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Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Unemployment rate unchanged. American’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.1 percent in September even as the economy added 103,000 jobs, the U.S. Labor Department announced Friday. Among those struggling to find work, more than 1 in 4 respondents to a Rutgers University survey said they are opposed to a renewal of extended unemployment benefits. An extension proposal is part of President Obama’s jobs bill, according to The New York Times, which explored the sentiments of the unemployed. Theresa Gorski, a pharmaceutical rep from Detroit, tells the newspaper she once shared skepticism about prolonged benefits, but after 17 months of unemployment, her views have changed.

2. Software chief: Michigan needs more education. For Michigan companies, a strong education base is more important than lower taxes. That’s the opinion of Bill Wagner, co-founder of Ann Arbor, Mich.-based software firm SRT Solutions, who writes the dismantling of education throughout the state has painted a grim picture to prospective global employers in an AnnArbor.com op-ed published today. He believes budget cuts have harmed the state’s education infrastructure, and that savings from reduced business taxes, among other things, amount to less money than his company spent last year on a summer intern.

3. Sara Lee may move headquarters. The headquarters of Sara Lee has only been based in Downers Grove, Ill. for six years. Its’ already looking to move. Our partner station WBEZ reports the company is exploring a move within Illinois, possibly to downtown Chicago or another suburb. “We do believe that a downtown location would provide our new North American Meat Co. with an environment that will be energetic, that will foster breakthrough thinking,” a company spokesperson told WBEZ. Sara Lee currently employs 1,000 workers in Downers Grove.

 

 


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.


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.


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.”


Can Michigan add auto jobs — or is it destined to lose them to other states and parts of the country?

That topic is on the table Tuesday when Changing Gears joins Crain’s Detroit Business for a breakfast and practical policy discussion.

Senior Editor Micki Maynard will be part of a panel that includes Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber; Peter Brown, publisher and editorial director of Automotive News; Neil de Koker, president and CEO of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association, and Doug Smith, senior vice president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

The event begins at 7:30 a.m. at The Henry (formerly the Ritz-Carlton Hotel) in Dearborn, Mich. Find more details here.


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.


Throughout his economic development trip to Asia, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has had an unlikely ally.

Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

The sure-fire Cy Young award winner isn’t actually traveling with the governor – he’s busy helping the Tigers contend for the American League pennant. But Snyder has been chatting about Verlander and his team’s success with his Japanese counterparts before meetings turn to the subject of bringing business investment to Michigan. He’s been giving gifts of Detroit Tigers hats.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

“I presented several of them to different people today,” he tells MLive.com. “I gave one to the Japanese commissioner of baseball. And they love the Tigers. They know all about Verlander and how the season’s going.”

Will Snyder and his entourage find similar success on his overseas visit? The Detroit Free Press reports Wayne County officials are pitching a 1,000-acre site that straddles Plymouth and Northville ownships to battery suppliers in hopes of creating a “cluster of high-tech battery makers and suppliers” in western Wayne County.

“There’s a lot of emphasis this trip on battery development and energy,” Robert Ficano, the county’s CEO, told the newspaper.

Snyder sold the virtues of a revamped tax structure to his Japanese hosts on Sunday and Monday, saying it has made Michigan’s business climate friendlier to outside investment, and that a two-year balanced budget has increased the state’s fiscal stability.

“We have been busy reinventing Michigan, breaking some bad habits of the past and embracing new opportunities for our future,” he said in a written release. “We have come to open new doors for trade and business between our state and Japan. We see many great opportunities ahead for all of us to do more business together.”

His trip began Sunday, and includes stops in Japan, China and South Korea. On Monday morning, he said Japanese firms employ more than 32,000 Michiganders and that he’s intent on growing the relationships that create those jobs during the course of his visit.

This is his first official overseas visit as governor, but it’s hardly a new strategy in the Midwest. In June, Changing Gears reporter Dan Bobkoff examined Toledo, Ohio, and the efforts of the city’s leaders to court investments from China. Former Missouri Gov. Bob Holden is now chairman of the U.S. Midwest China Association, an advocacy group that believes in a regional approach to wooing Chinese business.

And under Ficaro, Wayne County, already operates four offices in China: Chonquing, Wohan, Nanjing and Beijing.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Michigan governor’s trade mission. Gov. Rick Snyder and an entourage of administration and business officials head to Asia this weekend as part of his first trade mission while in office. Snyder will spend two days in Tokyo, one day in Beijing, one day in China and one in Seoul, according to our partner station Michigan Radio. He will emphasize the state’s business tax structure and workforce in his attempts to entice overseas leaders to invest in Michigan, though downplays any expectation of immediate results. “I don’t have high expectations there,” he said. “This is more about starting the relationships and then looking six months, a year out.”

2. Manufacturing’s one key trait. In a short essay for Bloomberg Business Week, General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson writes the key to saving the American manufacturing industry is adaptability. In the wake of bankruptcy, he points toward an agreement the United Auto Workers made to lower wages at a plant in Lake Orion, Mich., as one that hailed the arrival of a more flexible cost structure. “If you don’t prize adaptability, whether it’s industrial relations or it’s in how you view, perceive, and react to your competition, you’re going to be a dinosaur,” he said.

3. Wisconsin could ease mining laws. A special legislative committee in Wisconsin will examine proposals to minimize state laws that regulate the mining industry, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We need to focus, one, on the environment and, two, on job creation,” Republican State Sen. Neal Kedzie told the newspaper. Regulation became an issue recently when Gogebic Taconite announced it would delay plans for an iron-ore mine near Hurley until state laws eased. Gogebic said the mine would employ 700 workers.

 


Michigan’s unemployment rate rose above 11 percent in August, the first time it’s been above that mark since December 2010, according to data released Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

The rate crept upward three-tenths of a percentage point to 11.2 percent, a symptom of economic stagnation across the country.

“In August, small job reductions in manufacturing and retail were countered by a modest job gain in construction,” Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, told the Detroit Free Press.

It’s the fourth consecutive month that Michigan’s unemployment rate has increased since reaching a 2011 low of 10.2 percent in April.  Despite Wednesday’s news, unemployment remains below the 12.2 percent rate of August 2010.

The jump comes amid more glum news for the nation’s labor market: on Wednesday, the U.S. Labor Department announced the number of people applying for unemployment benefits rose to its highest level in three months.

Applications climbed by approximately 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted rate of 428,000. The four-week average, a barometer seen as a more reliable measure of employment health, rose for the fourth consecutive week to 419,500. The Associated Press reports that applications need to fall below 375,000 to denote a level of hiring significant enough to lower the unemployment rate, but that level has not been seen since February.

Across the Midwest, unemployment were on the rise in states that had reported August numbers.

Wisconsin’s unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, an uptick from 7.8 percent in July. Despite the small increase, Wisconsin’s Secretary of the Department of Workforce Development said the state added 1,200 manufacturing jobs since July.

In Illinois, the unemployment rate shot up “sharply,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times, rising nearly half a percentage point to 9.9 percent in August. Unemployment numbers for August have yet to be reported in Ohio and Indiana.