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Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Illinois still strong business center. Reports of Illinois’ demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least that’s the conclusion of Crain’s Chicago Business, which examined the business climate of the state and its neighbors in the wake of headlines about rising corporate taxes and companies threatening to relocate. The crux of the analysis: Illinois’ workforce, market size, capital available for investment and transportation infrastructure outweighs rising taxes and the state’s budget deficit, which puts it in better position than neighboring states.

2. Ford-UAW contract gains ground. Sixty-two percent of voters now support the tentative agreement between Ford and the United Auto Workers, according to the UAW Facebook page. Several large local unions voted over the weekend on the deal and moved it closer to ratification. Voting ends Tuesday. Last week, initial votes had showed weak support for the agreement, which offers signing bonuses but does not restore cost-of-living increases.

3. Wisconsin home sales up, prices down. In September, existing home sales in Wisconsin rose 17.7 percent year over year, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Sales in the Milwaukee area were particularly strong, growing 26.8 percent from September 2010. The media sales price fell 1.5 percent, however, to $134,900. It was the smallest decline this year, and considered good news by members of the Wisconsin Realtors Association. New listings are down 17.4 percent this year, the newspaper reported, while an inventory backlog remains.


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Chrysler and UAW reach deal. Eight days after reaching a tentative agreement with Ford, the United Auto Workers announced today it had reached a tentative agreement with Chrysler. As part of the deal, Chrysler has agreed to add 2,100 jobs by 2015 and invest $4.5 billion in its U.S. plants. “This tentative agreement builds on the momentum of job creation and our efforts to rebuild America,” UAW president Bob King said in a written statement. Chrysler’s 26,000 UAW members will vote on the deal in the coming days and weeks.

2. Democrats commence Walker recall effort. Next month, Democrats in Wisconsin will begin efforts to recall first-year Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democratic Party, announced the decision to pursue a recall Monday night during an MSNBC interview. Organizers must gather 540,208 valid signatures, one quarter of the votes cast in last fall’s election, within 60 days of commencing their efforts on Nov. 15, according to The New York Times. If those efforts are successful, Walker would be required to run for his office again.

3. Columbus-area tax incentives brought jobs. Six Franklin County, Ohio, companies received property-tax breaks in exchange for a promise to create 298 full-time jobs over the past seven years. They delivered more than county executives anticipated. Those companies created 665 jobs and added $32.8 million in new payroll, according to a report released Tuesday night by the county’s Tax Incentive Review Council. Leading the way, according to The Columbus Dispatch, was TS Tech North America, a seat supplier for Honda that created 310 more jobs than promised in 2004. TS Tech had received a 10-year, 50-percent tax break on taxes worth $829,000. “This is proof our staff knows what they’re doing,” county commissioner John O’Grady told the newspaper.


If owning an NFL franchise has ever been a dream, here’s your chance.

The Green Bay Packers will hold a stock sale by the end of the season to raise money for $130 million in renovations at Lambeau Field. The NFL’s only publicly owned franchise expects each share will cost approximately $200 and include voting rights.

Stock owners can attend annual meetings at Lambeau, among other perks. But the value of the shares would not appreciate and there would be no dividends, according to the Associated Press, which first reported the upcoming sale. The stock sale would be the fifth in the team’s history.  Currently, 112,205 shareholders own a total of 4.75 million shares. The Packers have been a publicly owned nonprofit corporation since 1923.

At least among professional sports franchises, the stock sale represents an unorthodox way to raise funds for a new venue or improvements to existing ones.

Across the Midwest, many cities have used taxpayer dollars to finance construction of NFL stadiums. Cincinnati spent $403 million on Paul Brown Stadium, which opened in 2000. Cleveland taxpayers spent $241 million on Browns Stadium, according to The Wall Street Journal. In Chicago, approximately $387 million of public money was used to finance a Soldier Field overhaul that cost $587 million.

That’s one reason that Michael Constantine, a Wisconsin native, approves of the way the Packers are raising money for a Lambeau Field renovation.

“I feel like the American public has spent enough over the last 20,30 years to build and renovate stadiums,” he tells the AP. “I prefer the sale of stock to raising any sales tax.”


The U.S. high-tech industry lost 115,800 net jobs in 2010 that represented approximately 2 percent of the overall high-tech workforce, according to the annual Cyberstates report compiled by the TechAmerica Foundation.

With one notable exception, states across the Midwest reflected the national trend.

Illinois lost 6,400 tech jobs, approximately 3 percent of its high-tech workforce. It was the fifth-biggest decline in the U.S. and the state slipped to eighth place in the country in terms of overall technology jobs. Minnesota lost 2,900 jobs, Wisconsin lost 1,900 tech jobs, Ohio 1,400 and Indiana shed 300.

Michigan, on the other hand, trended in an upward direction.

After eight years of declining numbers, it added more tech workers than any state in the country, according to the report. Michigan added 2,700 high-tech jobs and ranks 15th nationwide in total technology employment.

“The fact that Michigan added more tech jobs in 2010 than any other state may surprise people, including people within the state,” said Ed Longanecker, the executive director of TechAmerica. “But job gains in key sectors like software and research and development have helped the state recover from hard economic times.”

That recovery is, by no means, complete. In 2001, Michigan had 201,800 high-tech jobs according to the report. Even with this year’s growth, Michigan currently employs 155,100 high-tech workers.

Overall, the U.S. high-tech industry employs 5.75 million workers, according to the report. While 115,800 total jobs were lost across the country, the decline was less than half of the 249,500 jobs lost in 2009.

Despite its losses, Illinois still employs more tech workers than any other Midwest state. Here’s how they stack up:

Illinois: 201,436
Minnesota: 120,800
Ohio: 162,900
Michigan: 155,100
Wisconsin: 81,300
Indiana: 70,300


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. UAW and Ford reach tentative deal. The United Auto Workers union has reached a tentative agreement with Ford Motor Co., announced Tuesday, that calls for $6,000 in signing bonuses and the creation of 5,750 new jobs at plants in the United States. Workers could vote on the agreement by the end of the week. “The American auto industry is on its way back,” UAW President Bob King said in a statement, adding the jobs will be added by the end of 2012. Crucial to the deal was consensus on entry-level wages of approximately $17 per hour. The tentative agreement means that Chrysler is the only automaker of the Big Three without a deal.

2. Coal at a crossroads. Coal produces nearly half the electricity used in the United States, but benefits associated with coal are outweighed by pollution and health problems that cause more economic harm than good, according to a recent study from the American Economic Review. Our partner station Ideastream begins a multi-part series today examining the economic impact of coal and its future in the Midwest. First up in the series: the natural gas boom has given coal added competition. Coal’s share of the nation’s electricity production was at its lowest level in more than 30 years through the first quarter of 2011.

3. Wisconsin announces microgrid project. On Monday, Wisconsin officials announced a new project that aims to make the state a national center for energy microgrids, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. By using energy storage devices and battery systems, microgrid “energy islands” maximize the use of energy from renewable sources, according to the newspaper, and could help if main power grids are disrupted. Several Milwaukee-area companies and the state’s four largest engineering schools are among the participants in the project.


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.

 


Three stories making news across the Midwest today:

1. Ohio eyes energy jobs. Ohio Gov. John Kasich hosted an energy summit Wednesday on the Ohio State University campus that brought together members of the oil and gas industries, utilities officials and environmentalists. The Plain Dealer reports there was widespread enthusiasm over the prospect of Chesapeake Energy Corp. investing $200 billion in Ohio that could bring more than 200,000 jobs. Kasich held some skepticism. “I want to make sure we are steady in this,” he told the newspaper. “I don’t want to get ahead of the curve.”

2. Ford next in UAW talks. While United Auto Workers began to vote today on a four-year deal reached last week with General Motors, the UAW has shifted its focus to negotiations with Ford. The only U.S. automakers that avoided bankruptcy in 2009, Ford workers will likely expect more lucrative terms than the ones reached in the GM deal. Reuters reports there’s some resentment among UAW Ford workers over the $26.5 million compensation package Chief Executive Alan Mulally received, one that UAW president Bob King called “morally wrong.”

3. Wisconsin median income plummets. Adjusted for inflation, median household income in Wisconsin plunged 14.5 percent between 1999 and 2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau Data released today. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the median household income dropped, when adjusted, from $57,316 to $49,001 last year. “The middle class is taking a beating,” Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, tells the newspaper. “We were manufacturing our pants off. But times are changing.”

 


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.


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.


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.”