Detroit used to be king. It was the Silicon Valley of its day — a city built on innovation and new technology. Its only rule was to keep advancing its industry. But Detroit broke that rule. It held on to the automotive market for too long and then was forced to watch as the city fell into economic despair. Detroit’s auto manufacturers stopped adapting to a changing society and foreign competition, which caused its long fall from grace.
But I know that this isn’t the end, and it’s because of Detroit’s great automotive past that the city is uniquely poised for a manufacturing comeback. Detroit holds the needed infrastructure, workforce and space to match green industry with profitability and becaame the world’s green epicenter. Detroit can become the king of innovation and new technology once again.
Detroit is a huge city. Only a small portion of its approximately 138 square miles is actually densely developed, and so it contains a large amount of space. This is a trait that other large cities don’t have. So why not use this space for something productive and economically beneficial to the Detroit?
The vacant lots, instead of being ghosts of the city’s past, could be turned into commercial farms and became products of the future. Small urban farms and community gardens already exist within the city, which provides examples of urban environmentalism, but this idea needs to be expanded to become profitable. Large commercial farms, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability, would grow Detroit businesses not only locally but also across state lines. These farms could encompass the not-so-dense areas of Detroit and provide much needed employment for the city.
Along with open space, Detroit contains factories, which makes the idea of bringing green businesses to the city seemingly contradictory. But the manufacturing infrastructure of the city only gives it advantages. It is the most fiscally responsible choice for green companies. Why build a new factory when you can use an existing one? The city not only has the infrastructure for large-scale green manufacturing but the workforce as well. Using the city’s strong population of factory workers and engineers, companies can save time in the turnover from training to producing. Imagine that famous Detroit muscle and steel constructing massive numbers of solar panels on the assembly line instead of cars.
The growth of a green Detroit doesn’t just stop at the city limits. It would ripple throughout the entire state. Specifically, Ann Arbor would undoubtedly see enormous benefits since it’s located so closely to Detroit. A green Detroit would not only encourage job growth here, but would present unique possibilities to the University for partnerships with the private sector. Such partnerships would not only aid the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability and research, such as the goals highlighted by University President Mary Sue Coleman in her State of the University address, but would also educate generations of young, environmentally-conscious minds. A partnership would also further feed the workforce of green companies and provide close employment to graduates.
Detroit was a city built on hard work and innovation. And although those ideas have partially been forgotten by the industry that thrived on them, they can still be used to rebuild. Detroit, because of its past, is in a prime position to become the world’s green epicenter, which would benefit not only the city but also the entire state through increased employment and revenue.
Michigan’s economic success is dependent on a revitalized and profitable Detroit. Although it may be hard to see through the lens of today’s economic recession, Detroit’s green future is not too far off. It can once again lead in advancing industry and innovation. Detroit was once king, and I say it’s time for the city to reclaim its crown.
Will Butler is an LSA freshman.