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Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois learns from Israel. In a collaborative effort to learn more about green technology, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is traveling to Israel this week for what his staff has called “an educational mission.” Our partner station WBEZ says the governor will visit a company that develops automotive battery chargers and sign a water pact that encourages Illinois and Israel to work jointly on clean-water issues.

2. Median income falls in Michigan. Numbers released from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey show the median income for Michigan households plunged by more than $9,000 over the past decade, according to partner station Michigan Radio. Adjusted for inflation, the median income in 2000 was $54,651. By 2009, the amount had fallen to $45,255.

3. Home sales inch upward. Existing home sales rose 1 percent across the Midwest in June, according to data released by the National Association of Realtors on Wednesday. Sales reached 1.04 million, but remain 14 percent below June 2010 levels. The median Midwest price fell to $147,700, down 5.3 percent, year over year.


Job growth is sluggish. The unemployment rate remains high. Far too many people still can’t sell their homes. What is there to be done?

It’s one of the biggest stories in the news, it’s incredibly important to the Midwest, and there’s no agreement on an answer.

So we’re turning to you for some ideas. What do you think would get the economy moving again? Take our poll.

Want to add some more thoughts about getting the economy moving? Click here and share them with Changing Gears. We may feature you in an upcoming story.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Tenure changes near for Michigan teachers. Gov. Rick Snyder will likely sign legislation that alters Michigan’s tenure system for teachers. Supporters say the law will make it easier to fire bad teachers; opponents decry it as a “legislative attack” on teachers and union rights, according to our partner station Michigan Radio. Further legislation could require teachers to play a larger share of their health insurance premiums.

2. Borders: Too big, too fast. When Borders Group announced Monday that it would seek liquidation, it was natural to assume the bookseller went bankrupt because of a shift in readers’ preferences online. In an opinion piece on AnnArbor.com, Nathan Bomey argues the retailer’s rapid expansion shares in the blame. The Boston Herald reports that DJM Realty will oversee the sale of Borders Group real estate and bidding for 259 leases.

3. Study: Clean energy would boost Midwest. A study released today reports Midwest states could reduce electricity use, create jobs and boost the economy  if they strengthened clean energy standards. The Union of Concerned Scientists said that clean-energy investment could drive businesses and create “thousands of jobs” in the report, “A Bright Future for the Heartland.”


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Burst of the consumer bubble. David Leonhardt of The New York Times has heard every conceivable explanation for the nation’s prolonged recession. But he argues in a Sunday opinion piece that the underlying cause of the stalled economy is the end of a consumer bubble that had “been decades in the making.” He makes the case that it’s time for the nation to transition to an economy not as dependent on consumer spending.

2. Liquidation nears for Borders. A Sunday deadline has passed, and no new bids for Borders Group have emerged. The Ann Arbor, Mich.-based bookseller will likely continue take bids up until its bankruptcy auction scheduled for Tuesday. On Sunday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Books-A-Million Inc., a Birmingham, Ala.-based bookstore chain could be a potential suitor.

3. Ohio governor vetoes Great Lakes water bill. A state bill that would have allowed businesses to withdraw as much as 5 million gallons of water per day from Lake Erie without a permit has been vetoed by Ohio governor John Kasich, reports our partner station Ideastream. It is the first bill he has vetoed during his term. Environmentalists – and former Republican governors – argued the bill violated terms of the Great Lakes Compact, an agreement between seven states and two Canadian provinces that governs water usage from the Great Lakes.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Borders on brink of liquidation. Creditors objected to an offer for Borders Group on Wednesday, leaving the bankrupt bookstore chain on the verge of liquidation Thursday, according to Forbes. Najafi, a private-equity firm, had offered $215 million for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based company plus the assumption of debt. In court filings, creditors said they believe a bid from Hilco Merchant Resources and Gordon Brothers would return nearly $284 million.

2. Chicago powerplant nears approval. Illinois governor Pat Quinn approves of a plan to build a $3 billion coal-to-gas plant on the southeast side of Chicago. The plant, according to partner station WBEZ, will “turn Illinois coal and refinery waste into a natural gas substitute without having to burn the coal.” Quinn had initially feared the project would adversely affect consumers but said changes have been made. Regulators must still approve the project before construction begins.

3. Ohio governor seeks teacher input. Gov. John Kasich has ruffled the state’s teachers unions with plans for retooling standards and implementing merit pay. Now he says he’d like teachers to help him develop those policies. “As far as I’m concerned, I can keep my hands off this thing as long as they deliver a good report,” Kasich tells our partner station Ideastream. As a result of the changes, the governor says teachers could earn more money in the long term.


Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced significant changes in Chicago’s not-for-profit economic development organization.

He’s expanded the board of World Business Chicago from 15 to 50 members and widened its charge to include recruiting corporate headquarters from international locations. Most of the new board members will come from the corporate world, including new vice chairman Michael Sacks, the CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management.

As the board expands its reach beyond the United States, it also may look inward. Earlier this year, the Chicago Tribune reported that Emanuel’s top economic advisor wanted the organization to work with small-business startups.

“There is no better representative about the strengths of the city of Chicago than the people who live in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said, according to Crain’s Chicago Business.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cleveland hosts wind manufacturing summit. The Midwest is well-positioned to become a leader in manufacturing components for the burgeoning wind energy industry, but the region has had trouble gaining market share. In hopes of changing that dynamic, Cleveland will host a summit of more than 200 wind-industry leaders this week, according to our partner station Ideastream. Because the Midwest is already a hub for automotive and aviation manufacturers, many officials view the region as an ideal local for wind-component production.

2. Governor tweaks Michigan film incentives. The Michigan Film Office can now negotiate the size of credits offered to movie and television producers after Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that allows for more flexibility. Currently, projects approved for credits automatically receive a 42 percent subsidy, according to partner station Michigan Radio. The new law does nothing to change a controversial $25 million cap that Snyder placed on the film-credit program for the upcoming fiscal year.

3. Illinois labor rule again under scrutiny. Illinois governor Pat Quinn would like lawmakers to reexamine the state’s labor rules for workers at McCormick Place in Chicago rather than wait for a ruling from a federal appeals court. “I don’t really want to wait on another court to make decisions,” Quinn told partner station WBEZ. “I think that often times just delays things.” The General Assembly passed legislation that allowed exhibitors to do more of their own set-ups for conventions instead of hiring union employees. Labor groups sued.


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. Complications from Asian carp fight. A leading Indiana lawmaker says efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes could cost thousands of workers their jobs in northwest Indiana.  Mike Pence, a U.S. Representative and possible Republican candidate for governor in 2012, wants a review of how closing Chicago-area waterways could impact industry in Indiana, reports WBEZ, our partner station.

2. Ohio study: subsidies fuel sprawl. Tax breaks intended to keep companies in Cleveland and Cincinnati instead exacerbated wealth disparities and fueled suburban sprawl, according to a new report. A study of 164 companies which received tax deals showed “they moved jobs away from areas hardest hit by plant closings and with higher rates of poverty, unemployment and people of color to more affluent and less diverse areas,” says the report, financed by the Ford Foundation.

3. Brownfield sites slated for cleanup. Six industrial sites in northeast Ohio will receive nearly $8 million for cleanup and renovation efforts. Approximately half that money will go to two brownfield sites in Cleveland that officials hope to turn into a medical office building and a senior center. “Hopefully, we can fund projects so that something new can happen on the property,” Clean Ohio spokesperson Amy Alduino tells WKSU.