Having gone to grad school in southeast Michigan, I’ve been surprised by the continued prognostications that the state and, specifically, Detroit are dying or dead. There are too many things going for the area, from the international airport, to the transport links with Canada, to the University of Michigan, to declare the area a wasteland and just walk away. And I’ll even be so bold as to predict that in thirty years’ time we’ll be reading stories about the “Michigan Miracle” and the rebirth of Detroit and the state’s economy, testaments to the power of entrepreneurship and creativity.
The Financial Times’ motor industry correspondent John Reed has a great take on the present and future Motor City:
Detroit may be the archetypal down-and-out rust-belt city, but to call it “dying” masks a more complex reality. Greater Detroit still has three to four million residents, a world-class university next door in Ann Arbor and the bone structure of a great city, as a car-industry consultant with the ear of a poet put it over lunch one day. Why, then, the relentless focus on its failings? Nearly everyone you meet is either weary or angry at seeing their home town made the butt of jokes on late-night television and the subject of anguished political commentary. But no one denies that the region’s property market is abysmal, its finances a mess and its industrial base shrinking at an alarming rate.
Instead, Michiganders, despite being self-deprecating to a fault, make a point their countrymen won’t want to hear: Detroit is no longer the nation’s worst-case scenario, but on its leading edge, the proverbial canary in the coal mine. “It’s like the rest of the country is getting to where Detroit has been,” said Peter De Lorenzo, who writes the acerbic and very funny Autoextremist.com blog. That means that smug mock-horror is no longer the appropriate reaction to the frozen corpse. Instead, get ready for a shock of recognition.
The whole thing is worth a read. HT to Katherine Mangu-Ward.