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Our friends at Michigan Radio report that the Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company wants to create a flavor that reflects the taste of the Michigan outdoors. (Okay, we know Moose Tracks already exists, but maybe Creme de Pine?)

What are the flavors of the Great Lakes states?

That got us thinking: what flavors would you pick for each of our Great Lakes states?

Wisconsin Cheese Curds?

Ohio Buckeye Crunch?

Illinois Corn Pudding?

Indiana — Anything?

Send us your nominations and we’ll post a list for each state.

Update: Culvers tells us on Twitter.

“We have done a Pretzel and Mustard Fresh Frozen Custard for a special event in Middleton, Wis., for the Mustard Museum!”

The Right to Work law debate is in the national news — Republican presidential frontrunner Mitt Romney insists it would be good for the country — and it’s a big topic right here in the Great Lakes, too.

Right to Work laws mean employees can’t be required to pay union dues, even if a union is formed in their workplace. There are 22 states around the country with Right to Work laws, many in the South, but there are none in the Great Lakes states, which have long been union strong holds.

On Tuesday, the governors in Michigan and Indiana, who’ve faced off in the past, weighed in on the subject with sharply differing views. Michigan’s Republican governor, Rick Snyder, said passing a Right to Work law is not a priority for him this year, even though some lawmakers say they plan to push for it.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Rick Pluta, at our partner station Michigan Radio, reports Snyder says a Right to Work debate would distract the state from the repair work it needs to do on the economy.

“…to get into a very divisive debate like that, you create an environment where not much gets done and I would point to Wisconsin, I’d point to Ohio. If you look at Indiana, that’s kind of consuming all the dialogue in that state,” Snyder said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

In Indiana, Democratic lawmakers have refused to let the legislature consider the Right to Work law that Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels proposed last month.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Daniels previously had resisted the same efforts Snyder faces. But in his state of the state address, Daniels said,

“Everyone knows that, among the minority favoring the status quo, passion on this issue is strong, and I respect that. I did not come lightly, or quickly, to the stance I take now. If this proposal limited in any way the right to organize, I would not support it. But we just cannot go on missing out on the middle class jobs our state needs, just because of this one issue.”

Daniels faced protestors during his speech, who shouted, “kill the bill” and marched outside the state capitol rotunda.

Where do you stand on Right to Work? Do our Great Lakes states need it to be competitive?


It’s been a tumultuous year in many of the Great Lakes states.

Wisconsin State Capitol

New Republican governors in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio have pushed for legal and policy changes. Illinois has faced a fiscal crisis. And Indiana’s governor is now backing a Right to Work law.

We know what the political debate has been like. But we’d like to know how the changes are affecting you. What did state government do that mattered to you?

Let us know, and then check in as Changing Gears covers how these leaders are changing the way things are in our states.


Michigan residents have long lamented the “brain drain” that takes place when students educated inside the state leave for opportunities elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Snyder fought back.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Chicago has been a popular landing site for those fleeing Michigan, and Snyder challenged those residents to stay put. “Do you want to be another yuppie in Chicago, or do you want to make a difference in Detroit?” he told the Detroit Free Press.

Snyder urged Michiganders to stay and help revitalize the city.

“No disrespect to Chicago, but they’ve got lots of young people, and you’re just going to blend in and be another person there,” he told the newspaper.

How could Snyder be so certain? He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School in 1982. He worked in Detroit for seven years before accepting a job with Coopers & Lybrand out of state. Guess where? Chicago.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Pontiac selling off properties. The financially troubled city of Pontiac, Michigan, is selling most of its assets. An emergency manager appointed in 2009 says the sales are necessary to help close a $12 million budget deficit. A three-page list of property available includes five fire stations, two cemeteries, two landfills, 11 water-pumping stations, two community centers, the public library and a police station, according to the Detroit Free Press. The city’s budget has already been cut by $20 million since the emergency manager took over.

2. Art scene in Columbus barren? The streets of Columbus aren’t devoid of eye-catching artwork, writes Robert Vitale of the Columbus Dispatch, but recent attempts to add art downtown have highlighted the fact the central Ohio city’s public landscape is “relatively barren.” Vitale notes that Columbus is the nation’s 15th-largest city, but the largest without a public-art program. In examining the state of public art in the city, he writes a 2007 economic development report called for better funding of public art, but Mayor Michael B. Coleman has made “no progress” over the past two years in making that a priority.

3. Study: Residents still flee Midwest. Illinois and New Jersey sat atop a list of states with the largest outbound migration this year, according to an annual study of interstate moving trends authored by United Van Lines. Although specific numbers were not available, a synopsis of the study said Americans continue to leave the Northeast and Midwest and migrate toward the South and West. Based in St. Louis, the company has tracked interstate moves since 1977 and says its study has reflected migration trends accurately enough that financial firms and real estate companies use the data. Despite the trend for Illinois, U.S. Census estimates say the state gained 38,625 residents over the past 15 months.


The Midwest is growing at a slower pace than any region in the United States, according to new population estimates released by the Census Bureau.

The region’s population measured 67,517,954 according to numbers from the 2010 U.S. Census. Fifteen months later, estimates put the region’s population at 67,669,140.

The increase for the nine-state region of 151,186 was smaller than individual increases for California, Texas and Florida, and only slightly higher than individual increases for Georgia (128,000) and North Carolina (121,000). No Midwestern states ranked among the Top 10 fastest-growing ones.

Michigan was one of three states across the country to lose population.

The report shows the state’s population fell by 7,448 residents to 9,876,187 overall, a loss of .08 percent. The state’s population has declined since 2005, and dropped below the 10 million marker in 2009.

Minnesota was the region’s fastest-growing state, adding 40,936 residents, an increase of approximately 0.8 percent. Indiana and Iowa each posted estimated increases of 0.5 percent, while Ohio’s population increased by 8.449, an increase of 0.1 percent.

Overall, the report showed an estimated U.S. population of 311.6 million, an increase of 2.8 million over the 15-month period measured. The growth rate of 0.92 percent was the lowest measured since the mid-1940s.

“The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the baby boom,” said Robert Groves, U.S. Census Bureau Director.

 


The national unemployment rate fell 0.4 percent in November to 8.6 percent. Michigan led the downward charge.

No state in the nation experienced a bigger drop. Michigan’s unemployment rate fell 0.8 percent in the month to 9.8 percent. It’s the first time in three years the state’s unemployment rate was less than 10 percent. Overall, 43 states reported unemployment declines in November.

The Midwest’s monthly unemployment rate edged downward 0.3 percent in November to 8.2 percent, the second-lowest of the nation’s four regions. Every state in the region experienced a decline in unemployment rate except Indiana, which saw its rate hold steady at 9.0 percent.

The West North Central sub-region, defined by the U.S. Labor Department as North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, held the nation’s lowest sub-regional unemployment rate, at 6.3 percent.

Here’s a state-by-state look at the November unemployment numbers for each Midwest state:

State                      Oct. 2011            Nov. 2011                       Change
Michigan                 10.6                     9.8                                 -0.8 percent
Minnesota                 6.5                     5.9                                 -0.6 percent
Ohio                          9.0                     8.5                                 -0.5 percent
Wisconsin                 7.7                     7.3                                  -0.4 percent
Iowa                          6.0                     5.7                                  -0.3 percent
Pennsylvania            8.1                     7.9                                  -0.2 percent
Illinois                       10.1                  10.0                                  -0.1 percent
Indiana                      9.0                     9.0                                   0 percent


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Who wrote Wisconsin mining bill? New details are emerging on who helped write a bill that overhauls Wisconsin’s mining laws. Last week, state Republicans declined to provide details on who authored the legislation. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported today that five Republican legislators, their staffs, representatives from the Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce business lobby and officials from the mining company Gogebic Taconite all participated. Earlier this year, Gogebic Taconite demanded changes in mining legislation so the company could move forward with plans to open a $1.5 billion mine in a forested area of Iron and Ashland Counties.The Journal Sentinel reports that details of Assembly Bill 426 had been “kept under wraps for months,” leading to questions from environmentalists about who authored the legislation.

2. Detroit suburb rejects mass transit. The city council of one town in southeast Michigan rejected a proposal Monday to build a federally funded transportation center within its borders. The center in Troy, considered a key piece to a mass-transit system in metro Detroit, was voted down, 4-3. Opponents called the $8.5 million center a “waste of tax dollars,” according to the Detroit Free Press, although Troy would not have footed the bill. Earlier, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sent a letter urging the council to support the proposal. Monday was the final day for a decision in order to complete the project by the Oct. 1, 2013 deadline set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

3. Housing shows slight improvement. The homebuilding industry is showing modest improvement headed into 2012, according to analysts. The Associated Press reports that apartment construction and permits “surged” in November, jumping 9.3 percent from the previous month. It’s the highest level since April 2010. Still, the market remains troubled. Builders broke ground on a seasonally adjusted rate of 685,000 homes last month, but economists say a healthy housing market would produce 1.2 million homes each year. “While beginning to improve, a strong, sustained recovery in the housing market, especially the important single-family sector, is still a ways off,” Steven Wood, chief economist at Insight Economics, tells the AP.


For years, Indiana’s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, has resisted efforts by fellow Republican lawmakers to implement Right to Work legislation. But now, Daniels is making a Right to Work law one of his legislative priorities for 2012.

Right to Work laws mean employees do not have to join a union, if it is formed in their workplace, nor do they have to pay union dues. (To see Right to Work states, click here.)

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels

Under “closed shop” laws in effect in Michigan, and other northern states, employees must either join a union when one is certified, or pay dues. Some people say that forces them to become union members against their will, since they must pay dues anyway.

Daniels, in a presentation Thursday laying out his goals for the new year, said Indiana needs the law because he believes it will lead to increased job opportunities. Daniels said the nation’s 22 Right to Work states enjoy faster job and income growth, and have lower unemployment rates.

“After a year of study and reflection, I have come to agree that it is time for Indiana to join the 22 states which have enacted right to work laws,” Daniels said in a statement Thursday.

But a poll by Ball State University shows state residents haven’t made up their minds. About half said they were undecided, 27 percent supported the idea and 24 percent opposed it, according to Bloomberg.

Indiana, which has aggressively sought economic development, has a record of leading other Midwest states on job-related issues. The state eliminated collective bargaining for state employees six years ago, well before the furor that surrounded similar moves in Ohio and Wisconsin.

Daniels’ call for a Right to Work law in Indiana could fuel tepid moves in other Midwest states. Organizers have begun the ground work in Michigan in hopes of winning approval there, although Right to Work has not been a priority for its Republican governor, Rick Snyder. Our Kate Davidson took a look at the Michigan effort in March.

Daniels, in his presentation, said workers’ right to organize would remain unchanged, but workers would have the ability to decide whether to pay union dues. Union organizers say it depletes their influence in the workplace if workers do not have to contribute.

Should Indiana and other Midwest states implement Right to Work laws? How have they worked in your state?


Yesterday, we told you that Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped below 10 percent in November for the first time in three years. Now comes word that Illinois’ jobless rate also dropped last month, and the state added jobs in November, although not as many as it has been adding.

Illinois’ unemployment rate was 10 percent, down from 10.1 percent in October. The state, which has been adding an average of 6,000 jobs a month this year, added only 600 jobs in November.

Although Illinois officials said the state has added jobs in eight of the past 11 months, the state’s unemployment rate is actually up from 9.4 percent in November a year ago.

The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.

On Wednesday, Michigan officials said their state’s jobless rate was 9.8 percent last month, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. A year ago, the Michigan jobless rate was 11.4 percent.