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The State of Steubenville Ohio governor John Kasich delivers his State of the State address tonight. But instead of giving the speech at the state capitol, he’ll be at a public school in Steubenville. Partner station WCPN Ideastream explains why.

Tech jobs Chicago is landing more tech jobs, mostly in the digital advertising sector, reports Crain’s Chicago.

Detroit panel to meet in public A judge says there will be no more secret meetings to determine the fate of Detroit. A state-appointed panel is looking into the city’s finances to determine whether the city should be put under the control of an emergency manager. Now, partner station Michigan Radio reports the panel’s meetings must be held in public.

A pickle of a plant A plant in Detroit that once made auto parts is about to start making pickles.

Here’s hoping you never have to use it A couple of Clevelanders are launching a new startup company: eFunerals.com.



Last night during the Super Bowl, Chrysler ran a follow-up to its much buzzed-about commercial from last year’s big game. The new commercial, dubbed “It’s Halftime in America” ran, appropriately enough, during halftime.

The ad makes it clear that Chrysler is sticking with its strategy to promote the Motor City as a way to promote its vehicles.

After declaring that “it’s halftime in America, the ad’s narrator, Clint Eastwood, says:

People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again.

The ad got us thinking: When people say Detroit, oftentimes what they mean is “the auto industry” or “metro-Detroit.” So, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about Detroit?

Clearly, when Dirty Harry himself says Detroit “almost lost everything,” he’s not talking about the City of Detroit. Because, if the city doesn’t get its finances in order, it could still lose “everything” and fall under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. And he’s not talking about Detroit schools, which are already under the control of an emergency manager.

It’s arguable whether he could even be talking about Chrysler, since the company’s headquarters are a half-hour drive from the city’s borders, and the company is majority-owned by Italy’s Fiat. Also, unless you’re talking about the Jeep Wrangler or Dodge Durango, none of Chrysler’s cars are actually made in the Motor City.

These might seem like minor details. After all, few of us are confused when people use “Detroit” to mean “the auto industry.” But the distinction does matter, certainly to Detroiters. And it helps explain why the city is still struggling, even though the car companies seem to have bounced back.

As Changing Gears wrote last year, there are only two auto assembly plants left in Detroit (although Chrysler is re-opening a third this year). And GM is the only car company whose headquarters is within the city limits.

When the car companies left the city, they took with them their property tax obligations, their employee income tax obligations and a whole lot of money that the actual city of Detroit could use right about now. It’s not like we can expect these decisions to be reversed, nor would it necessarily be a good thing for the region.

But we should be aware that when a company, or a person talks about rebuilding Detroit, sometimes they’re not talking about Detroit at all. Sometimes they’re talking about a suburb (where things were never as bad as they are right now in Detroit). Sometimes, as is the case with a recent Chrysler announcement, they’re talking about Belvidere, Ill.

So how is it you can hear about the rebirth of Detroit, and a minute later hear about how the city’s finances are crumbling?

Because when people say Detroit, often what they mean is something completely different.

When you use the word Detroit, what does it mean to you?


The day after The Super Bowl is over, and now the cleanup process begins for Indianapolis.

Opportunity knocked Reuters looks into what happened to all those clients of MF Global, after the firm collapsed. Turns out two Chicago firms were the biggest winners, bringing in $1.2 billion in new funds.

More ‘Free’ beds The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Mich. is planning a $48 million expansion. The expansion will double the hospital’s size.

Gasification fight Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson wants to turn the city’s trash into energy. But environmentalists have raised concerns about emissions from the “gasification” process. And the city council is not sold on the idea.

Going once, going twice, oh never mind … Detroit residents who had their homes taken away because of a failure to pay taxes are getting an opportunity to buy those homes back. The Detroit News reports that thousands of city-owned properties failed to sell at auction. So officials now say they’ll offer to sell the property back to the original owner, or whoever is squatting in the home, for as little as $500.

Not really ‘Made In Detroit’ Last week, we put together a list of all the companies making t-shirts to show your local pride in the Midwest. Today, Susan Tompor looks at one of those companies and asks Where are those ‘Made In Detroit’ shirts actually made?”


Politics is front of mind here in the Midwest. We’re also thinking about what to wear, watch, and where our friends went. Here’s a roundup of our top Changing Gears stories this week.

WiSCONSIN: Niala Boodhoo went to Madison, where she showed us how union members are still protesting a year after Gov. Scott Walker eliminated public employee collective bargaining rights. She reported on how they’re faring.

RIGHT TO WORK: Indiana is now the nation’s 23rd Right to Work state, only two months after Gov. Mitch Daniels made the legislation one of his top priorities. Will Michigan be next?

MIDWEST MIGRATION: Our Public Insight team has been tracking the stories of people who’ve left our states. There’s still time for our exiles to call us and leave messages for the folks back home. Meanwhile, read much more on our dedicated page.

T-SHIRTS: If you seek a Midwest t-shirt, look about you. Dustin Dwyer found our states are chock full of small companies making t-shirts that represent our region.

DIY DETROIT: Have you found that all those documentary films about Detroit are starting to look the same? Dustin offers you a how-to kit for making your own Detroit documentary.

Finally, a shout out to Troy “Trombone Shorty,” who sings the Changing Gears theme. He’s been immortalized by the New Orleans Jazz Fest.


Yesterday, we offered our how-to guide for making your own documentary about Detroit.

Now our partners at the Public Insight Network want your thoughts. What would you include in your Detroit documentary?


The part that’s not so Super It’s Super Bowl weekend in Indianapolis. Cities that host the Super Bowl are usually hoping for a big economic boost. But there’s one kind of economic activity that Indiana officials are hoping to avoid: sex trafficking. Reporter Michael Puente from partner station WBEZ had a look at the city’s efforts last week.

Land for sale If you’re looking to buy some land, you might want to check in with Cleveland-based the Forest City real estate company. The company, which built its empire on land purchases, is now looking to unload more than 6,500 acres of land.

An art tax? The Detroit Institute of Arts has a world class reputation, but lately it hasn’t been making world class money. Institute leaders are exploring the option of a new regional tax to pay for operations.

The (not so much) money train Leaders in West Michigan have rounded up $4.6 billion in funds to improve regional rail lines. But that’s still $2.6 billion short of what they need for what they’re hoping to do.

On air NPR’s Talk of the Nation took on the future of American manufacturing jobs yesterday.


flickr user trevor.patt

The Michigan Central Depot is a must-have shot for any documentary about Detroit.

Detroit is a city that fascinates a lot of people.

Its story is not a simple one, though it has sometimes been a dramatic one. So maybe it’s not surprising that we seem to hear every week about a new documentary film being made about Detroit.

Changing Gears hasn’t had a chance to see all of these documentaries, but we’ve heard about an awful lot of them.

And we’ve noticed some patterns that we thought could be helpful in case you ever decide to make a documentary about the Motor City.

So, here is our DIY guide for how to make a Detroit documentary:

Opening shot:
An abandoned building sits desolate in the morning light. Tufts of yellowed grass sprout up among the cracked concrete and bent steel. The grass blades wave weakly with the wind, as if in surrender.

Once the shot establishes, you can add a voice-over, and possibly some sad music.

Suggested locations:

Act One: “Paris of the Midwest”
After you visually establish that Detroit is a rotting mess of industrial decay, you’ll need to remind your audience of the glory days. Be sure to refer to Detroit as the Motor City as much as possible.

You should also use phrases like “put the world on wheels,” “gave rise to the middle class” and “Paris of the Midwest.” You can even get archival footage of Detroit on YouTube.

Once that’s established, you’ll want to cue up some ominous music. It’s time to show people the city’s rapid and depressing decline. In the past, if you were making a documentary about Detroit, now would be the time to show footage from the 1967 riots.

But using the riots as a way to describe Detroit’s decline has fallen somewhat out of fashion. You can still mention the riots, but be sure to mention that other cities had riots too, and that the city’s downfall can’t be blamed on this one set of events. Still, you’ll have to blame the decline on something, so here’s a list of possible scapegoats:

  1. Corporations
  2. Globalization
  3. The Federal Government
  4. The State Government
  5. Unions
  6. Racism
  7. Disinvestment
  8. The declining social fabric of America
Act Two: The Post-Apocalyptic Hell-Scape
This is the part of Detroit documentaries that gets people most excited, so don’t hold back. Some choose to skip the other parts of the story completely and just do an entire documentary on this. Either way, you’ll need lots more shots of abandoned places.

This time, visit some neighborhoods on the outskirts of downtown. You can get shots of empty blocks, crumbled houses and graffiti. Pay special attention to the places where vegetation has started growing up through concrete. In a Detroit documentary, you can never have too many of those shots.

It’s also important to put a human face on this part of the story. You should try to find someone with big, watery eyes who’s old enough to remember the good days in Detroit. If you’re lucky, they’ll tell you about bullets being shot through their window, drugs taking over their street and the inevitable hopelessness that every poor soul left in Detroit can’t help but feel.

If you’re really lucky, they’ll ask you to stop taping so they can cry. It goes without saying that this person should be extremely poor and preferably black.

End the act with a long, lingering pause, so that your audience can fully feel the visceral, unending misery that is life in today’s Detroit.

Act Three: A Glimmer Of Hope
This act is sometimes optional in Detroit documentaries. In other documentaries it’s the entire focus (but those are usually the boring documentaries). Anyway, the hopeful storyline should start off with a shot of downtown Detroit, this time with actual people in it, to show that life goes on despite all the horror.

Then you’ll want to cut to a project or business that is emblematic of what’s going right in the city. Here are some suggestions:

Don’t worry if most of the people you interview are white. Young white people who want to rebuild Detroit are totally in right now.

But try not to mention any of the really big companies downtown like GM, Compuware, the hospitals or anything related to Dan Gilbert. Your audience doesn’t want to hear about boring, big companies and their polished PR machine.

You should also avoid politics and politicians because that’s even more boring. A good rule of thumb is: If the person wears a suit, don’t put them in your documentary. Try to focus on people in a form-fitting t-shirts, thick-rimmed glasses and faded jeans.

There should be lots of references in this act to Detroiters’ work ethic.  Use words like “grit,” “blue-collar” and “hardscrabble” as much as possible. This is also a good time to use a shot of the Joe Louis fist sculpture.

As the documentary comes to a close, bring in a montage of images, this time showing buildings that are occupied, streets that have people on them and vegetation that is green. You might show one of those abandoned buildings as a callback, but this time include some sign of life – like a flower in bloom.

End the film with a quote from someone in your third act. Have them say something like: “The auto companies built this town. The [insert scapegoat here] brought it down. But us Detroiters have a hardscrabble, blue-collar, gritty work-ethic. We’ll build this city again.”

Cut to black.

Then prepare your pitch to Sundance.

Note to Detroit’s documentary filmmakers: We kid because we love.


Soul Train was a big influence on generations of American teens (and their younger siblings and older relatives). So, the news today of host Don Cornelius’ death is jolting many people, no more so than here in the Midwest. Famous people, ranging from Jesse Jackson to Quincy Jones, are paying tribute.

Soul Train began as dance parties at local schools, then became a local program on Chicago television. It featured dancing and performances in the mode of American Bandstand, but with an urban flair exemplified by Cornelius’ deep, smooth voice. And of course, the highlight of every show was the Soul Train line dance, along with Cornelius’ sign off: “Wishing you peace, love and souuulll.”

At a time when television aimed at a black audience was just coming into its own, Soul Train had a big time sponsor: Sears, Roebuck, and it soon picked up Johnson Products. When it first went into syndication, it was picked up in seven cities — Detroit and Cleveland among them. (I watched it on WJBK-TV, Channel 2, where it ran right after Bandstand.) By the end of its first season in syndication, it was in 17 markets, and then it went national.

Many black artists with Midwest roots appeared on the show, including Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye, as well as the Jacksons, while Michael Jackson was on many times as a solo artist.

Soul Train stayed on the air from 1971 through 2006, although Cornelius hosted only through 1993. Last year, Soul Train marked its 40th anniversary with a month long celebration in Chicago. On Aug. 31, our partners at WBEZ talked to Cornelius as part of a series of broadcasts.

As you think of Cornelius, take a look at the clip — the first time he danced on the show. That’s Mary Wilson, one of the Supremes, at the beginning.

Do you have memories of Soul Train? Share them with us. We wish you peace, love and soul.


Right to Work, right away Indiana is expected to be the first state in the industrial Midwest to become a Right to Work state. And it could happen as soon as today. Right to Work rules prohibit companies from negotiating contracts with their unions that make union membership mandatory. Instead, workers will have a choice whether to join the union. Business leaders say the changes will make Indiana more competitive. Union leaders say the changes will let some workers benefit from union bargaining without having to pay to support the union. They say it will ultimately weaken the union.

Pentastar profits Chrysler had its first profitable year since 1997.

Start up money A group of 44 Chicago business leaders are starting a new tech investment fund. Meanwhile, the state of Michigan is thinking of launching its own start-up fund.

Honda invests Honda is expected to announce new investments in two Ohio plants today.

A deal in Detroit The Detroit Free Press reports the city has reached agreements with its unions that could keep the city solvent, and avoid a state takeover.


Talking Points Memo, an influential political blog, is estimating that as much as $100 million could be spent on the recall fight involving Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

$100 million and this turkey is yours

It quotes analysts saying spending could be two or three times the $44 million that candidates and their supporters spent during state Senate recall races last year. Walker, at least, is getting ready for a pitched battle. He raised $4.5 million in just over a month, and has more than $2 million on hand, according to TPM.

But, given the state of our economy, that got us thinking: what else could $100 million pay for in the Midwest? We found all kinds of things that carry that price tag.

Detroit Schools’ Deficit. A year ago, the Detroit Public Schools were $327 million in the red. Now, the deficit has been reduced to $89 million, according to Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency manager.

But it wouldn’t be handing us back any change. The steps the district took to reduce its shortfall means it has to pay about $20 million a year in interest, so it will have a use for the money left over from the $100 million.

Loans in Cleveland. Last week, the The Cuyahoga County Council launched a $100 million fund designed to build businesses and create jobs.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the county is offering 11 types of loans. Five types of loans, including those to attract investors for start-ups, redevelop properties and to lure large companies, will be accepting applications immediately. The others are expected to start over the next four months.

A Bunch of Robots. Ford Motor Company is spending $100 million to install laser vision robots at three factories, including the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and the Chicago Assembly Plant.

The robots are meant to give the company a more accurate reading of the way its parts fit together, helping it improve quality and reduce wind noise.

Turkeys in Indiana. Farbest Foods of Huntingburg, Ind., may spend that much to build a turkey processing plant in Vigo County, as well as a feed mill and a brooding hub.

Before it can make the investment, though, it needs to sign contracts with 60 to 70 farmers in central Indiana and east-central Illinois.

Your turn: how would you spend $100 million in the Midwest?