Detroit, until recently, was withering nearly to the point of collapse. But a recent surge of momentum has infused the city with a positive energy that could be infectious.
Plagued with mayoral scandals, crime, unemployment and a general tone of dispair, Detroit has been considered by many as a prime example of urban decay. A full 25 percent of the city’s population has moved out in the last decade. Of those that remain, 38 percent live in poverty. Detroit’s unemployment figures — at 14.4 percent — are among the highest in the U.S.
But a new spirit seems to be infecting the city. One of optimism and hope.
The city’s new spirit of optimism has been bolstered by recent sporting victories. The Detroit Lions, who in 2008 finished 0-16, are now at 4-0 for the first time since 1980. The Detroit Tigers are in the American League Championship Series.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander said. “The more you win, the more fans come. Bringing people to downtown Detroit helps the economy tremendously.”
Businesses and citizens alike have been abandoning the downtown area like a sinking ship for over a decade. But recently that has been turning around. Quicken Loans, DTE Energy and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have all moved their operations downtown and other major companies are expected to follow, bringing jobs, income and vitality to the area.
As the downtown area revitalizes and becomes more trendy, it is attracting artists and young people. “There’s an awesome energy here,” artist and teacher Stevie Ansara, 24, told USA Today. “The city is your canvas.”
All this optimism is also driving up home prices, which is a major indicator of economic growth. Detroit home values dropped 46 percent between 2005 and 2010. But July figures from the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed a 1 percent increase — the largest one-year increase of home values in the nation.
Auto industry rebound
Detroit, nicknamed Motor City, has always been synonymous with the auto industry. But only three years ago, the industry, unable to compete with foreign automakers, was tottering on the brink of ruin — so much so that federal bailouts were necessary to keep it alive.
Today Detroit’s Big Three automakers are all in the black and making, some say, the best machines they have ever built. Jesse Toprak of TrueCar.com, said, “The real quality gaps between domestics and imports have almost vanished.” He also said noted that American cars are generally a better value, giving buyers more for their money than foreign counterparts.
Room to grow
Dave Bing, mayor of Detroit and former Pistons basketball star, is enthusiastic about the new optimism in his city. But he also warns against complacency. “I don’t want to get too giddy just yet. We are still treading water.”
Sobering recent statistics show that there is much yet to be done. Forbes recent list of the most violent cities in America placed Detroit at the top of the list with 345 murders in 2010.
An infectious spirit
Still, growth is growth, and optimism has a way of spreading. Perhaps a nation, crippled with economic stagnation and in-fighting, can find inspiration from one city’s spirit of renewal.