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Generations of people came to the Midwest in hopes of finding a better life. But economic opportunity has been harder to find since the recession began, and people have left the region in record numbers in search of jobs or a better housing market. Changing Gears “Midwest Migration” project is collecting photos, stories, and voicemail messages from former Midwesterners – people who have left region since the recession of 2008.We’re mapping where people ended up, and we're sharing their stories about why they left and whether life is better for them now.We’ll also hear whether they plan to return to the Midwest.You can share your Midwest migration story here, and see responses on our Midwest Migration tumblr page.The Midwest Migration will run through mid-February 2012.

4 Things $100 Million could buy in the Midwest (besides political ads)

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Ford Motor Company
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$100 million for a high-stakes political battle, or laser guided robots? Your choice.

Talking Points Memo, an influential political blog, is estimating that as much as $100 million could be spent on the recall fight involving Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

It quotes analysts saying spending could be two or three times the $44 million that candidates and their supporters spent during state Senate recall races last year. Walker, at least, is getting ready for a pitched battle. He raised $4.5 million in just over a month, and has more than $2 million on hand, according to TPM.

But, given the state of our economy, that got us thinking: what else could $100 million pay for in the Midwest? We found all kinds of things that carry that price tag.

Detroit Schools’ Deficit. A year ago, the Detroit Public Schools were $327 million in the red. Now, the deficit has been reduced to $89 million, according to Roy Roberts, the district’s emergency manager.

But it wouldn’t be handing us back any change. The steps the district took to reduce its shortfall means it has to pay about $20 million a year in interest, so it will have a use for the money left over from the $100 million.

Loans in Cleveland. Last week, the The Cuyahoga County Council launched a $100 million fund designed to build businesses and create jobs.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the county is offering 11 types of loans. Five types of loans, including those to attract investors for start-ups, redevelop properties and to lure large companies, will be accepting applications immediately. The others are expected to start over the next four months.

A Bunch of Robots. Ford Motor Company is spending $100 million to install laser vision robots at three factories, including the Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne and the Chicago Assembly Plant.

The robots are meant to give the company a more accurate reading of the way its parts fit together, helping it improve quality and reduce wind noise.

Turkeys in Indiana. Farbest Foods of Huntingburg, Ind.,may spend that much to build a turkey processing plant in Vigo County, as well as a feed mill and a brooding hub.

Before it can make the investment, though, it needs to sign contracts with 60 to 70 farmers in central Indiana and east-central Illinois.

Your turn: how would you spend $100 million in the Midwest?

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