3.19.2009

Motown Renaissance


Don't sleep on Detroit. Oh sure, crime is up, foreclosures are up, and the main industry, auto manufacturing, is in the tank. But things have gotten so bad that they may create the laboratory for a potentially explosive recovery. According to Next American City, artists are coming from as far away as Europe, enticed by house prices as low as $100 (!), seeing the Motor City as an affordable and intriguing experiment in urban living.

Manufacturing is not, by itself, going to save any place, least of all car making and least of all Detroit. We have become too efficient in making things because of machinery, the world supply chain too efficient for labor-intensive things to be in the US when they can be outsourced to lower-wage parts of the world. The future of job creation is going to come from investments in intellectual capital, not industrial capital.

And, both in urban renaissances and in economic innovation, the artists are often found on the bleeding edge. That Detroit is now populating itself with these urban pioneers bodes well for its future ability to innovate its way back to the vital role it once played in our global economy, and to the vibrant scene it once enjoyed. It'll take more than even a big influx of tattooed grungies to turn this around; but that there is starting to be such an influx is enough to convince me to keep my eye out on the Motor City.
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