I met my dream car at the 2009 North American International Auto Show’s Charity Preview at the Cobo Center in Detroit: the beautiful silver Jaguar XF.

But though the car was gorgeous, the Cobo Center was not up to par. I remember getting out of my ride in a beautiful black Armani gown and being disappointed at the lack of glamour and freshness the venue had. Though the inside of the Center was filled with dazzling prototypes and the walls were nicely lit and embellished with curtains and logos, the outside of the Center looked gray and aged. I overdressed, I thought, comparing my dress with the architecture, completely forgetting that it was a black tie event.

I guess my sentiments about the Cobo Center’s condition are shared, because, according to a recent editorial by the Detroit News, members of the Committee for the North American International Auto Show recently considered moving the show to Chicago or Los Angeles (Detroit council shouldn’t let time run out on Cobo, 04/21/2009). The Committee is considering the move on the grounds that the Cobo Center is aging and in desperate need of renovation. There have also been complaints about the lack of space in the Center, and the inadequate services and resources in the Detroit metro area to attract those who attend the show. But despite the condition of the aging Cobo Center, moving the NAIAS out of Michigan would not only hurt the frail economy, but would also be disrespectful of the history of the auto industry.

The state of Michigan was given an opportunity to keep NAIAS in state earlier this year, when the Senate approved a $288 million expansion plan for the Cobo Center. However, the plan didn’t pass in the Detroit City Council. Now the council has been given a second chance to approve it, and new Detroit Mayor Dave Bing has expressed optimism that he will be able to sway the council’s opinion.

It’s important to the culture of Detroit to keep NAIAS in Michigan. This state is known for its automobile history, and NAIAS has always been held in Detroit. In fact, when the first ever auto show debuted in the United States, it was known as the Detroit Auto Show and kept that name for the next 82 years until it was renamed NAIAS in 1989. And since 1961, the show has been held at the Cobo Center. The history of automobiles has long been intertwined with Michigan’s history. There’s a reason Detroit is known as the “Motor City.” Chicago and Los Angeles don’t have the same historical and cultural importance to the auto industry as Detroit.

And keeping NAIAS in Michigan is economically significant to Detroit, too. Revenues made from these shows go on to benefit the city, as well as organizations like Boys Hope Girls Hope Detroit, the Children’s Center, March of Dimes and the Detroit Institute for Children. Last year, $2.6 million were raised at the Charity Preview alone. Moving NAIAS out of Michigan would mean that much-needed money wouldn’t be flowing into the Michigan economy. The show is one of the few attractions the state has to offer and relocating it could worsen Michigan’s current economic plight.

Should Detroit officials reject the Cobo expansion plan a second time, the Michigan Senate has invested in a backup plan. It would allow a regional hotel tax to fund a $154 million, 900,000 square-foot expansion of the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi. Despite this alternative, the Detroit City Council should still make every effort to approve the original Cobo plan. Detroit officials need to recognize the importance of keeping NAIAS in Detroit because the Motor City has the most need for economic support and maintaining its cultural staples. NAIAS has already booked for the Cobo next year, but organizers are negotiating with automakers for the 2011 show, and many of them have expressed that their participation is based on an improved Cobo Center, not a new venue.

I plan on attending the Charity Preview again in 2011, and I hope it will be held in the Motor City, where it should be. I also expect the magnificence of a newly renovated and expanded Cobo Center to measure up to my evening gown.

Vivian Wang is an alum.

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