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Illinois Vote: The Illinois Senate is set to vote today on an incentives package meant to keep the CME Group (better known as the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) and Sears in the state. The vote follows the Illinois House’s approval of the package on Monday.  Barring a last minute glitch in the political process, listen for a report from Changing Gears’ Niala Boodhoo on the incentives situation tomorrow.

Michigan Liquor:  The State of Michigan is considering changes to the state’s liquor laws, which restrict sales on Sunday and allow local governments to set limits on who can get liquor licenses. The Detroit News reports the Liquor Control Rules Advisory Committee is looking at “anything and everything,” according to one state official. The review is not open to the public, however, and the News says that’s causing some consternation among groups that want the state to take a conservative approach to reforming liquor laws.

Arts Money: Sixty-six arts and cultural organizations in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County will be sharing nearly $14 million in grants for 2012. Our partner ideastream is among five organizations getting grants of $1 million or more from Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. The group gets its funding from a tax on cigarette sales. Dan Bobkoff reported earlier this year on the unique way the grants are funded.


Casino Jobs in Cleveland: Want to work at the new Horseshoe Casino? They’re hiring again, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The casino, located on four floors of the old Higbee  Department store, will be filling 40 different kinds of jobs, with 750 new positions open. The work ranges from security officers and slot machine supervisors to chefs. It’s the second wave of hiring for the Horseshoe, which hired its first 650 people in September. The casino hopes to open in late March.

High Speed Rail: Consultants have until today to submit their proposals to study how to solve a crucial problem for high speed rail between Detroit and Chicago, reports our partner station Michigan Radio. At issue is a railroad bottleneck between northwest Indiana and Chicago. A high volume of passenger and freight traffic already overwhelms the existing rail lines and threatens to put the brakes on high speed trains. Once a winning consultant is chosen, it will probably take about two years to lay out a solution.

Debtors to Jail: With a slow economy, the number of debtors going to jail in Illinois is on the rise, reports our partner station WBEZ. It’s illegal in Illinois to throw a debtor in jail for not being able to pay, but some creditors are getting around that. A collection agency can file a lawsuit which might require a court appearance. If the debtor doesn’t appear at the hearing, a warrant can be issued for their arrest. Legal aid attorneys have said this is more of an issue in rural parts of the state.






Detroit’s Plea: As we reported yesterday, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing is laying out his plan to keep his struggling city solvent. But a key step — getting a $220 million from the state — is getting a cool reception. While Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t rejected it, he’s not embracing it either,

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

according to our partner Michigan Radio. Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for the governor, said Snyder is “focused on how to best help Detroit move forward in tough economic times.” But Wurfel added Detroit is free to plead its case with the state legislature.

Steelmaker Expands Training: Three years ago, global steel company ArcelorMittal started a training program in Indiana to get young adults prepared for jobs in the industry.  And now, the Cleveland plant says it’s partnering with Lakeland Community College to offer the training in Ohio, according to our partners at ideastream in Cleveland. The Steelworker for the Future program is due to start in January, and involves two-and-a-half years of college coursework and a twelve week paid internship.  At the program’s end, students walk away with an associates degree in electrical or mechanical technology.

Wisconsin Mining Controversy: Mining is making a comeback in the upper Great Lakes, but not everyone is happy about it. Eleven Indian tribes across the region have come out in opposition to a plan to a new open-air pit, iron ore mine, according to WBEZ’s Front and Center project. Proponents say the mine would create 700 jobs paying $50,000 a year. However, opponents are concerned about the impact on the environment. They met with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker this week.

Three must-read stories about the Midwest economy to start your weekend.

Groupon Glow Fading? Doubts are rising about the success of an upcoming initial public offering by Groupon, the company that offers discounts at a wide range of businesses. Crain’s Chicago Business says analysts are wondering whether Groupon, which posted a second quarter loss, can get the price for its stock that it hoped when it announced the offer in June. The shares are supposed to go on sale next month.

“I’m sure they could price an IPO, (but) I don’t know if they could get the valuation they’re talking about,” Darren Fabric, managing director of Chicago-based Ipox Capital Management, told Crain’s. “The lower the volatility and the more speculative the market, the more Groupon will be helped. And those conditions aren’t there right now.”

Another Chicago company, Trustwave Holdings, put off its I.P.O. earlier this week, Crain’s says.


Cameras Cover Detroit: Smile the next time you’re in downtown Detroit. Law enforcement officials now can view images from 350 cameras around the central business district as part of a coordinated effort to protect people who live, play and work downtown, the Detroit News reports.

Photo submitted by Joshua Mango

For the past six months, Detroit Police officials have been able to access the images from 18 downtown businesses such as General Motors Co., Ilitch Entertainment, the city’s three casinos  and Compuware.

Underemployment in Focus: National unemployment numbers focus on people who are looking for jobs, but can’t find them. But John Russo, head of the Youngstown State University Center for Working-Class studies, says the 9.2 percent unemployment rate doesn’t tell the whole story.

He says the complete unemployment figure  is about 26 percent. Russo counts people working part-time but who want to be working more, people who stopped looking for a job, people on disability or who filed early for Social Security and people living on government assistance. Hear the story from our partner station ideastream.




Three must-read stories about the Midwest economy.

Obama in Western Michigan: President Obama visits Holland, Mich., today to tour a Johnson Controls plant that produces lithium-ion batteries, and discuss advanced auto industry technology. It’s his seventh visit to Michigan since taking office, and second talk about fuel economy this week.

But some critics say he should be keeping his focus on jobs. Our Changing Gears partner Michigan Radio has a roundup of the discussion of the President’s trip to western Michigan, including a commentary from the Grand Rapids Press. It asks whether incentives to fund future techology are really worth the money, given what’s happening with the economy.

Lake Michigan Only Gets A Passing Grade: Illinois Republican U.S. Senator Mark Kirk gives Lake Michigan a “C” when it comes to cleanliness and other environmental concerns, reports our partner station WBEZ in Chicago.

Kirk, who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said water levels are decreasing, so he wants to pass a bill that would maintain and dredge harbors. (Changing Gears’ Kate Davidson reported on Great Lakes dredging earlier this summer.) He also called for increased voltage at electric barriers to keep out Asian carp, and a ban on sewage dumping in the Great Lakes.

More Jeep Jobs in Toledo? The Toledo Blade is reporting that Chrysler will invest up to $365 million and add another shift of 1,100 workers at its Jeep plant there. The deal depends on an incentive package from Ohio, which state officials have yet to approve.




Today’s must-read stories about the Midwest economy.

More Jobs in Chicago: Mayor Rahm Emanuel and JP Morgan Chase announced the opening of four new Chase bank branches in the city yesterday, a move that will create more than 400 jobs. Chase now has the most bank deposits of any financial institution in the city. 

Meanwhile, Crain’s Chicago Business reports today that Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are both expanding in the city. Each coffee company expects to open dozens more stores in the area over the next few years. It would be the first expansion in Chicago for Starbucks since 2008, when the company closed 600 stores nationwide.

Michigan Venture Accelerator Gains Companies: Three new companies have moved into the University of Michigan’s Venture Accelerator, which provides space, services and mentoring for emerging startups.

The accelerator now is 60 percent full after just seven months in operation, and could be at capacity by the end of the year. The project occupies 16,000 square feet of space at the facilities once used by Pfizer on U-M’s North Campus.

Ohio School Bells to be Delayed?  An Ohio lawmaker is proposing to limit the state’s school year to the weeks between Labor Day and Memorial Day, in order to boost Ohio’s economy. The report comes from State Impact Ohio, a project of our partner station ideastream in Cleveland. Rep. Bill Hayes points to nearby states like Michigan that already have similar laws, and the economic success they’ve enjoyed.

According to a membership survey by the Michigan Lodging and Tourism Association, tourism has increased by 25 percent annually since the state changed its school start days in 2006. Hayes says Ohio needs that kind of boost.

Good morning! Three must-reads from around the Midwest region today:

Sara Lee sells its dough business. Downers Grove, Illinois-based Sara Lee Corp. is selling its North American refrigerated dough business to Ralcorp Holdings Inc. for $545 million, the Associated Press reports. The company said in May it wanted to start a process of splitting in two.

Allstate hiring in Ohio. The insurer, the fourth-largest in Ohio, is ramping up its workforce in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown, according to the Youngstown Business Journal. The company said it sees a “significant” opportunity in this economy to expand, adding it wants to appoint 50 new insurance agency owners and hire more than 175 licensed sales professionals across Ohio this year.
New Detroit Bridge to Canada. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration said it would like to have a deal on a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario before the end of the year, our partner Michigan Radio reports. An impending deal would force many lawmakers, especially Republicans – who are in control of the Legislature — to take a position on the bridge issue.

Three stories we think you should know about as you start the week:

Borders a test for Chicago real estate market? With Ulta, Michaels, and Home Goods eyeing 15 Chicago-area spots vacated by Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc., currently in liquidation, Crains Chicago Business says it’s a sign of how the retail real estate market is doing in Chicago.

Michigan teachers leaving the state. Hundreds of public school teachers thoughout the state are moving to places where there are jobs, the Associated Press reports. Since its peak in 2004-2005 school year, the state has lost almost 10,000 jobs, or 9 percent, of its public school teachers.

Illinois braces for fallout from S&P downgrade. With stock markets roiling over the Friday night announcement by Standard & Poor’s of its downgrade of U.S. credit rating, Illinois-based business and analysts provide their opinion of what this means in this Chicago Tribune story.

Three Midwest economic stories to end your week with:

Manufacturers take aim at policy makers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI are starting a new initiative aimed at highlighting the potential the manufacturing sector has to create jobs and economic growth. The Chamber, which says it is the world’s largest business federation, says its effort will be aimed at policy makers, and will including sharing research, expert opinions and findings on the state of American manufacturing.

President Obama set to talk job numbers in Midwest next week. The stops on President Obama’s Midwestern jobs tour have yet to be announced, but partner station Michigan Radio reports at least one stop, in west Michigan, looks certain. On his tour, the President is expected to discuss strategy for creating additional jobs. He will also likely talk more about employment numbers, out today, showing the U.S added jobs, but not enough to signal robust economic growth.

General Motor’s earnings up, stock down. The U.S government continues to look for a good time to sell its remaining 26% share in the car giant, and will need to wait a little longer. GM yesterday announced a quarterly earnings report that showed GM has is doing better at any point since declaring bankruptcy, making $2.5 billion in the last three months. As the Detroit Free Press reports, these numbers weren’t enough to counter the larger uncertainty in the stock market over the last few days and GM stocks, at publication time are down almost to year low levels.

Midwest in the midst of a tech hiring boom?  According to Bloomberg Business Week, Cleveland is adding more tech jobs than any other city in the nation.  Detroit and Cincinnati follow Cleveland. A word of warning, though: The ranking measures the percentage increase in tech jobs over last year, meaning these cities aren’t necessarily seeing a big increase in the actual numbers of jobs being added.

Detroit home prices on way to record lows. Home prices in Detroit continue to fall. The average home price is now 80% lower than in 2005, when prices hit their peak. Partner station Michigan Radio reports prices have fallen steadily this year and the outlook is for more of the same. More than half of the available properties in Detroit are foreclosed properties, making a near term rise in the average home price unlikely.

Kraft Foods splits in two: The Northfield, Illinois-based company has announced it will now be running separate companies to focus on domestic and international markets. Crain’s Chicago reports one company, considered to have high growth potential, will focus on bringing American “snack food” like Oreos, chocolate and Tang to emerging markets. The domestic grocery company on the other hand, will focus on North American sales of items like Kraft cheese, Oscar Mayer meats and Maxwell House coffee. The change is expected to take about a one year to complete.