Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos made headlines a couple weeks ago when he talked about using drones to deliver packages. It's an idea lot of people dismissed as pie in the sky. But in southwest Ohio, Amazon’s high-flying plans sound like money in the bank.
Right now, the Dayton region is competing with two dozen areas around the country to become a federal testing range for commercial drones. Above the cornfields and strip malls, you’d see tiny helicopters and planes, taking to the skies to do all kinds of things.
Frank Beafore, who runs SelectTech Geospatial, a small high-tech manufacturer in the city of Springfield, lists the possibilities: “Disaster management, power line surveys, telecommunications, television news coverage, making movies, sporting events, environmental monitoring, oil and gas exploration."
Beafore says some uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, could be just a couple years out.
In the company hangar at Springfield Airpark, Beafore shows off a UAV that looks sort of like an insect, with four helicopter blades and four spindly legs. The drone lifts off smoothly from the warehouse floor and passes over our heads, creating a little breeze and hovering in midair like a bird in the wind.
“The economic benefit is really only limited by our imagination,” says Maurice McDonald with the Dayton Development Coalition.
Ohio expects to bring in more than $2 billion from drones by 2025, with people here working to build, test and research them. This area could use the boost -- it’s been battered by the loss of manufacturing jobs.
But there’s a hang-up.
“The FAA really needs to address the procedures and policies associated with flying these systems,” says McDonald.
The trouble is, right now most companies can’t actually fly UAVs because the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t decided how to regulate them yet. The agency plans to pick six sites to open up air space where companies can test commercial drones, in anticipation of issuing general rules by the end of 2015.
The hope is companies come to places like Springfield for the air space, and then stay for good. But not everyone around here wants commercial drones to rule the skies.
“I don’t like it when machines take over,” says Teresa McKenzie, a Springfield resident. “It would be very weird.”
As UAVs get smaller, and cheaper, many people are worried about privacy, which is one of the reasons the FAA is taking its time on regulations.
“I certainly don’t want ‘em flying over my house,” Beafore says. But he emphasizes surveillance is not what his UAVs are about. The first uses will probably be agricultural, checking crops for mold or standing water.
And what’s a few candid pics of Ohio’s cornfields?
“The corn doesn’t care,” he says.
The FAA decision on where to let drones test their wings could come out as soon as this week, and Ohio's in the running against 23 states including North Dakota, Wyoming, New York and California.
With tickets for the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1 set to be the most expensive in the 112-year history of the event, a Michigan credit union is offering loans to Michigan State University fans who need some extra cash to get to the game in Pasadena, Calif. The Michigan State University Financial Credit Union is offering "Bowl Loans" starting at $1,000 with interest rates as low as 6.8 percent for students and alumni who thought their student loans just weren't enough debt for them.
The 2014 Rose Bowl is the Michigan State Spartans' first appearance since 1988 in what many consider the most storied of college football bowl games, and as such the school's demand for tickets from students and season ticketholders has outstripped its 24,000 allotment of tickets the event gives each team. Combine that with the fact that the game against Stanford is the 100th time the Rose Bowl has been played since 1902, and you get ticket prices averaging $901 with a median $482 per ticket (and rising) through resellers like Stub Hub. (That's a 122 percent increase over the last two years' prices and possibly the most expensive tickets in the event's history.)
With the record demand for tickets, the Michigan State University Financial Credit Union -- owned and operated by the Michigan State University community -- started offering the loans earlier this month. The 6.8 percent interest rate is only available for those whose credit scores qualify for it, but a borrower in good standing could expect to pay $111 on a $2,000 loan over the 18-month repayment period.
For context, round-trip airfare from Michigan to California for two could cost at least $2,000, and those lucky enough to snag tickets through the school would pay $150 plus a $25 processing fee for each ticket.
While the Rose Bowl may be "The Grandaddy of Them All" for college football, the BCS National Championship game between Auburn and Florida State (also happening in Pasadena) is commanding even higher ticket prices at an average of $1,864 per ticket.
The decision to take out a loan to see a football game might seem unusual, or even unwise, but for some, the excitement over the Spartans' first Rose Bowl in 25 years is trumping financial responsibility.
India's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that gay sex is illegal, four years after the ban was struck down by a lower court. For more on the ruling and how Indians are reacting, host Michel Martin checks in with journalist and LGBT commentator Sandip Roy.
World leaders gathered to remember Nelson Mandela this week. But critics say there were some major social blunders made by President Obama, like taking 'selfies' and shaking hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro. Host Michel Martin asks Dorothea Johnson of The Protocol School of Washington, about head of state etiquette.
A budget bill is making its way through Congress, after leaders agreed to a deal. But lawmakers on both sides of the aisle aren't completely sold. Host Michel Martin talks with NPR Senior Washington Editor Ron Elving, and Callie Crossley, host of Under The Radar in Boston.
Across the country, the campuses of colleges and universities are dotted with buildings bearing the names of big donors. At the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, I took a guided tour with Hanna Hurr, a senior who gives campus tours to prospective students and their parents.
As we rattled along in a golf cart, Hanna pointed out the Loker Track and Field Stadium, named for former USC trustee Katherine Loker, whose donation of more than 3 million dollars helped fund the stadium’s construction, and the Engemann Student Health Center named for Michelle Dedeaux Engemann who, along with her husband Roger, donated around $15 million, and a host of other labs, libraries, and centers that bear the names of wealthy donors.
The sheer proliferation of buildings named for wealthy individuals and families might suggest that one of the motives behind generosity is the credit that one receives for a gift.
Jennifer McCrea, a philanthropic fundraiser and senior research fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at the Center for Public Leadership at Harvard's Kennedy School, says, in her buisiness, this is known as "the edifice complex." McCrea says peer pressure and recognition entice some people to give, at least, initially.
“People often enter philanthropy from a very social perspective,” McCrea said. “This is the world of galas and special events and putting your name on a building, and to a certain extent, that’s fine. I’m totally fine with people naming stuff, as long as it’s not just about ego."
McCrea says more often than not, donors choose to give to projects about which they truly care, a lesson she learned during her first job out of college: raising money for her alma mater’s new science center.
“It was 1998, so I had one of those hard briefcases full of blueprints,” McCrea said. “I just started calling on alumni and parents and friends of the college and would sit down in their office and pull out the blueprint and say ‘your name goes here.’ And I was having no luck.”
Eventually, McCrea had what she refers to as an “epiphany.” She stopped talking to donors about money and instead, about what the science center would mean for the campus. When she did that, they started to come on board.
Dr. Roy Vagelos and his wife Diana donated $50 million to the construction of a new graduate and medical education building for Columbia University Medical Center, that will bear their names. Asked whether that was part of the motive for his gift, he sounded exasperated.
“Names don’t mean a hell of a lot to me,” Dr. Vagelos said. “The fact that students at Columbia will have the best facilities, probably in the world, for their education, is important to me.” Vagelos, the son of Greek immigrants who owned a restaurant in New Jersey, graduated from Columbia’s medical school on scholarship, sixty years ago.
“I was born in October of 1929, which was the month of the stock market crash, the big crash,” Vagelos said. “Our little restaurant specialized in ice cream and homemade candies. That went down the tubes at the time of the stock market crash.” After graduating from medical school, Vagelos embarked on a high-profile career. He rose to become the CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals.
As with anything involving human motive and money, there are shades of grey. Experts in the field of philanthropic giving say wanting credit can be almost entirely unselfish.
“People want credit for different reasons,” said Jen Shang, a professor of philanthropic psychology at the Center for Sustainable Philanthropy at Plymouth University and Indiana University. “So for example, everyone knows Bill Gates tells people when he does something. The motive for that, at least being publicly perceived, is that he wants to encourage other people to do the same thing.”
And donors who seek to remain anonymous aren’t necessarily self-effacing, says Shang. “Sometimes they say 'the reason I don’t want to be named is because I don’t want to be asked by way more people than I’m asked by already. '"
Even if getting credit isn't the main reason for a gift, it likely doesn't hurt. USC senior Hanna Hurr has a job lined up after graduation. She’ll be working with Goldman Sachs. And she’s quite sure that at some point, she’ll give back to her alma mater.
“I was just telling my mom the other day that, in the future, when I start to be financially independent and I’m able to have some spare income to donate back to USC, I definitely plan to,” Hurr said. “I’m a big fan of puns. I always thought it would be fun to have a Hurr Scholarship, for women who plan to enter management and business.”
Marketplace thanks the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, which generously offered interview space for reporter Noel King and Harvard University’s Jennifer McCrae. More information about the Annenberg Foundation can be found here.
The oil boom in North Dakota has brought tens of thousands of workers to the state and transformed the economy. But the numbers of workers, and the dangerous work they do, have put great pressure on local healthcare services, from hospitals to ambulance crews.
Independent radio producer Todd Melby has been working on a series, "Black Gold Boom." In Killdeer, a town in western North Dakota where the Census counted 751 residents in 2010, he talked with Ann Hafner, director of the Killdeer Area Ambulance Service, about the changes she's seen.
Marketplace is airing a series of Todd's vignettes of people and scenes from the boom region.
Todd Melby's series, "Black Gold Boom," is an initiative of Prairie Public and the Association for Independents in Radio.
Though they may seem still and inert, blocks are constantly evolving.
The decision by the Supreme Court on Wednesday to restore a colonial-era ban on homosexual acts has sparked outrage. One prominent commentator said the verdict shows "how liberal democracies can sometimes give rein to a regime of oppression and discrimination under the imprimatur of law."
Loretta Fuddy was director of Hawaii's Health Department. In 2011, she verified the authenticity of President Obama's birth certificate. So-called birthers had questioned where he was born. Fuddy was killed Wednesday in the crash of a small plane off the island of Molokai.
Thanks to the fracking boom, the United States has become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. But it’s still illegal for energy companies to export crude oil. Exxon has just become the latest oil company to say it’s time for the U.S. to lift the ban on oil exports.
This month federal regulators are expected to come out with new rules around Black Lung. The Department of Labor, which is writing the new requirements for how mining companies reduce the exposure of miners to respirable coal dust, particles of dust small enough to be breathed in by miners, won’t disclose what they say. But for the miners, tighter restrictions can’t come too soon.
As January quickly approaches, it’s time to consider resolutions for the new year. Eat healthier, drink less and “live life to the fullest” are all standbys, but personal finance goals often top these lists.