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Everybody who lives in the Midwest knows somebody who moved away — and maybe you’re one of those folks. All this month, Changing Gears has been bringing you the personal stories of that Midwest Migration, here and on our dedicated page.

Now, we want to hear what people who left have to say to the folks back home. That’s the reason for Don’t Forget To Call Us.

All this week, dial in with messages for your family, your friends, your hometown, your school, your buddies at work — anything you feel like sharing. We’ll post your voices here on ChangingGears.info, and we also may put your greeting on the air.

Now through Friday, call (888) YOUR-NPR OR (888) 968-7677. Don’t forget to call us!


Name: Sam Osterhout
Midwest Home
: Minneapolis, MN
New Home: New York, NY

I was living in Minneapolis, but had grown up in Kansas. I used words like “I-90” and “3-2 beer” in every day conversation (but not usually in the same sentence). I knew several hot dish recipes. I had owned three snow blowers. I was doing a show in Minneapolis called The Electric Arc Radio Show, and in 2007 we took it to New York City. (It’s now Radio Happy Hour.)

One of the New Yorkers who came out the first night was a woman. She was a friend of a friend and we were smitten from the beginning. After carrying on long distance for a year, I moved to NY in 2008 to be with her and to pursue more writing work. In 2009 I married that audience member, friend-of-a-friend I met at my first show in New York, and last November we had a little girl named Ruby.

Every day I think about how different her childhood will be from mine. She’s a New Yorker, for the love of God! I had my first taxi ride when I was 16. She had her first taxi ride when she was one day old. Will she someday look past New Jersey and only see California? Not if I can help it.


Name: Ben Bradley
Midwest Home: Minneapolis, MN
New Home: Maryland

I graduated with a degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in May of 2009. I had been applying for jobs in the Twin Cities area and the Midwest in general since the previous October, but hadn’t gotten a single interview.

After I graduated I continued to apply for jobs and ended up spending 9 months unemployed. By that point I had started applying to any engineering job that I was qualified for, and some that I wasn’t.

I eventually got an interview and was offered a job working on flight tests for the Navy in Maryland. The economy is booming where I live now, thanks almost exclusively to defense spending. Economically, I am in a much better position than I was, but I don’t quite fit in with the local culture.

I would love to move back to the Midwest. I grew up there and prefer the culture to that of the east coast. I’m a Midwestern boy at heart, but it seems like there aren’t any jobs for me there right now. It is my hope that once the economy picks up a bit more, I will be able to find a job in the Twin Cities.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.


Name: Zoe Johnson
Midwest Home: Detroit, MI
New Home: Portland, OR

My former husband worked for a company which was a support arm of the auto industry. We left the city of Detroit in 2007 and moved to Portland. I have mixed feelings about the move but overall it was a good choice. I am self-employed which has been challenging.

My youngest daughter, who is 25, just moved from the Metro Detroit area in October of 2011. She had been without employment in Michigan for several years. She found a job immediately after arriving in the Portland Metro area and is much happier overall.

I would not move back to the Midwest. The culture and mindset is much different, the economy has suffered, and the infrastructure is grounded on old belief systems.

The values of the people here in the Pacific Northwest are more closely aligned with my own philosophy and values.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.


courtesy of Lisa Nichols

Lisa Nichols took out a sub-prime lease on a used car

Kate Davidson just reported on the risks and rewards for Buy Here-Pay Here car dealers and customers across the region.

Lisa Nichols didn’t buy her car at one of those lots, but she ended up in a similar situation. She sees her tale as a cautionary tale of “buyer beware.”

When her car broke down, Nichols’ credit score was low enough that she fell in the sub-prime lending category. She went to lots of dealerships, but couldn’t get a loan.

“The funny thing is when you have bad credit, they won’t finance a car that you can afford,” Nichols said. “I wanted to buy one for four or five thousand dollars, but they won’t finance a car for that little money if you have bad credit.”

Another dealer sent her along to Summit Place Kia, a dealer that works with sub-prime customers. She was offered a two-year lease on a used Hyundai Accent. “It was a nice car, it was way more car than I had any business trying to buy,” said Nichols. But she needed a car to get to work. “I didn’t feel like I had any choice.”

Tommy Leedle works in the financing department at Summit Place. He says they use outside banks and leasing companies to work with customers like Nichols. These companies charge high interest rates or fees. That means the dealer needs to sell a cheap enough car at a high enough price so they can still make money after those fees.This leaves sub-prime customers often getting less car at a higher price than those with solid credit.

Nichols ended up signing an $11,000 lease. Leases don’t come with interest payments. But fees can make up a hefty chunk of the total price of a sub-prime lease. The Kelly Blue Book value of the car Nichols leased was about $3,500 less than the cost of her lease.

Leedle told me he doesn’t know exactly how much the leasing company they use charges in fees. In a car sale, the financing company must disclose their fees to the buyer and the dealer. In a lease, the amount of fees is not disclosed.

Because of her credit, Nichols was required to make a car payment every week. Then, she would get a code to punch into a box attached to the underside of her car’s dashboard. If she missed a payment and didn’t get a code, the car wouldn’t start. “I managed to keep up the payments for about four months and then I just couldn’t do it anymore,” she said. “I ended up needing to give the car back, and that impacted my credit again.”

Leedle says sub-prime leases and high-interest car loans are risky for buyers. About 50% of the sub-prime buyers he sees default. But, he said, if people are smart about the risk they are taking they have a chance to rebuild their credit. He also said his dealership needs to offer these kinds of loans because so many people in their area have sub-prime credit.

After Nichols gave up her lease she went without a car for a few months, relying on co-workers and friends to take her to and from work. A co-worker then came to her rescue and sold her an old car. She now makes a car payment, without interest, directly to her co-worker each month.

Nichols accepts responsibility for what she says was a bad and desperate decision. “I don’t recommend it. It was embarrassing, honestly. I didn’t tell anybody the entire time I had the car because it just felt really embarrassing.”

Nichols is now steadily trying to rebuild her credit, and happily driving a car worth much less than the one she leased.  She says, “It’s not helping my credit, but at least now I have a reliable car that I can afford.”

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Add your story here.

**We also want to disclose that at one time, Lisa Nichols worked as a technology contractor for Michigan Radio.


Name: Andrew Reed
Midwest Home: Kalamazoo, MI
New Home: Atlanta, GA

I left because there were no jobs in Michigan, and the Sun Belt seemed to be thriving by comparison. A secondary reason had to do with long, cold, snowy winters. Is it better here? Yes, I think so, although nowhere is good in this depressed economy.

I have two sons who were born and raised in Georgia, and I bought a small farm here almost three years ago. I have two sisters back in Michigan, as well as many friends, and I go to visit every few years, but I will not move back there.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.


In 2011, Michigan certified 7,980 teachers. According to the Michigan Education Association, about 5,000 of those newly-certified teachers left Michigan to find work. That’s because the job market is shrinking—the number of public school teachers in the state has dropped by 9 percent since 2005.

Matthew Corum is one of the teachers who left after graduating. Find out why he left, where he went, and how he ended up with so many job offers in so few days.

Read more stories about the Midwest Migration, or share your own story about leaving the region.


Name: Julie Martinez
Midwest Home: Cleveland, OH
New Home: Austin, TX

I was very happy in Cleveland with friends and family close by and I didn’t plan on leaving. However, two things happened that changed that. First: After 8 months of looking, I still hadn’t found a permanent full time position. Second: My Texas-born boyfriend became my fiancé and he found a job in Austin. Without a permanent position of my own in the Midwest, I didn’t have much of an argument for staying. In fact, I was able to find a job in Austin with little difficulty.

Is it better than the Midwest? No. If I had the same job in Cleveland or Ann Arbor I guarantee that I’d be happier. Here you are so isolated. It is hard to get used to. It takes a day’s drive just to get out of Texas. I worry about my son’s options for local universities. I worry about access to good health care as I get older. But it is more than just a comparison of which is better—the Midwest or Texas—things just make sense in the Midwest in a way I can’t explain. I guess because it’s home.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.


Name: Mary Beth Hetrick
Midwest Home: Westland, Michigan
New Home: Cambridge, MA

Mary Beth Hetrick moved from the Midwest after visiting her children on the East Coast

After twenty years with a non profit organization I was let go as I “cost too much.” I spent many hours, days and weeks over a three year period trying to get a job. As I was over 55 it seemed as if I was swimming upstream.

I could mot find a job in Michigan. In the community I lived in stores began to go out of business. It was a very down economy. I visited my children in Boston and was able to get a job immediately. Better economy by far.

I think it is going to be years before Michigan finds an economy that will work. I do not think I will ever return.

Read more Midwest Migration stories on our dedicated page. If you or someone you know has left the Midwest add your own story.


Alex Ozark left Detroit in 2008. Now he lives in California and works in the automotive industry.

Name: Alex Ozark
Midwest Home: Detroit, MI
New Home: Los Angeles, CA

My parents moved from Michigan to Virginia in 2004 for work, while I stayed for college.

I graduated in 2008, when the economy was just turning down, and people were being let go at the Big 3. I had done 3 co-ops with suppliers in southeast Michigan and none of them offered me a position—very uncommon—due to the current state of the economy.

I’m almost positive that, had I been offered a job by my previous employers or with the Big 3, I would have taken it. But, again due to the market, there was very little available at the time I graduated. I had no choice but to move to VA with my parents.

I was so disgusted with the automotive market that I actually did not want to work in it. I started initially looking in defense in VA and CA. I happened upon my current job, as a Test Engineer at Proving Grounds, on pure luck.

The amount of people from MI in CA is staggering. There is now a place called Coney Dog LA on the Sunset strip that features straight-from-Michigan Coney dogs, Faygo, and Stroh’s.