- Teresa Mathew/Daily
By Jennifer Calfas, Managing News Editor
Published January 16, 2014
DETROIT — In a speech at Detroit’s annual North American International Auto Show, Vice President Joe Biden discussed the industry’s resurgence since its federal bailout in 2009.
Biden addressed more than 250 showgoers, packed into Detroit’s Cobo Center and surrounded by new Ford F-150 trucks and Chevrolet Corvettes, about the ongoing process in the wake of the 2008 recession.
Biden lauded Detroit as a city capable of overcoming its decades-long decline. The city filed for the bankruptcy in July — the largest municipal default in U.S. history — and Chapter 9 proceedings are ongoing.
“This is not only an important city, but an iconic city,” Biden said during his opening remarks.
The self-professed “car man” highlighted his collaboration with Rep. John Dingell (D–MI), who was present at the event. Together, Biden and Dingell tackled the auto industry bailout in 2009, giving General Motors and Chrysler time to recover under new management.
“We’re not only back; we’re stronger,” Biden said. “The American auto industry is back and Detroit’s going to come back. But America is back.”
For most of his speech, Biden praised the auto industry creating generations of middle class jobs — an income segment that has been squeezed by decades of industrial decline and, more recently, the 2008 recession.
“We bet on American ingenuity, we bet on you and we won,” Biden said.
Biden ended his remarks by commending America’s entrepreneurial spirit and ability of individuals to create new concepts, ideas and industries. He cited the two characteristics Americans hold most dear: the ability to reinvent themselves with a “constant flow” of new immigrants and ideas, and the capacity to challenge conventional ideas.
Wayne County Executive Bob Ficano and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel, among other city politicians and auto industry executives, attended the speech.
Newly-elected Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan introduced Biden on stage. Duggan described Biden as the “fiercest advocate” for car companies in the White House. The two spent Wednesday evening discussing the future of the city ahead of the address.
“Detroit never forgets those who were with us when we’re down,” Duggan said.
In 2012, the University Research Corridor played a vital role in the auto industry’s recovery. The research consortium — comprised of the University, Michigan State University and Wayne State University — awarded more than 3,600 degrees in auto-related fields. According to a 2012 report from the URC, the universities spent more than $300 million on over 1,400 auto-related research projects.
The report said the three universities were involved in every aspect of the industry’s innovation progress, from conducting basic research to producing mass production.
“Even though the auto industry is changing dramatically, it’s still a very important part of the Michigan economy, and the innovation in the auto industry is something that fits very well with the research agendas of the universities,” University President Mary Sue Coleman said in 2012.
Legislators and business leaders have urged the federal government to assist in Detroit’s recovery, Coleman has encouraged students to contribute to its resurgence as well.
In July, Coleman addressed nearly 300 students interning in the Motor City for the summer, calling on them to participate in the city’s restoration.
“We all know that there’s a lot of work to do, but right now, it’s more important that we recognize the powerful, youthful energy that we feel as real momentum in Detroit,” Coleman said at the event. “We all have stake in Detroit’s turnaround, and we can all play a role.”
Toward the beginning of her tenure in 2005, Coleman opened the University’s Detroit Center to create a concrete connection between the University and the city.
Nearly a decade after the center’s inception, the University established the MDetroit Center Connector in October to encourage students to visit or work in the city. The bus route makes five stops in the Motor City, including downtown, the Cultural Center and the Detroit Center itself, and recently announced plans to add mid-week service.
Funded by the Transforming Learning for the Third Century Fund, the commuter grants students a free trip to the Detroit Center every Wednesday through Sunday. The funding is part of a $50 million campaign aimed at improving instruction at the University.