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Working in Detroit or why Ernie Harwell loves Michigan

Detroit is a working town. From the Thumb-area farms to the famous Highland Park assembly lines to the Ann Arbor research corridor, we Michiganders define ourselves by our work.

Take John Cannon for example. The 20-year-old Detroiter is a houseman at Greektown Casino, responsible for “everything the public sees” there. He vacuums the halls, puts fresh towels out, stocks the closets with supplies.

Cannon got the job in part because of the training he received through Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. Previously, Cannon worked at White Castle, known for its “slider” hamburgers. Nice gig, Cannon said, but he had bigger goals.

“I like coming to work every day,” Cannon said of his houseman job. “I like the fact that I don't know what's in store for me. It's an adventure.”

Some people may wonder why working people stay in Detroit. Unemployment tops 15 percent. The state is in a budget crisis. Job creation is slow to come, and many families are skipping haircuts and the like to limp through.

My friend Darcy, a former civil engineer and stay-at-home mom in Harper Woods, stays because “the people are quite nice here.” And her husband has a job – something that has become bragging point of life in the D.

Freelance photographer John F. Martin agrees. “I like (most of) the people, my business is doing well and I have hope that this once-great city will return to prosperity. No way I could leave – it would be like kicking a dog who just got run over by a truck.”

Longtime Detroit Tigers commentator Ernie Harwell recently said farewell to his fans after announcing his incurable cancer. In the ballpark that was his home for nearly half a century, he told the crowd: “I deeply appreciate the people of Michigan. I love their grit. I love the way they face life.”

So even if the rest of the world sees our region as a failure, we know better. We know hard work will keep it going. And it will turn around. Just keep watching.

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