WBEZ | Niala Boodhoo http://www.wbez.org/tags/niala-boodhoo Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Quinn: Illinois prisons are not overcrowded http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-illinois-prisons-are-not-overcrowded-108588 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Quinn cropped_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn insists the state prison system is not overcrowded despite the fact that there are about 49,000 inmates in facilities built for 32,000 people. In addition,&nbsp; programming dollars are stretched thin, which leaves vast numbers of inmates idle for most of the day.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel that the prisons of our state, and every other state frankly, are crowded,&rdquo; said Quinn in an hour-long interview on prisons Friday on WBEZ&rsquo;s <em>Afternoon Shift</em>.&nbsp; &ldquo;In Illinois we have an adequate number of beds to handle the inmates we have.&rdquo;</p><p>But Illinois spends 98 percent of its budget just housing the inmates, leaving little money for education or job training. Quinn says he&rsquo;d obviously like to bring down the prison population because it costs more than $20,000 a year to house each inmate.</p><p>Quinn says he takes a hands-off approach to running the Department of Corrections. Quinn told <em>Afternoon Shift </em>host Niala Boodhoo that he didn&rsquo;t know when he&rsquo;d last been in a prison.</p><p>&ldquo;I can&rsquo;t remember that,&rdquo; Quinn said. &ldquo;I basically appointed Tony Godinez to be the director of corrections and I tell him to do his job. I have a lot of confidence in him. He&rsquo;s been&nbsp; someone who&rsquo;s been in corrections for a long time.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois spends more than a billion dollars every year on the department. Quinn also said he does not have a 5-year plan for the Department of Corrections. He says they make a plan every year when they develop the budget and when he gives his State of the State address. While Quinn would not say Illinois&rsquo; prison system is overcrowded, he did say the state and country need to have a debate about sentencing and how prisons are used.</p><h2><strong>Listen to excerpts from the hour-long interview</strong></h2><p>Speaking on the <em>Afternoon Shift </em>Friday on WBEZ with host Niala Boodhoo and Criminal and Legal Affairs reporter Robert Wildeboer, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn insisted the Illinois prison system is not overcrowded.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F108067914" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Quinn said reducing recidivism is key to bringing down the population in the Department of Corrections so that the state is not housing so many repeat offenders.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F108068246" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Quinn said he takes a hands-off approach to the billion-dollar Department of Corrections.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F108068424" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Quinn said Illinois is part of a ongoing conversation in the United States looking at sentencing and how prisons are used.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F108068675" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 30 Aug 2013 20:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/quinn-illinois-prisons-are-not-overcrowded-108588 Why the business community wants to invest in preschoolers http://www.wbez.org/sections/literacy/why-business-community-wants-invest-preschoolers-106204 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_clay_eren_sea+prairie.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A group of about 20 <a href="http://www.christopherhouse.org/">Christopher House</a> preschoolers are sitting as quietly as they can in front of their teacher, Jill Peterson. She&rsquo;s just asked them to put their fingers on their nose and is waiting for the group to settle down before dismissing them to play time.</p><p>She reminds them what their options are today: at the art table, there&rsquo;s clay. Because the class has been spending quite a bit of time talking about food, and cooking, she encourages the children to shape the clay into pretend food.</p><p>But this isn&rsquo;t just ordinary play. The kids in this class range from age three to five, but are already focusing on activities that develop both sides of the brain.</p><p>Allen Rosales is the school&rsquo;s curriculum director. From his point of view, the school isn&rsquo;t doing its job unless it prepares the children for work - and life.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s math knowledge if you can&rsquo;t speak up, if you can&rsquo;t have a perspective, if you can&rsquo;t work as a group collaboratively?&rdquo; Rosales asked. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s what we&rsquo;re trying to do here, incorporate both - the academic and the soft skills.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, as Rosales points out, those &ldquo;soft&rdquo; skills aren&rsquo;t so soft because they&rsquo;re difficult to develop.</p><p>Hard skills are pretty self-explanatory: math, science and reading. Soft skills are more squishy concept, but it&rsquo;s still a catch-all phrase you hear often from business leaders to describe what&rsquo;s lacking among their workers.</p><p>Chicago businessman <a href="http://www.jb-pritzker.com/">J.B. Pritzker</a> attempts to explain.</p><p>&ldquo;Collectively, these are things we sometimes refer to as character,&rdquo; said Pritzker, co-leader of The Pritkzer Group. &ldquo;The ability to listen, the ability to concentrate, to complete a task, to be persistent about things, attentiveness.&rdquo;</p><p>These are are the kind of skills you learn best when you&rsquo;re young - very young - which is why Pritzker said he&rsquo;s become an advocate for early childhood education.</p><p>&ldquo;The quality of our workforce is declining, and it&rsquo;s because we are not as advanced as other countries are at early childhood development,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>That&rsquo;s backed up by people like Nobel Prize-winning economist <a href="http://heckman.uchicago.edu/">James Heckman</a> at the University of Chicago. His <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/business/the_dismal_science/2007/05/teach_your_children_well.html">decades-long research</a> shows that investing in low-income children before Kindergarten can have a big pay-off down the road.</p><p>Traditionally, businesses have tended to focus their philanthropic efforts on K-12 education. But PNC Bank is another group that&rsquo;s also starting to back more early education efforts. The bank has given more than $350 million nationally to this - about $3 million in Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re concerned about this obviously from a customer perspective, but from a community perspective,&rdquo; said PNC Illinois Chairman Joe Gregoire. &ldquo;The better we do as relates to early childhood development, the better our communities will be. Hopefully we&rsquo;ll have more students going to college and from that perspective, a better workforce.&rdquo;</p><p>Right now funding for pre-K comes from a couple of different places, like the federal Head Start. But even then, around 30 percent of low-income families who are eligible for the program don&rsquo;t use it.</p><p>Another problem is the quality of early childhood education across Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;In Illinois, the only criteria for establishing a child care program is that you have a license, and the license is built mostly around safety and nutrition and things like that and not around education,&rdquo; said Erikson Institute faculty co-founder <a href="http://www.erikson.edu/about/directory/barbara-bowman/">Barbara Bowman</a>, also the former head of Chicago&rsquo;s early childhood education program.</p><p>Bowman said that makes programs like the one at Christopher House are more the ideal than the norm.</p><p>Lots of preschools incorporate structured playtime. But at Christopher House the teacher and two aides use playtime to help nurture soft skills one-on-one.</p><p>Back at play time, Peterson - who has two well-trained aides also working with other children - is sitting at the table with the children playing with clay. One little girl has molded her clay into what she says is a spicy jalapeno pizza cookies.</p><p>Peterson gently nudges the child to provide a recipe for how she made her pizza. Peterson writes it all down.</p><p>Rosales, standing nearby, explains how the recipes reinforces notions of first, second, last, as well as following directions. The exercises are designed to nurture the child&rsquo;s creativity, and teachers like Peterson also encourage independent thinking - all key foundations for these soft skills.</p><p>Illinois just received a $35 million federal grant to unify what the state itself calls a &ldquo;patchwork&rdquo; of early learning programs. It&rsquo;s also designed to help connect low-income families with programs like Christopher House, which already has a waiting list.</p><p>In the meantime, business leaders like Pritzker are nudging this along on their own. For him, it&rsquo;s simple economics.</p><p>&ldquo;I know there are people who are going to think to themselves, &lsquo;Soft skills, you mean learning those basic things that every kid probably should learn, attentiveness, is going to affect whether the United States is going to be the leader of the world 20 years from now?&rsquo; My answer is &lsquo;yes&rsquo;.&rdquo;</p><p>Because 20 years from now, he said, this class of preschoolers at Christopher House - and their classmates from all across the city - will be the one&rsquo;s he&rsquo;s hiring.</p></p> Thu, 21 Mar 2013 08:31:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/literacy/why-business-community-wants-invest-preschoolers-106204 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 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 Moving ideas to economic reality http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-12/moving-ideas-economic-reality-93081 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-12/Changing20Gears20Batelle.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Steve Job’s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products. That’s because ideas need a push – and in some cases, a big one, from from science, to become reality. It sounds obvious, but when we’re talking about actual products, that translates into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it’s something worth exploring. That’s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute. Innovation can strike in a variety of ways.</p><p>Take Emery OleoChemical in Cincinnati. The company started making candles in 1840. Today, it uses the same tallow to make things like glyercin, which goes into soap, detergent and makeup. And it uses technology that mimics what happens in a lightning strike to make the stuff. Mark Durchholz, one of the company’s regional business directors, explained how it works:</p><p>“We discharge electricity at very high voltage across oxygen and we make ozone gas,” he said.</p><p>A few years ago, the company realized it could use this same technology to branch out into a whole new business. By adapting this technology, the company has created three new product lines – now they’re making materials that make foam, not just from crude oil, but from soy.</p><p>The idea for all of this was basically handed to Emery – by Battelle Memorial Institute.</p><p>If you’ve never heard of Battelle, not to worry. Neither had Emery OleoChemical – despite the fact that both have been around for more than 100 years, and Batelle is just 100 miles away in Columbus, Ohio.</p><p>Battelle has a tradition of silence about the work it does.</p><p>“We actually respect the privacy of our companies,” said Battelle’s Spencer Pugh, when I asked him to provide me examples of some of its clients. “I really can’t tell you the names of companies we work for.”</p><p>Pugh can talk about a few of the things Battelle does takes credit for: the technology behind the bar code, cruise control, compact discs – and even Xerox copies. Battelle’s a nonprofit. Companies hire Battelle because all it does is scientific research. Last year, its research and development budget was $6.5 million. Battelle has 22,000 employees in 130 laboratories around the world.</p><p>It uses this network to help its clients perfect technology. Sometimes, it gets share of the profits – like it did, back before Xerox went public. That’s how it funds the rest of its research.</p><p>Battelle’s Columbus campus is just across the street from Ohio State University. Across 50 acres and in 20 buildings, scientists are trying to improve military jet fuel efficiency, perfect underwater robots and develop a new fuel source out of things like sawdust.</p><p>Because Battelle has developed a prototype to create fuel out of sawdust, so they wouldn’t let me take a picture of it. I can describe the contraption as invoking my childhood memories of Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel, minus the steam.</p><p>“Our technology is focused on going from biomass all the way to a fuel that can be blended directly with gasoline that all of us use during the normal course of our days,” said Zia Abdullah, who is leading Battelle’s bioenergy program and the sawdust project.Abdullah plans to have a system that is commercially viable, and available for widespread use, by 2015. That’s pretty fast in the scientific world, and represents several million dollars of investment – much of which is coming from a U.S. Department of Energy grant.</p><p>The problem with research and development for experimental products like this is that it takes time, and investment – something many companies simply can’t afford to do anymore.</p><p>“You don’t always know when you start out which ones will pay off and which ones won’t,” said Pugh, when I asked him why he enjoys working at Battelle, where they have the time and energy to devote years of investment into figuring out what works. “Here, there’s a lot of investment in ideas and a very rigorous weeding out process as we find ideas that work and will be successful in the marketplace.”</p><p>But that’s the very principle Battelle was founded on back in 1929.</p><p>During World War I, Steel tycoon Gordon Battelle was frustrated with how long it took for inventions to go from the lab to the battlefield. When he died young – at age 40, after a routine appendectomy – he left money in his will to found a nonprofit organization dedicated to scientific research.</p><p>Today, the only company that’s won more major R&amp;D 100 awards – insiders call them the “Oscars of innovation” – is G.E.</p><p>Pugh says Battelle will work with any company, no matter what its size. He said something I heard often at Battelle – that inspiration and innovation isn’t so much about the idea, or when inspiration strikes. It’s more about the role science plays in getting an idea out of someone’s head – to the manufacturing floor – and into our economy.</p></p> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 14:54:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-12/moving-ideas-economic-reality-93081 Changing Gears: Midwestern union workers have hope for their jobs http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-21/changing-gears-midwestern-union-workers-have-hope-their-jobs-92260 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-21/Navistar1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><a href="http://www.navistar.com/Navistar/" target="_blank">Navistar</a> builds all kinds of trucks across North America: at non-union factories in the South and Mexico, as well as union shops in the Midwest. But the United Auto Workers at its Springfield, Ohio plant said a year of changes has made them competitive with those non-union plants. And, they said they were hopeful for the future of their jobs in the Midwest. <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears'</em></a> Niala Boodhood shared their story.</p><p>In the final assembly department at Navistar’s Springfield, Ohio, plant, Veronica Smith is helping her team put the finishing touches on a truck. The cab is being mounted to its frame.</p><p>Smith has been building trucks in Springfield for 17 years. She’s been laid off and brought back to work here more than a few times. But, she says this past year has given her hope for the future.</p><p>“We feel like we’re moving forward,” said Smith. “It’s a good feeling. It’s not a feeling we’ve had a lot in the past.”</p><p>A few years ago, Veronica and the other workers at this plant focused on building one truck: the Durastar. It was Navistar’s “focused factory” philosophy.</p><p>That dedicated scale concept works well when business is booming, said <a href="http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Faculty/Directory/Conley_James_Gerard.aspx" target="_blank">James Conley</a>, a professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School Center for Research and Technology and Innovation.</p><p>“Scale works really well in the early life cycle of a product,” he explained. “When things mature and other competitors get in, you have to be thinking beyond scale – the dedicated scale model doesn’t work.”</p><p>Unions were also behind the dedicated scale model, thinking the exclusive producing on one model meant job security.</p><p>But the truck making business is what analysts call “extremely <a href="http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/cyclical_industry.asp#axzz1YYMRIF00" target="_blank">cyclical</a>” – which basically means its fortune can easily depend on the larger economy.</p><p>But when the bottom fell out, the industry saw its worst year of sales since it began keeping records.</p><p>Navistar “built a strategy around that changing environment,” said David Beebe, the company’s vice president of manufacturing.</p><p>That meant solidifying a strategy of diversification that had previously started at its plant in Garland, Texas, where they build more than one type of truck at the same facility.</p><p>But the company had to convince the United Auto Workers at its Ohio plant to adopt the plan.</p><p><a href="http://www.uawlocal402.net/" target="_blank">UAW Local 402</a> President Jason Barlow says the pay cuts in particular have not been easy to stomach, but it’s all been about securing work.</p><p>“We’ve had members that have been laid off for five years, and they’ve come back in with a completely different state of mind,” he said. “It’s a tough world out there and they want to build the best truck here, and the culture has changed dramatically.”</p><p>Workers accepted a pay structure that means new hires will start at $14.39 a hour and get little in way of benefits compared to more senior workers – who also make $25 an hour.</p><p>Barlow said that pay makes Ohio in some cases even cheaper than the nonunion shop in Texas. The local says they know that’s what it takes to keep these jobs in the Midwest.</p><p>“We’re definitely very vocal in spreading that message of earning our share and getting fair product,” said Todd Scott, the local’s bargaining chairman.</p><p>Retraining started in January as the factory itself was physically reconfigured. Union workers from each department volunteered to become group leaders on the retraining – and they, in turn, taught their coworkers how to build three other models.</p><p>Fast forward nine months later, and all 700 plus workers at the plant have been recalled. Production is up 25 percent over the past year – Navistar says partially because of how slow it was last year, but also because of adding the other models.</p><p>Just near the front entrance to the factory, workers are attaching batteries to engines as half-built trucks trundle along the conveyor line.</p><p>Plant manager Jim Rumpf explains how he can tell what kind of vehicle is coming down the line:</p><p>“Looking at the front end of the vehicle, you see the radiators facing us as the vehicles come down the line,” he said. “You can see just by looking at the radiator and the size of the radiator is a good indicator of the size of the truck.</p><p>The current contract guarantees that at least 50 trucks will be built each day in Springfield.</p><p>On another side of the factory, Victoria Smith is directing the final stages of the truck assembly. Airbags are being filled, last minute checks are being made. The goal is for every truck to be started up and driven off the line, she said.</p><p>“We’ve got a lot of exciting things going on here,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of it.”<br> <strong> </strong></p><p>Nearby where the trucks are driven off the line, there’s a banner hanging that acknowledges the plant’s 100-year anniversary in 2002.</p><p>The current UAW contract goes for another three years – and both Navistar and the workers say they’re hopeful for a future beyond that.</p><p>Are you a union worker? Do you think these workers did what needs to happen to keep these jobs in the Midwest? Please weigh in the comments section below.</p></p> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 14:20:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-21/changing-gears-midwestern-union-workers-have-hope-their-jobs-92260 Changing Gears: Decatur, Illinois: The heart of Illinois agribusiness http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-26/changing-gears-decatur-illinois-heart-illinois-agribusiness-89643 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-26/Corn-across-from-ADM.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>DECATUR – Driving south from Chicago, it only takes about 25 miles to hit the corn fields. For the next 150 miles to Decatur, it’s a sea of yellow corn tassels, a head tall.</p><p>At night, the central Illinois darkness is broken only by the lights of the corn and soy processing facilities at <a href="http://www.adm.com/" target="_blank">Archer Daniels Midland Company</a>.</p><p>At dawn, the truck and rail traffic starts rolling into the yards of ADM, one of the largest food processing companies in the world.</p><p>Its <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/q?s=ADM" target="_blank">global sales</a> were $62 billion last year. Its headquarters are in Decatur, as well as some of its largest processing facilities.</p><p>Its operations are so large that to tour all their plants, I had to get in a car.</p><p>ADM doesn’t grow crops, like those surrounding its operations in Decatur. It buys and sells crops – wheat, corn, soy and cocoa, from all over the world. Some of those crops are brought to processing plants, where they’re turned into products like corn syrup, vegetable oil, animal feed, or ethanol.</p><p>“This is the center of agriculture, and I joke a little, it’s the center because we’re here,” said Mike Baroni, a vice-president with ADM. “But if you look around, when you drove from Chicago you saw some of the most fertile land in the world, and corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see.</p><p>The company started its first plant in Decatur in 1939. Thirty years later, it moved its headquarters to Decatur, too.</p><p>Baroni said the company thinks of Decatur as its home: “We’ve been here a long time,” he said, adding that as far as he knows, the company has no plans to leave Decatur.</p><p>ADM has almost 4,500 workers in Decatur. While many of them work in the processing plant, the company also runs one of the largest private trading floors in the country and does a lot of scientific research.</p><p>That varied workforce should dispel any misconceptions people have about Decatur, the City Manager Ryan McGrady told me.</p><p>“We have a rich history of industry, so I think a lot of folks think we’re a dusty, old, blue collar city,” McGrady said. “It’s quite the contrary.”</p><p>When you talk about employers in Decatur, <a href="http://www.decaturedc.com/index.php?option=com_content&amp;view=article&amp;id=3&amp;Itemid=24" target="_blank">three names loom large</a>:&nbsp;ADM, <a href="http://www.cat.com/" target="_blank">Caterpillar</a> and <a href="http://www.tateandlyle.com/" target="_blank">Tate &amp; Lyle</a>, the British food giant that bought Decatur’s homegrown Staley Company in 1988. (Interesting side note: today’s Chicago Bears were started as the Decatur Staleys in 1919, then moved to Chicago as the Chicago Staleys in 1920, where the <a href="http://www.chicagobears.com/tradition/HistorybyDecades.asp" target="_blank">NFL franchise</a> was officially started.)</p><p>But Tate &amp; Lyle is moving <a href="http://www.herald-review.com/news/local/article_1e772654-0849-544a-a0cf-8033414cba53.html" target="_blank">some research operations</a> to the Chicago area.</p><p>And Caterpillar’s employment has been more cyclical. Over the past few years, it has laid off, and since rehired, hundreds of Decatur workers.</p><p>ADM’s been steady. Last fall, it bought a building in downtown Decatur to consolidate 300 IT, audit and accounting workers.</p><p>McGrady says that was a big deal.</p><p>“First of all, to have all that many more people in your central business district is going to be great for commerce,” he said. “But bigger than that was a sign of ADM’s commitment to Decatur by buying this building, especially in this age of downsizing.”</p><p>The unemployment rate in Decatur has dropped below 9 percent – better than Chicago’s jobless rate. McGrady says Decatur sales tax revenues are up 10 to 15 percent over the past year. That’s a faster rate of growth than Illinois as a whole.</p><p>With job prospects good in Decatur, welding classes are full at <a href="http://www.richland.edu/" target="_blank">Richland Community College</a> – even at midnight.</p><p>“Everybody seems to be in more of a hiring mode,” said Douglas Brauer, a vice-president with the college.</p><p>For spring semester the school started offering welding classes at midnight, to accommodate students who were working full-time. The class was full, so they offered it again this summer.</p><p>Richland Community College is literally in ADM’s backyard. When it was built, ADM built a pipeline to the campus to send steam. That has powered the college’s heating and cooling systems for the past 20 years.</p><p>I stepped outside with Andy Perry, who also works at Richland. He explained that we were standing directly north of one of the production facilities for Archer Daniels Midland, as well as northeast of Tate &amp; Lyle.</p><p>“So on a given day, when some of those production facilities are giving off you steam and other elements,&nbsp; we can smell the products from here,” he said.</p><p>But Perry says nobody in Decatur minds.</p><p>“Really,” he said, “it’s the smell of money.”</p><p>The world’s population is expected to reach 7 to 10 billion people by 2050. That means the demand for agricultural products – everything ADM produces – is supposed to double. That can only mean good things for Decatur, which likes to call itself the heart of agribusiness.</p></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 14:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-26/changing-gears-decatur-illinois-heart-illinois-agribusiness-89643 Changing Gears: What company towns look like today: Kohler, Wisconsin http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-25/changing-gears-what-company-towns-look-today-kohler-wisconsin-89588 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-July/2011-07-25/Kohler.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>From Pullman in Chicago to Firestone in Akron, Ohio--big employers loomed large in people’s daily lives. But what does the modern company town look like? The<em> <a href="http://www.changinggears.info" target="_blank">Changing Gears</a></em> team hit the road to find out.</p><p>At the peak of summer, and its busy tourist season, Kohler, Wisconsin, is, in a word, lovely.</p><p>It also feel luxurious, whether you’re on one of its world class golf courses or at its <a href="http://www.aaanewsroom.net/main/default.asp?categoryid=9&amp;subcategoryid=22" target="_blank">five-diamond rated</a> resort hotel, the only one in the Midwest. At the Kohler Waters Spa, you can even soak in a tub which – no joke – cost $10,000, because it has its own specially-composed, “<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZdHJOz0vPk" target="_blank">vibra-acoustic</a>” music that you can hear underwater.</p><p>So it’s easy to go there and not realize that this town, which is almost a century old, is still about the thing it was founded for – plumbing.</p><p>“Everything that can be Kohler is Kohler,” explains Christine Loose, resident manager of the American Club and Inn at Woodlake.</p><p>Both are run by <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/07/25/what-company-towns-look-like-today-kohler-wisconsin/www.kohler.com" target="_blank">The Kohler Company</a>, which gave the village its name. The main attraction is the Kohler-owned golf courses nearby. One of them, <a href="http://www.americanclubresort.com/golf/ws/ws_index.html" target="_blank">Whistling Straights</a>, hosted the 2010 PGA Championships.</p><p>At the American Club, summer rates start at $360 a night. As each class of room improves, so does the plumbing.</p><p>“Our tile is Kohler, our plumbing is Kohler, our furniture is Kohler,” Loose said. “If we make it, it’s in the guest room.”</p><p>The Kohler Company is a $5 billion global business with four families of companies. Its largest is selling bath and kitchen fixtures. Curious about how big they are? Next time you’re in a bathroom, check the tub, sink or toilet for the Kohler name – if it has it, it was probably made in Wisconsin.</p><p>They also sell other furniture, as well as engines, mostly for lawn mowers or generators.</p><p>John Michael Kohler started the company in 1873. He went into bath fixtures when he coated a hog scalder with enamel and marketed it as multipurpose hog scalder, horse trough or bathtub.</p><p>John Michael’s son, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_J._Kohler,_Sr." target="_blank">Walter Kohler</a>, moved the factory outside of Sheboygan because he said it was too crowded. (The population at the time in Sheboygan was, according to the 1910 U.S. census: 26,398.)</p><p>The family hired famed Central Park designer <a href="http://www.nps.gov/frla/index.htm" target="_blank">Frederick Olmsted</a> to help create the village. Today, &nbsp;the houses are still tidy. Its village lawns are as immaculate as a golf course, and along its main street, in front of The American Club, hanging baskets of pink petunias provide a perfect frame to the picture.</p><p>That’s why resident Roelle Murphy laughingly uses terms like <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPnG1-CbkYM" target="_blank">“Beaver-Cleaver”</a> land to describe the town.</p><p>“When we originally moved here back in 1994 I looked at my husband and said, ‘Oh my god, you moved me to <a href="http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0073747/" target="_blank">Stepford</a>’,” she said, laughing. That lasted only about a week.</p><p>Now, Murphy describes the village as a “wonderfuly, family-oriented community,” where people know and care for each other. Everyone goes to the high school football game on Friday nights, and all the kids who live in Kohler, including the children of company president David Kohler’s children, attend the one-building school.</p><p>Murphy used to work at Kohler. Her husband still does. About one in 3 people in the village work for the company. In Sheboyan County, it’s 1 in 10 – making Kohler the county’s largest employer.</p><p>Factory employees are represented by the United Auto Workers. I caught up with <a href="http://www.uawlocal833.org/" target="_blank">Local 833</a> President Dave Boucher during the union’s annual retiree picnic.</p><p>Many of the retirees I spoke with started working at Kohler even before the famous strike of 1954.</p><p>Each of them were able to support their families on one Kohler salary.</p><p>Today, the average factory wage at Kohler is about $22 an hour (The company says that’s one of the highest wage rates in the industry). But under a new contract approved last December, temporary hires will make about $14 an hour, and have less benefits, to do the same factory work.</p><p>The UAW has half the members it used to in the area. Boucher told me something many said at the picnic – the Kohler Company would have stopped manufacturing in Wisconsin a long time ago if it hadn’t been family run and privately held.</p><p>“They would have tailed it years ago,” he said, as he ticks off the list of other manufacturers who have left the area. Still, while he’s happy that they are still here, and he says he doesn’t begrudge the company’s newest division, hospitality, he wonders if those jobs pay enough to support a family.</p><p>Current company chairman Herb Kohler, Jr. is responsible for the company’s most recent foray into golf and hospitality.</p><p>Company “Director of Wellness” Jean Kolb tells the story:</p><p>“The story goes, Mr. Kohler had a meeting with top executives and talked about what we were going to do with the American Club,” she told me. “And Mr. Kohler said, ‘I want to turn it into a five diamond resort hotel’ and the executives looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t know anything about the hospitality business. We do plumbing and bathtubs!’.”</p><p>The resort opened in 1981 and has continuously maintained its coveted AAA rating since then.</p><p>Kolb says its golf course, the resort – and especially its Design Center, where you can have bathroom and kitchen blueprints modified for free – all reflect the company’s mission of “gracious living”.</p><p><em>This is part of a five-part series we’re doing on modern company towns. Do you live in a company town? If so, how are you doing? Feel free to weigh in on the comments. Tomorrow, Boodhoo will report from the heart of Illinois’s agribusiness industry, and home of food giant ADM – Decatur.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 25 Jul 2011 13:49:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-07-25/changing-gears-what-company-towns-look-today-kohler-wisconsin-89588 How Latinos are changing the Midwest’s economy for the better http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-13/how-latinos-are-changing-midwest%E2%80%99s-economy-better-87760 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-June/2011-06-13/Aurora_photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Recent census reports show Midwestern cities are shrinking and people are moving out. But at least one group is growing - the Hispanic population. For the series <a href="http://www.changinggears.info" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a>, Niala Boodhoo reports that’s a good thing for our region and our economy.</p><p>Drive down the main strip of Aurora, Illinois, a town about 50 miles west of Chicago, and strip malls like the “Plaza del Sol” are a common sight on the landscape. In the 2010 census, Aurora ranked <a href="http://2010.census.gov/news/releases/operations/cb11-cn31.html" target="_blank">as the state’s second most populous town</a> – a jump boosted by the growth in the Latino population.</p><p>“Aurora’s like Little Mexico,” said Javier Galvez, who’s a month away from opening his pizza shop on the corner of New York and Lake Street in downtown Aurora.</p><p>“Everybody stops here. They’re going to take their chances here first to start their business because they know that [in] a 40 mile radius or more, there are going to be towns they can take advantage of,” Galvez added.</p><p>Aurora actually extends into four counties – two of them, Will and Kendall, had <a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/17000.html" target="_blank">explosive population growth</a> in the past decade.</p><p>Even if Aurora is not as well-known as other Hispanic enclaves like Chicago’s Little Village or Pilsen, its population goes back generations. <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2010/11/26/the-next-wave-of-immigrant-entrepreneurs/" target="_blank" title="The next wave of immigrant entrepreneurs">(I did a story last fall looking at small businesses in Little Village.)</a></p><p>Galvez came to Aurora when he was two years old because his father got a job working for Burlington Northern, laying railroad track across Illinois.</p><p>Galvez started in industry, too. He worked his way up at Caterpillar, where he started on the floor, building excavators, but moved into employee training and logistics.</p><p>Then two years ago, he was laid off. So now he’s using those management and logistics skills to run the restaurant, <a href="http://www.spizzicopizza.com/" target="_blank">Spizzico</a>, which has already found success in its first location in Elwood Park.</p><p>Galvez said their slogan – “the best pizza for the best price” – is especially suited for large, Latino families looking for a bargain.</p><p>“I know that everybody says that restaurants and everything are the first to flop,” Galvez said, “But you never know if you don’t take that chance, right?</p><p>He’s not the only one.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.ahcc-il.com/" target="_blank">Aurora Hispanic Chamber of Commerce</a>, one out of every two businesses in Aurora are Hispanic-owned. Executive Director Norma Vazquez describes the growth as “unstoppable”.</p><p>In the three years since Vazquez become executive director, the chamber’s membership has gone from 50 to 342 members.</p><p>One of the Hispanic-owned businesses that’s been around for a while is <a href="http://www.franksdigitalprinting.com/" target="_blank">Frank’s Digital Printing</a>.</p><p>While the recession has been hard on the business, owner Frank Garcia said he still gets lots of new business from other Hispanic entrepreneurs who come to him to have their new signs and fliers printed.</p><p>Frank’s oldest brother, Manuel Jr., said that when their family moved to Aurora, there were probably just ten others.</p><p>That was a 100 years ago, when Burlington Northern recruited Mexicans, including Manuel Sr., to work on the rail lines.</p><p>Many lived in boxcars because they weren’t allowed to live in town. Frank told me he remembers as a kid visiting his uncle who lived in a boxcar.</p><p>Frank and Manuel Jr. are two of nine children. A few generations later, the entire Garcia family numbers almost 80. They all still live in Aurora, where the Latino population makes up almost half of the 200,000 or so people.</p><p>The Garcias are part of a nation-wide <a href="http://pewhispanic.org/reports/report.php?ReportID=140" target="_blank">Hispanic population boom</a> that happened between the 2000 and 2010 census.</p><p>For the first time in fifty years, there were more Hispanic births than immigration.</p><p>The Hispanic population across the Midwest is still small compared to traditional population centers in the southwest and Florida.</p><p>But here, Latino growth stands in stark contrast to declines among white and African-American populations.</p><p>A few hundred miles away in South Bend, Indiana, Allert Brown Gort has been studying the economic impact of these ethnic encalves.</p><p>Gort is the associate director at the <a href="http://latinostudies.nd.edu/" target="_blank">University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies.</a> He told me while Latino households are still mostly low-income, they have a greater economic impact than other poor American households.</p><p>“What we see is a difference in how money is spent and on what things money is spent on,” he said.</p><p>That’s in part because Latino households are larger, and have more wage earners, because children tend to stay at home longer.</p><p>The Institute has researched how Latino households also have more spending power in two key ways: more money goes towards buying food and clothes, and more of those purchases are made at small, mom and pop stores owned by people who also live in the same neighborhood – so the money stays within the community.</p><p>“There is a lot more local shopping, there are lot more small businesses that are being maintained through the shopping,” Gort said.</p><p>Hispanic enclaves are popping up in places you might not expect – outside of cities like Indianapolis, Columbus, and Detroit.</p><p>Melvindale, Michigan, is just south of Dearborn, home to the largest Arab-American community in the Midwest.</p><p>On Oakwood Blvd., not far from the police department, the ivy green awning outside the Town Market grocery store is in three languages: English, Arabic – and Spanish.</p><p>Inside, cans of fava beans are stacked next to salsa and refried beans. There is pita bread, and tortillas.</p><p>“I was thinking it was going to be an Arabic store,” owner Faoud Waseem said.</p><p>Waseem moved to Melvindale from Dearborn because he knew a lot of Arabic newspapers were setting up shop here, and lots of his fellow Yemenis were buying houses.</p><p>“But when I got here, a lot of Spanish started moving here and they started asking me to bring their products here,” said Waseem.</p><p>Before he came to Melvindale, he didn’t have a clue what a tortilla was. But his customers made sure he learned – they would bring in cans from home, and tell them this is what they needed in the store. He called the companies and found distributors who could provide the food they wanted.</p><p>Now, Latinos make up about 20 percent of his customer base. He’s even hired a Spanish-speaking clerk.</p><p>It’s not just Melvindale.</p><p>In other Detroit suburbs like Lincoln Park and Allen Park, the Hispanic population has expanded in the past ten years from southwest Detroit.</p><p>“The Latino community in Detroit everybody knows each other – it’s pretty small,” said Angie Reyes, the <a href="http://www.dhdc1.org/" target="_blank">Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation</a>’s Executive Director. She’s spent her entire life in Detroit.</p><p>“About five, six years ago, at the Cinco de Mayo parade, we’re looking at the people and we’re going, who are all these people? Because we saw so many new faces.”</p><p>She said that’s when she started to realize how much the Latino population had exploded in recent years.</p><p><a href="http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/26000.html" target="_blank">Michigan is the only state </a>that lost population in the census. Reyes pointed out had it not been for the 30 percent increase in Latinos throughout Michigan — the overall population decline of Detroit – and the state – would have been even worse.</p><p>The Hispanic Development Corporation offices are off Trumbull Street near downtown, in a neighborhood where Dominican hair salons are just as common as Mexican taqueiras.</p><p>Reyes said these businesses often start small, but then they grow – like her own nonprofit, which she started in her house.</p><p>“You’ll see a little shack, then it’s brick, then it’s a two story building, then the next thing you know they’re have another location that’s down the street,” she said.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>That presence is starting to get noticed. More and more business owners from the rest of the city are now coming to the center to sign up for Spanish classes.</p><p>And Reyes said as others start to recognize the role her community is playing not just in Detroit, but the region’s economy, they’re starting to refer to Latinos as the “silent giant”.</p><p><em>Changing Gears</em> explores the future of the industrial Midwest. The series is a public media collaboration between WBEZ, <a href="http://www.michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, and <a href="http://www.wviz.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream in Cleveland</a>. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.<br> &nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><object width="400" height="300"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2F&amp;user_id=44283423@N06&amp;jump_to="><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087"><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2F44283423%40N06%2F&amp;user_id=44283423@N06&amp;jump_to=" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=104087" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="400" height="300"></object></p><p><em>Conrad Herwig, "Adam's Apple", from the CD The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, (Half Note)</em></p></p> Mon, 13 Jun 2011 14:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-06-13/how-latinos-are-changing-midwest%E2%80%99s-economy-better-87760 Changing Gears: Gary closes its main library http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-11/changing-gears-gary-closes-its-main-library-86377 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-May/2011-05-11/Library Flickr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>What happens when a local library shuts its doors? That’s a question many Midwestern towns are confronting. Niala Boodhoo of the <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em> </a>team went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch. She had a report on the consequences for the community.<br> <br> <br> Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the “main library”.</p><p>There was steady rain on the Saturday morning when I went to check it out. From the outside, the concrete slab exterior makes it hard to realize it’s actually a library – until you step inside.</p><p>There, the muted quiet and musty scent of stacks of books are familiar.</p><p>But we all know libraries aren’t just for books anymore. Inside the reference room, I found Craig and Zachariah Boyd, a father and son who often spend Saturday mornings here.</p><p>Craig said this is the only branch nearby that he knows is open on Saturdays. He takes advantage of the wireless Internet at the library and does work – and brings Zach to do his homework, too.</p><p>“I just want to teach him a good work ethic,” said Craig Boyd.</p><p>Father and son sit quietly in the reference room for hours – Craig on his laptop, Zach first with schoolwork, then books and games. When Craig’s done, Zach gets to go to the children’s section as a reward.</p><p>But Craig worries about what will happen to other children when the library closes on Dec. 31. Like many communities, the Gary Public Library Board decided it couldn’t afford to keep all of its branches open.</p><p>When it shuts, half of the system’s 60 employees will be out of work.</p><p>The system now has five branches because it was created when the city had 180,000 people.</p><p>Today, Gary’s population is 80,000.</p><p>Four other branches across the city will stay open – but many of the main library patrons don’t have their own transportation, so they’ll have a hard time getting there.</p><p>Seniors citizens walk here for computer classes.</p><p>The charter school down the street uses this as its school library.</p><p>And unemployed people come here to look for jobs – like Michael Jenkins.</p><p>“I’m not too computer savvy,” said Jenkins, who also doesn’t have access to a computer. He does have a commercial driver’s license and is looking for Chicago companies to target for work. That’s why he’s flipping through the Yellow Pages.</p><p>“It’s not just like closing a gas station,” said Jenkins of the impact of the library’s closing. “The library becomes a part of the community. You close a library, you’re closing down part of the community.”</p><p>Upstairs, part of that community is on the second floor.</p><p>Public meeting spaces are hard to find in Gary.</p><p>The library’s auditorium is used this Saturday morning by a local chapter of Phi Delta Kappa, a sorority for teachers.</p><p>And across the hall, there’s a meeting of a chapter of the National Federation for the Blind.</p><p>Raymond Harris brought his wife Ella to that meeting, where they found out about the library’s future.</p><p>“How can you close a main library? It’s just ridiculous,” said Raymond Harris.</p><p>But libraries all over the country are facing budget cuts. If they’re not shutting down entirely, they’re at least trimming hours.</p><p>The most extreme case may be Detroit – where an $11 million budget shortfall means at least 10 of its 23 local branches may close. (<a href="http://www.detnews.com/" target="_blank">The Detroit News</a> has been doing some extensive coverage of the situation there – you can see it <a href="http://www.detnews.com/article/99999999/METRO/110505002&amp;template=THEME&amp;theme=METRO-DETROIT-LIBRARY" target="_blank">here</a>.)</p><p>The country’s <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/news/feature/40139" target="_blank">best funded libraries are in Ohio</a>, where money comes directly from the state. But even there, next year’s budget will be cut at least 5 percent. (By the way, if you’re curious about specific funding throughout Ohio, check <a href="http://www.olc.org/LibraryFunding.asp" target="_blank">this</a> out.) Raymond Harris thinks the state of Indiana should intervene for this library.</p><p>“I think our state is closing us out,” he said, simply. “They don’t care whether Gary lives or Gary exists. I don’t think they even know we are here.”</p><p>Gary’s library system is typical of most systems – the money comes from local property taxes. And that revenue has plummeted with the housing market downturn. The situation in Indiana has been further complicated by a property tax cap that was passed by Indiana voters last fall – meaning that even if the local library authority wanted to ask for more money, it can’t.</p><p>“When people hear the word ‘property tax’ cap they think it’s a good thing, but they don’t think about how it will shift public services they’ve come accustomed to,” said Susan Akers, the executive director of the Indiana Library Federation.</p><p>The president of the Gary Public Library Board, which voted 4 to 3 to shut down the main branch, is Tony Walker.</p><p>“It was just impossible to continue on when you are going to lose 50 to 60 percent of your tax revenue in a year,” said Walker.</p><p>That meant cutting about $3 million from the $5 million budget. An outside consulting firm analyzed the data, and pointed out the choice was either to close the main library branch or close the other four spread out across Gary.</p><p>Walker knew the decision wouldn’t be popular, especially during an election year. He’s running for the Gary City Council, though, and said he didn’t think it made sense to postpone to vote til after the election.</p><p>“I’m running for is Gary City Council, whose total focus is going to be what to take away from people,” he said. “So, if I’m signing up to run for that type of job there is no sense in running from it now.”</p><p>The elections were last week. Tony Walker lost.</p><p>And those who were elected are left to reconcile an $11 million budget shortfall – and to figure out what other services to cut for Gary to survive.</p><p><br> <strong><em>Changing Gears</em> is a public media collaboration between WBEZ, Michigan Radio, and Ideastream in Cleveland, exploring the future of the industrial Midwest. Support for Changing Gears comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.</strong></p><p><em>Music Button: Trombone Shorty, "Right To Complain", from the CD Backatown, (Verve Forcast)</em></p></p> Wed, 11 May 2011 14:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-05-11/changing-gears-gary-closes-its-main-library-86377