The Economy Today: Big Dreams, No Jobs

News from Virginia, Maryland, Nebraska, and elsewhere

The big national news is the continuing saga in the Chrysler bankruptcy. But around the country, federal funds play a critical role in how communities will recover from the recession. In Virginia, more than $300 million will be spent on updating military bases, while Amherst, Massachusetts is hoping for a grant to develop new ethanol technologies.

In Maryland, budget shortfalls are putting pressure on law enforcement. Police officers tell The Baltimore Sun that there are too few cops on the streets, while the upper echelons won’t acknowledge the problem. It’s hard to reconcile that fact with this dispatch that the city of Baltimore just found another $13 million in its budget, brining the city’s surplus to $53 million. Will they use it to help the police department? The finance director and city council disagree. Maryland’s governor has announced $2.5 million in funding to avert foreclosures in the state.

Virginia is for lovers, and today’s news in the Richmond Times-Dispatch is a tiny bit lovable. The unemployment rate stayed constant in the Richmond area from February to March, and the state’s military bases will receive an additional $28 million in stimulus funds for “quality-of-life improvements, infrastructure work and energy-saving projects.” The $28 million is in addition to the $300 million already allocated to the state’s bases. And columnist Michael Paul Williams says Richmond missed an opportunity when it let the Richmond Braves leave the area for Gwinnett County, Georgia, where the team is getting a new stadium.

Home sales are on the rise in central Ohio, according to The Columbus Dispatch. The state’s largest homebuilder has lost more than $28 million, but has noticed an uptick in first-quarter sales. Cleveland is proceeding on a massive makeover of its downtown waterfront. The Plain Dealer says that the city will move a port and industrial areas to develop public spaces, parks, and fishing piers. Meanwhile, a Plain Dealer editorial calls out the Ohio state house for attempting to “slip slot machines into the Ohio budget.”

Many malls in Nebraska are losing tenants, but according to the Lincoln Journal Star, SouthPointe Pavilions is fully booked. Meanwhile, the race for city hall is heating up as unions back a Democratic candidate with more than $80,000 in contributions. Lincoln’s Fire and Rescue is adding a new ambulance to their fleet, bringing the city’s total up to six.

In New Hampshire, unpaid leaves are proposed for the state’s employees, the Concord Monitor reports. There were no jobs at a recent job fair held in New Hampshire. About 400 people attended, but few of the attending organizations were hiring. One local high-school student, however, isn’t sitting around worrying about the job market. Instead, Casie Phillips organized a shoe drive for children in Zambia. Phillips collected 730 pairs of shoes.

Western Massachusetts real-estate agents notice good news in the market, with home sales rising 4.3 from March 2008 to March 2009 in the Pioneer Valley, which includes Amherst and other college towns, The Republican reports. A McDonald’s owner is promoting his seven locations by inviting reporters and customers to visit the kitchens. He hopes that this behind-the-scenes tour will raise confidence in food quality. A grant from the Energy Department may help an Amherst orchard to develop a more efficient method of ethanol conversion.

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Katia Bachko is on staff at The New Yorker.