The concept of "pay what you want" for goods and services is a nostalgic throwback to the days when people trusted one another just a little bit more, and it's something you expect to see at the occasional farm stand or at a hip, independent coffee shop.
Politicians have touted modern manufacturing as the solution for lifting the economy and providing good jobs.
But today's manufacturing work requires strong math skills — not just adding and subtracting, but a good grasp of fractions, decimals and basic trigonometry. And job applicants who want to go into manufacturing often don't have what it takes.
So colleges and nonprofits, especially throughout Illinois, are stepping in to bridge this skills gap by combining manufacturing training with basic reading and math.
Midwestern manufacturers are bouncing back — revenues are up at Chicago White Metal Casting for the second year in a row. And the company is hiring, but mainly specialists, such as die-cast machinists and the people with the skills to fix those machines.
Credit Niala Boodhoo / WBEZ
CEO Eric Treiber walks out onto the factory floor of Chicago White Metal Casting. Workers are busy making aluminum, zinc and magnesium metal parts for cars, swimming pools and farm equipment.
The floor's a lot louder than it was a few years ago. At Chicago White Metal Casting, revenue is up 4 percent from 2010 — and that year was better than the one before.
We take a lot of products and technology for granted, like bar codes, compact discs, even cruise control on cars. These products and hundreds of others would not exist if not for a non-profit whose name few people are familiar with. It's called Battelle Memorial Institute. It's one of the world's largest independent research and development groups. It's based in Central Ohio. Niala Boodhoo of the Midwest reporting project Changing Gears takes us to Columbus to a place where hundreds of companies go for R&D.