Niala Boodhoo en Agriculture drives the Midwest economy – and farming is just the start of it <p>This month, we’re looking into some of the hidden assets of the Midwest – the parts of our economy that don’t often get noticed when we talk about our strengths (the first part of the series is <a href="">here</a>). Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers of local economies in the Midwest – it accounts for billions of dollars worth of exports and thousands of jobs. There’s been a lot of concern about whether enough young people are going into farming these days. But the ag industry goes well beyond being just farming – and plenty of young people are interested in that.</p><div class="powerpress_player" id="powerpress_player_9049"><p>At <a href="" target="_blank">Navy Pier</a>, a special meeting of the <a href="" target="_blank">Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences</a>’s FFA chapter is being called to order. Ringed around the room, one by one, chapter officers check in during the traditional opening ceremony. It ends when President and Senior Jennifer Nelson asks her fellow FFA members: “Why are we here?”</p><p>The students stand and chant in unison: “To practice brotherhood, honor agriculture opportunities and responsibilities, and develop those qualities of leadership that an FFA member should possess.” Wed, 21 Mar 2012 20:01:39 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 6732 at Agriculture drives the Midwest economy – and farming is just the start of it Midwest leaders lay out the welcome mat for immigrants <p>While many states in the South and West passed restrictive laws against illegal immigrants last year, officials in Dayton, Ohio were putting out the welcome mat.</p><p>And they&rsquo;re not alone in the Midwest.</p><p>In the second part of <a href="">our look at immigrants and the Midwest,</a> we&rsquo;ve found many&nbsp;local governments are trying to attract immigrants as an economic development strategy.</p><p>Dayton got attention from all over the world last fall when its city commission unanimously approved a plan called <a href="">Welcome Dayton</a> to make it an &ldquo;immigrant-friendly city.&rdquo; Since then,&nbsp;the town has been inundated. Wed, 22 Feb 2012 16:29:20 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 6314 at Midwest leaders lay out the welcome mat for immigrants Originally exempt, Wisconsin police and firefighters now face cuts (Part 2) <p>Midwest states are changing their relationships with unions.</p><p>Last week, Indiana became the first in the region to become a right to work state.</p><p>Last year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dismantled collective bargaining rights for state workers. Public safety workers were supposed to be exempt.</p><p>A year later, though, hundreds of police, firefighters and paramedics find they&rsquo;re also getting less pay. Wed, 08 Feb 2012 16:59:21 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 6143 at Originally exempt, Wisconsin police and firefighters now face cuts (Part 2) A year after the uproar, labor protests continue in Wisconsin (Part 1) <p>The nation was riveted on Madison, Wisconsin last year when tens of thousands of people protested Governor Scott Walker&rsquo;s proposal to dismantle most union rights for state and local workers. Walker was successful. Now, a year later, how have those changes made life different in Wisconsin? Changing Gears has been taking a look at the impact state governments have on everyday life, and I take a look at Wisconsin in the first of two reports.</p> Wed, 01 Feb 2012 20:56:28 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 6052 at A year after the uproar, labor protests continue in Wisconsin (Part 1) Who are manufacturers hiring? Answer: People with skills <p>The numbers from manufacturing are looking good, I reported <a href="" target="_blank">last week</a>.</p><p><a href="">Bill Strauss</a> from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago told me that of the 2.3 million manufacturing jobs lost in the recession, at least 300,000 of those jobs have come back. That&rsquo;s about 13 percent.</p><p>Today, I look at why employers say it&rsquo;s hard to find those skilled workers.</p> Wed, 11 Jan 2012 17:03:10 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 5736 at Who are manufacturers hiring? Answer: People with skills What lies ahead for Midwestern manufacturing? <p>The Midwest has 13 percent of the country’s population, but still produces more than a third of the nation’s cars, steel and the lion’s share of heavy machinery.</p> <p>Manufacturing’s strong placement in the overall economy was good news for the Midwest last year.</p> <p>So why did things go so well for manufacturers last year? And what challenges are ahead?</p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 16:05:13 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 5630 at What lies ahead for Midwestern manufacturing? Small businesses a magic bullet for a down economy? (Part 4) <p>Stop me if you&rsquo;ve heard this one before...</p><p><em>&quot;We genuinely believe small business is the backbone of America, it&rsquo;s going to the key for us to be able to put a lot of folks back to work.&quot;</em></p><p>That&rsquo;s President Obama earlier this year.</p><p>Warm feelings about small business come at all levels, and on both sides of the aisle.</p><p>Here&rsquo;s Michigan&rsquo;s Republican Governor Rick Synder this summer:</p><p><em>&quot;Talk about the jobs you&rsquo;re creating, even if it&rsquo;s one job &ndash; that is the backbone of the reinvention of Michigan.&quot;</em></p><p>Or Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week at the SmallBizExpo:</p><p><em>&quot;Nothing is more important to our econonmic expansion than the small business of Chicago and the small business of tomorrow that will be in Chicago.&quot;</em></p><p>It&rsquo;s more than just political talk. Thu, 20 Oct 2011 12:59:51 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 4638 at Small businesses a magic bullet for a down economy? (Part 4) Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs <p></p><p><em>(We&#39;re having technical problems with the &quot;audio processing&quot; file above. To listen, please click on the second file.)</em></p><p>Steve Job&rsquo;s death last week has reminded everyone firsthand the notion that everyone has ideas, and very few become actual products.</p><p>That&rsquo;s because ideas need a push. In some cases, a big push from science to become reality.</p><p>It sounds obvious, but when we&rsquo;re talking about actual products, that translate into actual jobs, and actual economic activity, it&rsquo;s worth exploring.</p><p>That&rsquo;s why I was so interested to learn more about Battelle Memorial Institute.</p><div class="podPress_content"><div class="podPress_downloadlinks">Innovation can strike in a variety of ways. Thu, 13 Oct 2011 15:49:05 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 4575 at Nonprofit company uses science to turn ideas into jobs Midwestern union workers have hope for their jobs <p><a href="" target="_blank">Navistar</a> builds trucks across North America, at non-union factories in the South and Mexico, as well as union shops in the Midwest. The UAW members at the Navistar plant in Springfield, Ohio say a year of changes has made them competitive with those non-union plants &ndash; and they&rsquo;re optimistic about the future.</p><p>In the final assembly department at Navistar&rsquo;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> Wed, 21 Sep 2011 15:03:09 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 4242 at Midwestern union workers have hope for their jobs Changing Chicago, $1,000 at a time <p></p><p>The word &ldquo;foundation&rdquo; often makes people think of big money. But there&rsquo;s a new group of philanthropists in Chicago who have smaller funds, but big hopes for changing communities.</p> Wed, 03 Aug 2011 15:36:52 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 3594 at Changing Chicago, $1,000 at a time Road Trip: Decatur, The Heart of Illinois Agribusiness (Part 2) <p><em>Our Changing Gears road trip continues. Yesterday, I was in <a href="" title="What company towns look like today: Kohler, Wisconsin">Kohler, Wisconsin</a>. Today, I went down state in Illinois to Decatur.</em></p><p>Driving south from Chicago, it only takes about 25 miles to hit the corn fields. For the next 150 miles to Decatur, it&rsquo;s a sea of yellow corn tassels, a head tall.</p> Tue, 26 Jul 2011 12:40:54 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 3461 at Road Trip: Decatur, The Heart of Illinois Agribusiness (Part 2) What company towns look like today: Kohler, Wisconsin (Part 1) <p>From Pullman in Chicago to Firestone in Akron, these employers loomed large in everyone&#39;s daily lives.</p><p>But what does a &quot;company town&quot; look like today?</p><p>The <a href="">Changing Gears</a> team hit the road to find out.</p><p>All this week, we&rsquo;re looking at how these places are coping with economic change.</p><p>For our first story, I visited the village of Kohler, Wisconsin. Mon, 25 Jul 2011 14:38:51 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 3449 at What company towns look like today: Kohler, Wisconsin (Part 1) Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago <p>In Chicago, literacy rates are pretty grim. More than one in three adults cannot read well enough to fill out a job application. Many are working toward improving literacy rates in Chicago, among them, the nonprofit Open Books. In the second story in our series on nonprofits, I took at look at Open Books, mostly because of the organization&rsquo;s funding structure.</p> Thu, 16 Jun 2011 20:11:54 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 2920 at Nonprofits: Tackling illiteracy in Chicago Midwest manufacturing bouncing back <p>Midwest manufacturers heard good news about U.S. trade at a conference in Chicago.</p><p>A record number of exports are helping to shrink the trade deficit, and conference organizers are optimistic about the future of Midwest manufacturing.</p><p>Economist Bill Strauss, with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, likes to use a tennis ball as an analogy to explain what&rsquo;s going on in manufacturing.</p><blockquote><p>&quot;The sectors that fall the hardest tend to bounce back the strongest,&quot; said Strauss. &quot;And we are definitely seeing that with regard to manufacturing where it was automotive and it was primary metals that fell the most during the downturn and they are coming back the strongest at this point.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>This morning, Strauss and others told the&nbsp; <a href="">Chicago Council on Global Affairs</a> they&rsquo;re optimistic. They point to data like a 7 percent increase in manufacturing over the past 22 months.</p><p>Now for the bad news.</p><p>That doesn&rsquo;t translate into more jobs, because manufacturers have gotten better at producing more with less people. Thu, 09 Jun 2011 19:17:22 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 2829 at Feeling the bounce from the Oprah Winfrey Show <p>This week marks the last we&rsquo;ll be seeing of new broadcasts of the Oprah Winfrey Show.</p><p>I&rsquo;m someone who basically has grown up with the show (to be exact, the nationally syndicated show has run for 25 years).</p><p>It&rsquo;s spawned the empire of all things Oprah &ndash; including her magazine and now her own cable network.</p><p>Over the years, Oprah&rsquo;s singled out many products for her Favorite Things list.</p> Mon, 23 May 2011 16:30:42 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 2610 at Feeling the bounce from the Oprah Winfrey Show Across the region, shutting the local library <p></p><p>What happens when your local library shuts its doors? That&rsquo;s a question Midwestern towns from Evanston, Ill., to Troy, Mich., are asking as local libraries are targeted in budget cuts.</p><p>I went to Northwest Indiana, where the Gary Library Board has just decided to close its main branch, to find out the impact on a local community.</p><p>Gary has five library branches. The other four have names, like Kennedy, or Du Bois. This one is simply called the &quot;main library.&quot;</p> Wed, 11 May 2011 16:52:15 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 2441 at Across the region, shutting the local library McDonald's "National Hiring Day" is tomorrow <p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">&quot;Would you like some fries with that?</span>&quot;</p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">That&rsquo;s the phrase many are perfecting for McDonald&#39;s National Hiring Day tomorrow. Many of the McDonald&rsquo;s&nbsp; jobs will be in the Midwest.</span></p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">McDonald&#39;s got its start here in the Midwest, and it has a substantial presence throughout the Great Lakes states.</span></p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">That&rsquo;s why 10,000 of the 50,000 new workers, the company wants will be based across the region.</span></p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">The McDonald&#39;s in downtown Chicago (on Chicago and State) is one location that is hiring. Nick Karavites and his family own that restaurants and 18 others across the city.</span></p><blockquote><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">&quot;Not only are we looking to hire cashiers but also hospitality staff and kitchen staff,&quot; says Karavites.</span></p></blockquote><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">As the employment market improves, job seekers can get more selective about where they work.</span></p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">Karavites said pay at their restaurants averages $9 an hour, and that all workers can participate in a McDonald&rsquo;s Insurance program.</span></p><p><span lang="EN" style="font-size: 14pt;">McDonald&rsquo;s says the company needs more workers because last year&rsquo;s sales were up five percent and continues to grow.</span> Mon, 18 Apr 2011 16:44:26 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 2111 at McDonald's "National Hiring Day" is tomorrow Leadership Series: Mayor Daley and Chicago's economic transformation (Part 3) <p>Throughout the Midwest, Chicago is known as the city everyone wants to come to &ndash; but that&rsquo;s a huge change from 22 years ago, when Mayor Richard M. Daley took office.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s even changed dramatically from when I lived here before, in the late 1990s.</p><p>This is the last of our <a href="">three-part series </a>on leadership, where I look at the region&rsquo;s &ndash; and arguably, the country&rsquo;s &ndash; most famous Mayor: Richard M. Daley.</p> Thu, 17 Feb 2011 23:54:46 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 1333 at Leadership Series: Mayor Daley and Chicago's economic transformation (Part 3) Banking on snowfall at the Chicago Board of Trade <p>Parts of the Midwest are still shoveling out after one of the worst blizzards in recent memory.&nbsp; For some people, they can't see the good in all that snowfall.</p><p>But at the <a href="">Chicago Board of Trade</a>, this blizzard may be a boon for business.</p><p>Investors are banking on a futures market based on snowfall that’s the first of its kind in the world.</p><p> Fri, 04 Feb 2011 13:03:31 +0000 Niala Boodhoo 1167 at Banking on snowfall at the Chicago Board of Trade