And the Top Manufacturing City is …

No matter the math, Indiana still generally ranks as the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. That means we have more manufacturing jobs based on our population/workforce. Wisconsin and North Carolina are typically in the same neighborhood.

Manufacturers News Inc. changed the scope recently and put out a top 50 list of most manufacturing jobs by city. Certainly population is a bigger factor here, but there are still some interesting numbers.

The top 10 (list below), lost more than 95,000 jobs between August 2008 and the end of 2010. Big movers included Detroit (falling from 29th to 45th) and Seattle (moving up to 34th from 46th). Five from California (L.A., San Diego, San Jose, Irvine and Santa Clara) made the top 50.

Top 10 Manufacturing Cities

  1. Houston: 228,226
  2. New York: 139,127
  3. Chicago: 108,692
  4. Los Angeles: 83,719
  5. St. Louis: 83,123
  6. Dallas: 81,626
  7. Cincinnati: 81,364
  8. Indianapolis: 79,566
  9. Phoenix: 77,322
  10. San Diego: 70,709

Getting Conventional: Cities Named Party Faves

The significance of political party conventions — in this writer’s opinion — is minimal. Sure, there are some subplots regarding up-and-comers and the speaking slots they receive, the length of the boost in the polls following the get-togethers, etc. In this age of instant news and act/react before all the facts are in, however, a drawn out orchestrated party for party faithful seems to have little long-term consequence.

Where the confabs take place, though, and the reactions of the locals is of some interest. And the 2012 sites have been narrowed down for the Dems after the GOP picked its rallying point earlier in the year.

The Democrats will choose between St. Louis, Charlotte, Minneapolis and Cleveland. The political factors at play: President Obama barely lost Missouri in 2008 and earned a narrow victory in North Carolina, while Ohio seems to always be a battleground and Minnesota has stayed "true blue" in most cases.

A Republican panel chose Tampa over Phoenix and Salt Lake City. That decision is expected to be ratified next month.

Let the mudslinging begin (as if it ever really stops)! 

For-Profit Universities Working for Better Reputation

Fast Company magazine recently addressed the topic of for-profit, or "market driven," colleges. In the piece they reveal the journey of Michael Clifford, chair of Significant Federation, a private equity firm and principal investor in six higher-education companies, and the challenges and stigmas associated with these types of programs:

Today, for-profit colleges enroll 9% of all students, many of them in online programs. It’s safe to assume they’ll soon have many more. President Obama has called for America to have the world’s highest percentage of college graduates by 2020, and for-profits are the only sector significantly expanding enrollment — up 17% since the start of the recession in 2008. Emerging from its scandal-plagued "diploma mill" rep (see "Not Quite Ready for the Honor Roll," page 54), the industry consolidated in the past decade under a handful of publicly traded names, including Kaplan (part of The Washington Post Co.), DeVry, and the University of Phoenix, which with 420,000 students is the largest university in North America. These companies, which depend on tuition revenues backed by federal student grants and loans, have been strong performers for stockholders.

Clifford likes to take over the accreditation of a struggling bricks-and-mortar institution, sometimes just days before it runs out of cash. "We’re a SWAT team," he says. "We love fixing schools." Full-time professors with PhDs and seasoned administrators run the home campus as a "learning lab," developing and testing curricula and texts for the much larger online programs. As a bonus, the brand maintains all the trappings of a traditional university — sports, dance line, pep band, community service, and in Grand Canyon’s case, a Christian mission. Clifford, whose personal charitable efforts include a soup kitchen and housing for 600 ex-gang members in L.A., says that Grand Canyon online students who have never set foot on the Phoenix campus log on to the Web site and check the status of the basketball team, or watch the live stream of Sunday chapel.

While private colleges have taken huge hits to their endowments, and public universities weather historic cutbacks, for-profits like Clifford’s keep costs down with innovative use of technology, publish metrics like job placements, and are open to any high-school graduate. They target under-served markets like first-generation students and working adults with convenience and a customer-service ethic. Tuition and fees, which tend to be higher than public institutions’ for on-campus programs, are comparable for online — $687.50 per credit for undergrads on campus at Grand Canyon and $415 for online, for example, compared to $476 for the public University of Arizona.

But questions about quality linger. Despite the traditional campus trappings, Clifford’s schools tend to have a vocational focus, such as health-care administration (L.A. College); only Grand Canyon and Crichton College have any liberal-arts programs.

Since there are no generally accepted measurements of learning in traditional higher education, the proxy for the value of a diploma on the job market is prestige. Rankings like those of U.S. News & World Report depend on reputation; spending per student, including spending on research; and selectivity — a measure of inputs, not outputs. On all these measures, for-profits come up short.

So what do you think? A new, unique opportunity? Or a dreg upon the education sector?

Ball State, Obama and Football

Some family, friends and co-workers are getting sick of hearing me talk about it. Instead (or in addition to), I’ll write about it, try to come up with a way to justify it being in this space and move on — for the time being.

It is Ball State University football, the magical 11-0 season (entering Tuesday night’s regular season finale at home against Western Michigan) and where its bowl destination might be. OK, I know it’s not the Golden Domers back in their glory days, the IU hoops (see back in glory days reference, although I believe they will return to prominence in a few years under Tom Crean) or Purdue’s Rube Goldberg contest dynasty, but give us Cardinal fans a break.

Even if the Cardinals go 13-0 (a conference championship game in Detroit awaits if, and only if, a Tuesday win is recorded), the BSU faithful are looking at a return to Detroit the day after Christmas (bowl games are supposed to be a reward, aren’t they), Toronto (nothing against the Canadians, but I’m not anticipating sunny weather up north on the third day of 2009) or Mobile (better, but no New Orleans, Phoenix or south Florida).

Ball State won’t be going to one of the grander destinations because that appears reserved for Utah or Boise State, which also fall in the non-Big Boy category of college football and its allotment of "only one of you gets to come to our season-ending party."

What’s the solution? Don’t know. What’s next? Hope for three more wins, 14-0, more publicity for the university and increased alumni donations (now there’s a business angle).

Or how about this justification: president-elect Barack Obama stirred the pot the night before the election by championing a college football playoff and repeating the wish in his recent "60 Minutes" interview. If the future world leader can take time to examine the college football postseason structure, why can’t I?

Go Cardinals!