Without a Thriving Detroit, Michigan Cannot Catch that Train to Prosperity

5/19/10

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institutions that will help grow the economy. The entrepreneurs should be in close contact with local government to help them understand which types of skills might be required. That way, re-training initiatives can be directed towards providing the correctly skilled workers.”

This is already being done, on a modest scale through state programs like the Green Jobs Initiative and No Worker Left Behind, which is actually a model for the nation in its attempt to retrain former automotive engineers for new types of, for example, cleantech engineering work. And local universities are already involved in business incubator projects like TechTown. Dunsire is spot-on when she says that more should be encouraged. We need to clone these programs a few hundred times.

San Diego’s Larry Bock—once you get past his joking (I hope) reference to bulldozing the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck—has some interesting thoughts on using excess auto manufacturing capacity to build batteries, electric motors, renewable power, and wind power chassis systems.” He also says that local government officials should spend at least a year traveling around the world—”so they don’t think the universe has been modeled after Michigan.” International trade missions are a major focus of Automation Alley, although I have spoken to the head of another incubator who says that the focus should be the exact opposite: Get foreign officials and businesspeople to come to Detroit and see what we have to offer.

Other themes our Xconomists hit on include investment in education, training, and retraining; getting state government more involved in early-stage funding; lowering taxes on businesses; developing regional clusters of innovation; adequately funding tech transfer offices; and creating a culture where our successful entrepreneurs are hailed as heroes as much as our beloved Detroit Red Wings.

I think our Xconomist series can become a roadmap for what could be done, for possibilities, to finally get this city rolling on a train to somewhere, supported by pillars from across the region.

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  • Kashif

    As much as I agree with your writing here, the unfortunate reality is that unless and until attitudes change, things are not going to change in Detroit. The race riots of 1967 left an indelible mark on the psyche of people who live and work in the region so that those who at one time lived and worked in Detroit moved out to greener and “safer” pastures in the suburbs while those who remained behind simply played up divisions of race/class to advance their own narrow political self interest (re-election). This has gone on unabated for nearly 40 years or so (with only momentary interruption during the Dennis Archer administration).

    One cursory glance at the prior Mayor, City Council, School board, and police of Detroit over the past 7-8 years fills in the picture. Look also, at the denialism and deflection at the recent Chris Hansen NBC Dateline story.

    Look also at any of the candidates for Governor and you see the exact same attitudes among those running on the (presumed winning) side of the Republican aisle.

    Not sure what if anything can be done about that.

  • http://www.reframedetroit.com Michael Beaton

    We at reframe Detroit agree Kashif that the basis for a revived Detroit requires dramatically different values, attitudes, and beliefs. We need Detroiters that respect life and property. We need Detroiters that value life-long learning. We need a culture that is sustainable and welcoming of others over the long-term. The brutal reality of the situation is that current social environment of Detroit is toxic and dangerous. Seemingly, every day this month, we have been besieged with headlines of violence. To stop this downward path, change in Detroit has to come from within; within each individual, within each street, within each community. We at reframe Detroit are about to embark on a long-term plan to change Detroit’s core values and hopefully, restore a sense of community. reframe Detroit will launch a series of marketing campaigns challenging Detroiters to choose their path, for its their choice that determines their life, their family’s future, and their community’s ultimate destination. We know the challenge is immense; but, frankly, we believe our way will result in change for the better.