WBEZ | Midwest economy http://www.wbez.org/tags/midwest-economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Can technology breathe new life into the Midwest’s old iron? http://www.wbez.org/content/can-technology-breathe-new-life-midwest%E2%80%99s-old-iron <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 1.jpg" title="Plant manager Jeff Hansen says Mesabi Nugget is a pioneer. (Kate Davidson)" width="620" height="412"></p><p>The industrial Midwest might not <em>be</em> the industrial Midwest if it weren’t for the iron-rich regions of northern Minnesota and Michigan. These iron ranges have long supplied domestic steelmakers, depleting the highest quality ore along the way. Now, a plant in Minnesota is testing a process to dramatically upgrade the low-grade ore that remains.</p><p>To understand why this matters, keep in mind how steelmaking has changed.&nbsp;The old recipe for steel calls for iron ore, coke and a blast furnace.&nbsp;But now, more than half of American steel is made in electric arc furnaces, which use electricity to melt scrap steel into new steel.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 7.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 199px; float: right;" title="Jeff Hansen says other companies are watching what happens at Mesabi Nugget. (Kate Davidson)">You can find those ingredients in your own kitchen or garage.</p><p>“Anything from bicycles to barbeque pits, refrigerators, washing machines,” says David Guz, listing the kinds of scrap metal his customers bring in.</p><p>Guz runs a scrap yard called <a href="http://www.handhmetals.com/" title="H and H Metals">H &amp;H Metals</a> in Inkster, Michigan.&nbsp;There’s a mountain of metal out back.&nbsp; Dan Letinski parks beneath it and starts tossing out junk.</p><p>“There’s a sink, there’s shock absorbers, there’s engine blocks, there’s crank shafts,” he says.&nbsp; “I have an automotive shop and this is a lot of scrap that we just have no use for anymore.”</p><p>The U.S. produces lots of scrap.&nbsp;It’s actually one of the country’s big exports.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 2.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 195px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Most American steel starts in places like this. (Kate Davidson)">But scrap contains impurities.&nbsp;So to make high quality steel, electric furnace steelmakers often add clean iron to the mix.&nbsp;That’s meant relying on imported pig iron from countries like Brazil.</p><p><a href="http://www.steeldynamics.com/" title="Steel Dynamics">American companies like Steel Dynamics</a> don’t like that.&nbsp;So way up in the woods of Minnesota, they’re trying something new.&nbsp;It’s called <a href="http://www.steeldynamics.com/operations/mesabi-nugget/" title="Mesabi Nugget">Mesabi Nugget</a>.</p><p>“We’re the only facility in the world that does what we do, so we’re pioneers of sorts,” says plant manager Jeff Hansen.</p><p>This plant cost more than 300 million dollars and took years of development with Kobe Steel of Japan.&nbsp;All to produce a tiny nugget of iron.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 3.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 199px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Dan Letinski and Ken Causley drop off scrap to recycle. (Kate Davidson)">“It’s very dense, it’s very heavy,” Hansen says.&nbsp;“If you were to look at it you’d say it very closely resembles a Junior Mint.”</p><p>A Junior Mint that’s 96 percent iron.&nbsp;Remember, this started as low-grade ore.&nbsp;That ore is usually upgraded into pellets that are about 65 percent iron.&nbsp;The pellets work in traditional mills but don’t serve the growing electric market.</p><p>Nuggets do.&nbsp;They’re pure enough and metallic enough to mix with scrap.</p><p>Jeff Hansen’s face glows orange as he peers into the plant’s vast furnace.&nbsp; He says it’s the largest of its kind in the world.</p><p>“We bring the temperatures up to 2400, 2500, upwards of 2800 degrees Fahrenheit,” he says.&nbsp; “As you look inside the furnace, you’re gonna see the pellets giving off volatiles and actually giving off some fire.”</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/iron ore 4.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 199px; float: left; margin: 5px;" title="Cranes move mountains of scrap at H &amp;H Metals. (Kate Davidson)">These pellets are about to be transformed into almost pure iron</p><p>Pellets float by almost like lava, on their way to becoming pure metallic iron.&nbsp;Mesabi Nugget produced about 200,000 tons of nuggets over its first two years.&nbsp; The goal is 500,000 tons a year.</p><p>Still, nuggets are already helping change the rules of the game.&nbsp;Steel Dynamics has stopped importing pig iron for use in its electric furnaces, because of the nuggets made in Minnesota as well as <a href="http://www.steeldynamics.com/operations/iron-dynamics/" title="DRI and liquid iron">other domestic efforts</a>.&nbsp;It <a href="http://www.omnisource.com/about/?p=history" title="OmniSource">acquired its own scrap company </a>as well.</p><p>John Anton is a steel analyst with <a href="http://www.ihs.com/products/global-insight/index.aspx" title="IHS Global Insight">IHS Global Insight</a>.&nbsp;He says Steel Dynamics isn’t the only company that wants to supply its own raw materials and buffer itself from the market.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-08/irone ore 6.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 199px; float: right; margin: 5px;" title="These pellets are about to be transformed into almost pure iron. (Kate Davidson)">“Raw material costs – and iron ore and scrap are key here – used to be very steady,” he says.&nbsp; “In the past seven or eight years they have become incredibly volatile.&nbsp;They’re one of the most volatile things in the entire commodities, more volatile than oil.”</p><p>Now the major iron ore producer <a href="http://www.cliffsnaturalresources.com/EN/Pages/default.aspx" title="Cliffs Natural Resources">Cliffs Natural Resources</a> is considering opening a nugget plant in <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/07/27/ishpeming-where-iron-ore-built-a-city/" title="Ishpeming">Michigan’s Upper Peninsula</a>.&nbsp;That idea is still in the feasibility study phase.</p><p>Michael Locker is president of the business consulting firm <a href="http://www.lockerassociates.com/" title="Locker Associates">Locker Associates</a>.&nbsp;He says the new nugget technology means the Minnesota Iron Range can now supply the growing part of the steel industry.</p><p>“It will mean employment.&nbsp;It will mean the mines are gonna work again.&nbsp;It will mean transportation and it’ll strengthen the steel industry of the United States,” he says.</p><p>There’s a ways to go before the Mesabi Nugget plant is pronounced a success.&nbsp;If it is, the hope is it could attract more electric furnace steelmakers to the region.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 08 Dec 2011 17:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/can-technology-breathe-new-life-midwest%E2%80%99s-old-iron Reimagining the Midwest economy through water http://www.wbez.org/content/reimagining-midwest-economy-through-water <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-November/2011-11-07/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Can full taps lead to full pockets? Philip Enquist, partner in charge of Urban Design and Planning at the Chicago architecture firm <a href="http://www.som.com/" target="_blank">Skidmore, Owings &amp; Merrill,</a> thought so. Enquist is also the creator of<a href="http://thegreatlakescenturyblog.som.com/" target="_blank"> "The Great Lakes Century</a>," a strategic vision that explores how to use water to reinvent the region.</p><p>When <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em> caught up with him last week, he explained why a new plan for the Great Lakes region is so desperately needed.</p><p>The video below, made by his project "The Great Lakes Century," explains a piece of his vision:&nbsp;</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31761397?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="375" width="500"></iframe></p></p> Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:30:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/content/reimagining-midwest-economy-through-water What it takes to be a successful business incubator http://www.wbez.org/content/what-it-takes-be-successful-business-incubator <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-26/biz incubator_flickr_dusty reagan.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful " class="caption" height="362" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate1-crop.jpg" title="Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful company, but how effective are they? (Flickr/Dusty Reagan) " width="630"></p><p><em>Business incubators are designed to turn an idea or a concept into a successful company; and these new companies hopefully bring jobs and revenue. In the Midwest, there were some long-standing incubators but new ones were also starting up. One problem with incubators--they produce few companies. <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/10/26/what-it-takes-to-be-a-successful-business-incubator/" target="_blank">Changing Gears’</a> Niala Boodhoo reported on the principles that help incubators create successful offspring.</em></p><p>Each Friday, inside the old Northern Brewery building in Ann Arbor, 4:30 p.m. is known as “beer thirty”. That’s when the self-described tech geeks who are part of this informal business community gather for drinks.</p><p>The Tech Brewery houses three dozen start-ups – but don’t call it business incubator.</p><p>“We don’t call ourselves an incubator,” founder Dug Song said. “If anything we call ourselves a start-up coop.</p><p><img alt="Psylotech's Alex Arzoumanidis at The Incubator in Evanston, Ill. (Courtesy of T" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate2-crop.jpg" style="margin-right: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: left; width: 325px; height: 337px;" title="Psylotech's Alex Arzoumanidis at The Incubator in Evanston, Ill. (Courtesy of The Incubator)">Song has his own start-up – Duo Security. He began the TechBrewery after being frustrated by traditional business incubators. In his opinion, they provide little more than cheap rent for lots of start-ups – instead of what it takes to get a company up and running.</p><p>“A lot of folks get to a point where they don’t want to be in a hoteling kind of environment, which is a lot of what these incubators tend to be,” he said. “They’re a little bit more isolated.”</p><p>The lack of a hotel environment drew Victor Volkman to the Tech Brewery. He had been involved in other incubators where he says his business ideas went nowhere.</p><p>“You have a biotech company next to a software company next to a something of completely different origin and we really didn’t talk to each other,” he said, adding the value in the Tech Brewery is running into someone in the hallway who can immediately help solve a problem.</p><p>The biggest cost for start-ups is office space. That’s why most incubators provide free or reduced rent. But it’s not just about office space. Having the same type of companies together helps everyone grow – something Volkman said he has found at the Tech Brewery.</p><p>Volkman left the traditional incubator environment because it didn’t work for him. That turns out to be a common sentiment.</p><p>The University of New Hampshire at Manchester’s Kelly Kilcrease studied incubators across the country. Out of the almost 500 entrepreneurs he surveyed, Kilcrease found that their opinion of incubators was “lukewarm – at best”.</p><p>Based on Kilcrease’s research, the happiest – and most successful clients – came from a specific type of incubator:</p><p>“Those that stress a certain type of clientele, deliver high quality services and those who have professional managers are more apt to be successful than those that do not,” he said.</p><p>Kilcrease thinks an incubator’s true measure of success is its graduation rate – the companies that actually make it on their own, apart from the incubator.</p><p>Often, incubators – like TechTown in Detroit – don’t publish graduation rates. The incubator in Evanston, Ill., is one of the oldest in the Midwest – it celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. They’ve helped more than 350 companies and have graduated 23 companies that remain in Evanston. Director Tim Lavengood said a “fair number” of overall graduates from the incubator is 135.</p><p>Jim Cossler is the CEO and Chief Evangelist of the Youngstown Business Incubator. It started out in 1995 in what Cossler describes as a typical incubator:</p><p>“You know – here’s some cheap office space, here’s a photocopier, here’s a fax machine,” he said, adding: “We don’t really care what you’re doing, but please turn yourself into a globally successful corporation.”</p><p>They quickly realized that approach wasn’t going to work. In 2001, they began to focus on software technology firms.</p><p>Today, the organization has a network of more than 1,000 people virtually through a private LinkedIn group, as well as four buildings full of clients – including nine companies that no longer need the incubator’s help. In fact, these companies pay rent which makes up about a third of the nonprofit’s $750,000 total budget. (A rent, by the way, that Cossler says is a premium on other commercial office space in Youngstown.)</p><p><img alt="Turning Technologies began as a Youngstown Business Incubator company a decade a" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-26/incubate3-crop.jpg" style="margin-left: 15px; margin-top: 15px; margin-bottom: 15px; float: right; width: 325px; height: 237px;" title="Turning Technologies began as a Youngstown Business Incubator company a decade ago. (Photo courtesy of Turning Technologies)">Ten years ago this month, Turning Technologies walked into the Youngstown Incubator with its idea – adapt audience response technology to be used in classrooms.</p><p>Today, it’s a $50 million company that employs 200 people. One of the YBI’s paying tenants, the company takes up an entire building.</p><p>Co-founder Mike Broderick says the YBI is “fairly rare” in its level of success, which he attributes to their focus.</p><p>“What we really needed the most was expertise,” he said. “The introduction to potential clients, to people who had been through the type of thing we had done before, who could provide advice.”</p><p>Broderick told me something academic research backs up – he thinks the company would have succeeded even without the incubator. But the YBI’s network accelerated his company’s progress. And he thinks that’s the best an incubator can do – accelerate a potential company’s growth.</p><p><em>This story was informed by the Public Insight Network.</em></p><p><em>Correction: An earlier version of this story did not fully elaborate how many companies "graduated" from Evanston's incubator program, as the original number included only graduates that remained in Evanston. The director says a &nbsp;“fair number” of overall graduates from the incubator is 135.&nbsp;</em></p><p><strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong></p></p> Wed, 26 Oct 2011 14:21:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/content/what-it-takes-be-successful-business-incubator Changing Gears: Health care for ailing cities? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-20/changing-gears-health-care-ailing-cities-93315 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-20/Clinic-620x414.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Detroit is the latest metro area vying to become a medical destination. The hope is that its hospital systems can draw patients from outside its region, helping the local economy. In short, Detroit wants to be more like Cleveland. But as <a href="http://www.changinggears.info/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears'</em></a> Dan Bobkoff learned, Cleveland could be tough to copy.</p><p>In 1975, a young cardiologist arrived in Cleveland.</p><p>“I came here in a rented truck with a Vega on the back end because it was too sick to pull,” Toby Cosgrove said. Jump ahead 36 years and that newbie with a beater of a car is now CEO of the Cleveland Clinic. Cosgrove presides over a medical empire vastly larger than when he came to town hoping to get better at heart surgery.</p><p>“We were about 140-150 doctors. We’ve grown a bit since that time. We’re now about 3000,” he said.</p><p>The Clinic has become a centerpiece of an industry that employs roughly 70,000. That includes places like University Hospitals\ next door, and Summa Health in Akron.</p><p>Growth has been rapid. University Hospitals alone has added 4000 workers in the last few years. And, expansions have been pegged at about $3 billion in construction spending.</p><p>George Rouse is a nurse who made his own transition before the rest of the region.</p><p>“My friends were like: are you crazy? Are you nuts?” he recounts.<br> About 15 years ago, Rouse was working in IT for a manufacturing company.</p><p>“I had a very good living with that company but I’m like: what if this would ever end? What would I do next?” Rouse said.<br> His premonition was right. His former employer closed up shop a few years ago. No one thinks he’s crazy now.</p><p>“When I’m driving to work, the last two years, for all of us, you know, our houses have dwindled down to nothing, our 401ks have shrunk down,” he said. “I mean, all these pieces are crumbling.”</p><p>While it worked for Rouse, healthcare is no replacement for manufacturing. Health jobs make up about 11 percent of the workforce. In its heyday—say the 50s and 60s—manufacturing jobs employed 40 percent of Clevelanders.</p><p>“Healthcare became the big generator of jobs by accident,” said Chris Seper, founder of MedCityNews.</p><p>Cleveland’s hospitals have been growing for nearly a century. It’s only been in the last decade that healthcare has become the center of economic development.</p><p>“The healthcare system here and the life sciences industry here does as much as it possibly can. But there’s a limit to what they can do,” Seper said.</p><p>Cleveland never really set out to become a healthcare capital. Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove says it’s not like some politician stood at a podium many years ago.</p><p>“No, nobody raised their hand and said they’re going to push this organization to the front,” Cosgrove said.</p><p>The Clinic’s international reputation can be traced back to advances in heart care in the 50s and 60s. Now, patients arrive from around the country and world for heart procedures. Foreign patients often pay cash. Bringing patients in is the holy grail for cities like Detroit that want to be like Cleveland. But even at the Clinic, only one percent of its patients are international. Paul Ginsburg is president of the Center for Studying Health System Change.</p><p>“But when you really look at the numbers of some places that are really strong in medical tourism, it’s not that large a part,” Ginsburg said, adding that there are other reasons why healthcare may not be a good economic driver for regions.</p><p>For one, building more hospitals often means people consume more care, which means we all pay more in taxes and insurance. Whether any city can sustain this much expansion is a big question.</p><p>And, the industry is changing, shifting more to home care and so-called telemedicine. Already, smaller hospitals are outsourcing difficult diagnoses to places like the Cleveland Clinic. Chris Seper of MedCityNews says that will make it even harder for cities trying to embrace healthcare as their future.</p><p>“I think if you’re building healthcare systems and hospitals as an idea that they’re going to be your jobs growth engine, it’s a lose-lose situation,” Seper said.</p><p>Cosgrove of the Clinic says we may end up with nationwide chains, the way banks have consolidated over the years. So, if you’re trying to copy Cleveland, good luck.</p><p><br> <strong><a href="http://www.changinggears.info/2011/10/19/magic-bullets-healthcare/" target="_blank"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong><br> &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 20 Oct 2011 14:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-20/changing-gears-health-care-ailing-cities-93315 Changing Gears: Will advanced batteries charge up the Midwest economy? http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-19/Wind_20060504_055b.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Three years ago, the advanced battery industry in the United States existed only in the imagination. Plenty of people believed electric cars would be the next big thing - and they believed they would be powered by lithium ion batteries – the same kind of batteries that are in cell phones and laptops. But in 2008, almost all of the lithium ion batteries in the world were made in Asia.</p><p>Randy Thelan, who heads the economic development office in Holland, Mich., a small town on the shores of Lake Michigan, thought that could change. Thelan had heard one his local companies, Johnson Controls might be getting into the battery business.</p><p>“It wasn’t like we were making a direct pitch that we knew they were building a factory,” he said. “It was just sort of planting the seed, and suggesting to their leadership, keep Holland in mind as you guys are looking to invest and add to their capacity.”</p><p>While Thelan was working his angle for Holland, the state of Michigan was about to make a big commitment to the new future in batteries.</p><p>In December 2008, former Mich. Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a new law to offer up to $335 million in tax incentives for battery companies in Michigan. Within a year, Holland landed that Johnson Controls battery plant.</p><p>The next year it landed another one for LG Chem. And now, just down the road in Muskegon, Michigan, another lithium ion battery plant is going up. Thelan estimates these companies and their suppliers will have created about 750 jobs by the end of the year.</p><p>“But ultimately, by 2020, we believe this is a 10,000 job, $2 billion opportunity for West Michigan and we’re well on our way,” he said.</p><p>Not everyone is on board with those job projections.</p><p>“In terms of direct jobs, I would think there’d be something closer to the neighborhood of four to five thousand jobs,” said Dave Hurst, an analyst for Pike Research. He tracks the electric vehicle industry. And, when he says he expects to see 4,000 to 5,000 jobs, he means nationwide.</p><p>In his view, the jobs numbers in Holland and elsewhere are being oversold. But, he adds, ” I think the importance of the industry is not being oversold. I definitely think this is a critical industry to both Michigan and the upper Midwest.”</p><p>The bad news: if you’re sitting in a town in the Midwest and you haven’t heard about a new battery plant in the works, you probably won’t. The industry that didn’t even exist three years ago is now firmly set. It’s in Holland. It’s in Detroit. And it’s in Indianapolis, around the EnerDel plant. But that doesn’t mean everyone else is just giving up.</p><p>In Northeast Ohio, the economic development office called Nortech has developed a roadmap for tapping into the new advanced battery industry. Batteries for electric cars play only a small role in the roadmap.</p><p>Instead, officials are focused on much larger batteries that can store excess power created by wind turbines and solar panels. Nortech estimates $49 million has already been invested in the region.</p><p>And Illinois is playing a key role in battery research. The federal government’s Argonne national labs, along with universities in Illinois, has developed much of the technology that goes into lithium ion batteries.</p><p>Matthew Summy of the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition says he doesn’t mind if most of the jobs from that research have gone to other Midwestern states.</p><p>Says Summy: “We need all parts of this region to function and to outperform so that we’re producing the kind of innovation that just 50 years ago, or even 25 years ago, the Midwest was known for.”<br> <br> <strong><em>Changing Gears</em> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</strong></p></p> Wed, 19 Oct 2011 14:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-19/changing-gears-will-advanced-batteries-charge-midwest-economy-93278 Changing Gears: A look back at 'magic bullets' http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-18/changing-gears-look-back-magic-bullets-93224 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2011-October/2011-10-18/AutoWorld-keychain.png" alt="" /><p><p>Cities across the Midwest have put great hopes and resources into “magic bullets”– one-shot solutions to jobs and economic prosperity. Some have hit the target, but many have backfired. The<a href="http://www.changinggears.info/tag/wbez/" target="_blank"><em> Changing Gears</em></a> project explores the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest. This week the series is taking a look at the past, present and future of magic bullets. In Michigan, Kate Davidson starts off with a look back.</p><p>Magic bullets are kind of like imaginary friends. We all have them in our past, but most people deny they exist. Just turn on the TV these days and you’ll hear a list of things that&nbsp;aren’t&nbsp;magic bullets: fiscal stimulus, inflation, tax credits, etc, etc…</p><p>But then ask George Bacalis.</p><p>“There was a magic bullet when I was young and they called it an automobile,” he says.</p><p>Bacalis is 80, born in Detroit. He remembers a city crazy for cars in the 1950s.&nbsp; Since then, the auto boom town has lost a million people, more than half its population. So can magic bullets work?</p><p>“Yeah, sometimes they work,” says historian Kevin Boyle. “But it’s a rare thing and it has consequences as Detroit today I think really shows.”</p><p>Boyle is a history professor at&nbsp;<a href="http://www.osu.edu/" title="The Ohio State University">The Ohio State University</a>&nbsp;and the author of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Arc-Justice-Civil-Rights-Murder/dp/0805071458" title="Arc of Justice">Arc of Justice</a>, about 1920s Detroit. He agreed to help us run through a very abridged history of the Midwest magic bullet.</p><p>Magic bullet number one: A city or town finds that one key industry on which it tries to build a whole economy.</p><p>“So Detroit had its auto industry; Akron had the tire industry; Sheboygan had toilet production,” Boyle says. He says the problem is the Midwest grew a lot of single industry towns that were hit hard when that first magic bullet failed them. Think Youngstown or Muncie.</p><p>“And so you get a certain desperation,” Boyle says, “to try to find the way back to where we once were.”</p><p>Which can lead to&nbsp;magic bullet number two&nbsp;(this one is our nomination): “If you build it, they will come.”</p><p>On July 4, 1984, Michigan’s then governor&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Uss0mrf4yA" title="AutoWorld opens">James Blanchard declared</a>, “Today…is the first day of the rebirth of the great city of Flint.”</p><p>He was announcing the opening of AutoWorld, an ill-fated $80 million theme park in the birthplace of GM.&nbsp; Some touted it as the world’s largest indoor theme park. But attendance lagged and it seemed AutoWorld couldn’t decide what it wanted to be: a thrilling amusement park or an homage to the car. AutoWorld closed months later, reopened briefly, then ended up a punch line in a Michael Moore film. It was demolished in 1997.</p><p>Then there’s&nbsp;magic bullet number three:&nbsp;the great event.</p><p>In 1893, Chicago hosted, literally, the greatest show on earth: the world’s fair. &nbsp;It built a gleaming white city within the real city of slaughterhouses and industrial grime. The world’s first Ferris wheel spun 2,000 passengers at a time. But in 1893, financial panic seized the nation. Workers marched in the streets. Historian Kevin Boyle says no single event, no matter how glorious, could offset the soaring unemployment of the downturn that followed.</p><p>More than a century later, former mayor&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXPC6IaY1Rk" title="Richard Daley touts Olympics">Richard Daley lobbied hard</a>&nbsp;for a Chicago Olympics.</p><p>“The 2016 Olympic Games will grow our economy,” he proclaimed, “Create hundreds of thousands of jobs.&nbsp; Generate billions in new economic activity. The impact will be enormous and most of it will be concentrated in Chicago neighborhoods.”</p><p>Or, in Rio neighborhoods.&nbsp; Despite at least an $80 million bid, Chicago lost the games to Brazil in 2009. If it’s any consolation, Rob Livingstone of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gamesbids.com/eng/" title="GamesBids.com">GamesBids.com</a>&nbsp;says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2011/09/detroit-city-move/131/" title="Detroit Woos Olympics">Detroit tried for years</a>&nbsp;to get the games. The city bid for 1944, 1952, then 1956, 1960, 1964,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Di6YmCLZgc" title="Kennedy on Olympics">1968</a>&nbsp;and 1972.&nbsp; A lot of bids, no</p><p>“It is a lot of bids,” says Livingstone. “It’s not uncommon, but I think they actually do have the record for the most consecutive unsuccessful bids.”</p><p>Historian Kevin Boyle points to&nbsp;one last magic bullet, maybe the most complex.&nbsp; Urban renewal: the massive postwar effort to transform cities by eliminating blighted housing and building public housing for the poor. Boyle says the poorest neighborhoods in America&nbsp;were&nbsp;desperately poor and did need revitalization.&nbsp; But too often, he says, urban renewal simply devastated black neighborhoods and the communities within them.</p><p>“It took all of old Black Bottom away,” says Reverend Horace Sheffield III of Detroit. “The freeways were built through the heart of black businesses. Gotham Hotel and Hastings Street.&nbsp; I mean, all of that was lost.”</p><p>Vibrant Hastings Street once hosted the great musicians of the day: Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan and more. It’s where Alberta Adams, Detroit’s “Queen of the Blues” got her start. Today, it’s a stretch of the Chrysler Freeway.</p><p>There’s nothing simple about so-called magic bullets.&nbsp; But it’s also a city’s job to constantly look for ways to improve the lives of its people. So what are the magic bullets of today and tomorrow?&nbsp; We turn to those next and we want to hear from YOU as well. Please leave your nominations below.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Changing Gears</em> is a public media collaboration between <a href="http://michiganradio.org/" target="_blank">Michigan Radio</a>, WBEZ and <a href="http://www.ideastream.org/" target="_blank">Ideastream</a> in Cleveland. Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from the <a href="http://www.cpb.org/" target="_blank">Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</p></p> Tue, 18 Oct 2011 13:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-18/changing-gears-look-back-magic-bullets-93224 Chicago lands millions for high speed rail projects to St. Louis and Detroit http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-lands-millions-high-speed-rail-projects-st-louis-and-detroit-86249 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/archives/images/cityroom/amp_091028_CAF-obama-high-speed-rail-plans_large.png" alt="" /><p><p>The U.S. Department of Transportation announced Monday that it's giving Amtrak $404 million to expand high-speed rail service in the Midwest.&nbsp;</p><p>The dollars will go toward making upgrades along the Chicago-St. Louis corridor and to constructing new segments of 110 mph track between Chicago and Detroit.&nbsp;</p><p>Once completed, the two projects are expected to reduce travel times and improve safety.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago-to-Detroit enhancements are expected to shave 30 minutes off of passenger travel times between the two destinations, and the government claims the construction phase of the project will create 1,000 jobs.</p><p>The money was part of $2 billion originally earmarked for high-speed rail links between Tampa and Orlando, Florida.</p><p>But <a href="http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/16/2069844/florida-gov-rick-scott-rejects.html">Florida Governor Rick Scott canceled the project earlier this year</a>, making the money available to be used in other parts of the nation.&nbsp;</p><p>The Department of Transportation targeted rail projects in 15 states to receive the additional funds.&nbsp; 24 states, the District of Columbia and Amtrak had all applied for the dollars.</p><p>The largest share of the money - nearly $800 million - will be used to upgrade train speeds from 135 mph to 160 mph on critical segments of the heavily traveled Northeast corridor.</p><p>"The investments we’re making today will help states across the country create jobs, spur economic development and boost manufacturing in their communities,” said Transporation Secretary Ray LaHood.</p><p>Advocates of high-speed rail are scheduled to go to the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield on May 19th to lobby state officials to support enhanced passenger rail service in the state.<br> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 09 May 2011 15:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-lands-millions-high-speed-rail-projects-st-louis-and-detroit-86249 Changing Gears: Mayor Daley and Chicago's economic transformation http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-17/changing-gears-mayor-daley-and-chicagos-economic-transformation-82463 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Daley John Gress Getty.JPG" alt="" /><p><p><a target="_blank" href="http://www.changinggears.info/"><em>Changing Gears</em></a> is a joint project of Michigan Radio, WBEZ Chicago, and Ideastream Cleveland that explores the new economic reality of the Midwest. This week the series looked at leadership. Now Chicago is somewhat the lead city of the Midwest &ndash; it&rsquo;s the center that draws people from around the region. That&rsquo;s a big change from the way things were just over a couple of decades ago, when Mayor Daley first took office.<br /><br />In the final <em>Changing Gears </em>leadership report, Niala Boodhoo looks at the Midwest&rsquo;s most famous mayor.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Tourists visiting Chicago have a fairly standard list of attractions to hit: The Magnificent Mile, the Art Institute, Navy Pier &ndash; and nowadays, Millennium Park.<br /><br /> Richard Daley pushed hard for the 25-acre park to built near the lakefront, which is used year-round &ndash; it has an ice rink in the winter. <br /><br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s like our Central Park,&rdquo; said Chicagoan Mary Claire, who calls it the &ldquo;jewel of the city&rdquo;.<br /><br /> Bill Carpenter has a longer perspective. He started working downtown when he was 18.<br /><br /> &ldquo;I remember when this was all railroad tracks, and it was pretty ugly,&rdquo; said Carpenter, as he warmed up inside the skate shop. Back then, at quitting time, everyone left. Carpenter said Mayor Daley changed it &ndash; he calls Daley&rsquo;s someone who was &ldquo;born into&rdquo; the job. <br /><br /> Richard Michael Daley took office in April 1989. He was first mayor elected since the death of Mayor Harold Washington two years before. (<a target="_blank" href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/1443.html">See a list of all of Chicago&rsquo;s mayors throughout time</a>)<br /><br /> By the time Daley became Mayor, the city was mired in political and racial turmoil.<br /><br /> <a target="_blank" href="http://www.hks.harvard.edu/about/faculty-staff-directory/edward-glaeser">Ed Glaeser</a> is a urban economist with Harvard University. He looks at big picture stats like per capita income to measure Daley&rsquo;s legacy. In 1989, Chicago&rsquo;s per capita income was almost 11 percent below the national average. From 1970 to 1990, the city&rsquo;s population fell 17 percent.<br /><br /> Flip forward 20 years, and Glaeser said the city&rsquo;s richer than the rest of the country. Population, while declining over the past decade, is still overall on the upside, Glaeser said. And crime has gotten better.<br /><br /> While Daley may be most famous for economic accomplishments like Millennium Park Glaeser thinks Daley&rsquo;s biggest economic legacy may less glamorous, but no less important: Daley took care of the basics.<br /><br /> &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important to clear the snow,&rdquo; said Glaeser, who just released a book called <em>Triumph of the Cities</em>. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s important to make sure the garbage is cleared away, and to make sure the streets are safe. And it&rsquo;s important to make sure permitting doesn&rsquo;t get overly restricted. All of these things are the nuts and bolts of city government. Getting them right will not turn around a place that doesn&rsquo;t have enough private sector energy. But getting them wrong has the chance to kill off almost anywhere.<br /><br /> Martin Koldyke is the founder of private investment firm Frontenac. His relationship with the mayor goes way back.<br /><br /> &ldquo;When Rich was elected, we began to see the city become a more welcoming and nurturing place for early stage businesses,&rdquo; said Koldyke, who added that Daley has been relentless about pushing projects that made the city not just an attract place to visit, but to live.<br /><br /> Daley didn&rsquo;t respond to requests for a sit-down interview for this story.<br /><br /> Last fall, the day after he said he wasn&rsquo;t going to run for reelection, this is how he reflected on the job: <br /><br /> &ldquo;Every day, it doesn&rsquo;t matter if you are criticized, every day I had to get up and do one thing: What was the mission for Chicago? Every day, you have to get out there. It doesn&rsquo;t matter what people says, or anyone says, you have to go out there, stay on your mission and complete it. You cannot be afraid of going out. That&rsquo;s why you have to have passion.&rdquo;<br /><br /> Larry Bennett teaches political science at DePaul University. He sees Daley&rsquo;s passion as making him a brilliant ambassador for the city. And he sees Daley&rsquo;s strong leadership style as being a combination of the old and new Chicago.<br /><br /> &ldquo;He sort of evokes the old even though he can be viewed as a new pioneer of urbanism,&rdquo; said Bennett.<br /><br /> The challenge now is the next incarnation of Chicago: how do you keep this new urbanism alive?<br /><br /> Vegan offerings from the Eternity Juice Bar at Soul Food East (Niala Boodhoo)<br /><br /> Along 75th street on Chicago&rsquo;s South Side, Soul Vegetarian East has been a mainstay restaurant for 30 years.<br /><br /> The restaurant&rsquo;s walls are lined with brightly colored artwork including portraits of Barack Obama and Michael Jackson. Right inside the front entrance, there&rsquo;s a framed picture of Mayor Daley with owner Prince Asaiel Ben-Israel.<br /><br /> &ldquo;I would give Daley an A for creating the environment that made business feel comfortable in Chicago,&rdquo; said Ben-Israel. &ldquo;I think he gets an F in terms of security.&rdquo;<br /><br /> By security, Ben-Israel means crime. He thinks that&rsquo;s mostly why Chicago lost its bid to host the Olympics &ndash; something Daley spent a lot of time on. And Ben-Israel says another challenge has been the economy: the Great Recession of the past few years has been especially hard on the local South Side businesses.<br /><br /> &ldquo;We now see an institution like Army &amp; Lou restaurants, who&rsquo;ve been in business for more than 30 or 40 years they&rsquo;ve had to close their doors, Izola on 79th Steet, Minister Farrakhan&rsquo;s restaurant, so we&rsquo;ve got to paint a true picture&rdquo;.<br /><br /> Also holding court this morning at Soul East is Helen Sinclair. Everyone calls her &ldquo;Queen Mother&rdquo; and she remembers mayors as far back as the 1920s. From her perspective now, there are at least three Chicagos: the wealthiest part of the city, North Side, the Loop area downtown, and everything else.<br /><br /> She ticks off a list of failings: crime and violence, poor public school systems, infrastructure so crumbled that many neighborhoods lack for proper grocery stores.<br /><br /> She does give Daley credit for one bright spot in her Bronzeville neighborhood and elsewhere on the South Side:<br /><br /> &ldquo;I think he&rsquo;s done a beautiful job on making it pretty. It is beautiful. And I like that he likes trees.&rdquo;<br /><br /> Architect Thom Greene helped Daley add those trees &ndash; than half a million trees all over the city, from the Bronzeville to the North Side neighborhoods like Edgewater, where Greene lives.<br /><br /> It was also streetscaping: signs, little beautification projects to make the city look, well, beautiful. Greene says when people come to Chicago and exclaim about how nice everything is, he tells them it really is due to Daley.<br /><br /> &ldquo;When I was on the Streetscape committee, the mayor would have notes, and he would want to know about the colors, why are these so, they&rsquo;re not enough pink in those flowers on Michigan Ave, we got to have more colors, they got to cascade more, why don&rsquo;t we have a water feature,&rdquo; said Greene. &ldquo;He was very in tune with the little aspects and details.&rdquo;<br /><br /> Greene says those details add up to creating spaces that attract not just people, but their spending money. It&rsquo;s about creating a sense of place.<br /><br /> But now he feels like that&rsquo;s in jeopardy. Greene worries the city&rsquo;s stepped up taxation and enforcement are now at odds with the city&rsquo;s original beautification efforts.<br /><br /> &ldquo;There&rsquo;s a real dichotomy with the city of Chicago trying to make itself beautiful and then charging someone $25 a year for a public right of way permit to have flowers hanging off of your building in a flower basket,&rdquo; Greene said. &ldquo;[It] doesn&rsquo;t seem right.&rdquo;<br /><br /> Don Carter is the director of Carnegie Mellon&rsquo;s Remaking Cities Institute. He said it&rsquo;s clear that Chicago has been a standout among Midwestern cities that have been able to transform into a global economy. He attributes much of the city&rsquo;s success to Daley &ndash; but added it just takes strength and staying on task: &ldquo;You&rsquo;ve got to have a vision and you&rsquo;ve got to convey that vision to your department heads and say, this is what I have in mind and help me get to that point.&rdquo;<br /><br /> A new era begins next week, when Chicagoans will face a ballot that for the first time in more than 20 years doesn&rsquo;t have a Daley name. In fact, there&rsquo;s been a Daley in the mayor&rsquo;s office in Chicago for more than 40 of the past 55 years.<br /><br /> But even Daley himself says that doesn&rsquo;t matter:<br /><br /> Asked that day about how should replace him, Daley declined to say, adding: &ldquo;This office doesn&rsquo;t belong to me. It belongs to the people of our city.&rdquo;<br /><br /> Urban economists like Glaeser, from Harvard, agree. Even though Daley has received much of the credit &mdash; and some the blame &mdash; for the city over the past 20 years, he says it&rsquo;s the workers, small businesses and everyone else who are the real leaders in propelling Chicago&rsquo;s economy.<br /><br />&nbsp;</p><p>Support for <em>Changing Gears</em> comes from <a target="_blank" href="http://www.cpb.org/">The Corporation for Public Broadcasting</a>.</p></p> Thu, 17 Feb 2011 14:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-02-17/changing-gears-mayor-daley-and-chicagos-economic-transformation-82463