WBEZ | changing gears http://www.wbez.org/tags/changing-gears Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Changing Gears: The Midwest Migration Project http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2012-02-02/changing-gears-midwest-migration-project-96061 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-February/2012-02-02/Stevenson Expressway Sunday Morning_Flickr_Erik Allix Rogers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-02/Stevenson Expressway Sunday Morning_Flickr_Erik Allix Rogers.jpg" title="(Flickr/Erik Alix Rogers)" width="500" height="307"></p><p>Generations of people came to the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But economic opportunity has been harder to find since the recession began, and in recent years, people have left the region in record numbers in search of jobs or a better housing market.</p><p><a href="http://midwestmigration.tumblr.com/">Changing Gears is launching a project to document the stories of these Midwestern exiles</a>. We’ll be mapping where these people ended up. And, they will be sharing their own stories about why they left and if it’s better where they are now.</p><p>Changing Gears’ “Midwest Migration” project will run through mid-February.</p><p>People across the country are documenting why they have left the region in their own words and sending in their photos. They are also reflecting on if it is really better where they ended up, and if they think they’ll ever return to the Midwest.</p><p>All project participants have the opportunity to <strong>call 1-800-968-7677</strong> and leave a message for their hometown, friends, or family. We'll put some of these messages on the air.</p><p>To share a story <a href="https://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/af5be23d4235/have-you-or-has-someone-you-know-moved-away-from-the-midwest">click here</a>.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 20:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2012-02-02/changing-gears-midwest-migration-project-96061 What ice cream flavors would you pick for the Great Lakes states? http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2012-01-12/what-ice-cream-flavors-would-you-pick-great-lakes-states-95516 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-12/ice-cream-cones-300x377.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-12/ice-cream-cones-300x377.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 377px; margin: 8px; float: right;" title="">Our friends at Michigan Radio report that the Hudsonville Creamery and Ice Cream Company wants to create a flavor that reflects the taste of the Michigan outdoors. (Okay, we know Moose Tracks already exists, but maybe Creme de Pine?)</p><p>What are the flavors of the Great Lakes states?</p><p>That got us thinking: what flavors would you pick for each of our Great Lakes states?</p><p>Wisconsin Cheese Curds?</p><p>Ohio Buckeye Crunch?</p><p>Illinois Corn Pudding?</p><p>Indiana — Anything?</p><p>Send us your nominations and we’ll post a list for each state.</p><p>Update: Culvers tells us on Twitter - “We have done a Pretzel and Mustard Fresh Frozen Custard for a special event in Middleton, Wis., for the Mustard Museum!”</p></p> Thu, 12 Jan 2012 22:05:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/city-room-blog/2012-01-12/what-ice-cream-flavors-would-you-pick-great-lakes-states-95516 Changing Gears special 'Getting By' delves into the real-world impact of 2011 economy http://www.wbez.org/story/changing-gears-special-getting-delves-real-world-impact-2011-economy-95276 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-04/CG Getting By 1 FINAL.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Depending on the analyst and the statistic, the economy is on the mend or still in trouble or somewhere in between. "Getting By," the year-end special from our <em>Changing Gears</em> series, goes beyond the experts and numbers.&nbsp; Senior editor Micki Maynard and WBEZ’s Steve Edwards gather around a table with eight Illinois residents from different demographic groups and across the state to discuss the economy’s real world impact on their lives.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank">Changing Gears</a> <em>is a public media collaboration between WBEZ, Michigan Radio and ideastream in Cleveland. The series explores the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest through the stories of people driving and experiencing this change.</em></p></p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:35:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/changing-gears-special-getting-delves-real-world-impact-2011-economy-95276 Empty Places: New life for historic GM complex in Flint http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-30/empty-places-new-life-historic-gm-complex-flint-94446 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-30/distribution-center.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>FLINT — There may be no better example of how the industrial Midwest is changing than the site of the old Fisher Body Plant No. 1 in Flint, Michigan.&nbsp; It’s one of the factories sit-down strikers occupied in the 1930s.&nbsp; The plant made tanks during World War II.&nbsp; It was later closed, gutted and reborn as a GM design center.&nbsp; But GM abandoned the site after bankruptcy and the new occupants don’t make cars.&nbsp; They sell very expensive prescription drugs.</p><p>There’s one group of experts who can always tell you the history and significance of an old factory.&nbsp; They’re the guys at the bar across the street.</p><p>Dan Wright is still a regular at The Caboose Lounge.&nbsp; He worked at Fisher Body No. 1 briefly in the 1970s.</p><p>“The bars were always full and restaurants were always full and stores were always full,” he says.&nbsp; “And all these stores, bars and restaurants you go to now, there’s nobody there.&nbsp; And it’s sad that Flint died the way it did.”</p><p>Now Michigan’s governor says there’s a financial emergency in Flint, the once prosperous birthplace of GM.&nbsp; In fact, seven thousand people worked at Fisher Body No. 1 when workers sat down in late 1936, demanding recognition for the United Auto Workers.</p><p>“We’re actually standing in the area, very close right now, where the 1937 sit down strike was,” says Phil Hagerman, president and CEO of Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy.</p><p>Diplomat moved in earlier this year.&nbsp; The company specializes in drugs that target complex medical conditions like cancer, hemophilia, MS and HIV/AIDS.&nbsp; Many produce side effects, so nurses here call patients to make sure they stick to their treatment plans.</p><p>“Specialty pharmacy is the fastest growing component in the pharmacy industry,” says Hagerman.&nbsp; “Traditional pharmacy is growing at two to five percent a year.&nbsp; Specialty pharmacy is growing at 15 to 25 percent a year.”</p><p>Diplomat hired more than two hundred people this year.&nbsp; Phil Hagerman says the company is on track to top a billion dollars in sales next year.</p><p>“We’re distributing as many as two thousand or more prescriptions a day around the country, shipping to every state every day from this building,” he says.</p><p>The building highlights the transformation of the industrial Midwest.&nbsp; GM shuttered the sprawling Fisher Body No. 1 plant in the 80s and much of it was demolished.&nbsp; The footprint of the complex shrank dramatically.&nbsp; But the steel and concrete of this building’s main structure were retrofitted into an engineering and design center for GM, housed in the Great Lakes Technology Center.</p><p>Diplomat later bought about half the space and it’s still enormous: 550,000 square feet.&nbsp; That’s more than one thousand square feet for each of the 450 employees here.&nbsp; The other half of the complex is now a biomedical campus, run by the company IINN.</p><p>“How often do normal business rules allow a company to have a ten year growth footprint?” Diplomat’s Phil Hagerman asks.&nbsp; “It just doesn’t happen. ‘Cause the cost of the building is so great.&nbsp; But because we acquired this from an auction process at a very, very low cost, we have a building that we know we can grow into for about ten years.”</p><p>So, that’s one advantage of acquiring property discarded by industrial giants.&nbsp; Advantage #2: 1700 cubicles left behind.&nbsp; Advantage #3: Random industrial signs that read: ‘Caution: Pedestrian traffic. Sound horn’.&nbsp; And advantage #4: The government loves you, especially if you’re a high-tech or medical company.&nbsp; In fact, Diplomat won’t pay property taxes here for almost 15 years, and it got a 62 million dollar tax break from the state.&nbsp; In return, CEO Phil Hagerman says he’ll hire four thousand people in the next two decades.</p><p>But thousands of people used to stream across the street to local businesses every week. At The Caboose Lounge, waitress Janet Anderson says the new workers at Diplomat don’t come in yet, but she’s hopeful.</p><p>“I do good breakfasts,” she says.&nbsp; “Real good breakfasts you can ask anybody in here.”</p><p>And these days, hope itself might be a welcome sign of change in Flint.</p><p><strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://www.michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream in Cleveland</a>. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong></p><p><em>Music Button: Music Button: Four Tet, "Unspoken", from the album Rounds, (Domino)</em></p></p> Wed, 30 Nov 2011 14:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-30/empty-places-new-life-historic-gm-complex-flint-94446 Converting empty buildings: a template on Chicago’s South side? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/converting-empty-buildings-template-chicago%E2%80%99s-south-side-94094 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-16/FishatThePlant.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Vacant industrial buildings dot the Midwest and swallow up chunks of some neighborhoods. But instead of blight, one Chicago man sees opportunity. All this month, we’ve been reporting on empty places. It reminded me of a man I first met last year, when I reported on brownfields. I thought I would check back in with him to find out, a year later, how his experiment to cultivate new life on Chicago’s South Side was turning out.</p><p>Deep inside the basement of a former meat packing plant on the edge of Chicago’s Stockyards, rows of giant plastic barrels are neatly lined up. Inside, hundreds of dark grey and pink speckled fish are quietly swimming around.</p><p>“We breed all of our own tilapia,” said urban farmer John Edel, as he gestures to a series of tanks full of guppies in one corner of the basement.</p><p>Edel calls this building “The Plant”.</p><p>It’s a big space – at 93,000-square feet, The Plant is bigger than most department stores. Inside is Edel’s urban farm as well as other tenants, including a brewery.</p><p>The building was the home of Peer Foods, which had smoked and roasted meat here since 1925. It sat empty for years before Edel bought it in 2010.</p><p>Today, he’s escorting around team of engineers around the building. They’re planning to design a new heating and cooling system for the facility – which he wants to be completely energy self-sufficient.</p><p>Edel bought the building for $500,000 to create a vertical farm. Originally, he said he was just thinking of creating creating an aquaponics systems that he combined with light manufacturing and shared office space.</p><p>That’s what he did his first building conversion. Originally, Edel was a video game designer. He paid his way through school by doing construction work. Then he got into converting buildings.</p><p>His first project was a former paint warehouse in Bridgeport, on the South Side. It’s now the Chicago Sustainable Manufacturing Center – with 16 businesses tenants.</p><p>When he found this building, which was already fitted for commercial food storage, Edel saw it as a new opportunity.</p><p>“The plan behind the Plant began to change,” he said.</p><p>That’s one of the biggest lessons Edel would impart to anybody who’s interested in converting one of the thousands of empty buildings across our region – be flexible.</p><p>When he tried to buy his first building, he said the banks laughed him out the door. His realtor arranged an owner-financed sale – basically, Edel paid a mortgage to the building’s owner – until he owned it outright.</p><p>His family helped buy this building – so he pays them a mortgage. And Edel uses profits from the first building to help finance operations at the Plant.</p><p>While the building is being converted, Edel rents out three acres out back for tractor trailer parking. Some parts of the building are rented as storage space.</p><p>He reuses whatever he can, and does as much of the construction work himself – along with an army of volunteers, who help him salvage everything from the building that can be reused, like floor tiles.</p><p>Edel’s also had help from local and state governments. He’s taken advantage of some City of Chicago Small Business Improvement program to help finance things like replacing all those windows.</p><p>Having a green project also helped secure state grants. He got $1.5 million from Illinois to buy an anaerobic digester that will convert plant and waste matter into energy.</p><p>“This model isn’t spending huge amount of money as fast as you can to get the building done as fast as you can,” Edel said. “It’s about slow money and about doing what you can with what you have.”</p><p>Lee Bey is executive director of the Chicago Central Area Committee, a downtown civic group that focuses on urban planning. (Full disclosure: he also writes a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/lee-bey">blog for WBEZ on architecture</a>.) Bey said someone like Edel almost creates magic in that he’s a rare person who tackles problems like vacant commercial properties.</p><p>“Even if its not a blight, the absence of something commercial means an absence of jobs, the absence of a dollar turning around in the community,” Bey said.</p><p>Although it’s required by law to keep track of vacant residential buildings, the city of Chicago doesn’t actually track vacant commercial properties. Neither do smaller cities like Gary, Ind.</p><p>So Bey says the key with someone like Edel is using him as a blueprint.</p><p>“I think the real magic is to pull him aside – the City, an Alderman, a city official – and say, ‘What did you do, and how can we do that for that building over there?”</p><p>Bey says every city has people like Edel. The key is figure out how their work can be replicated – that’s when seeing fewer and fewer empty buildings.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31628140?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601"></iframe></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between WBEZ,<a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank"> Michigan Radio</a><a href="http://www.michiganradio.org"> </a>and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>. </strong></p></p> Wed, 16 Nov 2011 15:33:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-16/converting-empty-buildings-template-chicago%E2%80%99s-south-side-94094 Empty places: It’s not squatting…it’s blotting http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-09/empty-places-it%E2%80%99s-not-squatting%E2%80%A6it%E2%80%99s-blotting-93887 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-09/DSC_1022-620x412.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The <em><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank">Changing Gears</a></em> project is looking at the challenges of the region’s empty places this month. For many people, the most threatening emptiness isn’t a shuttered factory: It’s the abandoned property next door. But in Detroit, some residents are using that emptiness to quietly reshape their neighborhoods. They’re annexing vacant lots around them, buying them when they can or just putting up a fence.</p><p>But as Kate Davidson reports, they’re not squatters…they’re blotters.</p><p>Blot isn’t a bad word.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.cudc.kent.edu/publications/urban_infill/cities_growing_smaller/cities_growing_smaller_chapter_04_screen.pdf">A design firm coined the term</a> several years ago.&nbsp; Academia ran with it.</p><p>“Blots are properties between the size of an entire block and just a lot. So, they are consolidations of multiple lots,” says Margaret Dewar, a professor of urban and regional planning at the <a href="http://www.tcaup.umich.edu/" target="_blank">University of Michigan</a> who’s mapped blots.</p><p>So, families are creating compounds of multiple lots.&nbsp; Big deal, right?&nbsp; Well, keep in mind Detroit was built tightly packed with working class homes.&nbsp; It sliced up blocks with a very quick knife.&nbsp; So as the city lost 60 percent of its population, it left these gaping holes in the genetic makeup of neighborhoods.&nbsp; Blotters aren’t waiting for the city to fix that.</p><p>“I call it an everyday remaking,” Dewar says.&nbsp; “It’s every day there’s a little step in this direction of remaking by people who are pretty invisible.&nbsp; But over time it becomes a dominant feature of the city.”</p><p>People like space.&nbsp; Margaret Dewar sampled tax-reverted properties resold by the city, up to 2005.&nbsp; She found more than a quarter were bought by the homeowner next door.</p><p>Still, the easiest way to find blotters in Detroit is to look for a very long fence on a lonely street.</p><p>Behind one of them is the house Paula Besheers’ grandfather bought in 1925.</p><p>“This has been here in the family for four generations,” she says.&nbsp; “So it’s like 86 years.”</p><p>And then, also fenced off, the four empty lots.&nbsp; Well, not exactly empty…</p><p>“I planted in some cherry trees and two apple trees,” says Besheers’ son Paul Browne, who lives a few blocks from the family home.&nbsp; “I’m attempting to grow some grape vines.&nbsp; I’ll let you know when I figure out how to get that going good.”</p><p>The little orchard, the raspberry patch, the gardens — they’re a relief from the pit bulls, the burnt house and the emptiness across the street. But there’s a catch.</p><p>It turns out, the only lot the family actually owns is the one farthest from the house.&nbsp; HUD sold it for about a hundred bucks.&nbsp; Browne says the last he checked, the city owned the next lot in, the county the next one, and the city the one after that.&nbsp; He says the family tried to buy the middle lots years ago, but were told no.&nbsp; He says it’s probably time to try again.</p><p>“They want to sell it, more than willing to buy it off of them,” he says.</p><p>So why go to all this trouble?</p><p>“’Cause we live next door to it,” Browne says.&nbsp; “If you go up the next block from here you’ll see what it would look like.&nbsp; Just overgrown brush piles.&nbsp; Trash.&nbsp; Car parts.&nbsp;&nbsp; And it’s only from stubbornness and perseverance that keeps it from becoming a debris pile.”</p><p>So should cities like Detroit make it easier for residents to take over the vacant space around them?&nbsp; Detroit’s new planning director Rob Anderson says, basically, yes.</p><p>To be clear, Detroit, <a href="http://reimaginingcleveland.org/files/2011/02/IdeasToAction_Sideyard_Expansion.pdf">Cleveland</a>, <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dcd/banners/ANLAPfactsheet.pdf">Chicago</a>, even <a href="http://blog.nola.com/politics/print.html?entry=/2011/06/anti-blight_program_lot_next_d.html">post-Katrina New Orleans</a> all have adjacent lot programs on the books already.&nbsp; In Cleveland, a homeowner can buy the lot next door for as little as a dollar.&nbsp; In Detroit, two hundred dollars.&nbsp; Chicago, a thousand.</p><p>Rob Anderson says, most importantly, when a homeowner buys the lot next door, they’re taking responsibility for the neighborhood.&nbsp; They’re also putting land back on the tax rolls.</p><p>“Then that’s one parcel that we can rely on a citizen to take care of that the city really can’t afford to take care of,” he says.</p><p>Anderson says Detroit has sold about a thousand of these lots in recent years.</p><p>Still, the city owns a staggering 60,000 plus parcels of land, most of it vacant.&nbsp; So the planning department just started reevaluating the adjacent lot program in southwest Detroit, to see how to expedite and promote it.</p><p>“We think it’s a tool that really is well suited for this area that we’re working in,” Anderson says.&nbsp; “And if we can get it right here, it’s easily transferred to the rest of the community.”</p><p>Has the tool been underutilized in the past?</p><p>“Looks like it to me,” he says.</p><p>The program has inherent limitations.&nbsp; The scale of abandonment in Detroit means many homeowners aren’t just worried about the lot next door.&nbsp; It’s also the one after that, the one after that, and, in Paula Besheers’ case, the one after that.&nbsp; But only the vacant parcel right next door meets the guidelines of the city’s current adjacent lot program.&nbsp; Residents can still buy multiple lots, but they have to go through a different process.</p><p>Then, there’s the time factor.&nbsp; As I was leaving the planning department, an aide mentioned it can take years for residents to get through the bureaucracy of buying the lot next door.&nbsp; Rob Anderson was shocked.&nbsp; He said the department’s new goal will be 30 days.&nbsp; That would bring Detroit in line with cities like Cleveland and Chicago, where it only takes a few months to expand your yard.</p><p><em>*Inform our coverage: <a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/3eefe255143d/have-you-taken-over-empty-or-abandoned-land-near-you">Have you taken over empty or abandoned land near you-or know someone who has?</a> </em></p><p><strong>Changing Gears is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream in Cleveland</a>. Support for Changing Gears comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 09 Nov 2011 15:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-11-09/empty-places-it%E2%80%99s-not-squatting%E2%80%A6it%E2%80%99s-blotting-93887 What it takes to be a successful business incubator http://www.wbez.org/content/what-it-takes-be-successful-business-incubator <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-26/biz incubator_flickr_dusty reagan.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful " class="caption" height="362" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate1-crop.jpg" title="Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful company, but how effective are they? (Flickr/Dusty Reagan) " width="630"></p><p><em>Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful company; and these new companies hopefully bring jobs and revenue. In the Midwest, there were some long-standing incubators but new ones were also starting up. One problem with incubators--they produce few companies. <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/10/26/what-it-takes-to-be-a-successful-business-incubator/" target="_blank">Changing Gears’</a> Niala Boodhoo reported on the principles that help incubators create successful offspring.</em></p><p>Each Friday, inside the old Northern Brewery building in Ann Arbor, 4:30 p.m. is known as “beer thirty”. That’s when the self-described tech geeks who are part of this informal business community gather for drinks.</p><p>The Tech Brewery houses three dozen start-ups – but don’t call it business incubator.</p><p>“We don’t call ourselves an incubator,” founder Dug Song said. “If anything we call ourselves a start-up coop.</p><p><img alt="Psylotech's Alex Arzoumanidis at The Incubator in Evanston, Ill. (Courtesy of T" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate2-crop.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 325px; height: 337px;" title="Psylotech's Alex Arzoumanidis at The Incubator in Evanston, Ill. (Courtesy of The Incubator)">Song has his own start-up – Duo Security. He began the TechBrewery after being frustrated by traditional business incubators. In his opinion, they provide little more than cheap rent for lots of start-ups – instead of what it takes to get a company up and running.</p><p>“A lot of folks get to a point where they don’t want to be in a hoteling kind of environment, which is a lot of what these incubators tend to be,” he said. “They’re a little bit more isolated.”</p><p>The lack of a hotel environment drew Victor Volkman to the Tech Brewery. He had been involved in other incubators where he says his business ideas went nowhere.</p><p>“You have a biotech company next to a software company next to a something of completely different origin and we really didn’t talk to each other,” he said, adding the value in the Tech Brewery is running into someone in the hallway who can immediately help solve a problem.</p><p>The biggest cost for start-ups is office space. That’s why most incubators provide free or reduced rent. But it’s not just about office space. Having the same type of companies together helps everyone grow – something Volkman said he has found at the Tech Brewery.</p><p>Volkman left the traditional incubator environment because it didn’t work for him. That turns out to be a common sentiment.</p><p>The University of New Hampshire at Manchester’s Kelly Kilcrease studied incubators across the country. Out of the almost 500 entrepreneurs he surveyed, Kilcrease found that their opinion of incubators was “lukewarm – at best”.</p><p>Based on Kilcrease’s research, the happiest – and most successful clients – came from a specific type of incubator:</p><p>“Those that stress a certain type of clientele, deliver high quality services and those who have professional managers are more apt to be successful than those that do not,” he said.</p><p>Kilcrease thinks an incubator’s true measure of success is its graduation rate – the companies that actually make it on their own, apart from the incubator.</p><p>Often, incubators – like TechTown in Detroit – don’t publish graduation rates. The incubator in Evanston, Ill., is one of the oldest in the Midwest – it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. They’ve helped more than 350 companies and have graduated 23 companies that remain in Evanston. Director Tim Lavengood said a “fair number” of overall graduates from the incubator is 135.</p><p>Jim Cossler is the CEO and Chief Evangelist of the Youngstown Business Incubator. It started out in 1995 in what Cossler describes as a typical incubator:</p><p>“You know – here’s some cheap office space, here’s a photocopier, here’s a fax machine,” he said, adding: “We don’t really care what you’re doing, but please turn yourself into a globally successful corporation.”</p><p>They quickly realized that approach wasn’t going to work. In 2001, they began to focus on software technology firms.</p><p>Today, the organization has a network of more than 1,000 people virtually through a private LinkedIn group, as well as four buildings full of clients – including nine companies that no longer need the incubator’s help. In fact, these companies pay rent which makes up about a third of the nonprofit’s $750,000 total budget. (A rent, by the way, that Cossler says is a premium on other commercial office space in Youngstown.)</p><p><img alt="Turning Technologies began as a Youngstown Business Incubator company a decade a" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate3-crop.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: right; width: 325px; height: 237px;" title="Turning Technologies began as a Youngstown Business Incubator company a decade ago. (Photo courtesy of Turning Technologies)">Ten years ago this month, Turning Technologies walked into the Youngstown Incubator with its idea – adapt audience response technology to be used in classrooms.</p><p>Today, it’s a $50 million company that employs 200 people. One of the YBI’s paying tenants, the company takes up an entire building.</p><p>Co-founder Mike Broderick says the YBI is “fairly rare” in its level of success, which he attributes to their focus.</p><p>“What we really needed the most was expertise,” he said. “The introduction to potential clients, to people who had been through the type of thing we had done before, who could provide advice.”</p><p>Broderick told me something academic research backs up – he thinks the company would have succeeded even without the incubator. But the YBI’s network accelerated his company’s progress. And he thinks that’s the best an incubator can do – accelerate a potential company’s growth.</p><p><em>This story was informed by the Public Insight Network.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story did not fully elaborate how many companies "graduated" from Evanston's incubator program, as the original number included only graduates that remained in Evanston. The director says a &nbsp;“fair number” of overall graduates from the incubator is 135.&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong></p></p> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/what-it-takes-be-successful-business-incubator Changing Gears: Health care for ailing cities? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-20/changing-gears-health-care-ailing-cities-93315 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-20/Clinic-620x414.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Detroit is the latest metro area vying to become a medical destination. The hope is that its hospital systems can draw patients from outside its region, helping the local economy. In short, Detroit wants to be more like Cleveland. But as <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears'</em></a> Dan Bobkoff learned, Cleveland could be tough to copy.</p><p>In 1975, a young cardiologist arrived in Cleveland.</p><p>“I came here in a rented truck with a Vega on the back end because it was too sick to pull,” Toby Cosgrove said. Jump ahead 36 years and that newbie with a beater of a car is now CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove presides over a medical empire vastly larger than when he came to town hoping to get better at heart surgery.</p><p>“We were about 140-150 doctors. We’ve grown a bit since that time. We’re now about 3000,” he said.</p><p>The Clinic has become a centerpiece of an industry that employs roughly 70,000. That includes places like University Hospitals\ next door, and Summa Health in Akron.</p><p>Growth has been rapid. University Hospitals alone has added 4000 workers in the last few years. And, expansions have been pegged at about $3 billion in construction spending.</p><p>George Rouse is a nurse who made his own transition before the rest of the region.</p><p>“My friends were like: are you crazy? Are you nuts?” he recounts.<br> About 15 years ago, Rouse was working in IT for a manufacturing company.</p><p>“I had a very good living with that company but I’m like: what if this would ever end? What would I do next?” Rouse said.<br> His premonition was right. His former employer closed up shop a few years ago. No one thinks he’s crazy now.</p><p>“When I’m driving to work, the last two years, for all of us, you know, our houses have dwindled down to nothing, our 401ks have shrunk down,” he said. “I mean, all these pieces are crumbling.”</p><p>While it worked for Rouse, healthcare is no replacement for manufacturing. Health jobs make up about 11 percent of the workforce. In its heyday—say the 50s and 60s—manufacturing jobs employed 40 percent of Clevelanders.</p><p>“Healthcare became the big generator of jobs by accident,” said Chris Seper, founder of MedCityNews.</p><p>Cleveland’s hospitals have been growing for nearly a century. It’s only been in the last decade that healthcare has become the center of economic development.</p><p>“The healthcare system here and the life sciences industry here does as much as it possibly can. But there’s a limit to what they can do,” Seper said.</p><p>Cleveland never really set out to become a healthcare capital. Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove says it’s not like some politician stood at a podium many years ago.</p><p>“No, nobody raised their hand and said they’re going to push this organization to the front,” Cosgrove said.</p><p>The Clinic’s international reputation can be traced back to advances in heart care in the 50s and 60s. Now, patients arrive from around the country and world for heart procedures. Foreign patients often pay cash. Bringing patients in is the holy grail for cities like Detroit that want to be like Cleveland. But even at the Clinic, only one percent of its patients are international. Paul Ginsburg is president of the Center for Studying Health System Change.</p><p>“But when you really look at the numbers of some places that are really strong in medical tourism, it’s not that large a part,” Ginsburg said, adding that there are other reasons why healthcare may not be a good economic driver for regions.</p><p>For one, building more hospitals often means people consume more care, which means we all pay more in taxes and insurance. Whether any city can sustain this much expansion is a big question.</p><p>And, the industry is changing, shifting more to home care and so-called telemedicine. Already, smaller hospitals are outsourcing difficult diagnoses to places like the Cleveland Clinic. Chris Seper of MedCityNews says that will make it even harder for cities trying to embrace healthcare as their future.</p><p>“I think if you’re building healthcare systems and hospitals as an idea that they’re going to be your jobs growth engine, it’s a lose-lose situation,” Seper said.</p><p>Cosgrove of the Clinic says we may end up with nationwide chains, the way banks have consolidated over the years. So, if you’re trying to copy Cleveland, good luck.</p><p><br> <strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/10/19/magic-bullets-healthcare/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 20 Oct 2011 14:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-20/changing-gears-health-care-ailing-cities-93315 Changing Gears: Will advanced batteries charge up the Midwest economy? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-19/Wind_20060504_055b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Three years ago, the advanced battery industry in the United States existed only in the imagination. Plenty of people believed electric cars would be the next big thing - and they believed they would be powered by lithium ion batteries – the same kind of batteries that are in cell phones and laptops. But in 2008, almost all of the lithium ion batteries in the world were made in Asia.</p><p>Randy Thelan, who heads the economic development office in Holland, Mich., a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, thought that could change. Thelan had heard one his local companies, Johnson Controls might be getting into the battery business.</p><p>“It wasn’t like we were making a direct pitch that we knew they were building a factory,” he said. “It was just sort of planting the seed, and suggesting to their leadership, keep Holland in mind as you guys are looking to invest and add to their capacity.”</p><p>While Thelan was working his angle for Holland, the state of Michigan was about to make a big commitment to the new future in batteries.</p><p>In December 2008, former Mich. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a new law to offer up to $335 million in tax incentives for battery companies in Michigan. Within a year, Holland landed that Johnson Controls battery plant.</p><p>The next year it landed another one for LG Chem. And now, just down the road in Muskegon, Michigan, another lithium ion battery plant is going up. Thelan estimates these companies and their suppliers will have created about 750 jobs by the end of the year.</p><p>“But ultimately, by 2020, we believe this is a 10,000 job, $2 billion opportunity for West Michigan and we’re well on our way,” he said.</p><p>Not everyone is on board with those job projections.</p><p>“In terms of direct jobs, I would think there’d be something closer to the neighborhood of four to five thousand jobs,” said Dave Hurst, an analyst for Pike Research. He tracks the electric vehicle industry. And, when he says he expects to see 4,000 to 5,000 jobs, he means nationwide.</p><p>In his view, the jobs numbers in Holland and elsewhere are being oversold. But, he adds, ” I think the importance of the industry is not being oversold. I definitely think this is a critical industry to both Michigan and the upper Midwest.”</p><p>The bad news: if you’re sitting in a town in the Midwest and you haven’t heard about a new battery plant in the works, you probably won’t. The industry that didn’t even exist three years ago is now firmly set. It’s in Holland. It’s in Detroit. And it’s in Indianapolis, around the EnerDel plant. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is just giving up.</p><p>In Northeast Ohio, the economic development office called Nortech has developed a roadmap for tapping into the new advanced battery industry. Batteries for electric cars play only a small role in the roadmap.</p><p>Instead, officials are focused on much larger batteries that can store excess power created by wind turbines and solar panels. Nortech estimates $49 million has already been invested in the region.</p><p>And Illinois is playing a key role in battery research. The federal government’s Argonne national labs, along with universities in Illinois, has developed much of the technology that goes into lithium ion batteries.</p><p>Matthew Summy of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition says he doesn’t mind if most of the jobs from that research have gone to other Midwestern states.</p><p>Says Summy: “We need all parts of this region to function and to outperform so that we’re producing the kind of innovation that just 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago, the Midwest was known for.”<br> <br> <strong><em>Changing Gears</em> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong></p></p> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278 Empty Buildings: Eyesore or untapped potential? http://www.wbez.org/content/empty-buildings-eyesore-or-untapped-potential <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-18/070-620x465.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-18/070-620x465.jpg" title="An abandoned building in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. (Photo by Sarah Alvarez)" width="620" height="465"></p><p>An abandoned building can be a potent symbol of a bad economy or a depressed area.&nbsp; So-called "ruin porn" has been decried and criticized as unhelpful voyeurism, but the pictures of crumbling buildings in places like Gary, IN and Detroit, MI continue to multiply on photo sharing sites across the web.</p><p>Perhaps it's simply too hard for aspiring photographers to resist.</p><p>After all, the Midwest is littered with abandoned factories. Michigan and Illinois have home foreclosure rates among the highest in the country, with Ohio following not far behind. And the picture isn't much better for commercial real estate, where vacant structures include everything from strip malls to office buildings.</p><p>Some of these buildings will never be revived and are destined to remain empty or eventually be demolished.</p><p>And yet, despite the tough market, redevelopment is happening. Throughout the region, local communities, private developers and individuals with vision are trying to take advantage of a buyer’s market.</p><p><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/"><em>Changing Gears</em></a>, a public media collaboration between Michigan Radio, WBEZ and Ideastream in Cleveland, is exploring the challenges and opportunities of abandoned buildings as part of its ongoing exploration of the industrial Midwest.</p><p>We want to know about and chronicle this transformation of the landscape - and we want you to help:<a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/5128a8f6cd88/what-makes-an-empty-building-worth-saving"><br> <br> What do you think makes a building worth saving?</a><a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/1c07cd2821c5/is-there-an-empty-building-in-your-community-that-drives-you-crazy"><br> <br> Is there an abandoned building in your neighborhood that absolutely drives you crazy?</a><a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/658e0f4156f9/are-you-trying-to-re-develop-an-empty-building-hows-it-going"><br> <br> And if you're redeveloping an old building, how it’s going?</a><br> (And we'd love to see the transformation...)<br> <br> Contribute to our coverage: Click on the question links above - and <a href="http://www.publicinsightnetwork.org/form/changing-gears/c9bfa5b3709a/send-us-your-photos-of-empty-or-restored-buildings-in-your-community">send us your pictures of abandoned buildings in your area, and rehabilitated ones</a>.</p></p> Tue, 18 Oct 2011 16:55:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/empty-buildings-eyesore-or-untapped-potential