If Detroit has a future…

Article published on Nov. 12, 2009
community published
Article published on Nov. 12, 2009
In 1950, the city of Detroit was the fourth largest in the US. Today, Detroit ranked as the United States' eleventh most populous city, with 912,062 residents. Why?
The Motor City and the former capital of the Motown label has been in a brutal downward spiral for the past forty years because of the combination of the decline of the car’s industry and the racial riots of the 60’s (which have continued until the early 80’s). The riots were a blow from which Detroit never recovered said an interesting article published in The Week a few days ago (http://www.theweek.com/article/index/101313/Detroit_A_city_on_the_brink) Nearly 30 percent of the city, an area almost the size of San Francisco, has been abandoned to “urban prairie”. Detroit is seen as a strange place in the US – so much that The New York Times has rent a house downtown to send a few embedded journalists for a year. A kind of living lab experience… After World War II, Detroit was home to 1.6 million whites. The population today is 83 percent black with a unemployment close to 30% (about the average in the US during the great depression symbolically). Detroit is seen by many in the US as a kind of postapocalyptic nightmare. But this is a false perception. While the city has been hardly hit by the economic crisis, it has become the centre of political attention in the past few years. Sarah Palin would have like the state of Michigan to become the focus of the elections campaign last year whilst the Obama administration is paying a special attention to the development of green businesses in Michigan.

One big hope for the city is the massive development of the electric car, which should be commercialised by the big US automakers like GM from the year 2010. This bet has already a tangible business effect with the development of new businesses like the battery businesses. Also, traditional industries have been encouraged to diversify their product lines and a few medium size players of the automobile industry are now also becoming the supplier of the renewable industry… But the uptake of the electric car in the US will depend on a number of factors – and above all, the price of gasoline. And the recent deployment of newly green businesses (like the renewable) has been greatly helped by the stimulus package of Obama which is going to have an impact on a short period of time only. I red in an article that Detroit feels a bit like East Berlin after the fall of the wall. Maybe because there are a big electronic music festival and a few projects aiming to develop urban farms within the city. But it is not... It is not, at least not why I have seen. The first “sentiment” when you drive in downtown Detroit is that it is sad story. Even if there are signs of hopes.And when I left Detroit, my last impression was that the recovery of Detroit would be the greater symbol that the American dream is not dead…