Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Foreclosures spike in Michigan. Foreclosure filings in Michigan had slowed during the first half of 2011, but jumped 36 percent from July to August, according to new data. Daren Bloomquist of RealtyTrac tells our partner station Michigan Radio that banks had noticed a decline in the number of repossessed hopes they were trying to sell, and therefore “more willing to push properties into the foreclosure.”

2. Public vs. private workers. A study that compares the compensation of public and private workers in Ohio says that the total compensation for public employees is worth 43 percent more than their private-worker counterparts. Amid the backdrop of controversial collective bargaining legislation known as SB5, the compensation study has become controversial itself says our partner Ideastream. Amy Hanauer, spokesperson for a left-leaning think tank, says the study is “preposterous” and cites a Rutgers University study that determined the total compensation is “pretty much a wash.”

3. Groupon IPO regains momentum. Groupon will seek to hold its initial public offering in October or November, sources told The New York Times on Wednesday. One week after the daily-deals website postponed the IPO to wait out market volatility, the company’s renewed interest comes as part of “a resolution between the company” and SEC regarding CEO Andrew Mason’s critical memo that was leaked last month about the company’s health.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Foreclosures spike in Michigan. Foreclosure filings in Michigan had slowed during the first half of 2011, but jumped 36 percent from July to August, according to new data. Daren Bloomquist of RealtyTrac tells our partner station Michigan Radio that banks had noticed a decline in the number of repossessed hopes they were trying to sell, and therefore “more willing to push properties into the foreclosure.”

2. Public vs. private workers. A study that compares the compensation of public and private workers in Ohio says that the total compensation for public employees is worth 43 percent more than their private-worker counterparts. Amid the backdrop of controversial collective bargaining legislation known as SB5, the compensation study has become controversial itself says our partner Ideastream. Amy Hanauer, spokesperson for a left-leaning think tank, says the study is “preposterous” and cites a Rutgers University study that determined the total compensation is “pretty much a wash.”

3. Groupon IPO regains momentum. Groupon will seek to hold its initial public offering in October or November, sources told The New York Times on Wednesday. One week after the daily-deals website postponed the IPO to wait out market volatility, the company’s renewed interest comes as part of “a resolution between the company” and SEC regarding CEO Andrew Mason’s critical memo that was leaked last month about the company’s health.


Forty-five percent of Americans define themselves as middle class, according to an ABC News poll in 2010. Those polled generally agreed upon some basics of a middle-class lifestyle: They worked in stable jobs, owned homes in safe neighborhoods, owned at least one vehicle, saved a little for retirement and college tuition.

“That set of things is becoming increasingly unattainable for a lot of people,” said Amy Hanaurer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch as part of the newspaper’s wide exploration of what it means to be middle class that was published last week.

The topic is a central and divisive one in Ohio, where presidencies have historically been decided and a current debate rages over Senate Bill 5, a piece of controversial legislation that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Special-interest groups fighting the legislation all claim they’re working on behalf of the middle class.

As part of a five-day series, experts told The Dispatch that globalization has battered the nation’s manufacturing sector, which once formed the crux of Ohio’s middle class. The median wage has declined in Ohio more than any other state since 2000, according to census figures.

In the wake of that economic devastation, The Dispatch sought out to define the middle class. You can find out what they learned, how Ohioans have coped with the recession, how they’ve reinvented themselves and lowered their expectations.

(The archive of the entire series can be found here).

The series raises important questions about how Americans view themselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession – and how they handle the ever-present fear of a double-dip recession on the horizon.

Do you consider yourself middle class? At what income level did you arrive in the middle class? What are hallmarks of a middle-class lifestyle? We’d like to hear from you.


Forty-five percent of Americans define themselves as middle class, according to an ABC News poll in 2010. Those polled generally agreed upon some basics of a middle-class lifestyle: They worked in stable jobs, owned homes in safe neighborhoods, owned at least one vehicle, saved a little for retirement and college tuition.

“That set of things is becoming increasingly unattainable for a lot of people,” said Amy Hanaurer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, who spoke to The Columbus Dispatch as part of the newspaper’s wide exploration of what it means to be middle class that was published last week.

The topic is a central and divisive one in Ohio, where presidencies have historically been decided and a current debate rages over Senate Bill 5, a piece of controversial legislation that limits the collective bargaining rights of public employees. Special-interest groups fighting the legislation all claim they’re working on behalf of the middle class.

As part of a five-day series, experts told The Dispatch that globalization has battered the nation’s manufacturing sector, which once formed the crux of Ohio’s middle class. The median wage has declined in Ohio more than any other state since 2000, according to census figures.

In the wake of that economic devastation, The Dispatch sought out to define the middle class. You can find out what they learned, how Ohioans have coped with the recession, how they’ve reinvented themselves and lowered their expectations.

(The archive of the entire series can be found here).

The series raises important questions about how Americans view themselves in the aftermath of the Great Recession – and how they handle the ever-present fear of a double-dip recession on the horizon.

Do you consider yourself middle class? At what income level did you arrive in the middle class? What are hallmarks of a middle-class lifestyle? We’d like to hear from you.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Goodbye Cleveland, hello Chicago. A Cleveland-area steelmaker could receive more than $1 million in financial incentives to move its headquarters to downtown Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this morning. JMC Steel Group Inc. could bring 50 new employees in the move. Chicago’s Community Development Commission will hear a proposal to provide $1.1 million in incentives Tuesday. Crain’s writes the approval would “represent another victory for Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” who has touted several job victories since taking office.

2. Ford faces UAW strike. A Wednesday deadline looms on contract talks between United Auto Workers officials and Detroit automakers, although representatives on both sides say the discussions could be extended. UAW president Bob King tells our partner station Michigan Radio that a strike is not a “goal” of the talks, but others believe a strike could happen at Ford. Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman, says union members deserve to receive cost-of-living adjustments surrendered during the recession.

3. Obama will speak in Ohio. President Obama will continue the campaign for his $447 billion jobs bill in Columbus, Ohio, today. He’ll emphasize part of his proposal that marks $25 billion for school building and renovation while speaking at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. It’s part of Obama’s plan to fight for the American Jobs Act on the turf of his Republican counterparts. The Ohio visit, in House Speaker John Boehner’s home state, comes four days after Obama visited House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district in Richmond, Va.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Goodbye Cleveland, hello Chicago. A Cleveland-area steelmaker could receive more than $1 million in financial incentives to move its headquarters to downtown Chicago, Crain’s Chicago Business reported this morning. JMC Steel Group Inc. could bring 50 new employees in the move. Chicago’s Community Development Commission will hear a proposal to provide $1.1 million in incentives Tuesday. Crain’s writes the approval would “represent another victory for Mayor Rahm Emanuel,” who has touted several job victories since taking office.

2. Ford faces UAW strike. A Wednesday deadline looms on contract talks between United Auto Workers officials and Detroit automakers, although representatives on both sides say the discussions could be extended. UAW president Bob King tells our partner station Michigan Radio that a strike is not a “goal” of the talks, but others believe a strike could happen at Ford. Gary Walkowicz, a bargaining committeeman, says union members deserve to receive cost-of-living adjustments surrendered during the recession.

3. Obama will speak in Ohio. President Obama will continue the campaign for his $447 billion jobs bill in Columbus, Ohio, today. He’ll emphasize part of his proposal that marks $25 billion for school building and renovation while speaking at Fort Hayes Arts and Academic High School. It’s part of Obama’s plan to fight for the American Jobs Act on the turf of his Republican counterparts. The Ohio visit, in House Speaker John Boehner’s home state, comes four days after Obama visited House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s district in Richmond, Va.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Bridge gains political spotlight. Some experts estimate that billions of dollars in goods, perhaps as much as 4 percent of the nation’s GDP, at some point cross the Brent Spence Bridge, which spans the Ohio River between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky. On Thursday, President Obama highlighted the bridge as one that could be repaired as part of his jobs recovery plan. The prominent mention was perhaps a bit of political gamesmanship – House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky could be in the cross-hairs of their constituents if they voted against the $2 billion overhaul, which currently lacks federal funding.

2. Middle-class crunch. The Columbus Dispatch spent five days last week exploring what it means to be middle class in Ohio. The definition varies widely, but the newspaper concludes the key measures show that Ohio’s middle class is much smaller than people realize, and “the group is shrinking.” As one employee at a barber shop in suburban Dayton said, “The middle class? I’m not sure it exists anymore.”

3. Detroit earns dubious title. In July, The New York Times profiled the youth movement under way in Detroit. This week, Good Magazine followed up and declared the Motor City as one of the best places to be “young and broke.” It cited the fact the city’s vibrant community activism scene is led by young people, and that Detroit has earned a reputation for hustle, art and low cost of living. And also, of course, there’s lots of young people who are doing quite well for themselves.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. China jolts Chevy Volt. China is increasingly looking to leverage access for Western Markets in exchange for concessions on advanced technologies. The latest example, reports The New York Times, is a press for General Motors to share core technology from the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. The Chinese government will not let the Volt qualify for subsidies worth up to $19,300 per car unless G.M. agrees to share engineering, a possible violation of World Trade Organization rules, according to some international trade experts.

2. Ohio’s green power retreat? Three years after legislators voted nearly unanimously to require Ohio power companies to meet new green energy standards, some Republicans tell The Columbus Dispatch it’s time to repeal the rules. State Sen. Kris Jordan said in a release that the standards, which require at least 12.5 percent of energy generation come from renewable sources by 2025, will drive up energy costs for Ohio businesses and families. Environmental groups have criticized the proposed repeal.

3. Michigan begins entrepreneurial law program. The University of Michigan Law School launches a new program this fall that will train student lawyers to better serve start-up and existing entrepreneurial businesses. The program, which also establishes a clinic to offer free legal advice to Michigan’s student entrepreneurs, will contain opportunities for students across the university.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cuts coming in Illinois. Gov. Pat Quinn is expected to outline deep cuts to the Illinois budget today, according to our partner station WBEZ. Quinn said he must make the cuts to stay within the budget approved by lawmakers. Parole officers and tax collectors appear on the list of likely cuts. Administrators said proposals have been shared with the General Assembly this week.

2. Ohio may halt fracking. A Democratic state senator in Ohio has introduced legislation that would mandate a two-year moratorium on the controversial practice of hydrofracking according to our partner Ideastream. Sen. Michael Skindell says the quiet period would give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency time to study the practice. A spokesperson from the Ohio Oil and Gas Association says a halt would worsen the state’s unemployment rate.

3. Head of AFL-CIO leaving. Mark Gaffney, the head of the Michigan’s largest labor coalition for the past 12 years, told the Detroit Free Press today that he would not seek another four-year term at Michigan’s AFL-CIO convention in October. “I’m going to leave the fight on the front lines to others,” he told the newspaper. He is expected to be replaced by former UAW official and Wayne County consultant Karla Swift.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Cleveland casino hiring. Today marks a milestone in the development of Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to refurbish a downtown building, the gambling company is now seeking employees. It is filling 500 positions for dealers – no experience necessary – in positions that will pay as much as $40,000 per year, according to The Plain Dealer. A professor from nearby John Carroll University predicted the jobs would have a multiplier effect on the region. “This is the evidence that it wasn’t just hoopla or overstatement,” LeRoy Brooks told the newspaper. “They’re actually putting up the capital, the training costs.”

2. Sun power, meet sunflower. A Wisconsin energy company is building one of the largest solar projects in the state, and allowing individual investors to buy a stake in the project. The Convergence Energy Solar Farm began construction last year on 14 acres, and will be the state’s second-largest solar farm when completed. “We’re really striving to build local economies,” Steve Johnson, the company’s VP of business development told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s providing an opportunity for people who want to invest in solar and put a little more clean energy on the grid.”

3. Groupon may postpone IPO. Chicago-based Groupon may postpone its upcoming IPO, a delay it attributed to market volatility, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the development. That may not be all. Marketwatch reported today that the company may be skirting the “quiet period” required by businesses once they file papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and opines that Groupon CEO Andrew Mason appears “hell-bent on becoming the poster child for business schools and budding entrepreneurs on how not to go public.”