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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has introduced a measure to repeal the city’s head tax on company employees. And he says the proposed repeal is why Ford is agreeing to create 1,100 more jobs in the Windy City.

 Photo by Slobodan Stojkovic via Flickrobs in his city.

Chicago charges $4 per person per month to companies with 50 or more employees in the city. The mayor, who proposed the repeal to city council this week, calls it a “job killer,” according to our partner station WBEZ.

He said the proposed repeal, which would reduce city revenue by $23 million, is already making the city more attractive to companies like Ford.

As part of a new contract with the United Auto Workers, the company is pledging to add 12,000 jobs nationwide. Government officials said earlier this week that the company would add 1,100 jobs at the Chicago Assembly Plant, and possibly 900 more at a stamping plant.

Workers are voting on the contract now.

The proposed repeal “has been a significant piece in our ability to win those jobs at that Ford plant and add a third shift in the Ford plant in the city of Chicago,” the mayor said.

Currently, Ford employs 3,500 people at its Chicago plants. Removing the head tax would save the company $168,000 a year at those factories. If Ford were to add the additional 2,00 jobs, it would not have to pay an additional $96,000 annually.

Meanwhile, Ford might get even more help from the state of Illinois. The Chicago Tribune reported today company officials are in talks with Gov. Pat Quinn’s office about an incentive package. The governor declined to be specific, saying the negotiations are continuing.


An alliance between Michigan’s three largest research universities has produced an economic impact of more than $15.2 billion across the state over the past four years, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Anderson Economic Group.

Members of the University Research Corridor have invested more than $1.8 billion in research, which represents growth of approximately 30 percent, according to Anderson Economic Group. In the same time span, the URC, comprised of the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University has cultivated the launch of 131 start-up companies.

The results are “an indicator of how truly world class these research universities are and what a tremendous asset they are to the state of Michigan,” said Jeff Mason, the URC director, in a written release. But the success of the collaboration does not necessarily mean the three universities want to grow closer together.

On Tuesday, presidents of the three universities appeared at the Detroit Economic Club and argued against the possibility of consolidating them into a single statewide system, the goal of a bill that has been referred to committee within the Michigan state Legislature. Currently, Michigan’s 12 public universities are operated autonomously.

A commission made up of 11 people appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder could analyze the current higher-education structure in the state and make recommendations on how to cut costs, up to and including consolidating some universities, according to a report today in the Detroit Free Press.

Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman said the universities have responded to economic conditions and been “fiscally responsible.” Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon questioned whether consolidation would really save money. “If you add layers, you add cost,” she told the newspaper.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Midwest counties lead nation. Several counties in the Midwest are among the country’s biggest beneficiaries of increased employment and wages, according to new data released from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Elkhart County in northern Indiana had the largest percentage increase in employment from March 2010 to March 2011 among the nation’s largest 322 counties, growing its workforce by 6.2 percent. Indiana’s overall employment increased 1.9 percent in the same time span. The next-largest increase belonged to Ottawa County in western Michigan, which grew at 4.7 percent. Peoria County, Illinois showed the largest year-over-year increase in average weekly wages, with a gain of 18.9 percent.

2. Illinois seeks Amazon taxes. Amazon.com has agreed to pay sales taxes in California. Officials are hoping that deal means the online retailer will agree to do the same in Illinois, according to a report in Crain’s Chicago Business today. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association has sent Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos a letter, saying “the tide is turning” and encourages the company to begin collecting Illinois sales tax immediately. Under the California agreement, Amazon agreed to go to Washington D.C. and lobby for national legislation that regulates how internet retailers should be taxed.

3. Big Three post sales gains. Strong sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles buoyed Chrysler in September, when sales rose 27 percent. The automaker led an impressive month for Detroit’s Big Three. Despite a struggling economy, General Motors posted sales gains of 20 percent and Ford’s sales rose 9 percent. “There is no double dip downturn going on around here,” Dodge brand president and chief executive Reid Bigland told The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. At General Motors, the Chevrolet Cruze continued to be the company’s best-selling car, although the sales of the Lordstown, Ohio-built Cruze dipped below 20,000 units for the first time in five months.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW and Ford reach tentative deal. The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., announced Tuesday, that calls for $6,000 in signing bonuses and the creation of 5,750 new jobs at plants in the United States. Workers could vote on the agreement by the end of the week. “The American auto industry is on its way back,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement, adding the jobs will be added by the end of 2012. Crucial to the deal was consensus on entry-level wages of approximately $17 per hour. The tentative agreement means that Chrysler is the only automaker of the Big Three without a deal.

2. Coal at a crossroads. Coal produces nearly half the electricity used in the United States, but benefits associated with coal are outweighed by pollution and health problems that cause more economic harm than good, according to a recent study from the American Economic Review. Our partner station Ideastream begins a multi-part series today examining the economic impact of coal and its future in the Midwest. First up in the series: the natural gas boom has given coal added competition. Coal’s share of the nation’s electricity production was at its lowest level in more than 30 years through the first quarter of 2011.

3. Wisconsin announces microgrid project. On Monday, Wisconsin officials announced a new project that aims to make the state a national center for energy microgrids, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. By using energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid “energy islands” maximize the use of energy from renewable sources, according to the newspaper, and could help if main power grids are disrupted. Several Milwaukee-area companies and the state’s four largest engineering schools are among the participants in the project.


President Obama speaks at an assembly plant in Toledo in June, one of seven trips to Ohio during his presidency.

The Midwest carried President Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. But when it comes to his re-election prospects in 2012, there are signs the president may have a more arduous task across the region.

Thirteen months away from the next presidential election, the president’s approval ratings have sunk. In Michigan, 65 percent of likely voters disapprove of the job he’s done. In Wisconsin, 51 percent disapprove. In Ohio, his 42 percent approval rating is the lowest of his tenure thus far.

In Pennsylvania, 54 percent of voters disapprove of his job. And in Indiana, which went for a Democrat in 2008 for the first time since 1964, Obama’s disapproval rating has ratcheted up to 60 percent. In 2010, Republican governors were elected in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio.

Far from the hope of sweeping the region again, even safe Democratic strongholds now appear in play. His approval rating in Minnesota hovers just above 50 percent. Perhaps most ominously, voters in Obama’s home state of Illinois gave his former Senate seat to Republican Mark Kirk last year.

“So go the Great Lakes, so goes the country,” writes Brett M. Decker in The Washington Times today. “That’s bad news for Barack.”

One reason Midwestern voters are turning against Obama? Of the eight Midwestern states he won – comprising every state in the region – all eight have seen an increase in their unemployment rates since his election. Below is a state-by-state glance at unemployment rates from the time of the ’08 elections compared to those rates today. Numbers come courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

ILLINOIS
November 2008: 7.2 percent
August 2011: 9.9 percent

INDIANA
November 2008: 7.5 percent
August 2011: 8.7 percent

IOWA
November 2008: 4.8 percent
August 2011: 6.1 percent

MICHIGAN
November 2008: 9.9 percent
August 2011: 11.2 percent

MINNESOTA
November 2008: 6.3 percent
August 2011: 7.2 percent

OHIO
November 2008: 7.6 percent
August 2011: 9.1 percent

PENNSYLVANIA
November 2008: 6.2 percent
August 2011: 8.2 percent

WISCONSIN
November 2008: 5.9 percent
August 2011: 7.9 percent


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.


Over the past decade, the Great Recession has perhaps punched Michigan workers the hardest.

Michigan was the only state in the country to lose population in that time span. More than 300,000 residents fled the state. Its peak unemployment rate of 14.1 percent ranks as one of the highest in the U.S. More than 1 in 5 residents in Detroit, its largest city, remain in search of work.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

So it’s inexplicable to many in Michigan that one of the lynchpins in Gov. Rick Snyder’s plan to put people back to work is encouraging an influx of immigrants. Snyder touted those plans in an exclusive Dan Rather Reports segment that aired earlier this week.

“I think it’s important for our future,” Snyder told Rather. “We’ve been in a recession for a decade. How do we really reinvent ourselves? One of the keys to how we build ourselves is immigration.”

It’s been a relevant issue in the state’s past. One century ago, immigrants comprised 33 percent of Detroit’s population during its nascent boom years. For a more contemporary example, Snyder gazes beyond Michigan’s borders toward Silicon Valley, and notes 47 percent of its residents are foreign born.

“I am focused on finding more and better jobs for Michiganders,” he tells Rather. “Encouraging legal immigration for advanced-degree people is consistent with that. They’re job creators.”

A study from the Small Business Administration shows immigrants in Michigan are three times as likely as native-born residents to start businesses, and six times as likely to start high-tech businesses. Snyder, a Republican, would like to tap that entrepreneurial spirit.

Steven Tobocman, author of Global Detroit, a recent report that formed the foundation of  Snyder’s immigration policy, writes that 32.8 percent of the state’s high-tech firms over the past 10 years have been founded by immigrants, in a state where 6 percent overall are foreign born.

He’s an unlikely ally for Snyder. Tobocman served three terms in the Michigan House of Representatives, a Democrat representing Detroit’s southwest side.

“Nothing is more powerful for remaking Detroit as a center of innovation, entrepreneurship and population growth than embracing and increasing immigrant populations and the entrepreneurial culture and global connections that they bring and deliver,” he writes.

Many of the immigrants Snyder and Tobocman seek are already within the state’s borders. Approximately 23,000 foreign-born students currently attend the state’s colleges and universities, and the state spends “millions” educating them, according to Dan Rather Reports.

Visa restrictions and more lucrative opportunities elsewhere lure them away after graduation.

“It’s a great opportunity to keep our kids in a wonderful position,” Snyder said. “We already educate so many wonderful students from outside the country. Is there a way to help keep them here? … The other piece I want to do is talk to the communities that we have here that are already ethnic communities, and do they have outreach back in their countries to bring and attract people to Michigan. I think we can all win.”


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Report: Indiana sets sights on luring CME headquarters. Indiana is aiming to land another Illinois company with a tax-incentive package. This time, a big one. Crain’s Chicago Business reports today that Indiana has offered CME Group Inc. $150 million per year to move its headquarters to the Hoosier State. CME CEO Terry Duffy did not comment on the report, but earlier this week, said he expects the headquarters issue “to be resolved by year end.” Indiana’s top economic development official, Dan Hasler, neither confirmed nor denied the report when reached.

2. Kasich begins official SB5 defense. On Thursday night, Ohio Gov. John Kasich made his first official campaign appearance to support Issue 2, a state ballot measure that could repeal Senate Bill 5, a controversial law that limits collective-bargaining rights of public employees. Appearing in Toledo with Mayor Mike Bell, Kasich outlined his defense of SB5 – that it helps local governments control spiraling costs. “I believe in unions, I believe they have a place,” Kasich told The Columbus Dispatch. “I am not out, in any way shape or form, to go after and target anybody.”

3. Michigan airport authority announces cuts. The Wayne County Airport Authority said Thursday it would cut costs and raise fees as part of a plan to reduce its expenses by $20 million over the next 12 to 15 months. The Authority, which runs operations at Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports, approved a budget of $292 million for fiscal 2012 that includes wage and benefit changes for employees. Airport World reports at least 100 employees will lose their jobs. “It’s imperative that we re-engineer Detroit Metro and Willow Run Airports so that they become the most competitive in North America,” said Turkia Awada Mullin, the WCAA’s new chief executive officer, who has drawn attention this week for taking a $200,000 buyout from her previous job as Wayne County’s chief development officer to accept the head position at the airport authority.


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.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW contract with GM nears approval. Late Tuesday night, it appeared members of the United Auto Workers had inched closer to ratifying a four-year contract agreement with General Motors. As voting neared a close, at least 18 major locals supported the deal while three had opposed it, according to the Detroit News.  GM CEO Dan Akerson will host a conference call with Wall Street analysts to discuss the deal this afternoon. Talks at Ford continue, while discussions with Chrysler “continue to lag,” according to the newspaper.

2. SB5 opponents link law to Jim Crow. We Are Ohio, the organized labor coalition seeking to repeal Senate Bill 5, is airing a radio ad in six urban markets that says Gov. John Kasich has led Ohio back to America’s Jim Crow past.  A portion of the ad states, that Kasich and other politicians “have passed two laws to take us back to the days of Jim Crow,” passing laws that make it more difficult for minorities to vote. In addition to SB5, a law that weakens collective-bargaining rights of public employees, the ad targets House Bill 194. Republican leaders tell The Columbus Dispatch the ad is race baiting. Democrats disagree. “It’s harsh wording, but it’s not necessarily inaccurate,” an Ohio State professor tells the newspaper.

3. Rahm rejects key budget-trimming ideas. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel responded to a watchdog report that offered ideas on how to trim the city’s budget deficit by saying that suggestions to raise income, sales and property taxes are “off the table.” He also rejected the possibility of turning Lake Shore Drive into toll road. Emanuel said some of the other of 63 suggestions are “promising” and will receive “serious consideration,” according to our partner station WBEZ. This is the second year in which the inspector general has produced a budget options report.