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Good morning! Three must-reads from around the Midwest region today:

Sara Lee sells its dough business. Downers Grove, Illinois-based Sara Lee Corp. is selling its North American refrigerated dough business to Ralcorp Holdings Inc. for $545 million, the Associated Press reports. The company said in May it wanted to start a process of splitting in two.

Allstate hiring in Ohio. The insurer, the fourth-largest in Ohio, is ramping up its workforce in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, according to the Youngstown Business Journal. The company said it sees a “significant” opportunity in this economy to expand, adding it wants to appoint 50 new insurance agency owners and hire more than 175 licensed sales professionals across Ohio this year.
New Detroit Bridge to Canada. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration said it would like to have a deal on a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario before the end of the year, our partner Michigan Radio reports. An impending deal would force many lawmakers, especially Republicans – who are in control of the Legislature — to take a position on the bridge issue.

Detroiters are mourning the death of Eleanor Josaitis, the co-founder of FOCUS:Hope, an inner city organization that grew from a civil rights organization to a major hub of worker training.

Eleanor Josaitis, co-founder of FOCUS:Hope

Josaitis, 79, died this morning at a hospice in Livonia, Mich. The Detroit Free Press obituary can be found here.

Said Detroit Mayor Dave Bing: “Eleanor was a stalwart of community activism. She has touched the lives of countless Detroiters and built a legacy of hope and help that will last for generations. She will be sorely missed as a friend and community leader.” Read more tributes to Josaitis.

FOCUS:Hope was founded in 1968 by Josaitis and William Cunningham, a Roman Catholic priest, as a civil rights organization. Josaitis, who attended the parish where Cunningham was weekend associate pastor, moved her family from the suburbs into the city the year after the Detroit riots and began working with him.

FOCUS:Hope began with an all-volunteer staff, and no budget, mainly as a food distribution service for needy residents. Its 40-acre campus on Detroit’s Oakman Boulevard now includes a Center for Advanced Technologies, a Machinist Training Institute and an Information Technologies Center.

Its food program, which continues, provides groceries to about 43,000 people monthly in a setting that is meant to resemble a grocery store.

FOCUS:Hope has an operating budget of $23 million, employing about 280 people known as “colleagues” and has 15,000 volunteers.

Josaitis and Cunningham, who died in 1997, worked tirelessly to attract attention to the venture, raising money, lobbying area executives to support it. and enlisting former executives to teach students. Josaitis hosted visiting presidents, testified before Congress and served on numerous non-profit boards.

“Focus: HOPE is such a remarkable charity and will continue well past her death,” said Edsel B. Ford II, a Ford Motor Company board member and Detroit philanthropist.

Did you participate in any FOCUS:Hope programs? Feel free to share your memories of Eleanor Josaitis.

 

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Head tax faces guillotine. Mayor Rahm Emanuel pledged to end the city’s head tax on businesses with 50 or more employees during his campaign. Now Chicago aldermen are negotiating what comes next, according to our partner station WBEZ. Companies with 50 or more employees are taxed $4 per month per each full-timer on the payroll. Although the city generates $20 million in revenue each year, some officials are concerned the tax discourages expansion.

2. Detroit mayor unveils overhaul. The city of Detroit will no longer treat its neighborhoods equally. They will instead be designated as steady, transitional or distressed, and city services will be prioritized in certain areas, according to The Detroit News. Detroit mayor Dave Bing said the move is a “short-term intervention strategy” to save certain neighborhoods. The redeployment strategy begins in two weeks. “We must be smarter about how we align our resources,” Bing told The News.

3. Ford building second India factory. Following in the footsteps of rivals General Motors and Tata Motors, Ford announced today it would build a factory in the western state of Gujarat in India. The $906 million facility will be operational in 2014, according to Bloomberg. The factory is Ford’s second in India, with another plant located in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Analysts said the move gives Ford access not only to northern India, but perhaps to the European market as well.


“It’s a city center with a small-town feel.”

That’s the way the promotional arm of a Detroit development consortium describes the Motor City’s downtown. Many residents might not see their neighborhoods in that context, but a new program launched Monday aims to change that.

Despite losing 25 percent of its population over the past decade, Detroit has seen an uptick in young, college graduates living downtown.

As part of an effort to attract more residents and rebuild Detroit’s core, five of the city’s key employers announced a joint initiative that provides employees with cash incentives to move downtown and maintain their homes. More than 16,000 employees from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, Compuware, Quicken Loans and Strategic Staffing Solutions are eligible for the Live Downtown initiative.

Neighborhoods eligible for the program include Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park and Midtown. Overall, approximately $4 million will be available over a five-year period. A variety of incentive plans are available, including $20,000 loans for new homeowners purchasing a primary residence and $2,500 for new renters. Existing homeowners can receive as much as $5,000 for exterior improvement projects of $10,000 or more.

“We support the idea of providing greater convenience for our employees, the attraction of new talented workers and the goal of revitalizing Detroit’s downtown,” DTE Energy vice president for corporate affairs Paul Hillegonds said in a written statement.

The program attempts to build on what has become one of Detroit’s few strengths amid a turbulent economy: Although the city’s overall population contracted by 25 percent in the past decade, according to census data, the number of college-educated residents under age 35 increased by 59 percent downtown. Earlier this month, The New York Times called the youth movement an “influx of socially aware hipsters and artists now roaming the streets of Detroit.”

The “Live Downtown” program is similar to the $1.2 million “Live Midtown” plan that launched in January and involved Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System. Both programs are coordinated by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

“Live Downtown is a tremendous program that will enhance economic development and draw new residents who will add their ideas and voices to the ongoing transformation of our city,” DDP CEO David Blaskiweicz said in a written statement.


“It’s a city center with a small-town feel.”

That’s the way the promotional arm of a Detroit development consortium describes the Motor City’s downtown. Many residents might not see their neighborhoods in that context, but a new program launched Monday aims to change that.

Despite losing 25 percent of its population over the past decade, Detroit has seen an uptick in young, college graduates living downtown.

As part of an effort to attract more residents and rebuild Detroit’s core, five of the city’s key employers announced a joint initiative that provides employees with cash incentives to move downtown and maintain their homes. More than 16,000 employees from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, DTE Energy, Compuware, Quicken Loans and Strategic Staffing Solutions are eligible for the Live Downtown initiative.

Neighborhoods eligible for the program include Corktown, Downtown, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park and Midtown. Overall, approximately $4 million will be available over a five-year period. A variety of incentive plans are available, including $20,000 loans for new homeowners purchasing a primary residence and $2,500 for new renters. Existing homeowners can receive as much as $5,000 for exterior improvement projects of $10,000 or more.

“We support the idea of providing greater convenience for our employees, the attraction of new talented workers and the goal of revitalizing Detroit’s downtown,” DTE Energy vice president for corporate affairs Paul Hillegonds said in a written statement.

The program attempts to build on what has become one of Detroit’s few strengths amid a turbulent economy: Although the city’s overall population contracted by 25 percent in the past decade, according to census data, the number of college-educated residents under age 35 increased by 59 percent downtown. Earlier this month, The New York Times called the youth movement an “influx of socially aware hipsters and artists now roaming the streets of Detroit.”

The “Live Downtown” program is similar to the $1.2 million “Live Midtown” plan that launched in January and involved Wayne State University, the Detroit Medical Center and Henry Ford Health System. Both programs are coordinated by the Downtown Detroit Partnership.

“Live Downtown is a tremendous program that will enhance economic development and draw new residents who will add their ideas and voices to the ongoing transformation of our city,” DDP CEO David Blaskiweicz said in a written statement.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio exec develops “anti-poaching” policy. Concerned about the number of communities luring businesses away from other Cleveland-area locations, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald has created a non-compete policy he believes will stimulate overall regional harmony, and possibly growth. Under his “Fourth Frontier” program, local governments under his jurisdiction would be eligible for part of $100 million in development funds, so long as they agree not to provide incentives to lure companies away from other participating cities.

2. Summer outlook: Job openings flat. The number of job openings posted across the nation in May stayed stagnant, an indication hiring is unlikely to trend upward this summer, the Associated Press reported today. The Labor Department said that employers advertised approximately 3 million openings, the same total as April. The department said 4.7 unemployed people competed for each available job in May. The AP writes, “In a healthy economy, the ratio is about 2 to 1.”

3. Details emerge on Detroit help. As many as 12 federal officials will relocate to Detroit as part of the Obama administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities pilot program announced Monday. The Detroit Free Press reports the employees will come from HUD, Transportation, Labor and Commerce Departments, among others. They’ll help the city spend millions of federal dollars by seeking efficiencies and cutting through red tape. The pilot program includes five other U.S. cities, including Cleveland.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Investors withhold light-rail funds. A proposed light-rail line in Detroit is in jeopardy because a group of investors in the Woodward Avenue-area rail lack confidence in the project. A group of businessmen and organizations, M1 Rail, is threatening to withhold $100 million of the project’s $528 million cost, Crain’s Detroit Business reported this morning. M1 Rail says the current nine-mile route is not the best use of funding, nor financially sustainable.

2. Commerce Department launches pilot program. Cleveland and Detroit are among six cities selected for a pilot federal program aimed at sparking urban economic growth. Federal officials will work with local governments, the private sector and others to encourage economic growth and community development, the U.S. Commerce Department said. In a competition designed to spark innovation, communities could compete for economic assistance and federal grant money.

3. Illinois Supreme Court OKs public-works program. An Illinois law that allows the state to raise $31 billion in construction costs through taxes on liquor, candy and video gambling was deemed valid by the state’s supreme court today, our partner station WBEZ reported. A liquor distributor had filed a lawsuit, claiming the legislation violated a requirement that laws must be limited to only one topic.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate edges up in June. A monthly report from the U.S. Labor Department showed the nation’s economy added just 18,000 jobs in June and the unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point to 9.2 percent. Economists were disappointed with the report, and suggested higher energy prices, weak consumer confidence and other problems were to blame. “Unless hiring picks up, there is a reason to be concerned about whether we can grow at 2.5 percent for the rest of this year,” economist John Canally told The New York Times.

2. Detroit home prices sharply decline. Weighed down by a large stock of inventory, home prices in Detroit fell 19.8 percent during the first half of 2011 compared to the same period one year earlier, according to our partner station Michigan Radio. Alex Villacorta of Clear Capital says home prices are expected to dip another 4 percent by the end of 2011.

3. A steel mill’s second act. Bored this weekend and looking for something unusual to do? The Dave Matthews Band Caravan kicks off a three-day concert tonight in Chicago on the 600-acre former site of a giant steel mill once operated as U.S. Steel’s South Works facility on the mouth of the Calumet River. Once a brownfield site, our partner station WBEZ reports that more than 200,000 concertgoers are expected this weekend. Next year, the site is slated for redevelopment.


Adee Braun

Workers in Marshall, Michigan are still cleaning up an oil spill from last summer.

Green energy is often said to be the future of the Midwest economy. But old fashioned fossil fuels could be having a bigger effect on the region’s jobs and corporate bottom lines.

This is not conventional oil, though. It’s a thick, tar-like crude from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada. It’s sent here by pipelines, many which cross our rivers and the Great Lakes, and that has some worrying about a bigger risk to the region.

THE JOBS

You don’t have to tell Detroiters like Jeff Collins that jobs are hard to come by in that city. “I have been unemployed really since October ’07,” he says.

Adee Braun

Jeff Collins

He’s a construction worker, one of the worst-hit industries in perhaps the worst-hit city.

On a recent Friday morning, Collins and about 50 other Detroit electrical workers are milling about the basement of their union hall. They wait for their names to be called and hope to land something.

There are eight openings this day at Detroit’s expanding Marathon oil refinery. The list of guys hoping for work there is 1700 long.

“Well I’m too far back on the book, I probably won’t get that,” Collins says. He says he’s so far back, he’s just there for male bonding.

More stories of Detroit’s construction workers hoping for work.

A few miles away, that Marathon refinery is a hulking complex of pipes and towers and concrete. And, it’s one of the biggest construction projects in Michigan.

Marathon Oil is spending $2.2 billion to expand and upgrade this refinery so it can process more of the sulfur-rich, tar-like crude that comes in by pipeline from the Canadian oil sands. About 1,300 construction workers will be on the job there by fall.

oilsands_Cleanup1 oilsands_Cleanup2 Oil can be still be seen in a creek near the Kalamazoo River Workers in Marshall, Michigan are still cleaning up an oil spill from last summer. Jeff Collins Ken Wesley with his job in hand. Ralph Dollhopf of the EPA Detroit's Marathon Refinery Detroit's Marathon Refinery. Marathon is upgrading the refinery to process more heavy crude from the Canadian oil sands. Marathon Refinery in Detroit Construction workers at the Detroit refinery. Crews use airboats because they have less impact on the river. Cleanup crews use "stingers" to stir up the submerged oil and bring it to the surface. Ralph Dollhopf surveys the Kalamazoo River today.

The oil industry says this is just one example of the Canadian oil sands creating jobs here, something it’s been promoting heavily in advertisements. One ad says the Canadian oil sands and the supporting infrastructure in the U.S. “could create more than 342,000 American jobs in the next four years.”

Peter Howard of the Canadian Energy Research Institute helped the industry come up with those numbers. He projects the oil sands to create 23,000 jobs a year in Illinois, 8000 in Michigan, and 11,000 in Ohio.

Howard’s numbers include everything from companies like Caterpillar that make the gargantuan trucks used in the oil sands, to food companies that feed the workers. And, there are all the refineries being converted to process the stuff. BP’s Toledo plant is supposed to start an upgrade soon. And, BP’s expanding Whiting, Indiana refinery near Chicago is already employing hundreds of construction workers.

After the expansions are done, it’s not exactly the bonanza promised in those ads. The oil companies say each refinery will create fewer than 100 new full time jobs.

THE RISK

The oil comes to the refineries by pipeline. Many are owned by a Canadian company called Enbridge.

Penny Miller had never heard of that company or its pipelines until last year. One day, she came home from a lunch and saw a sheen on the creek by her home. “The next thing I knew is the Enbridge people came up and said they’re trying to hunt this down,” Miller says. “Then, by the time I came home from work that night, it was really thick and really bad.”

A year ago this month, more than 800,000 gallons of heavy Canadian crude spilled from an Enbridge pipeline by her house near the Kalamazoo River.

The day after the spill, Penny Miller’s dog died from the fumes. Nearby, workers are still cleaning up that spill.

Adee Braun

Oil can be still be seen in a creek near the Kalamazoo River

In one creek, they use rototillers to stir up the oil and bring it to the surface.

That’s because this crude from the oil sands is not like other crude.
For one thing, it sinks. That’s a reason this cleanup has already cost more than half a billion dollars, and it’s still going.

“A year ago, there was heavy oil here from bank to bank,” says Ralph Dollhopf of the Environmental Protection Agency, as we go on an airboat ride to survey the Kalamazoo River today.

It’s a lot cleaner, but there’s more work to do before kayakers and others who use the river can return.

We get to two airboats parked near the edge of the river. Dollhopf asks the workers how it’s going as they stick long poles called “stingers” into the water.

A look at the oil spill and the cleanup nearly a year after the Kalamazoo River spill: 

Kalamazoo River: One Year After the Spill from WBEZ on Vimeo.

 

“The idea is to bring the submerged oil up to the top where they can recover it,” Dollhopf explains.

Not only did the oil sink, but the EPA says this oil sands crude posed health risks unlike more conventional oil.

Benzene and other volatile organics were released into the air. Even today, air quality monitors are out at each cleanup site.

Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council says the oil sands are partly to blame for this spill. He says this heavy crude is full of acids and sulfur. And, it travels at a higher temperature and pressure than the conventional crude that used to be the mainstay of these aging pipes. That makes cracks and spills more likely.

“You’re basically sandblasting the pipelines from inside the pipe,” Mogerman says.

The industry contends there is no significant difference between regular and oil sands crude.

Peter Howard of the Canadian Energy Research Institute says pipeline companies go out of their way to minimize the risk of spills.

“When you think about the number of barrels of crude that’s shipped around the United States on a daily basis versus the number of spills in the last ten years, it’s just a finite number,” Howard says.

Enbridge, though, has had at least five other spills in the US in the last decade, according to Reuters. During that time, the amount of crude from the oil sands being piped from Canada has increased dramatically.

Mogerman of the NRDC says that’s putting this region’s rivers and lakes at risk. He points to areas around Lake Superior, the southern end of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie as vulnerabilities.

“Additionally, you have issues where the pipelines actually run underneath Lake St Clair or the St Clair River in Southeast Michigan, and awfully close to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,” he says.

But that’s not front of mind at the union hall back in Detroit.

Adee Braun

Ken Wesley with his job in hand.

Ken Wesley walks out of the office with a job slip in his hand. He had been traveling the country for work. Now, he can work in Detroit, his home.

“Going to have a good summer,” he says, smiling. “Family and kids: haven’t seen them in about eight months.”

And, with the Midwest eager to put guys like Ken Wesley back to work, it’s easy see why cities embrace pipelines and refinery expansions, even if the oil sands crude could be putting our waterways and lakes in peril.

 

Produced with WBEZ’s Front and Center project. 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Controversial Wisconsin law takes effect today. After months of passionate protests and debate, a controversial law that limits collective-bargaining rights of public employees in Wisconsin goes into effect today. The law cuts wages by approximately 8 percent, and strips employees of almost all bargaining leverage. Wisconsin AFL-CIO secretary treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale tells our partner station WBEZ the unions aren’t done fighting. “This union-busting measure will not go unanswered,” she said.

2. Green light for Detroit’s light rail. Detroit leaders and federal officials have reached an agreement on the route of light-rail service from the city’s center up Woodward Avenue. Officials from the city administration tell the Detroit Free Press the route is a “compromise” and some financial backers of the $500-million project may not be happy. Officials say the route combines the need for speed and neighborhood development.

3. Help wanted in Ohio manufacturing sector. Ohio has lost more than 350,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade, but some companies still looking to hire say they can’t find qualified workers. The problem? One human resources director tells our partner Ideastream that workers must multitask and need new training. Ned Hill, a dean of Cleveland State’s Levin College, says “the notion that someone can just walk in and learn a machine in a few hours and be up to speed … if that happens, that’s the exact job that’s going to be automated and disappear.”