1 Rising Rust Belt

Four Midwest cities post biggest home price gains.

Home-sales prices rose 23.7 percent in Grand Rapids, Mich., during the third quarter of 2011, the largest percentage increase in the nation, according to the National Association of Realtors. The three other Midwest cities are South Bend-Mishawaka, Ind., Youngstown-Warren-Boardman, Ohio-Pa., and Green Bay, Wis. But you could argue prices had to go up in those markets because it’s hard to imagine they could fall further. In Youngstown, for instance, the median home price was $68,300 after a 13.1 percent increase.

2 Repeatedly Hammered

Boarding up vacant Baltimore homes costs big bucks.

Baltimore builders who have no new houses to build might find work boarding up some old ones. The city has 16,000 abandoned buildings that need to be secured. According to the Baltimore Sun, the city’s public works department has boarded up 5,236 vacant houses in the city already, at an annual cost of $ 1.2 million, with the costs billed to the buildings’ owners. And it does not appear that the work will run out soon since many of the buildings must repeatedly be resealed.

“We’ve had properties that we boarded, and literally the next day we’ll get another service request,” public works spokeswoman Celeste Amato tells the Sun. “There are properties boarded repeatedly over time. That is not unusual.”

3 More Hondas From Lincoln

The Japanese auto maker ups its Alabama investment.

2011 Acura MDX.
Honda 2011 Acura MDX.

It’s been 10 years since Honda began making cars in Lincoln, Ala., and the company just gave the local job market an anniversary gift—100 new full-time jobs, an $84 million investment. That’s on top of new jobs added earlier in 2011. Altogether, the company invested a total of $275 million to create 140 jobs in the town east of Birmingham.

The investment will go toward adding the Acura MDX luxury SUV to the plant’s line, which already includes the Honda Odyssey minivan, the Honda Pilot SUV, the Ridgeline pickup truck, and the V-6 engines that power them. The investment will increase the factory’s capacity by 40,000 units to 340,000 vehicles. In 2010, 87 percent of all Honda and Acura products sold in the U.S. were built here.

4 Got Gas?

Colorado land once slated for homes is sold for energy exploration.

Back in 1988 the city of Colorado Springs expected that one day 75,000 homes full of new residents would live on the 18,000 acres of Banning Lewis Ranch it annexed into the city limits. Thanks to the housing bust, it looks as if new oil or gas drill rigs are now more likely than new citizens.

Ultra Petroleum recently bought the 18,000-acre former housing development out of bankruptcy for $20 million, winning approval from the court to drill three exploratory wells to determine if oil or gas can be produced on the site. But before the rigs arrived, the city of Colorado Springs suspended the drilling until it can make sure it has the right rules in place to regulate the exploration, according to the Denver Post.

Two California companies that owned the ranch put the land in Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010 saying they owed more than $242 million. Another 2,400 acres of the original piece were sold to KeyBank National Association, which was owed $65 million by the developers, for $24 million.

5 Flying High

Boeing books record 777 orders.

Fusion x64 TIFF File
Fusion x64 TIFF File

Boeing took its single largest commercial airline order ever from Emirates Airline at the Dubai Airshow in November, $18 billion for 50 Boeing 777-300 extended range planes and options for 20 more later. The order made 2011 the best-selling year ever for the 777, with 182 of the jets sold by the middle of November. “Orders like the historic ones at the Dubai Airshow are the reason we’re increasing production on all of our airplane lines,” says Boeing company spokesman Doug Alder. All the new jobs will be in Everett, Wash., where the 777 is built. In the first 11 months of 2011, Boeing added 9,708 jobs.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Seattle, WA, Baltimore, MD.