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Kate Davidson

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.”

On the other side, you have certain members of the Changing Gears team who grow cranky at the mere mention of silver bullets.

I’m talking about you, Sarah Alvarez. And you, News Director Vincent Duffy.

To find out why, I went to visit Curtis Sullivan at Vault of Midnight, a comic book store in Ann Arbor. He cut to the chase:

“My understanding is silver bullets are used to kill werewolves.”

This man has his finger on the pulse of fantasy and folklore.

“So silver, I immediately think: Kill a werewolf,” he said.

Now, I can’t speak authoritatively on this. But a later, highly unscientific search of The Google revealed that magic bullet and silver bullet are indeed interchangeable these days. That may be because weapons made of silver were long believed to be THE quick and sure way to kill monsters. Silver bullets were an immediate solution to an intractable problem.

While I was still chatting with Sullivan, it occurred to me that he was actually the perfect person to talk to about magic bullets.  He’s a small-business owner after all.  So I asked him if magic/silver bullets actually exist.

“I don’t believe in the magic bullet for the economy,” he said.  “They need a super-rip-the-whole-thing-down-start-over-major-giant-ideas-millions-of-magic-bullets.  Not just one.”

“Not just one,” seems to be the theme this week.  So now that we’ve resolved this pressing semantic issue, let’s get back to what really matters: how to nurture sustainable jobs and industries in the Midwest. Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Four weeks ago, a small group of demonstrators began protesting the grim state of the U.S. economy in New York City with little fanfare.

Now, a growing movement based on the Occupy Wall Street protests has spread throughout the country, including demonstrations in several Midwest cities.

Separate groups protesting the role of big banks in the U.S. foreclosure crisis marched Monday and Tuesday through Chicago, meeting at the Art Institute of Chicago, where the Mortgage Bankers Association was holding its annual conference.

“People are mad as hell at these financial organizations that wrecked the economy, that caused this whole mess,” Catherine Murrell, a spokeswoman for Stand Up Chicago, a coalition of approximately 20 Chicago community organizations, told the Chicago Sun-Times. “They broke the economy. They played with it like it was a toy.”

Protestors held training sessions on how to deal with the police, distributed press releases and chanted throughout the day Tuesday, according to our partner station WBEZ. On Monday, approximately 7,000 people participated in the protests, disrupting traffic across the city.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, protests were smaller, but sustained. In Columbus, Ohio, about 100 protestors marched in front of the Statehouse on Tuesday morning, railing against corporate greed, student-loan debt and the media. The group intended to show solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street protests in New York, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

In Madison, Wisc. protests occurred over the weekend. A crowd estimated in the dozens marched throughout downtown, settling in Reynolds Park until Sunday evening. In Milwaukee, religious leaders gave the movement traction in their Sunday sermons.

“I’m not against capitalism, but a capitalist society run amok takes care of the people at the top, and the people at the bottom are crushed,” Rev. Willie Brisco told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Protests were in the planning stages in Detroit on Sunday. The South End, the student newspaper at Wayne State University, reported that hundreds of people met at the Spirit of Hope Church on Monday night to plan protests slated to begin on Friday. Event organizers said that approximately 1,000 people attended the meeting.


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. Changing face of office space. Sixty-six acres of land with 1 million square feet of office space located close to O’Hare Airport traditionally shouldn’t have trouble selling in Cook County, Illinois. The fact the former United Air Lines corporate site has lingered on the market for two years not only reflects a stalled real estate market, but the changing needs of corporate office environments. Our partner station WBEZ examines the changing corporate campus culture, as well as the move of several suburban headquarters toward downtown Chicago.

2. Ohio home sales rise. Home sales rose throughout Ohio in August, according to data from the Ohio Association of Realtors. Sales increased 22 percent year over year, and 10 percent from July. “Throughout the state, we experienced a significant uptick in activity in August for the second consecutive month,” the president of the association tells The Columbus Dispatch. In the Columbus area, sales were up more than 15 percent from the previous August.

3. Construction activity on upswing? Following four consecutive months of declines, the Architectural Billings Index surged upward in August. The ABI score rose to 51.4 in August after posting a 45.1 in July, a gain that caught some analysts by surprise. “It’s possible we’ve reached the bottom of the down cycle,” AIA chief economist Kermit Baker said. The ABI is an economic indicator of construction activity. The Midwest regional average was 49.0, highest of the four regions covered in the data.


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.


Forty-five percent of Americans define themselves as middle class, according to an ABC News poll in 2010. Those polled generally agreed upon some basics of a middle-class lifestyle: They worked in stable jobs, owned homes in safe neighborhoods, owned at least one vehicle, saved a little for retirement and college tuition.

“That set of things is becoming increasingly unattainable for a lot of people,” said Amy Hanaurer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch as part of the newspaper’s wide exploration of what it means to be middle class that was published last week.

The topic is a central and divisive one in Ohio, where presidencies have historically been decided and a current debate rages over Senate Bill 5, a piece of controversial legislation that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Special-interest groups fighting the legislation all claim they’re working on behalf of the middle class.

As part of a five-day series, experts told The Dispatch that globalization has battered the nation’s manufacturing sector, which once formed the crux of Ohio’s middle class. The median wage has declined in Ohio more than any other state since 2000, according to census figures.

In the wake of that economic devastation, The Dispatch sought out to define the middle class. You can find out what they learned, how Ohioans have coped with the recession, how they’ve reinvented themselves and lowered their expectations.

(The archive of the entire series can be found here).

The series raises important questions about how Americans view themselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession – and how they handle the ever-present fear of a double-dip recession on the horizon.

Do you consider yourself middle class? At what income level did you arrive in the middle class? What are hallmarks of a middle-class lifestyle? We’d like to hear from you.


Forty-five percent of Americans define themselves as middle class, according to an ABC News poll in 2010. Those polled generally agreed upon some basics of a middle-class lifestyle: They worked in stable jobs, owned homes in safe neighborhoods, owned at least one vehicle, saved a little for retirement and college tuition.

“That set of things is becoming increasingly unattainable for a lot of people,” said Amy Hanaurer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch as part of the newspaper’s wide exploration of what it means to be middle class that was published last week.

The topic is a central and divisive one in Ohio, where presidencies have historically been decided and a current debate rages over Senate Bill 5, a piece of controversial legislation that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Special-interest groups fighting the legislation all claim they’re working on behalf of the middle class.

As part of a five-day series, experts told The Dispatch that globalization has battered the nation’s manufacturing sector, which once formed the crux of Ohio’s middle class. The median wage has declined in Ohio more than any other state since 2000, according to census figures.

In the wake of that economic devastation, The Dispatch sought out to define the middle class. You can find out what they learned, how Ohioans have coped with the recession, how they’ve reinvented themselves and lowered their expectations.

(The archive of the entire series can be found here).

The series raises important questions about how Americans view themselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession – and how they handle the ever-present fear of a double-dip recession on the horizon.

Do you consider yourself middle class? At what income level did you arrive in the middle class? What are hallmarks of a middle-class lifestyle? We’d like to hear from you.


Consider President Obama’s Labor Day speech in Detroit a preview of coming attractions.

Speaking before an audience of union supporters Monday, he hinted at some of the major initiatives he is expected to outline during a speech Thursday before a joint session of Congress. He suggested his plans will include road and bridge construction that utilizes private companies, but did not expand upon the scope of the project.

“Because I want you all to tune in on Thursday,” he said, “I’ll give you just a little bit.”

Monday’s visit marked Obama’s third trip to the region in recent months. He toured a Chrysler assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio in early June, and then an advanced processing plant in Holland, Mich., in early August. Here’s a roundup of coverage from his latest visit:


Saying he was “somewhat nervous about the economic recovery,” Chicago Fed President Charles Evans offered a tepid report Tuesday on the fragile state of the American economy during an appearance on CNBC.

Although the country has technically ended its recession, Evans said people are “kidding themselves” if they think the nation’s 9.1 percent unemployment rate isn’t consistent with recessionary rates.

Other notable comments during his appearance:

  • “The economy is growing, but it’s a very small positive,” Evans said. “We’re going sideways more than anything else.”
  • “You could argue we need to look for more data, but I don’t need to see a lot more to understand we haven’t achieved escape velocity.”

You can watch the complete report here.


Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel marks his first 100 days in office this week. Tonight, he’ll be taking

part in The First 100, a forum put on by our partner station WBEZ. Changing Gears will be there and we’ll be paying close attention to what he says about the city’s economy.

But there’s already a report card on his performance — based on the goals Emanuel set out in February — and the results are mixed.

 

 

Using Emanuel’s transition report, WBEZ’s staff analyzed the steps he’s taken on government, communities, growth and children. Here’s how he’s done on the steps that affect Chicago’s economy.

1) Cutting spending. In his first action as mayor, Emanuel signed an executive order cutting $75 million in city spending, a key promise of his campaign.

2) Performance benchmarks. As he vowed to do, the mayor has set out benchmarks for city services like garbage collection, construction, maintenance, repairs and and infrastructure services. Many are posted on a city Web site. But he has not posted performance benchmarks for refuse service, WBEZ said.

3) Target industries. The mayor promised to identify targeted industries that will be supported for development, which he has done. They include technology, tourism, manufacturing, financial services and advanced materials. Emanuel has been appearing with companies like JP Morgan Chase that announce investments in the city.

4) Pilot communities. The mayor promised to pick out communities within the city for special economic development attention. But WBEZ said there was “no evidence” that he has done so, apart from two weekend working sessions with the University of Chicago and Loyola University.

Read the entire report card and tell us whether you’re satisfied with the way Emanuel is doing his job. Is he a model for other mayors around our regioni?