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Cleveland coined the term Rock and Roll. People still talk about Detroit and Motown. And, Chicago is known for the Blues. Yet, despite evidence that music can revitalize rust belt cities, that it can raise property values, and make these places more attractive to workers and companies, the music industry doesn’t seem to be a priority here.
“ Maybe the first two years we were open, we were miraculously making money,” says Cindy Barber, co-founder of the Beachland Ballroom, one of Cleveland’s top venues—and few venues—for live music. It’s an intimate place: the kind where you feel like you’re up close with the music. Yet, Barber just can’t make any money. She’s thinking of turning the Beachland into a nonprofit.
“You go to Beachland Ballroom, every one of those shows should sell out,” says David Spero. He’s been a producer, manager, and in the 70s, was one of the pioneering Cleveland DJs who introduced the nation to performers like David Bowie. Back then, the industry here was alive.
“Every label was represented here: Columbia, Atlantic, Warner Brothers, Capital, RCA,” Spero says.
It soon got too big and technology changed, and Cleveland lost its place as kingmaker for rock.
Today, Cleveland bands have to find labels and booking agents elsewhere.
About two years ago, the Cleveland band Cloud Nothings was nothing more than the tinkerings of Dylan Baldi, who was more interested in music than college.
“I’d just record songs all the time like when I wasn’t in class, or instead of going to class,” Baldi says.
He put his basement recordings on the internet and to his amazement, found himself booked with a show in Brooklyn and record deals with labels in DC and the UK. He had been playing all the instruments himself and had to scramble to find band mates. Now, he’s just getting used to seeing his name in the music press. And, Baldi says they always mention his hometown.
“They definitely write about that because it’s such a strange thing for a band people know about to be from Cleveland, which is too bad because there are a lot of good bands here,” he says.
One winter day, he was at the Beachland Ballroom celebrating the release of the band’s self-titled album.
There’s a sense that Cleveland and the Midwest are doing a poor job supporting their music industry, and a poor job benefiting from it. Richard Florida is an academic and the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, and he says these post-industrial cities have a lot of assets that could create vibrant music scenes, but it can’t just happen on its own.
“So the first thing we can do in Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, and Detroit, and Milwaukee, and Chicago, is to create real incubation assistance for young bands. I think the band is a better example of a start-up company than these high tech garage start-ups,” Florida says.
He recommends marketing assistance, help with business planning. Cities should make it easier for musicians: provide cheap housing and create incentives like Austin did.
And, the effects can be huge. Austin estimates its music industry contributes more than $600 million to its economy. A Cleveland nonprofit is currently studying how much the music business means here. Michigan has tax breaks for the music business but hasn’t bothered to promote them.
And, Chicago’s Music Commission did its own economic study and found it had the third biggest industry in the country, but no one knew it. But its new Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, wants to change that with his plan for Uptown Music District.
“Where arts and culture can be the engines of economic growth,” Rahm said.
Maybe Chicago, then, will become the model for this region.
If you missed our call-in special, “Power & Performance,” you can hear the show at our partner site: ideastream.
Below, you can also re-read our live chat on leadership in the Midwest. And, as always, use the comments section to tell us what you think.
Changing Gears invites you to come to the University of Michigan TONIGHT at 5 pm for our event, “Don’t Go!” And TOMORROW, tune in to WBEZ, Michigan Radio and ideastream at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT for our call-in show, “Power and Performance.” We’ll host a live chat HERE during the show.
TONIGHT: “Don’t Go!” is at the Blau Auditorium at the Ross School of Business, which is our co-sponsor for the event. We’ll be talking about how to encourage students to stay in our region after graduation. Joining us will be Mike Miller, a U-Mich grad and the director of Google’s Ann Arbor office; Sara Jones, a 2010 U-Mich MBA who owns a jewelry business called Heart Graffiti; Donald Grimes, U-Mich economist, and Luke Song, a Michigan native and the owner of Mr. Song Millinery (best known as the designer of Aretha Franklin’s inaugural hat.)
We’ll hear from them, and hear from you. It’s open to everyone. (Can’t make it? There will be a web stream here.)
TOMORROW: Tune in to Changing Gears stations at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT for “Power and Performance,” a live-call in show that looks at leadership across the Great Lakes. Can a strong mayor change a city by sheer will? Is quiet determination a better course of action? Listen and participate in our live chat, here at ChangingGears.info. The CG team will be on hand and we hope you’ll take part.
On the Air Listen to our leadership series, and then take part in Power and Performance, a call-in show this Thursday at 2 pm ET/1 pm CT on Michigan Radio, WBEZ and ideastream. It’s produced by Sound of Ideas, the daily public affairs program at ideastream. We’ll be broadcasting a toll-free number where you can dial in and participate.
On the Web We’re hosting a live chat here at ChangingGears.info during our call-in show. Tell your friends, and bring your ideas. The entire CG team will be here.
In Person Come to our event this Wednesday afternoon at the University of Michigan. We’re presenting, “Don’t Go!” with the Ross School of Business. We want to talk about the reasons why students don’t stay after they graduate — and what might keep people here.
Cleveland kicked off its first casino development Thursday. Ohio has spent years watching its residents travel to Michigan, Indiana and Pittsburgh for gaming.
Developers say they’ll spend $350 million to convert a former department store in the center of the city into a place for slot machines and poker.
Behind all this is Dan Gilbert, the Cavaliers owner and founder of Michigan’s Quicken Loans. He sees this casino as the first phase of gaming in Cleveland. He’ll be building a casino from scratch a few blocks away. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says the project should create hundreds of local jobs.
LISTEN TO THE STORY:
“They’re actually talking about how can we hire people? How can we hire local contractors, local vendors and make this investment a stimulus for this economy and the people of this city and region,” he said at the unveiling.
Dan Gilbert says it the Cleveland casino will be integrated into the city, helping local businesses.
December 24th, 2010
The last international ship of the year just left the Great Lakes. The Dutch vessel dropped off Swedish steel in Cleveland and picked up grain in Duluth.
Many say increasing exports would help get the region and the country out of the recession.
Well, the Midwest still makes things. If we’re going to be an export economy, how do we get the goods out of the country?
Could we be doing a lot more international trade directly through the Great Lakes?
LISTEN TO THE STORY: Download audio file (ShipFINAL_web.mp3)
It is not easy to get steel mill equipment from Ohio to Germany.
Especially when it’s the largest piece of machinery a company has ever made. Earlier this year, a manufacturer near Youngstown called Butech Bliss beat out foreign firms to supply a German mill with enormous steel cutters. It took a truck with 19 axles.
“Actually, the shear itself ended up weighing about a million and a half pounds,” said Chuck Jackson, Butech Bliss’s Vice President. It was a $15 million order — half the company’s annual revenue. That was the good news. The bad news? Pennsylvania and Maryland wouldn’t let him truck it on their highways to the port in Baltimore. The trucks were simply too big.
He racked his brain for a solution.
“I had heard faintly of people shipping out of Cleveland,” Jackson said. “But I never really thought about it.”
That ended up being his answer. He shipped the machinery out the St Lawrence Seaway and across the Atlantic to Germany.
But for now, this is still not that common.
“It’s a chicken and egg problem,” said Brad Hull, a professor at John Carroll University.
He says there are Midwest companies that want to use the lakes and there are shipowners that want to serve them. But the shippers want to make sure the service is dependable and the ship-owners want to be certain there’s demand.
“So, essentially you’ve got both sides that need to meet in the middle,” he said.
For now, much of the shipping is based on luck. There’s no predictable service. This year, a drought in Russia has boosted the grain exports from Duluth, for instance.
Will Friedman is the new head of the Port of Cleveland.
“We’re not in control of our own destiny,” said Will Friedman, the new head of the Port of Cleveland. “Sometimes good things happen but it’s not because we did anything.”
Friedman hopes we’ll soon see small steps to changing that. There’s serious talk of starting a regular, predictable container service for the first time in decades.
For now, most ships like this one in Cleveland just have their cargo secured to the deck.
Cleveland and Detroit’s ports generate upwards of $2 billion in economic impact a year but that’s well less than Baltimore.
“We just want to be who we are better than we have been previously,” Friedman said. Cleveland and Detroit’s ports generate upwards of $2 billion in economic impact a year but that’s well less than Baltimore. John Baker says more activity on the lakes can’t come soon enough. He’s with the International Longshoreman’s Association and has spent decades trying to get more foreign business so his members can get more work. John Baker “It’s not enough! It’s never going to be enough until we see it. I keep saying it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, but I don’t see it, and I don’t see anyone pushing as hard as we are,” Baker said. Baker thinks the ports need to do a better job marketing. They need to tell potential customers that ice is only a problem for two or three months, and that it can be easier and cheaper to get to parts of Europe through the Seaway than coastal ports like New York and Baltimore. That’s what Butech Bliss learned getting its steel cutters to Germany. Chuck Jackson is thinking of using the port again. “We worried and worried and worried about being late,” he said. “Everything went our way and we actually ended up getting there two weeks early.”
It’s like an ad for the Port of Cleveland.
“We just want to be who we are better than we have been previously,” Friedman said.
Cleveland and Detroit’s ports generate upwards of $2 billion in economic impact a year but that’s well less than Baltimore.
John Baker says more activity on the lakes can’t come soon enough. He’s with the International Longshoreman’s Association and has spent decades trying to get more foreign business so his members can get more work.
“It’s not enough! It’s never going to be enough until we see it. I keep saying it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, but I don’t see it, and I don’t see anyone pushing as hard as we are,” Baker said.
Baker thinks the ports need to do a better job marketing. They need to tell potential customers that ice is only a problem for two or three months, and that it can be easier and cheaper to get to parts of Europe through the Seaway than coastal ports like New York and Baltimore.
That’s what Butech Bliss learned getting its steel cutters to Germany. Chuck Jackson is thinking of using the port again.
“We worried and worried and worried about being late,” he said. “Everything went our way and we actually ended up getting there two weeks early.”
CHICAGO – The line outside All Saint’s Episcopal Church in Ravenswood on Chicago’s North Side wraps around the corner and down the block. It’s Tuesday evening, and dozens are here for the church’s weekly soup kitchen and food pantry.
The line’s full of people you might expect to see at a pantry: grandparents with young kids in tow; a few homeless people. But the line also has quite a few people like Joanne Baier.
“I was actually a teller supervisor at a bank,” Baier said. She worked for Bank of America for seven years before they downsized, and she lost her job.
Since then, she said life has been “hard’.
Fran Holliday sees hard stories like Baier’s even more these days.
“We’re still meeting a lot of neighbors who do not have work, cannot find work, or have just lost their jobs,” said Holliday, the associate rector at the church and the program director for Ravenswood Community Services, the church’s social services arm
Talk to the people who direct food banks across the Midwest – and they say the relationship between unemployment and hunger has become even more pronounced in the past few years.
In Chicago, one out of every eight residents of Cook County now visits a soup kitchen or pantry for food. That’s almost 700,000 people.
“In the last two years our distribution has increased 50 percent,” said Anne Goodman, Executive Director of the Cleveland Food Bank. “There’s simply no way that you can interpret it in any other fashion but to say that unemployment has related directly to food distribution.”
In Detroit, Goodman’s counterpart, DeWayne Wells, said his organization, Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast Michigan, has experienced a 20 percent increase in need for services this year. There’s even more demand outside the city of Detroit.
“In some of suburbs, a lot of people who were displaced by autos and whose unemployment has run out, we’re seeing much higher than those 20 percent average communities in those communities,” said Wells.
He calls them the “new poor”.
In Chicago, one out of every eight residents of Cook County now visits a soup kitchen or pantry for food. That’s almost 700,000 people.Most of it comes from the Chicago Food Depository on the city’s South Side. Its main warehouse is the size of five football fields. It’s full almost to the ceiling with pallets of food – boxes of cereal, crates of mayonnaise, and cartons of fresh fruits and vegetables like bananas and potatoes. Lots of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables are an important part of the food that gets sent out to pantries.
Inside, workers are busy making sure all the orders are correct.
The Chicago area has also seen about a 36 percent increase in need for services over the past three years. The trend among especially new customers is people who have never used any type of social service before.
“People call and say, ‘I know you because I used to make a donation to you. I’m calling today not to make a donation but to ask for help. I need to go to a food pantry and I don’t know where one is’,” said Kate Maehr, the Food Depository’s director.
Maehr said the nonprofit is bracing itself for a new reality of having to deal with the tens of thousands of people in the community who are not going to get jobs quickly.Inside All Saints, they’re getting ready to serve Christmas dinner to food pantry recipients.
Joanne Baier – the bank teller from Ravenswood is outside. She usually just gets a bag of food and leaves, rather than stay for the meal. Baier has been out of work for two years. A year ago, she finally turned to the food pantry for help.
This Christmas is harder financially than last year for Baier and her husband. He used to have a full-time job, but now can only get part-time work at Target.
The couple is especially grateful for food pantry.
“I think it helps out a lot, so we could pay our bills and our rent,” said Baier.
Baier said she remains optimistic that she will eventually find a job. And, she’s hoping she’ll get the chance to reinvent herself in the New Year.
In this episode, Changing Gears presents Reinventing Our Cities, a one-hour special on ideas to transform urban areas in the Midwest. Senior editor Micki Maynard hosts, with reports from Changing Gears reporter Dan Bobkoff, who travels to Pittsburgh, and Niala Boodhoo in Chicago. Sarah Hulett of Michigan Radio reports from Detroit, and WBEZ reporter Michael Puente from Gary, Indiana. The hour also includes suggestions from Changing Gears listeners, who spoke with Ann Arbor reporter Kate Davidson.
Download audio file (ReinventingOurCitiesFINALFORAIR_web.mp3)
Right click here and click Save Link as to download the MP3
CHICAGO – Don’t sound a death knell for Midwestern manufacturing just yet. One recent surprise has been an increase in the amount of goods being produced across the region.
Some experts think the “next” economy needs to focus on businesses that make products. And the good news is, the Midwest is doing well on this front, according to Alan Berube, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
“We’re seeing that a lot of best performing metropolitan economies in the United States – and even on a global scale – are in the Midwest,” he said. Berube is in Chicago this week for a global summit on transforming metro economies.
“Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis, St. Louis – these areas actually lead the nation on output growth in the past year, which suggests that they are benefiting from a strong rebound in the manufacturing sector,” he said, adding:
“The manufacturing sector isn’t employing a lot more people – but output is expanding. And that’s a necessary precursor to job growth.”
The Chicago Fed measures midwestern manufacturing output regularly – at last report, it was 0.7 percent. If you’re interested in the idea of output and manufacturing, and smaller employment, The Chicago Fed had an interesting post about this topic this summer.
Mayors from Minneapolis, Philadelphia, LA and Chicago meet Wednesday for the summit – check back with us then, as we’ll be reporting on what they talk about.
CHICAGO – Cities across the Midwest are full of immigrant stories. Previous generations filled the factories, building cars, furniture and steel. Now that those jobs are disappearing, cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Pittsburgh are hoping another wave of immigrants will help reinvigorate the economy. Changing Gears is a new public media project looking at the reinvention of the industrial Midwest. In this story, we look at the role immigrant entrepreneurs are playing in our economy.
On Chicago’s Southwest Side, the 26th Street corridor in Little Village is hopping. It’s Saturday morning, and the streets are full of families, wheeling carts and kids in strollers as they shop.
I’m standing outside the Little Village Chamber of Commerce with its new director, Nilda Esparza and its vice-chair, Robert Garza. They’re talking about how this area is the cultural and economic home to the city’s Mexican population.
Esparza says you’ll find anywhere from 500 to 600 businesses, just on this strip.
“Everything from A to Z,” adds Garza, himself an entrepreneur. “From grocery stores, travel agencies, just about anything, you can find here on 26th Street.”
Garza’s family came here from Mexico the 1940s. They opened one of the first grocery stores in the area. Now, it’s a bustling center of city commerce. Little Village has the largest concentration of Mexican-Americans in the Midwest.
“Little Village is a place where a lot of us have started, a lot of us have flourished,” says Jesus Davila, as he stands outside Davila’s Restaurant – just one of his four businesses. He says his two restaurants alone make at least a million and a half dollars in revenue a year. He also has another business that makes small parts, and a photo studio – even though they do more than just photos there.
“Here we also do income taxes, we help people with their immigration forms, and that keeps us going year round,” he says.
Three hundred miles to the east, Steve Tobocman looks at neighborhoods like Chicago’s Little Village and is not just envious – he’s trying to figure out how it can be replicated in Southeast Michigan.
“I think immigrants represent a tremendous potential,” he says. “Already the role that they’re playing, for example here in Southeast Michigan, is that they are critical components of energy driving us to the new economy”.
Tobocman is in charge of the Global Detroit Initiative. He’s working with Pittsburgh and Cleveland to try to make all of their cities more welcoming to immigrants, because he sees these people as key to helping kickstart their economies.
He points to Hispanic and Arab communities that are repopulating parts of Detroit – creating rare economic bright spots.
Tobocman also likes to reel off figures like this one: In Michigan, almost 40 percent of the tech businesses started in the past decade were created by immigrants. This from a state where just five percent of its population was born outside the country.
One way Detroit is working with Cleveland and Pittsburgh is to create a regional center for a government visa program called the EB-5. That’s where would-be immigrants who are willing to invest a million dollars and create ten American jobs qualify for a green card - for them and their families.
“I think being open to attracting the intellectual capital is going to be critical to the 21st Century,” he says.
Back in Chicago, a group of three dozen university computer science students are handing in a coding test. It’s an effort by the Illinois Technology Association to ensure that the next generation of entrepreneurs stays in the Midwest.
Terry Howerton is the head of the industry group. He looks at companies like Netscape, Paypal, Youtube and Oracle as the ones that got away.
“All of those people have one thing in common: an Illinois education,” he says. “And they have another thing in common: they slipped away from our community. They built their companies somewhere else. They created massive amounts of jobs, and massive amounts of wealth, somewhere else.
So for the first time this year, the tech group visited seven universities throughout Illinois. They fed computer students lots of pizza and gave them the first round of tests. The top 45 made it to Chicago – where they’ve sat another two hour exam. The winner gets $5,000. More importantly, there are recruiters from a dozen or so Illinios-based tech waiting outside the room to meet and interview the test-takers.
Most of the room is full of international students – mostly from China, and India, but also Eastern Europe. In the past five years, more of these students are going back to their home countries and starting businesses there.
But Howerton hopes finding them jobs in Illinois will make the students stay.
Vivek Thyagarajan is a senior at the University of Illinois. He’s 22. He ticks off a few on his list of reasons why he wants to stay here instead of going home to India: American corporate culture here, American lifestyle, and American money.
He points out he’s not in a position to bargain for where he wants to go. He needs to go where the jobs are, because his employer will sponsor him. But all things being equal, he’ld love to move to Chicago.
He’s an electrical engineering student. And he points across the street to the Willis Tower as yet another reason for staying.
“I love the design,” he says. “I love the city because of the amazing architecture, this is where the skyscraper was born. So yeah, I’d love to stay here.”
Thyaragun’s goal is to have a job offer before May, when he’s set to graduate.