center ranking is 678, while its innovation score is 7.

Other American cities on the list include Boston, at No. 6 and Washington, D.C., which ranked 10th. Our neighbors in Toronto ranked No. 12.

There’s a wealth of other statistics on the new Atlantic Cities page. Did you know the median income for Chicago is nearly $60,000? But it’s under $50,000 in Detroit, while Cleveland’s median income is about $45,000.

What do you think of The Atlantic ranking? Would you put other cities on the power list?


What makes a city powerful?

According to The Atlantic, cities bring together talented, ambitious people, whose ideas and

Chicago's lakefront

innovations make it a place of economic growth. And, one of the world’s most powerful is right here in the Midwest.

Chicago ranks No. 4 on The Atlantic’s list of the world’s 25 most economically powerful cities, second only to New York in the United States (it also ranks behind Tokyo and London). The list is part of The Atlantic’s new Cities page, which debuted today. It looks at issues facing urban areas around the world.

The Global Economic Power Index, developed by the Martin Prosperity Institute, reflects three key  dimensions of economic power—economic, financial, and innovative.

Economic Power is measured as economic output or gross regional product. Financial Power is based on the Global Financial Centers Index, which ranks the banking and financial power of cities across the world. Innovation is based on patent activity.

The Atlantic says Chicago’s annual economic output is $460 billion, while its global economic power score is .915, a batting average that anyone in baseball would dream of having. Its financial center ranking is 678, while its innovation score is 7.

Other American cities on the list include Boston, at No. 6 and Washington, D.C., which ranked 10th. Our neighbors in Toronto ranked No. 12.

There’s a wealth of other statistics on the new Atlantic Cities page. Did you know the median income for Chicago is nearly $60,000? But it’s under $50,000 in Detroit, while Cleveland’s median income is about $45,000.

What do you think of The Atlantic ranking? Would you put other cities on the power list?


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Bridge gains political spotlight. Some experts estimate that billions of dollars in goods, perhaps as much as 4 percent of the nation’s GDP, at some point cross the Brent Spence Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. On Thursday, President Obama highlighted the bridge as one that could be repaired as part of his jobs recovery plan. The prominent mention was perhaps a bit of political gamesmanship – House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky could be in the cross-hairs of their constituents if they voted against the $2 billion overhaul, which currently lacks federal funding.

2. Middle-class crunch. The Columbus Dispatch spent five days last week exploring what it means to be middle class in Ohio. The definition varies widely, but the newspaper concludes the key measures show that Ohio’s middle class is much smaller than people realize, and “the group is shrinking.” As one employee at a barber shop in suburban Dayton said, “The middle class? I’m not sure it exists anymore.”

3. Detroit earns dubious title. In July, The New York Times profiled the youth movement under way in Detroit. This week, Good Magazine followed up and declared the Motor City as one of the best places to be “young and broke.” It cited the fact the city’s vibrant community activism scene is led by young people, and that Detroit has earned a reputation for hustle, art and low cost of living. And also, of course, there’s lots of young people who are doing quite well for themselves.