WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/tags/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Bigger than burgers and fries, franchising blamed for low wages http://www.wbez.org/news/bigger-burgers-and-fries-franchising-blamed-low-wages-109978 <p><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="310" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/29724231&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=true&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Franchising%201%20FINAL_sh.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="Hashim Syed, owner of a 7-Eleven in Chicago, says company rules make it hard for him to cut costs so he could pay employees more. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />When we asked what it is like to own a franchise of the world&rsquo;s largest convenience-store chain, Hashim Syed took us to a cramped back room of his store, a 7-Eleven on Chicago&rsquo;s North Side.</p><p>Sitting next to a wall of tubes filled with bright-colored syrup for the soda machine, Syed recalled a young man working the graveyard shift a few years back. This employee wanted to be with his father, who was gravely ill.</p><p>&ldquo;Where we come from,&rdquo; said Syed, 71, who was born in India, &ldquo;it&rsquo;s very important that you spend the final days with parents for the comfort.&rdquo;</p><p>But the worker could not afford to take unpaid leave. And Syed could not afford to replace him. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d have had to have somebody else do his work,&rdquo; Syed said, his voice becoming faint. &ldquo;I would have ended up paying two wages.&rdquo;</p><p>The employee kept most of his shifts and, to this day, Syed regrets it. &ldquo;I wish I would have given him some time off,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In Syed&rsquo;s nearly quarter century as a 7-Eleven franchisee, he has worked brutally long hours, his profits have fallen far short of his expectations, and the Dallas-based chain has imposed tighter rules on how he runs the store.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="400" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/6fidL51oakg?list=UUkpMCLrDFxb1n74GOOw81-w" width="600"></iframe></p><p>Something else that steams Syed is his role as an employer. He says all of those 7-Eleven rules limit his ability to cut costs and free up resources to treat his workers better. &ldquo;When I lived in Bombay,&rdquo; Syed said, &ldquo;this is not what I thought they meant by the American Dream.&rdquo;</p><p>An array of signs suggests Syed is not the only one questioning the effects of franchising.</p><p>Franchisees are pushing several states to clamp down on allegedly predatory franchisor practices. Web sites such as <a href="http://www.bluemaumau.org/">Blue MauMau</a> and <a href="http://www.unhappyfranchisee.com/">Unhappy Franchisee</a> have sprung up to connect these small business owners and give them a voice.</p><p>In one industry, &ldquo;franchisees&rdquo; have won a string of class-action lawsuits claiming that they are really employees and that their employers are using the franchise model to skirt wage-and-hour laws.</p><p>Franchises, especially those serving fast food, have also become frequent protest sites for a movement demanding higher wages and benefits such as paid sick leave. Those protests have grown louder as some politicians, ranging from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn to President Barack Obama, call for raising the minimum wage.</p><p>And, while many economists and business groups praise franchising as efficient, the model is taking hits from some scholars, including an Obama nominee to head the U.S. Department of Labor&rsquo;s Wage and Hour Division. That nominee says franchising is part of something much bigger &mdash; something bad for the workplace.</p><p><strong>How Franchising Works</strong></p><p>Franchising dates back to the 19th century, when manufacturers such as the Singer Sewing Machines Company developed the model for sales representatives. By the 1960s, franchising was ubiquitous, thanks to fast-food chains such as McDonald&rsquo;s and Burger King. Today franchising takes place in a dizzying range of industries, from tax services to child care, from real estate to car repair.</p><p>The number of U.S. franchise jobs in recent years has grown, now totaling more than 8.1 million &mdash; about 7 percent of private-sector jobs, according to data from payroll processor ADP. Franchise employment growth has outpaced jobs growth in the economy as a whole for 12 consecutive months, the data show.</p><p>In Illinois, franchise employment totals almost 345,000, according to the<a href="http://www.franchise.org/"> International Franchise Association</a> Educational Foundation. As of January, 1,152 companies had active registrations to sell franchises in Illinois, the state attorney general&rsquo;s office says.</p><p>Here is how the model works. A company thinks it has a good thing going and decides to expand. But it may not be familiar with the new places and may be short on capital. It also does not want to employ the necessary workers. It would rather have someone else do that &mdash; someone with skin in the game.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Franchising%202%20FINAL_sh.png" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: left; height: 244px; width: 350px;" title="Amjad “AJ” Haj, who co-owns three Al’s Beef franchises in Chicago, praises the company’s support to run them. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />&ldquo;A franchisee will do the best job,&rdquo; said David Howey, who bought an old Chicago sandwich brand, <a href="http://alsbeef.com/">Al&rsquo;s Beef</a>, and stepped up the chain&rsquo;s franchising. &ldquo;Instead of a large company having a bunch of managers who are running the stores, a franchisee buys into the system and it becomes their business. It becomes their life. So the brand is represented properly by people who really care.&rdquo;</p><p>For the franchisees, the model allows them to run their own business and take advantage of company resources for things such as property, equipment, training and marketing.</p><p>The franchisees also pay an upfront sum known as the franchise fee, typically five figures. Once in business, they pay a specified royalty &mdash; often 5-10 percent of sales &mdash; and fees for things such as advertising, management and insurance.</p><p>Amjad &ldquo;AJ&rdquo; Haj, who owns three Al&rsquo;s Beef franchises with his brother, says he appreciates being able to focus on day-to-day tasks. &ldquo;You do not have to go test 20 different burgers to see which one you want to sell,&rdquo; Haj said. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve already done that. They&rsquo;ve tested out all the different mayos for you.&rdquo;</p><p>Successful franchising depends on a good brand &mdash; which means, above all, consistency. At all 16 locations of Al&rsquo;s Beef, the sandwiches not only taste the same, they drip the same, thanks to a uniform recipe for their <em>jus</em>.</p><p>What protects the brand is the franchise agreement, which spells out franchisee rules on topics such as operating hours, dress codes, supply vendors and payroll processes.</p><p>Despite paying all the fees and following the rules, a franchisee has no guarantee the unit will flourish. Franchises go belly up about as often as independent businesses in their industry, according to the<a href="http://www.sba.gov/"> U.S. Small Business Administration</a>.</p><p>Many franchisees do hang on &mdash; some for decades, like Syed, the 7-Eleven operator. A third of franchisees run multiple units, usually two or three, according to Franchise Business Review.</p><p>&ldquo;We see that this is successful &mdash; businesses being franchised &mdash; simply by the fact that they exist all around us,&rdquo; said <a href="http://www.bus.umich.edu/FacultyBios/FacultyBio.asp?id=000119727">Francine LaFontaine</a>, a University of Michigan professor of business economics and public policy. &ldquo;And then consumers are voting with their feet by consuming the goods and services that are offered this way. That means we&rsquo;ve made that sector more efficient.&rdquo;</p><p>That efficiency can lower prices, said LaFontaine, a&nbsp;<a href="http://books.google.com/books/about/The_Economics_of_Franchising.html?id=HaZuDYzXLSYC">leading researcher</a>&nbsp;on franchise economics. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s good for consumers. It probably also means we consume a bit more of these things, which means there are more jobs in this sector than there would be otherwise.&rdquo;</p><p>But the model is fraught with tensions. When a franchise agreement expires, companies sometimes take the opportunity to increase the royalty or impose tighter rules. If the franchisee does not follow the rules, the company might take over that unit. Last summer, 7-Eleven ousted franchisees from several Chicago stores for alleged franchise-agreement violations.</p><p>The company, for its part, has reasons to establish rules &mdash; and enforce them. Making all franchises buy from the same supplier can help bring down costs. Higher fees can fund more advertising. Quality standards help keep franchisees from freeloading on the brand.</p><p>Other tensions stem from the wages and work conditions of franchise employees &mdash; the workers who flip the burgers or ring up the Slurpees.</p><p>Last June, federal <a href="http://www.justice.gov/usao/nye/pr/2013/2013jun17.html">authorities seized</a> fourteen 7-Eleven stores in New York and Virginia and arrested the franchisees for allegedly employing illegal immigrants, forcing them to work long overtime hours, paying them for just a fraction of their work and forcing them to live in substandard housing owned by the franchisees. After the arrests, the corporation said it planned to step up its franchisee monitoring.</p><p>This March, McDonald&rsquo;s workers in California, Michigan and New York <a href="https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0BwU-XxSsYz21eXluRzFpVFFzMFE&amp;usp=sharing">filed lawsuits</a> claiming that the Oak Brook-based corporation is responsible for alleged wage-and-hour violations, even at franchises. A company statement about the suits said McDonald&rsquo;s was committed &ldquo;to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald&rsquo;s restaurants&rdquo; and that it would investigate the allegations and &ldquo;take any necessary actions.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/book cover.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 296px; width: 200px;" title="A Boston University economist likens franchising to outsourcing." />Economists disagree about what causes such work conditions. Some cite the low-skilled jobs in many heavily franchised industries. They point to cutthroat competition. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s more the industry that determines the working conditions of the employees than it is the way in which this is organized,&rdquo; said LaFontaine, the University of Michigan economist, defending the franchise model.</p><p>Other experts tie the low wages to the franchising. When a company franchises, they point out, it is adding extra owners and a new layer of competition. That means more people taking slices of the pie and more pressure to cut costs such as wages. &ldquo;Each different business is operating on a thinner margin,&rdquo; said David Weil, the Labor Department nominee, who is a business professor at Boston University.</p><p>Weil co-authored a study that found that fast-food restaurants operated by a franchisee are more likely to violate wage-and-hour laws than eateries the big corporation runs itself.</p><p>When workers earn less, a related argument goes, they also consume less &mdash; a drag on the economy.</p><p>In a <a href="http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674725447">new book</a>, Weil acknowledges the benefits of franchising for businesses that want to expand, but he also likens the model to&nbsp;various forms of outsourcing. He says they are all ways for big companies to shed employment responsibilities.</p><p><strong>The Slurpee Economy</strong></p><p>Syed says he bought his 7-Eleven franchise in 1990. &ldquo;I was very excited,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I could buy everything from where I wanted to.&rdquo;</p><p>After a while, however, Syed decided that being a franchisee was not all it was cracked up to be. It was not just the long hours. The company allowed another 7-Eleven to open just a few blocks away. Then it changed the terms of his franchise agreement.</p><p>Franchisees learned they had to buy 85 percent of supplies from approved vendors. &ldquo;Now everything will be controlled by 7-Eleven Company,&rdquo; Syed said. &ldquo;They will decide what to buy, where to buy.&rdquo;</p><p>Other franchisees complain that 7-Eleven goes as far as to remotely control the temperature in their stores, even the volume on their televisions.</p><p>Many of 7-Eleven&rsquo;s rules do help protect the brand. And the company has reasons to make franchisees purchase supplies from an approved vendor. For one, 7-Eleven can use the collective buying power to keep costs down, a company official said.</p><p>Something 7-Eleven does not control are employment decisions, including the amount Syed pays his workers. Syed said one of his half-dozen employees, the manager, makes $10.50 an hour. He said the rest earn less &mdash; in a state where the minimum is $8.25.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/banner-edited.jpg" title="Syed, the 7-Eleven franchisee in Chicago, calls himself a 'front man' for the Dallas-based corporation. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" /></div><p>Syed said he can hardly blame employees who are upset about the pay, but he insisted he is not getting rich either. Last year, his 23rd at the store, Syed took home $53,866, he said. That was one of his best years, he added.</p><p>To Syed, the whole franchise model feels like a setup. &ldquo;We are as much of a victim in it as the workers are,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We are nothing more than a glorified manager.&rdquo;</p><p>7-Eleven officials declined to get specific regarding the company&rsquo;s agreements with its approximately 6,200 franchises. But Jay Mitchell, a franchise-sales manager at the Dallas headquarters, said 7-Eleven was not going to take responsibility for wages or work conditions.</p><p>Franchisees are &ldquo;going to be independent operators so they are going to be responsible for employing people and determining what they pay those people as well,&rdquo; Mitchell said. &ldquo;While we will provide them guidance, it is completely up to [the franchisees] how they pay their employees.&rdquo;</p><p>Questioned about such employment policies, 7-Eleven spokeswoman Margaret Chabris said the company provides franchisees &ldquo;very comprehensive&rdquo; training and said the franchise agreement requires them to follow the law.</p><p>But Syed said the rest of the agreement makes it too hard for him to cut costs, leaving him little room to pay his employees more. &ldquo;That worker also thinks &mdash; and I know it for a fact &mdash; that I am just greedy and I want to keep all the money in my pocket instead of giving him fair wages,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>It might have been harder for Syed to run a convenience store without the 7-Eleven brand, said LaFontaine, the economist. &ldquo;Independent businesses or franchises fail all the time. That is just a reality of these kinds of small businesses.&rdquo;</p><p>Syed, who publishes a <a href="http://7-elevenfoac.com/data/newsletter/Final_FOAC_December_2012_Newsletter.pdf">newsletter</a> for Chicago-area 7-Eleven owners,&nbsp;says state and federal lawmakers should do more to protect franchises from the companies that own their brand.</p><p>To date, just 17 states have any laws governing franchisor-franchisee relations, according to Dean Heyl, who directs state government affairs for the <a href="http://www.franchise.org/">International Franchise Association</a>.</p><p>Those states include Illinois, which enacted its&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=2381&amp;ChapterID=67">Franchise Disclosure Act</a>&nbsp;in 1987. That law regulates how franchisors treat prospective franchisees and requires franchisors to have &ldquo;good cause&rdquo; for terminating a franchise.</p><p>Last week, Maine&rsquo;s state Senate voted down a bill that would have, among other things, required franchisors to provide a franchisee a 60-day notice to resolve a problem before termination. The bill also would have allowed franchisees to leave their business to a spouse, partner or heir.</p><p>Heyl said such legislation, if enacted, would &ldquo;hurt franchisees who are playing by the rules.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Franchising</strong>&rsquo;<strong>s New Frontier</strong></p><p>As franchising has spread, some industries have pushed the model to the extreme. In commercial-cleaning franchising, the customers that need the service usually come through the franchisor. They also make their payments to the franchisor. The franchisee gets just a portion of the payments in periodic checks from the franchisor &mdash; after deductions for insurance, royalties, management and so on.</p><p>In Chicago, the commercial-cleaning franchisees include hundreds of Mexican immigrants. One of them is a woman we will call Gloria Pérez. We agreed not to use her real name because she fears retribution from her franchisor. Pérez entered the commercial-cleaning business four years ago.</p><p>Back then, she and her husband were both unemployed, they had three kids at home and a mortgage, and they were burning through their savings. Pérez saw a newspaper ad placed by CleanNet of Illinois, part of<a href="http://www.cleannetusa.com/"> CleanNet USA</a>, based in McLean, Virginia.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Franchise%203_sh%20%28CM%20credit%29.JPG" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 233px; width: 350px;" title="A CleanNet janitor works after hours in a Chicago-area car dealership. Treated like a franchisee, she says her pay amounts to less than Illinois’s minimum wage. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The ad said she could have her &ldquo;own business.&rdquo; Pérez, interviewed by WBEZ in Spanish, said it seemed like &ldquo;a good opportunity because we did not have any other work.&rdquo;</p><p>Pérez went in for an appointment. CleanNet gave her more than 150 pages of legal disclosures &mdash; all in English, she said. She did not understand much except some numbers on a chart the company gave her. &ldquo;It said I could make $6,000 a month if I bought a franchise for $21,000,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>After a discount, Pérez said, she managed to put in $19,000. Since then, she said, she has never come close to earning the monthly $6,000. &ldquo;Every month they take out 20 percent of what I earn&rdquo; and CleanNet does not give her enough customers within range of her home, Pérez said.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a scam,&rdquo; said Chicago attorney Christopher Williams, who filed a class-action lawsuit against the company in March on behalf of janitors such as Pérez. &ldquo;CleanNet is trying to say, &lsquo;We have no unemployment obligation to them. We have no workers-comp obligations to them. We do not pay payroll taxes. We are not their employer. And these are people who need public assistance because they&rsquo;re making so little money. They can&rsquo;t afford health care. If they get injured on the job, they have no workers compensation insurance.&rdquo;</p><p>If a customer falls behind on its payments, CleanNet warns it could deduct that money from paychecks too.</p><p>Another way CleanNet makes money off its janitors is by loaning them money when they cannot afford the franchise fee &mdash; the upfront payment from the workers. Paying off that loan means yet more paycheck deductions.</p><p>&ldquo;All they&rsquo;re left with after that agreement is debt,&rdquo; Williams said.</p><p>The suit against CleanNet, filed in federal court, claims hundreds of the company&rsquo;s Illinois janitors are not franchisees but employees. It accuses the company of violating state and federal laws regulating wages and work hours.</p><p>CleanNet officials did not respond to our requests for comment about the suit. When janitors in Massachusetts filed a similar claim against the company, CleanNet denied any liability or wrongdoing. It did settle with those janitors last November, agreeing to pay out $7.5 million.</p><p>In Illinois, CleanNet is among at least eight commercial-cleaning firms registered to offer franchises, according to the state attorney general&rsquo;s office. The biggest is Jani-King International, based in Addison, Texas.</p><p>Jani-King says it pioneered franchising in the commercial cleaning industry. Asked whether ducking wage-and-hour laws was a big factor in deciding to sell franchises to janitors instead of employing them, the company emailed a statement that did not directly answer the question.</p><p>&ldquo;Franchise owners, like all business owners, have control over their day-to-day operations as well as their profitability,&rdquo; the Jani-King statement said. &ldquo;They can solicit and bid their own business, and they can accept or decline the right to service accounts offered by Jani-King. They can hire employees to clean accounts, or they can clean themselves. They buy all of their own equipment and supplies. The franchise owners receive all revenue generated by their business (less Jani-King&rsquo;s fees).&rdquo;</p><p>But Weil, the Boston University business economist, said the franchise model enables the cleaning companies to shortchange the janitors. &ldquo;If you start doing the math, you realize that people are being paid way below the minimum wage or being denied overtime payment and are really being subjected to inappropriate expenses by another company for, essentially, being an employee of that company,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In the cleaning industry, it is not just the &ldquo;franchisees&rdquo; who are vulnerable to wage-and-hour violations. Those workers often bring other people to help them with jobs. Pérez gets part-time help from her husband, a son and a neighborhood friend. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t afford to pay them minimum wage,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Court rulings in Massachusetts have upended franchising by janitorial companies. &ldquo;Several have closed down or stopped operating the way they were operating,&rdquo; said attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan, who filed the key suits. Now the companies are either treating their janitors like employees or &ldquo;not charging workers upfront for a job,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>&ldquo;My hope is that some of the rulings that we&rsquo;ve gotten [in Massachusetts] will spread,&rdquo; Liss-Riordan said.</p><p>That prospect worries Heyl, the <a href="http://www.franchise.org/">International Franchise Association</a> lobbyist. If lawsuits drive franchised cleaning companies out of business, there will be less competition and increased prices, he warned.</p><p>Heyl also sees a threat to franchising in all industries. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re just coming out of a recession, and banks are very skittish and, if they start looking at a franchise system and open up the [newspaper] and say, &lsquo;Look, some of these franchisees are employees,&rsquo; and there&rsquo;s litigation to follow, there&rsquo;s numerous negative economic impacts.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> at <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a>.&nbsp;Follow <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/shannon-0">Shannon Heffernan</a> at <a href="https://twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a>.&nbsp;</em><em>This report, edited by <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/djohn">Derek John</a>, is part of WBEZ</em>&rsquo;<em>s&nbsp;</em>&ldquo;<em>Front and Center</em>&rdquo;<em>&nbsp;series, funded by the Joyce Foundation,&nbsp;</em>&ldquo;<em>Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.</em>&rdquo;</p></p> Mon, 07 Apr 2014 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/bigger-burgers-and-fries-franchising-blamed-low-wages-109978 Millennials, risk and the economy http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/millennials-risk-and-economy-108886 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/niala.PNG" alt="" /><p><p><em>Above is a Google hangout between fellow WBEZ blogger Britt Julious and Afternoon Shift host Niala Boodhoo, discussing how millenials are taking risks in today&#39;s economy.</em></p><p>Oh, those millenials. Generation Y, made up of people born between the late &#39;70s and early &#39;90s, is often called the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/opinion/sunday/the-entrepreneurial-generation.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=1&amp;" target="_blank">&quot;entrepreneur generation,&quot;</a>&nbsp;due in large part to the plucky startup models, risk-taking mentalities and personal branding strategies that have come to define success at work in the new millennium. Rapidly transitioning from one career to another also has emerged as a frequent practice for Gen Y, and <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/born-digital-millennials-change-workforce-much-more-115241544.html" target="_blank">&quot;sidepreneurism,&quot;</a> the increasingly popular trend of employees creating and running their own businesses while still engaged in a full-time job, is perhaps even more common.&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image ">However, millennials of the Internet Age also have been dismissed by think piece writers, political pundits, and baby boomers ad nauseam. They have been labeled lazy, bratty, pretentious, entitled and self-absorbed. Framed in a stereotype, the millennial&#39;s fingers are perpetually glued to an electronic device, watching life go by through the glow of a smartphone screen.&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><p>I am 24, and clearly a millennial, but not a single one of the condescending &quot;kids these days&quot; stereotypes applies to me. I was raised to work hard, take responsibility for my actions, embrace change, and never burn bridges. I spend more time reading books then scrolling through filters on Instagram. I also have learned that failure&mdash;big, crushing, spectacular failure&mdash; is often a necessary pathway to success.&nbsp;</p><p>So, which scenario carries more risk for millenials in today&#39;s economy: starting a business from scratch or climbing the corporate ladder? Personally, I would relish the opportunity to work my way up at an organization that fulfills my needs as a young professional&mdash; especially since post-grad <a href="http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Articles/2011/01/02/Permalancing-The-New-Disposable-Workforce" target="_blank">permalancing</a>, while popular among the twenty-something set,&nbsp;is not the most financially stable of pursuits. Health benefits are frustratingly difficult to come by, and nearly impossible to obtain as a freelancer. Any semblance of job security? Even less so.</p><p>Still, I find myself drawn to the romance and excitement of innovation. I am propelled by Chicago&#39;s recent crowning by Forbes as the new <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnhall/2013/08/30/why-chicago-is-a-new-hot-spot-for-entrepreneurs/" target="_blank">&quot;hot spot for entrepreneurs</a>,&quot; and inspired by the dream teams who came before us. I think of&nbsp;Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak building the first Apple computers in Jobs&#39; Los Altos garage, ushering in a new wave of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/content/jun2010/id20100610_525759.htm" target="_blank">startup culture</a>&nbsp;and a new generation of people&nbsp;working to&nbsp;elicit powerful, meaningful, and life-altering change from their own backyards, and on their own terms.</p><p>Perhaps millennials need to learn how to fall down in order to get back up again: to create, innovate, and <em>try </em>with boundless enthusiasm. After all, isn&#39;t putting ourselves out there&mdash;at least being able to say that we tried, that we didn&#39;t settle&mdash;better than remaining frozen in stifling, unfulfilling work environments for the rest of our lives, wondering, &quot;What if?&quot;</p><p><em>Leah Pickett writes about popular culture for WBEZ. You can find her on&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/leahkristinepickett" target="_blank">Facebook</a>,&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/leahkpickett" target="_blank">Twitter</a>&nbsp;and<a href="http://hermionehall.tumblr.com/" target="_blank">&nbsp;Tumblr</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 10 Oct 2013 13:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/leah-pickett/2013-10/millennials-risk-and-economy-108886 India's economy and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-12/indias-economy-and-syrian-refugees-jordan-and-lebanon-108664 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP313679455788.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On Thursday&#39;s edition of Worldview, we assess the state of India&#39;s economy with Sumit Ganguly. Ray Offenheiser of Oxfam America tells us about conditions of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F110081800&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="storify"><iframe allowtransparency="true" frameborder="no" height="750" src="//storify.com/WBEZ/income-inequality-india-s-economy-and-syrian-refug/embed?header=false" width="100%"></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/income-inequality-india-s-economy-and-syrian-refug.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/income-inequality-india-s-economy-and-syrian-refug" target="_blank">View the story "Worldview: India's economy and Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon " on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2013-09-12/indias-economy-and-syrian-refugees-jordan-and-lebanon-108664 Morning Shift: How service members seek conscientious objector status http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-24/morning-shift-how-service-members-seek-conscientious <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Marine-Flickr- United States Marine Corps Official Page.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Now that the armed forces is voluntary enlistment, we may think that service members no longer seek conscientious objector status. That&#39;s not the case. We learn more about the application process for conscientious status.</p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-29.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-29" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: How service members seek conscientious objector status " on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Wed, 24 Jul 2013 07:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-07-24/morning-shift-how-service-members-seek-conscientious The university down the block http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/university-down-block-108021 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F100619008&amp;color=ff6600&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="340" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/qu4ehMfC6uA" width="620"></iframe></p><p>Dabney Lyles, a graduate student at DePaul University, spent spring break in Salvador, Brazil. She noticed the region had a huge technology cluster and how closely knit it was to the local universities. Chicago, she figured, has even more schools than Salvador, so that got her thinking about this Curious City question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>What economic impact do local colleges and universities have on the city&rsquo;s economy?</em></p><p>There are lots of ways to answer this question, though, so Dabney and others thought it would work to focus on how a university can benefit or hinder the economic growth of its surrounding neighborhood.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dabney mug.jpg" style="float: right; height: 150px; width: 200px;" title="Dabney Lyles, who asked this question. (Photo courtesy Dabney Lyles)" /></p><p>Makes sense sense, right? After all, the Chicago metro area is huge, and the higher ed community&rsquo;s large, too, with more than 90 colleges and universities.</p><p>Some institutions &mdash; such as the University of Chicago, Northwestern University and DePaul University &mdash; have hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and generate hundreds of millions more in revenue. Yes, a good deal of that goes back into the schools, but they still have plenty of economic heft to toss beyond campus.</p><p>And the neighbors can be the better or the worse for it.</p><p><strong>The immovable &lsquo;eds and meds&rsquo;</strong></p><p>Before diving into a specific example from the city&rsquo;s South Side, you should know there&rsquo;s actually been quite a bit written on this topic. One researcher with a birdseye view happens to be Chicago&rsquo;s own David Perry, a professor of urban planning and public affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago.</p><p>Some of <a href="http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&amp;field-keywords=david+perry+higher+education">his titles </a>suggest we should think of colleges and universities as anchor institutions.</p><p>&ldquo;They are not necessarily market-based institutions. They are placed-based institutions. You can think of universities, eds. You can think of hospitals, meds. Eds and meds,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Perry says it&rsquo;s difficult to move these entities from one city to another. (Consider, for example, what it would mean for the University of Illinois at Chicago to, um, leave Chicago).</p><p>&ldquo;What is a university, a hospital, a government doing to create, to build the place, develop the place? Boeing may leave in another five years, but the University of Chicago is going to be here,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not going anywhere.&rdquo;</p><p>And higher ed&rsquo;s tendency to stay in place means a good deal of its money stays in place, too. Perry says urban institutions enroll 14 million students each year. They generate over $700 billion in gross physical land assets and take in more than $405 billion in revenue.</p><p>&ldquo;We spend over $340 billion every year in the communities around us on everything from toilet paper to faculty,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Perry says some of those city dollars are generated because urban universities are also developers. He points to the academic corridor in downtown Chicago. DePaul&rsquo;s University Center was once the Goldblatt store.</p><p>&ldquo;The Goldblatt people, like Marshall Field&rsquo;s, Carson Pirie Scott left the corridor,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Their leaving embodied what a lot of stores were doing. The private sector, the market sector was just bailing out of the city of Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>For a long time, that large space of real estate in downtown was like an empty donut hole. No tax incentives or a cheap price could get a private business to move in. But with the help of then Mayor Richard M. Daley, DePaul University moved in. Daley, by the way, is a DePaul alumnus.</p><p>&ldquo;It did three things. The top floors are graduate floors. The middle floors, the city leased from DePaul and DePaul then got a long term client to pay off the loans it took out to retrofit the building,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And the bottom floors went to the private sector.&rdquo;</p><p>That includes stores and restaurants that cater to students and faculty, as well as people working around the downtown area.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/demolishion%202%20for%20web.jpg" style="float: left; height: 223px; width: 300px;" title="Tenants move out of a South Woodlawn apartment after the University of Chicago bought the land. Some Woodlawn community members say their relationship with the university hasn't always been favorable. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago)" /></p><p>While the city doesn&rsquo;t get much in terms of property tax from this deal, Perry says it profits from the private businesses and helped spur more development around a once stagnate area. Since the buildout in the early 90s, Chicago&rsquo;s academic corridor now houses 30 universities and colleges.</p><p><strong>The (economic) monster on the midway?</strong></p><p>But Perry also says treating a university as a developer can cut both ways; yep, it can be a boon, but it can also cost the surrounding neighborhood. That goes for several Chicago universities, which have had their fair share of contentious relationships over the years.</p><p>There are several examples. There&rsquo;s UIC, which struggled with the Little Italy neighborhood while building its East Campus. And in Evanston, the city government and Northwestern University debate the school&rsquo;s tax exempt status.</p><p>And then there&rsquo;s the University of Chicago.</p><p>The U of C sits in Hyde Park, a somewhat tony South Side neighborhood that &mdash; economically speaking &mdash; didn&rsquo;t really have a lot happening in it for many years.</p><p>Arguably the most contentious relationship the university has had in the past is with the nearby Woodlawn neighborhood. In the 1960s neighbors and university officials fought over plans to develop in the area. Mattie Butler, founder of Woodlawn East Community and Neighbors, remembers the decades-long back and forth.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/DEMOLISHION FOR WEB.jpg" style="float: right;" title="A building in Hyde Park that was purchased by the University of Chicago. (Photo courtesy University of Chicago)" /></p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve lived in this community since 1963. So all of my adult life. And I&rsquo;m now 70 years old,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So I&rsquo;ve seen it come and I&rsquo;ve seen it go.&rdquo;</p><p>Butler says during the 1960s, the university bought property around 60th and 61st Streets in Woodlawn. This is after the school dramatically developed areas in Hyde Park.</p><p>Butler says poor people were driven from their homes as new university development went up. Community members organized against the university&rsquo;s efforts, and were able to take a property called Woodlawn Gardens at 63rd and Cottage Grove to house low-income residents.</p><p>&ldquo;They didn&rsquo;t do it right,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;It wasn&rsquo;t built right, and so after about 10 years, 15 years, they started having massive problems with everything over there and not enough money to support it. And it was infested once again by gangs.&rdquo;</p><p>The property was eventually foreclosed on, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development took possession in the 80s. It became Grove Parc, and is once again being redeveloped into Woodlawn Park.</p><p>Butler blames the university&rsquo;s aggressive plans of the time for the early failure.</p><p>&ldquo;But the University of Chicago since the time of us having a real issue with them, not playing a role that we thought was a well played out role, has since come to the table with &mdash; I&rsquo;m hoping &mdash; some sense,&rdquo; she said, adding the institution deserves a rating of 7 out of 10. In particular, she lauds the university&rsquo;s role in improving local schools.</p><p><strong>Art in Washington Park</strong></p><p>University Vice President of Civic Engagement Derek Douglas admits the school has created barriers, but it&rsquo;s using some of its economic might to forge a new path.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re trying to do more now is create a bridge between the university and the community,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Douglas makes the point by showing us the university&rsquo;s arts incubator in the Washington Park neighborhood. It was a long-abandoned space that the university redeveloped and opened this past spring.</p><p>He says redeveloping the facility was a community effort.</p><p>&ldquo;There has been trust issues in the past where certain things were done that the community disagreed with or didn&rsquo;t like the way it was approached. And so that creates trust issues,&rdquo; Douglas said. &ldquo;As you&rsquo;re starting to have a new approach, it takes time to build up that trust, to build up that relationship. Spaces like the arts incubator go a long way towards restoring that.&rdquo;</p><p>He says spaces like the arts incubator don&rsquo;t employ a lot of people, and there&rsquo;s no direct revenue, but there are economic effects. Spaces like this stabilize a neighborhood, and it can demonstrate to other developers that the neighborhood&rsquo;s an attractive place to live and invest.</p><p><strong>Arrival of assembly-line burritos?</strong></p><p>But the U of C&rsquo;s got designs on its own, contemporary home turf, especially when it comes to bread-and-butter retail.</p><p>&ldquo;Hyde Park is great in so many ways. It&rsquo;s got this lakefront location. It&rsquo;s got the university. It&rsquo;s got good schools, public schools, private schools that are here. It&rsquo;s got good medical care,&rdquo; said David Greene, Executive Vice President of the University of Chicago. &ldquo;But what there haven&rsquo;t been is the kind of amenities that there have been throughout Chicago for people to focus their energy here.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/inside%20incubator%20FOR%20WEB.jpg" style="float: left;" title="The inside the University of Chicago's new arts incubator lab. The lab was created with input from local aldermen and the surrounding community. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p>Greene says the school&rsquo;s developing a bigger commercial presence, and it&rsquo;s taking cues from residents.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve done a lot of surveys in this. And the number one thing people wanted was Chipotle,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>So ... assembly line burritos will be coming soon to the neighborhood. But aside from that, Greene says students and residents asked for better shopping, restaurants and entertainment like a music venue and movie theater. That&rsquo;s while the university is building out its commercial corridor along 53rd Street.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;ll start to see the mix of existing structures that have long been here on 53rd Street, as well as the start of some new development that&rsquo;s coming along. There some areas that we&rsquo;ll come to that have long been vacant and are now starting to thrive with new businesses,&rdquo; Greene said.</p><p><strong>What&rsquo;s in it for the schools ... and the city?</strong></p><p>UIC&rsquo;s David Perry says more universities are finding it essential to work with their neighbors. If they don&rsquo;t, he says, they could lose students &mdash; a prospect that no city wants to face.</p><p>Universities provide trained workers for local companies, indirect jobs for residents, and cash flow for surrounding businesses. The private sector has also done this, but Perry points out that these companies can get up and move at anytime. Not so much with the higher education sector.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the notion of universities doing things and us doing things with universities, because they can&rsquo;t do it alone that helps us create the coalitions of place that we need to invest in Chicago,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><em>Susie An is a WBEZ business reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 10 Jul 2013 18:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/university-down-block-108021 So, what’s (still) made in the Chicago area? http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-what%E2%80%99s-still-made-chicago-area-107281 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CC%20Topper.jpg" title="(WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></p><p>Dozens of you have started our Curious City excursions with <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city">great questions</a>. Some of those questions were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/neighborhood-divisions-laid-bare-span-block-106299">subtle</a>. Others were, um, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blogs/bez/2012-06/curious-city-secrets-lincoln-park-zoos-poo-100260">less so</a>. But few of these questions had an answer turn so much on one word.</p><p>Jessica Chronister of Chicago&rsquo;s Logan Square neighborhood asked, &ldquo;What&rsquo;s still being manufactured in Chicago in terms of factory-made items?&rdquo;</p><p>We didn&rsquo;t notice how one word &mdash; &ldquo;<em>still</em>&rdquo; &mdash; could be taken, at least not until it popped up during an interview.</p><p>&ldquo;Well, it&rsquo;s interesting how you framed the question &lsquo;What&rsquo;s <em>still</em> being manufactured in the Chicago region,&rsquo; &rdquo;&nbsp;said Garett Ballard-Rosa, a policy analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. &ldquo;Manufacturing&rsquo;s never left the Chicago region.&rdquo;</p><p>Many of us may have assumed that Chicago&rsquo;s evolved out of the industrial age. But then, there&rsquo;s counterevidence: The South Side&rsquo;s Ford plant makes cars; mills in Gary, Indiana, churn out steel; and one factory makes a Chicago neighborhood <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/dynamic-range/blommer-where-%E2%80%98-bridges-smell-chocolate%E2%80%99-101620">smell like chocolate brownies</a>.</p><p>But these are operations you notice on your own, since they overwhelm your eyes or one of your other senses. (Again, just try forgetting a neighborhood that smells like brownies!)</p><p>There is, though, another side to the region&rsquo;s manufacturing profile. It&rsquo;s just not so easy to spot.</p><p>&ldquo;Our manufacturing segment is composed of a lot of small and medium size manufacturers,&rdquo; Ballard-Rosa said.</p><p>Ballard-Rosa explained how we stack up; Chicago, he said, is the second-largest manufacturing center in the nation, behind Los Angeles. And, unlike cities such as Detroit and Seattle &mdash; where one specific industry makes up more than half of the manufacturing scene &mdash; our manufacturers are diverse: We make Lava lamps, lollipops, leather, plastics, martial arts uniforms, trophies, etc.</p><p>That is, we make all sorts of things.</p><p>But Jessica and I put a face on this smaller side of manufacturing. We started small and then got a little bigger.</p><p><strong>First stop: West Side granola</strong></p><p>The Milk and Honey brand of granola is made at a West Side industrial kitchen that&rsquo;s infused with the smell of honey and oats. Owners Carol Watson and Karen Skrainy gave me and producer Logan Jaffe the opportunity to see the making of flavors like Pumpkin Spice, Blueberry Pecan Mix and Rick Bayless&rsquo;s Mexican Mix.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not a fancy, highly automated procedure whatsoever,&rdquo; Skrainy told me. &ldquo;We do it just like you would at home. In standard-sized sheet pans we mix all the ingredients by hand, bake them in hand, stir them by hand.&rdquo;</p><p>The kitchen is big for Milk and Honey&rsquo;s 10 workers, but Skrainy and Watson said they hope to expand without having to move locations again. On average, they churn out 330 bags of granola each day.</p><div id="PictoBrowser130520170058">Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer</div><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "620", "460", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Curious City: What's still manufactured in Chicago?"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157633389785517"); so.addVariable("titles", "on"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "on"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser130520170058"); </script><p>Watson started the granola business out of the kitchen of her cafe, which bears the same name. They sold enough of the crunchy stuff that they had to grow into a new location. And more growth turned into yet another move.</p><p>Interestingly, Watson doubts expansion will lead them to turn this &ldquo;mostly by hand&rdquo; process into an automated one. Instead, she said, they&rsquo;re likely to just add more hands.</p><p>Watson said though they&rsquo;re small, they can also pull off a national contract with Whole Foods. Milk and Honey&rsquo;s location helps with that.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago is centrally located for shipping because if we were on the East Coast or the West Coast. So it works out well for us,&rdquo; she said.</p><p><strong>Coffee (grinders) for the world &nbsp;</strong></p><p>Location is key for another small manufacturer that Jessica and I visited together: a midsize firm called Modern Process Equipment, located in Chicago&rsquo;s Little Village neighborhood.</p><p>If you drink Intelligentsia coffee, or if you ever drank Turkish coffee while in the Middle East, there&rsquo;s a good chance those coffee beans were ground by an MPE grinder.</p><p>Company president Dan Ephraim said MPE ships between 30 and 35 percent of its product overseas.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re the largest coffee grinder manufacturer in the world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;In the United States, we produce over 90 percent of the coffee grinders for industrial and commercial applications.&rdquo;</p><div id="PictoBrowser130520165943">Get the flash player here: http://www.adobe.com/flashplayer</div><p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser/swfobject.js"></script><script type="text/javascript"> var so = new SWFObject("http://www.db798.com/pictobrowser.swf", "PictoBrowser", "620", "460", "8", "#EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("source", "sets"); so.addVariable("names", "Curious City: What's still manufactured in Chicago?"); so.addVariable("userName", "chicagopublicmedia"); so.addVariable("userId", "33876038@N00"); so.addVariable("ids", "72157633544883770"); so.addVariable("titles", "on"); so.addVariable("displayNotes", "on"); so.addVariable("thumbAutoHide", "off"); so.addVariable("imageSize", "medium"); so.addVariable("vAlign", "mid"); so.addVariable("vertOffset", "0"); so.addVariable("colorHexVar", "EEEEEE"); so.addVariable("initialScale", "off"); so.addVariable("bgAlpha", "90"); so.write("PictoBrowser130520165943"); </script></p><p>MPE employs about 100 workers, several of which were on hand to demonstrate their skills to Jessica and me. At one point, we passed by people who operate machines that cut metal with high-pressure streams of water. Others assembled or tested coffee grinding machines that are large enough to put your home or office version to shame.</p><p>Unlike the manually-driven processes at Milk and Honey, automation is key at MPE. At one point, we were introduced to a machine that uses lasers to count coffee grounds.</p><p>Ephraim and his brother bought the company 30 years ago. Back then the firm concentrated on reconditioning grinders. But the brothers innovated.</p><p>&ldquo;Pretty much all our machines are computer-operated,&rdquo; Ephraim said. &ldquo;Anything that is accurate or repetitive, we try to computerize it.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The future is lean, small</strong></p><p>Innovation is something that experts at CMAP mentioned several times, and it&rsquo;s a point that addresses a myth that Chicago no longer manufactures much.</p><p>CMAP&rsquo;s Simone Weil said we make lots of stuff, but automation <em>has </em>thinned our manufacturing workforce.</p><p>&ldquo;The flip side of that though and the kind of positive shift that we&rsquo;re seeing the work force, since you need fewer people, they need higher skills,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>CMAP says the region lost manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010, but automation wasn&rsquo;t the only cause.</p><p>Weil says we sent manufacturing jobs overseas, and some employers turned full-time employees into part-timers. But she says we&rsquo;ve recovered a bit, by adding 20,000 manufacturing jobs over the past few years.</p><p>She said upping recruitment for these jobs is important in growing the more skilled manufacturing workforce.</p><p>Weil&rsquo;s colleague &mdash; Ballard Rosa &mdash; says innovation is Chicago&rsquo;s key to a sustainable manufacturing center.</p><p>&ldquo;The number one thing the region needs to do is re-establish itself as a center of manufacturing research that leads to new commercial products and processes and efficiencies,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That would make our region more competitive, more vibrant and, maybe &mdash; when it comes to manufacturing, anyway &mdash; a little more noticeable.</p></p> Mon, 20 May 2013 17:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/so-what%E2%80%99s-still-made-chicago-area-107281 Runaway youth face increasing economic struggles http://www.wbez.org/news/runaway-youth-face-increasing-economic-struggles-107087 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/runaway photoSIZED.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>The National Runaway Safeline says more youth are running away because of money problems.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Youth are telling us [their families are struggling] so if they are able to be on their own, it really will help that family as a whole, succeed,&rdquo; says Maureen Blaha, Executive Director of NRS.</p><p dir="ltr">She also said older youth are sometimes explicitly asked to leave the home and become independent, &ldquo;Which is not a choice I think they family would make if the economic situation was different.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">This anecdotal evidence is supported by a report the organization released about &nbsp;runway trends over the past decade. Youth contacting the safeline this year were more likely to mention economic problems, an increase of 14 percent over the past year and 56 percent over the last 10 years. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Runaway youth are also much more likely to end up in shelters than they were even a year ago, and have a harder time finding &nbsp;ways to support themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Going back home may not always be the right solution, so it&rsquo;s even more important for those youth to be able to have job opportunities,&rdquo; said Blaha.</p><p dir="ltr">As a result of these changes, the safeline is now providing more information on job training opportunities.</p><p dir="ltr">Both youth and concerned adults, can call the runaway safeline at 1-800-Runaway or <a href="http://www.1800runaway.org/">live chat at the organizations website.</a></p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/shannon_h">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Wed, 08 May 2013 15:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/runaway-youth-face-increasing-economic-struggles-107087 U.S. demand for high-skilled, foreign workers up http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/H1Bs_130401_oy.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The opening of the filing period for petitions to bring specialized, educated employees through the H-1B visa program begins Monday, and after years of lagging interest in filling high-skilled jobs with temporary, foreign workers, many anticipate that U.S. companies have found their footing well enough to compete for these specialized employees. Successful petitions will authorize a foreign national to start working at a U.S. company temporarily during the 2014 federal fiscal year, which starts in October of 2013.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;This&rsquo;ll be the first year in a long time that we anticipate that the cap is going to be reached in the first week in April,&rdquo; said Eldon Kakuda, an immigration attorney at the Chicago-based law firm Masuda, Funai, Eifert &amp; Mitchell. The U.S. sets a limit of 85,000 H-1B visas every year, a cap that was quickly reached within the first week of accepting petitions in years prior to 2009. In the last four years, however, U.S. employers filed far fewer petitions, sometimes taking up to nine months to reach the limit. &ldquo;I do think it&rsquo;s a strong indication that our economy is on the upswing,&rdquo; said Kakuda.</p><p dir="ltr">H1-Bs typically work in the so-called &ldquo;STEM&rdquo; fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, and between 2000 and 2009 nearly half of those visas went to Indian nationals. The program is meant to help companies that can&rsquo;t find U.S. employees with the requisite skills or experience. &ldquo;There are not enough US citizens or Americans available with IT skills in the country,&rdquo; said Shoji Mathew, President of the North American Association of Indian IT Professionals.</p><p dir="ltr">But Mathew said small companies with 50-150 employees are nervous to file petitions this year, because of the possibility that Congress will change the H-1B program. In particular, the <a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s600is/pdf/BILLS-113s600is.pdf">H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act of 2013</a>, introduced by Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), would limit the number of H-1B employees in a company of at least 50 people to 50 percent. It would also enact more rigorous compliance audits with the program, and set a wage level for H-1B workers that is higher than what most employers currently pay foreign nationals on those visas.</p><p dir="ltr">Mathew said many of the small companies have started the application process for H-1B petitions, but are nervous about completing paperwork before legislators finish their work. &ldquo;What happens if a company has 250 employees and, say, 80 percent is H1Bs?&rdquo; asked Mathew. &ldquo;They say why we should we apply for H1B (when) they&rsquo;re on the verge of laying off their employees?&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">But some hope that the bill will pass, citing suspected abuses of the H-1B program. &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a huge demand for underpaid workers through this program,&rdquo; said Daniel Costa, an immigration policy analyst with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. Costa said that though federal law requires employers to pay H-1B workers at a prevailing wage, the law gives pay scale options depending on the profession. &ldquo;And the vast majority of the time they choose the lowest wage or the second-lowest wage, both of which are below the average wage,&rdquo; said Costa.</p><p dir="ltr">Costa added that the bill would close some loopholes in the H-1B program, while giving U.S. workers a fair shot at those jobs by requiring employers to post job openings on the Department of Labor&rsquo;s website, for all interested candidates to see. &ldquo;We need to recruit and get and retain the best and brightest workers, especially in these STEM fields,&rdquo; said Costa, &ldquo;But there&rsquo;s no evidence that we have some huge shortage. There&rsquo;s always going to be a need for the workers, but we should just have some really basic protections in place for U.S. workers.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">At the same time, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/south-asians-track-proposal-worker-visa-program-105186">Washington lawmakers are considering a separate, bipartisan bill</a> to expand the number of H-1B visas.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. You can follow her at <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef">@oyousef</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Apr 2013 06:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/us-demand-high-skilled-foreign-workers-106398 Misery is ... Chicago (according to Forbes) http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-02/misery-chicago-according-forbes-105675 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="www.forbes.com/pictures/mli45lmhg/4-chicago-ill/" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/unhappy%20flickr%20quinn%20anya.jpg" style="height: 171px; width: 256px; float: right;" title="(Flickr/Quinn Anya)" /></a></div><p><strong>&#39;CHICAGO: WE&#39;RE NOT AS MISERABLE AS _______&#39;&nbsp;</strong>The city&#39;s new travel slogan is ready. Based on&nbsp;<em>Forbes</em>&nbsp;magazine&#39;s 2013 rating of &quot;<a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/kurtbadenhausen/2013/02/21/detroit-tops-2013-list-of-americas-most-miserable-cities/" target="_blank">America&#39;s Most Miserable Cities</a>,&quot; you could fill that blank with the names of three other cities &ndash; Detroit, Flint and Rockford &ndash; because <a href="http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mli45lmhg/4-chicago-ill/" target="_blank">Chicago shows up at No. 4</a>.</p><p>* Retired general who led military response to Hurricane Katrina:&nbsp;<a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-chicago-violence-honore-20130222,0,2012172.story" target="_blank">National Guard could help Chicago</a>.<br />* Search <a href="http://crime.chicagotribune.com/chicago/" target="_blank">crime data in your community</a> (<em>Tribune</em> interactive database).<br />*&nbsp;<a href="http://www.suntimes.com/18382697-418/new-attractions-could-be-in-place-in-months-tourism-chief-says.html" target="_blank">New tourist attractions for Chicago</a>&nbsp;could be up and running within months.<br />* <a href="http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20130221/BLOGS04/130229922/justin-timberlake-jay-z-summer-tour-coming-to-soldier-field-reports" target="_blank">Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z reportedly headed to Soldier Field</a> this summer.<br />* Chicago to be home of new&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/american-writers-museum-chicago_n_2728411.html" target="_blank">American Writers Museum</a>.<br />* Congress Theater owner plans&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20130221/logan-square/congress-theater-owner-wants-restore-it-its-1920s-glory" target="_blank">ambitious renovation</a>.</p><p><iframe align="right" frameborder="0" height="144" scrolling="no" src="http://media.mtvnservices.com/embed/mgid:cms:video:thedailyshow.com:424058" width="256"></iframe></p><p><strong>&#39;THE AMBULANCE INDUSTRY TAKES IN MORE MONEY EVERY YEAR THAN HOLLYWOOD.&#39;</strong> That&#39;s&nbsp;Steven Brill, author of&nbsp;<em>Time</em> magazine&#39;s &quot;<a href="http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowlny/time-cover-story-longest-by-single-writer-in-magazines-history_b76963" target="_blank">longest single piece ever published by a single writer</a>&quot; &ndash; 36 pages on &quot;<a href="http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/" target="_blank">Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us</a>&quot; &ndash; in <a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-february-21-2013/exclusive---steven-brill-extended-interview-pt--1" target="_blank">an extended, online-only <em>Daily Show</em> interview with Jon Stewart</a>.<br />* Brill&#39;s article&nbsp;<a href="http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/how-brills-health-care-opus-jumped-from-the-new-republic-to-time/" target="_blank">wasn&#39;t originally supposed to run in <em>Time</em></a>.<br />* FBI declares <a href="http://www.theatlanticwire.com/business/2013/02/fbi-declares-war-scooter-store/62383/" target="_blank">war on The Scooter Store</a>.</p><p><strong>... AND&nbsp;<a href="http://cpm.polldaddy.com/s/meyerson-wbez-news-quiz-no-6" target="_blank">THIS WEEK&#39;S NEWS QUIZ</a>:</strong></p><script type="text/javascript" src="http://i0.poll.fm/survey.js" charset="UTF-8"></script><noscript><a href="http://cpm.polldaddy.com/s/meyerson-wbez-news-quiz-no-6">Take Our Survey!</a></noscript><script type="text/javascript"> polldaddy.add( { type: 'iframe', auto: true, domain: 'cpm.polldaddy.com/s/', id: 'meyerson-wbez-news-quiz-no-6' } ); </script><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><hr /><p><em><strong>ANNOUNCEMENTS.</strong></em><br /><em>* Suggestions for this blog?&nbsp;<a href="mailto:cmeyerson@wbez.org?subject=Things%20and%20stuff">Email anytime</a>.<br />* Get this blog by email, free.&nbsp;<a href="http://feedburner.google.com/fb/a/mailverify?uri=feedburner/AELk&amp;amp;loc=en_US" target="_blank">Sign up here</a>.</em><br /><em>* Follow us on Twitter:&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/wbez" target="_blank">@WBEZ</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/meyerson" target="_blank">@Meyerson</a>.<br />* Thanks to WBEZ&#39;s <a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/akeefe-0" target="_blank">Alex Keefe</a> for inspiration.<br />* This blog is taking a day off Monday. See you early Tuesday.</em></p></p> Fri, 22 Feb 2013 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/charlie-meyerson/2013-02/misery-chicago-according-forbes-105675 Jobs, Education and the Economy: The Elmhurst College Governmental Forum http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/jobs-education-and-economy-elmhurst-college-governmental-forum-105593 <p><p>On January 30, days after President Barack Obama begins his second term, four of the region&rsquo;s foremost corporate leaders discussed the economic landscape and how our workforce can succeed in it, during the Sixth Annual Elmhurst College Governmental Forum.<br /><br />The topic of this year&rsquo;s Forum was &quot;Jobs, Education and the Economy.&quot; Moderating the event was&nbsp;<strong>John Engler</strong>, a former three-term governor of Michigan and, as president of the Business Roundtable, leader of the foremost CEO association in the country. The key presenters at the Forum were Caterpillar Inc. chairman and CEO <strong>Douglas R. Oberhelman</strong>, Johnson Publishing CEO <strong>Desiree Rogers</strong>; and TMX Group CEO <strong>Thomas A. Kloet</strong>, who also serves on the Elmhurst College Board of Trustees.</p><p><strong>Part One</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79834927" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><strong>Part Two</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79836320" width="100%"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/EC-webstory_12.jpg" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Recorded Thursday, January 30, 2013 at Elmhurst College.</div><p><br />&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 30 Jan 2013 15:42:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/jobs-education-and-economy-elmhurst-college-governmental-forum-105593