As 2011 comes to an end, we look back at some of the economic and housing stories we covered in the last year. The housing slide slowed in the last year, but Michigan was still near the top of the home foreclosure list. The decrease in home values continued to have grave implications for local governments reliant on property taxes (One caller described the fall in housing prices in his six-word story, "$80,000 to $11,000, Northwest Detroit").
In six words or less, here's how people categorized their housing experiences in Michigan:
And here's a small sampling of Michigan Radio stories about the economy and housing:
March 29: Five minutes for $5,000 in Grand Rapids
Pomegranate Studios, a business incubator based in Grand Rapids, has been giving people five minutes to pitch their entrepreneurial ideas with the chance to walk away with $5,000 in funding for their projects. Michigan Radio's West Michigan reporter Lindsey Smith reported on these 5x5 events. The organizers say they are not just about jump-starting businesses with money, but are also intended to create a community of idea sharing and innovation.
August 24: Jobs found in maintaining foreclosed homes
When homes are foreclosed, it's tough for the families losing their homes and for the communities they live in. Michigan has been near the top of the list when it comes to the number of homes in foreclosure. This past summer, Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson reported that business is thriving for companies taking care of foreclosed homes. In her story, Davidson speaks with people who make a living maintaining these homes including one woman who staved off foreclosure of her own home by finding work with a property preservation company.
October 5: Business booming for manufacturing temps
Here are four very bad words you hear a lot these days: There. Are. No. Jobs. But that’s not entirely true. Changing Gears reporter Kate Davidson shows that there are actually more temporary manufacturing jobs out there than temp agencies can fill. Davidson spoke with people at different temp agencies in Michigan along with some manufacturing company officials to explore this trend.
October 11: Selling Detroit cars in China
Chinese dealerships with their aggressive sales staffs, shiny floors, and canned music sometimes mimic their American counterparts. But when Michigan Radio's Tracy Samilton traveled to China this past fall, she found U.S. automakers are trying to cash in on China's booming demand for cars by tailoring their approach to suit local tastes and attitudes.
April 16: Emergency Managers in Michigan flex new muscle
A declining revenue base has meant more cities and school systems in financial distress. On April 16, the emergency manager in Benton Harbor became the first to use new power granted to him by the state legislature and Governor Snyder just a month earlier. Citing the powers he had under Public Act 4 (the new emergency manager law) Joe Harris stripped power from Benton Harbor city officials "prohibiting all action by all city boards, commissions and authorities, except as authorized by the emergency manager." As more communities fall over the financial cliff, Michigan Radio will continue to cover the controversial emergency manager law.
November 9: Empty places from Changing Gears
When money dries up, building go empty. As part of Michigan Radio's reporting project on the changing economic conditions of the Midwest, the Changing Gears team produced a series exploring the effects of empty buildings and properties on Midwestern communities. The region has thousands of empty buildings, but people are coming up with ideas to fill them. In the series, we hear about "blotting" in Detroit– a former meatpacking plant that’s now an indoor farm - and we explore the social and economic cost of emptiness.
November 10: Remembering Mr. Rogers factory tours
Here in the Midwest, we tend to hear a lot about the manufacturing economy, but a report from Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez takes a look at manufacturing from a different angle: by remembering Mr. Rogers' factory tours and taking a look to see if any of the factories featured on the show survived all the upheaval in manufacturing over the last few decades.
What did you think were the big stories in the past year? Share them with us.
-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom