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The Kind of Press Detroit Needs

Exciting article in Saturday's New York Times about Metro Detroit and the growing number of companies here that have evolved from automotive to other industries.

There are a large and wide array of businesses mentioned here. Multiple times, business owners refer to the educated workforce here in the state. They note: Michigan is a great place to do manufacturing -- we just know this stuff.

Ignore the horrid lead or first paragraph in the Times story. It gets better and better from there.

Highlight from the main meat of the article:

Dozens of Michigan manufacturers are discovering there is indeed life beyond the auto industry. Over the last two years, multinationals and start-ups alike have been coming to the state to build, buy or design a hodgepodge of products, whether aircraft parts, solar cells, or batteries for electric cars.

In September, for instance, NTR, a solar energy company from Ireland, awarded contracts to two Detroit-area auto suppliers, including the race-car engine developer McLaren Performance Technologies, to make components for thousands of SunCatcher solar dishes.

“It should be no surprise we went to Detroit,” says Jim Barry, NTR's chief executive. “The standard of manufacturing in the automotive industry is extraordinarily high, and that is the only place you can find such a concentration of skills.”

Of course, nobody expects Michigan to regain anytime soon all of the estimated 216,000 auto-related jobs lost in the past decade. Most of the new projects create 50 to 100 jobs at a time, while auto plant closures have shed tens of thousands.

“You could bring a whole new industry in here, and it may replace one auto plant,” says David E. Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

The economic impact of the new industries is also hard to gauge: Michigan has few statistics on revenue from industries like clean technology and aerospace. Much of the new work, moreover, is limited to machining and developing prototypes. Mass production will most likely head elsewhere to save costs or to be closer to end customers. In short, the full payoff of the investments outside the auto industry is unlikely to be felt for several more years.

A big kudos to blog friend John Mogk for sending this one my way. He makes a great point: Few if any of these businesses are within Detroit itself. Remember his "Three Cities" post about the three real parts of Detroit? This article really proves his theory. Agree?

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  • 1

    What is offensive about the first paragraph? For at least a Century multinationals came to Detroit to absorb it's technology. Albert Kahn and his Brother Louis built the plants in Russia that they used to build their War effort against Hitler. Some have tried to steal the technololgy without paying for it. Remember Stalin's Model T... seems they didn't know anything about case hardening.

    Is hogepodge the offensive word Karen? It's always been a great plethora of parts. Remember that Henry and Stout built the first commercial ariliners. Batteries?... why the Detroit Electric was produced for 40 years and it was a great car.

    Why yes they were within the City to begin with but Detroit grew like a tree trunk annular ring upon annular ring. Packard built so many wonderful engines and automobiles right in theCity. The Packard Merlin helped us win the Second World War. And Chrysler built in Highland Park... really a part of the early city.

    And as we built our experssways people moved on out and so did the buisnesses with plants elsewhere around the city and the cities of the State.

    There really aren't 3 cities... there was a progression, an evolution grabbing new lands and this continues.

    But there has been something of a counter movement of young people caring about the Architecute of the City. Rick Ruffners's attempt to save Tiger Stadium is part of that. Preservation Wayne's efforts for almost 40 years now to encourage young people to embrace and love the Historic City and it's fine Architecture. Even the University Cultural Center became revitalized when The Association started off with the magnificent Jane the Head Librarian that Coleman appointed. Corktown has had many advocates along with Tim McKay. And Certainly Kathy Wendler's efforts on behalf of the Mexican Town Business Association have vitialized that area.

    These efforts worked to heal the shuns and disparagement of the snarks who would now tear everything down, carte blance.

    The stub columns of Hudsons are exactly the same thing as the Cargo Cult in the movei Mondo Cane.

    They are decoys to trick the gods into returning the fine building that could still have served as the greatest automotive history museum and archival center in the world.

    Yes there has been a great stream of creative an intelligent people here who built the American way of life and the 20th Century. And yes some still linger and they may rightfully complain about not being paid properly.


  • 2

    I believe she meant the first paragraph of the article - not the excerpt included in this blog post - was horrid.

  • 3

    You are right tammiejones, thank you.

    That is a good article but it fails to mention how much of the tool and die industry got shipped off to China.

    This could be deemed Nixon's gift.

    Campaigning for Ken, I traveled up and down many residential streets off of 8 mile and some of them were absolutely beautiful with architect designed homes.

    One should ask why it is that the architect designed homes remain beautiful?

    It took the middle of the night to remember Jane Morgan's full name. I really wish that Karen would interview her.

    During the Coleman years she was Detroit's first lady as far as I was concerned. Elegant, well spoken, poised and beautiful, she set the University Cultural Center Association on a great path.

    Coleman had his complex relationships but Jane was as steady as it goes.

    Never forget sitting and talking with her on the Bob-Lo Boat durning the Repubican National Converntion where Regan got appointed.

    It would be fun to hear her thoughts now. I saw her at the Paris Cafe several years back with her Grand Daughter. As wonderful and elegant as ever.

    That nutcase kid who did the video take off on Michael Moore in reverse need only have moved a short distance away to have hit upon the University Cultural Center.

    I really do wish that someone would start a Blog on Planning in Detroit. It's been a mess and it is heartbreaking hearing about Davie going to Washington to beg for Demolition money on three occasions.

    Is there a plan? No. So let's hope that Washington doesn't cough up until there is a clear plan.

    Will it happen. Probably not.

    Planning is the HUGE ISSUE being swept under the rug and ignored. The unseen elephant in the parlor.


  • 4

    I have one more comment about the NYT article...

    Can someone talk to us from the past and help us in the present? We shall see.

    Here is an article about a Detroit Automotive Engineer who addressed he wind energy issue some years back and ahead of his time...

    It's about a brilliant man in his retirement addressing fan designs and efficiency.

    If you read the article you will see that the ubiquitous 3 bladed fans are of a very low efficiency and Bill Allison hit the theoretical maximum of 59%.

    If you look at his patent drawings you will see that the designs are of stainless steel.

    Now think about this for a minute... can you name the name of a City where they know how to work metal?

    These designs are perfect for us and they make the efforts of Buford Pickens look ridiculous if you are able to read into his work.

    Detroit could be the leading producer of high efficiency Fans just as it produced the superior Packard Merlin.

    Too much dufus stuff going on in wind energy.


  • 5

    The article did mention shipping parts of the industry to China.

    "He said that after Dowding had invested in new machine tools and perfected a part, the work was often shifted to China six months later. “There seemed to be a real effort to remove our profit,” Mr. Metts recalls."

    Its nice to see that the talents and specialties of our manufacturing base are not being wasted. Hopefully more jobs like these can be created before they all abandon ship.

  • 6

    What a shock! This has to be the 1st time that the New York Times, or any branch of the national media, has ever had anything positive to say about Detroit.

    Both the east and west coast based media have made Detroit their favorite 'whipping boy' for decades. In their contempt, they refer to us (and the entire Mid West) as fly over country. Other than the humiliation, the negative Detroit publicity serves a more important purpose.

    The New York contempt stems from their historic economic and social leadership position. We are beneath them - a convenient and amusing scapegoat.

    But the west coast (read California) is an egocentric society that needs constant reinforcement and attention and requires enormous economic infusion. Most important from our perspective - they want what we have. They want our auto industry and they want our water. Constant negative publicity serves both purposes.

    Everyone in Michigan, and the entire U.S. for that matter, should be alarmed at the immense political and economic power and control California has over the rest of this country. By 2020, California is projected to have 61 seats in the House of Representatives. That is more than Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois combined. Michigan is projected to have a mere 13. The politically and economically weak Great Lakes region won't stand much of a chance when California and the parched southwest come after our water.

    Maybe this NYT article is the start of some positive recognition of Detroit's potential. It certainly is welcome news for a change.

    • 6.1

      ...Amen, jeff,...ia also! Hudsons's, indeed, could have been the fountainhead for W.A.M..(World Automotive Museums!)!1

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