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Not tracking incentives Few states are doing a good job tracking their business tax incentives. That’s according to a new report from the Pew Center on the States. The AP has a writeup. Among Midwest states, Pew says Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri are “leading the way.” Michigan and Ohio have “mixed results.” And Illinois and Indiana “trail behind.” The full report is here.

Revved up for RVs PBS Newshour reports on the rebounding RV industry in Indiana. The town of Elkhart was struggling just a few years ago because of a downturn in RV sales. Elkhart turned to electric vehicle maker Think to help boost jobs. Now, Think is in bankruptcy, and the RV companies are hiring again.

Now, on to the budget Detroit mayor Dave Bing will present his budget plan to city council this morning. It will be the last budget proposal from the mayor before a new financial advisory team takes over the city’s finances.

In full bloom A report from Michigan State University says the state’s agricultural sector grew dramatically during the recession. Partner station Michigan Radio has the details of the report, which claims agriculture now contributes $91.4 billion to the state economy.

Foreclosures New foreclosure numbers are out from RealtyTrac. The Midwest still has 7 states in the top 20 for highest foreclosure rate.

Fracking taxes Ohio governor John Kasich unveiled a plan yesterday that would increase taxes, and regulations, on the growing number of oil and gas drilling projects in the state. BusinessWeek says the higher taxes would raise $1 billion in revenue by 2016. Partner station WCPN Ideastream says the new revenue will offset an income tax cut for Ohioans.

Lot o’ Lollapaloozas The Chicago Park District signed a new nine-year agreement with organizers of the Lollapalooza music festival, according to the Chicago Tribune. One park official says the deal will give the city a $1 billion boost over the next decade. But ticket prices for music fans will probably be going up.

No consent Tuesday, the State of Michigan offered leaders in Detroit a consent agreement to allow a new panel to solve the city’s budget crisis. Now, the Detroit Free Press reports the city is working on a counter-proposal, while the Associated Press says a “war of words” has broken out between the mayor and the governor.

Starting up startups The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Chicago’s growing scene for startups. But the paper finds Chicago still has a long way to go to compete with New York or Silicon Valley for startup money.

Keeping up with foreclosures Chicago foreclosure filings spiked upward in February, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Columbus Dispatch says filings were also up in Ohio, though they’re down quite a bit compared to a year ago. And partner station Michigan Radio reports foreclosure filings were down in Michigan for the month.

Prison time Rod Blagojevich reports to prison today. Partner station WBEZ has the story.

Fracking taxes Ohio governor John Kasich unveiled a plan yesterday that would increase taxes, and regulations, on the growing number of oil and gas drilling projects in the state. BusinessWeek says the higher taxes would raise $1 billion in revenue by 2016. Partner station WCPN Ideastream says the new revenue will offset an income tax cut for Ohioans.

Lot o’ Lollapaloozas The Chicago Park District signed a new nine-year agreement with organizers of the Lollapalooza music festival, according to the Chicago Tribune. One park official says the deal will give the city a $1 billion boost over the next decade. But ticket prices for music fans will probably be going up.

No consent Tuesday, the State of Michigan offered leaders in Detroit a consent agreement to allow a new panel to solve the city’s budget crisis. Now, the Detroit Free Press reports the city is working on a counter-proposal, while the Associated Press says a “war of words” has broken out between the mayor and the governor.

Starting up startups The Wall Street Journal takes a look at Chicago’s growing scene for startups. But the paper finds Chicago still has a long way to go to compete with New York or Silicon Valley for startup money.

Keeping up with foreclosures Chicago foreclosure filings spiked upward in February, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The Columbus Dispatch says filings were also up in Ohio, though they’re down quite a bit compared to a year ago. And partner station Michigan Radio reports foreclosure filings were down in Michigan for the month.

Prison time Rod Blagojevich reports to prison today. Partner station WBEZ has the story.


Follow the money Yesterday, the federal government announced a $25 billion settlement with mortgage companies who are accused of improperly handling foreclosures during the housing crisis. $1 billion of that amount will go to Illinois. $790 million will go to Michigan. $335 million will go to Ohio. $145 million will go to Indiana. And $140 million will go to Wisconsin, where Governor Scott Walker announced that part of the money will go toward filling the state’s budget deficit. It’s a controversial decision.

Budget cuts? Who needs ‘em? Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced his budget plans yesterday. The state is projecting a surplus this year. Snyder proposes spending a little extra money on education, if student performance goals can be met. He’s also proposing a spending increase for public safety, and saving $130 million for a rainy day fund.

A Right to Work battle for Ohio? Partner station WCPN Ideastream reports that activists in Ohio are gathering signatures to put a Right to Work measure on the ballot for a vote. Organizers say it will be a challenge to gather enough signatures to get the issue on this year’s ballot, but they believe they can get it on in 2013.

Taking back the street The Detroit Free Press has a fascinating story about how a group of neighbors in Southwest Detroit managed to get a drug dealer on their street put behind bars.

Health care investment The Detroit Medical Center is planning a new $50 million facility in the suburb of Royal Oak.

Car show The Chicago Auto Show opens today. Partner station WBEZ has a look at what to expect.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mining company lays off 600 workers. A mining company in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will temporarily shut down part of its operations and lay off approximately 600 employees. Cliffs Natural Resources, which operates the Empire Mine in Marquette County, said production is expected to drop from 4.6 million tons in 2011 to 2.7 million tons in 2012, according to the Marquette Mining Journal. The drop comes because steel producer ArcelorMittal will take a blast furnace down for maintenance in the second quarter. A company spokesperson said the layoffs will last “several months” until the furnace goes online again.

2. Historic Cleveland property has new owner. One of Cleveland’s historic downtown landmarks was purchased today by a Canadian hotel and resort company during a foreclosure auction. Skyline International Development Inc. was the sole bidder for the Arcade, and purchased it for $7.7 million – the minimum bid, according to The Plain Dealer. The current site was renovated a decade ago for $60 million, but went into foreclosure in April 2009 when its Chicago-based owner defaulted on a $33.3 million mortgage. An attorney for the new owners said this is Skyline’s first U.S. real estate holding, but did not comment on the firm’s plans for the Arcade. With the property selling for the minimum, its creditors, including Bank of America, the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, will not recoup any of their investments.

3. Chinese students Milwaukee bound. Hundreds of Chinese students could attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in coming years thanks to a recruiting agreement the school’s chancellor signed today in Beijing. An agreement with a Chinese education network will boost the university’s international profile and help lure Chinese companies to Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It would also boost the school’s out-of-state tuition coffers. China is the city’s third-largest trading partner, according to the newspaper. The agreement runs for five years. “You could think of myriad ways these students could connect to help Milwaukee employers in China,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Detroit bridge project scrutinized. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder absorbed his first major political defeat since taking office – and it came at the hands of his own Republican party, which refused to green-light the construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor. Expectations are growing, according to the Detroit Free Press, that Snyder will try to circumvent the legislature, a strategy that will raise legal questions about the range of the governor’s executive authority. Last week, Changing Gears senior editor Micki Maynard detailed the skirmish over the new bridge for The Atlantic Cities, and examined forceful opposition from Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun.

2. Ohio foreclosures on the rise. After enjoying their lowest level of foreclosures in five years, Ohio residents saw a foreclosure uptick in the third quarter of 2011, mirroring a nationwide trend. Our partner station Ideastream reports foreclosures in Cuyahoga County increased 17 percent from the previous three-month period. Experts attribute the jump to mortgage lenders resuming the foreclosure process after last year’s robo-signing scandal had halted proceedings. Over the summer, less than 1 percent of Ohio home loans entered the foreclosure process, Ideastream reports. Currently, 9.3 percent of Ohio mortgage holders are late on their payments, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

3. Future of Michigan coal plant unclear. The only major power plant in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is at a crossroads. A coal-fired plant owned by We Energies could be shut down over the next five or six years as new environmental rules go into effect. One alternative would be a switch to natural gas, a conversion being employed by numerous plants across the Midwest. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the future of the plant is of high concern in Marquette, where We Energies employs 180 workers and plays 17 percent of the city’s property taxes. “A closure would be devastating for our community,” Mayor John Kivela tells the newspaper.

(Clarification: An earlier version of this entry contained dated information. It has been revised to indicate that a Michigan state senate committee defeated a proposal regarding a new bridge linking Detroit to Canada last month.)


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Mixed Chicago foreclosure news. The number of foreclosure filings in the Chicago area fell in September, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the crisis is dissipating. Our partner station WBEZ reports it’s merely getting dragged out. Ed Jacob, head of a city non-profit that helps people stay in their homes, says banks are taking more time to make sure their foreclosure paperwork is in order, and a backlog has been created that may take two to three years to process. “It’s a slow slog,” he tells the station. “It’s like we’re running through quicksand or we’re running through mud.”

2. Ohio examines municipal collaborations. Founded seven years ago, a group examining consolidation and collaboration among Ohio municipalities is finally gaining some traction. Many officials discussed the topic at a regional conference held in Akron on Thursday, according to our partner station Ideastream. “We’ve identified about 250 efforts of some kind, and then over half of those efforts have actually culminated in some ongoing collaboration,” John Hoombeck, director of the Center for Public Administration and Public Policy, tells the station. The highest numbers of collaborations have come in public-safety areas. Economic development ranks second.

3. Ford contract in jeopardy. With a little more than a third of voting completed, Ford workers are narrowly supporting the automaker’s tentative contract with the United Auto Workers union. As of 11:30 a.m. on Friday morning, 50.8 percent of voters supported the contract. According to the UAW Ford Department, 6,271 workers had voted in favor of the deal, while 6,085 had rejected it. Thirty-six percent of votes had been received, with voting set to end Tuesday. The numbers represented a swing  from earlier results, in which 53.2 percent of the counted votes had nixed the deal.


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.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Foreclosures spike in Michigan. Foreclosure filings in Michigan had slowed during the first half of 2011, but jumped 36 percent from July to August, according to new data. Daren Bloomquist of RealtyTrac tells our partner station Michigan Radio that banks had noticed a decline in the number of repossessed hopes they were trying to sell, and therefore “more willing to push properties into the foreclosure.”

2. Public vs. private workers. A study that compares the compensation of public and private workers in Ohio says that the total compensation for public employees is worth 43 percent more than their private-worker counterparts. Amid the backdrop of controversial collective bargaining legislation known as SB5, the compensation study has become controversial itself says our partner Ideastream. Amy Hanauer, spokesperson for a left-leaning think tank, says the study is “preposterous” and cites a Rutgers University study that determined the total compensation is “pretty much a wash.”

3. Groupon IPO regains momentum. Groupon will seek to hold its initial public offering in October or November, sources told The New York Times on Wednesday. One week after the daily-deals website postponed the IPO to wait out market volatility, the company’s renewed interest comes as part of “a resolution between the company” and SEC regarding CEO Andrew Mason’s critical memo that was leaked last month about the company’s health.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Foreclosures spike in Michigan. Foreclosure filings in Michigan had slowed during the first half of 2011, but jumped 36 percent from July to August, according to new data. Daren Bloomquist of RealtyTrac tells our partner station Michigan Radio that banks had noticed a decline in the number of repossessed hopes they were trying to sell, and therefore “more willing to push properties into the foreclosure.”

2. Public vs. private workers. A study that compares the compensation of public and private workers in Ohio says that the total compensation for public employees is worth 43 percent more than their private-worker counterparts. Amid the backdrop of controversial collective bargaining legislation known as SB5, the compensation study has become controversial itself says our partner Ideastream. Amy Hanauer, spokesperson for a left-leaning think tank, says the study is “preposterous” and cites a Rutgers University study that determined the total compensation is “pretty much a wash.”

3. Groupon IPO regains momentum. Groupon will seek to hold its initial public offering in October or November, sources told The New York Times on Wednesday. One week after the daily-deals website postponed the IPO to wait out market volatility, the company’s renewed interest comes as part of “a resolution between the company” and SEC regarding CEO Andrew Mason’s critical memo that was leaked last month about the company’s health.