If you’ve ever wondered how we prepare guests at AC360°, here is your chance to find out! I want to share the chatter that took place as I prepared for a segment last Thursday when we were doing a live show from Hofstra University.
We set out to tell the stories of the individuals behind the headlines and offer practical survival advice. College students are no less immune from the challenges of the recession than the rest of the world. The students I met at Hofstra shared stories that were both heartwarming and sobering as they discussed mounting student debts and juggling jobs on top of studies to help ease the financial stress on their families.
We picked five students that were representative of a collective student body to ask questions to our expert guests: Frans Johansson, author of "The Medici Effect" & Innovation Consultant & Donna Rosato, Sr. Writer, MONEY Magazine.
The conversation you'll see here unfolded before I walked them outside through the crowd to Anderson and the crew for their segment.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.new.home.jpg caption="The Lepley family's new home, recently purchased for $250,000 once valued at more than $550,000."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.newhome.family.jpg caption="Derrick, and Mary Ann Lepley with their daughter, Melody."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/20/art.home.sell.jpg caption="The house that the Aceves family is trying to short sell."]
CNN Senior Producer
The two-story homes on Fir Circle in an upscale Lake Elsinore, California neighborhood tell two stunningly different tales.
Some are vacant, bank-owned and beat-up inside.
Others are filled with kids' laughter and the sounds of boxes unpacking and families moving in.
Mary Ann Lepley, her husband Derrick and their two-year-old daughter Melody have been in their 3,000 square-foot home on Fir Circle for almost three months.
Editor's Note: As part of AC360°'s Road to Rescue, we went to Pittsburgh to take a look at how Pittsburgh has rebuilt it's economy. You can read Randi Kaye's blog on the subject here.
The possible collapse of Detroit-centered American automobile manufacturing has put Detroit at the front of national conversations about de-industrialization and urban failure and renewal. The buzz has it that Pittsburgh went through this process and has come out the other side, successfully. CNN called me on Monday to ask if I would be part of a segment, shot here on Tuesday, that would look at Detroit from Pittsburgh's perspective. (CNN found me via this blog. I'm not sure how they found this blog, though perhaps it's because I was quoted in a similar story last year in the Detroit Free Press.) The story pitch: Pittsburgh is doing pretty great. How did it happen, and what lessons should Detroit learn? The producer planned to shoot my piece of it at the Waterfront. Massive steel mill becomes shopping mall. How better to illustrate an American story of urban renewal?
On Wednesday afternoon, we did meet at the Waterfront, and we spent an hour or so taping an interview. The piece was shot on a strip of grass right next to the Courtyard by Marriott, by the Gantry, just west of the Homestead bridge. The camera guys wanted to have the river and the bridge in the shot. The reporter (oops - in TV speak, the correspondent) was Randi Kaye.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.murietta.motorcycle.jpg caption="Jim Cheatley on his motorcycle."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.murietta.plant.jpg caption="Inside the SRS plant."]
CNN Senior Producer
Call it a journey to a job. Jim Cheatley rode his motorcycle from his San Clemente, Calif. home, through the north San Diego County countryside on the windy Ortega Highway, past the Eucalyptus trees, crossed into Riverside County and parked his bike at SRS Engineering.
The married father with a six-year-old son walked into the industrial park, resume in hand, and to apply for work with SRS Engineering.
“It was a great ride from San Clemente to here,” Cheatley smiled. “No problems on the road, beautiful.”
Detroit, Michigan is teetering on the brink of collapse but it might be able to save itself by taking a good look at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Back in the '70s and '80s, Pittsburgh’s steel industry collapsed and hundreds of thousands of people left town. This is similar to what we’re seeing now in Detroit with the auto industry.
Pittsburgh, in effect, died. It had to find a way to reinvent itself after it had been relying on just one industry for economic growth for so long. So Pittsburgh turned to what residents and local economists might call "recession-resistant" industries, like health care and education.
Many locals call it the "Meds and Eds” economic approach. It seems to be working.
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is now the biggest employer in town with 26,000 people. Carnegie Mellon University is well known for an innovative Robotics program, and biotech is hot here.
Even the first office tower in downtown in 20 years is under construction. Guess who’s building it? PNC Financial Services ... a bank! Call it luck, but PNC pretty much got out of the mortgage business before the whole subprime mess and never wrote bad loans so they are actually growing without any stimulus money! Their conservative style paid off.
These reasons are why experts say Pittsburgh might make a good model for Detroit. Both cities long relied on one industry, have strong research universities and have seen their populations shrink.
And it’s not just that Pittsburgh is surviving, it’s thriving. Foreclosures are down, while in the rest of the country they’re up. Unemployment has crept up to 6.5 percent, but it’s still well below the national unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.
Home prices in the Pittsburgh region increased, on average, by nearly 1 percent in 2008, while nationally, home prices declined 8.2 percent, the steepest annual amount on record. Moody’s says Pittsburgh will be the only city out of the top 100 U.S. metropolitan regions to post a gain in housing prices one year from now.
Detroit should take notice. There may be a life-saving lesson here. Sure, Pittsburgh isn’t perfect. It will lose jobs this year and condo sales downtown have slowed, but TIME Magazine calls Pittsburgh, “One of the Bright Spots on Main Street.” That’s a pretty big compliment when the economy is in the tank, don’t you think?
Program Note: For more on how Detroit is coping with the economy, tune in to AC360° tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.caron.detroit2.jpg caption="A neighborhood ghost town in Detroit."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.caron.detroit3.jpg caption="A home near 8 Mile Road, in the neighborhood where Caron's grandmother lived."]
It had been at least 10 years since I’d seen parts of my hometown Detroit's neighborhood streets. I grew up on the east side, and spent more time in the area during the early days of my career at the CNN Detroit Bureau. Could it be possibly be any worse than the blight I remember from back then? Yes.
In some neighborhoods, empty lots outnumber the burnt out shells of what were once fine, middle-class homes. The area was built for the working class of the 1940s and 1950s, and survived the racial tensions and riots of 1967 but – like many things here – it could not survive the Motor City meltdown and its ripple effect.
Program Note: Tune in to hear more from John Vause about how GM is doing in China tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
The president of GM China Group tells John Vause that General Motors is doing well in China.
While General Motors is facing bankruptcy, and asking for government help in the US and parts of Europe, in China the company is making a profit, and has been described as one of the last jewels in the GM crown. It has also sent a clear message to policy makers in the US that this is a company than can compete globally, it's a company worth saving.
Program Note: Tune in for Anderson's full report on how people in Detroit are coping with the economy tonight on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.people.detroit.jpg caption="A group of artists is buying and moving into a Detroit neighborhood."]
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/18/art.house.detroit.jpg caption="A house the group plans to convert into a "green energy home."]
We drove into the Detroit neighborhood where local artists Mitch Cope and his wife Gina Reichert were meeting us for an interview. As we approached we passed abandoned buildings, burned out houses and foreclosure signs — examples of how hard this already struggling neighborhood has been hit by the current economic crisis.
But despite the blight, Cope and Reichert are excited about the future of their neighborhood. They had grown tired of watching vandals strip abandoned homes so they so they decided to buy one, secure it and make it a self-sustaining green energy home. And they’re inviting friends to move to the neighborhood to do the same.