Detroit's fate tied to state

By Andrew Justus | 12/8/11 12:47am

For many in West Michigan, the economic and social problems in Detroit seem distant and irrelevant to our well being. Some may even take the opportunity to criticize the ability of those on the east side to run such a large city, while patting themselves and their neighbors on the back for the recent success Grand Rapids has enjoyed.

The idea that a nearly-bankrupt Detroit does not suppress the economic health of our entire state is a false one. Detroit means more to our state than just its four sports teams — Michigan’s largest city anchors a metro area with 5.2 million residents and 2.6 million jobs. It has the largest single-campus medical school in the country, Wayne State School of Medicine, and is home to the world’s largest carmaker, General Motors Company. The city is also credited with being the birthplace of the coney-dog style hot dog.

Detroit’s bad rap causes many people and businesses to immediately discount the rest of our state as a viable place to live and work. They don’t know that Grand Rapids is such a bustling city or that the northern bits of our state are so naturally beautiful. Because Detroit is essentially the mascot for Michigan, all outsiders see of Michigan is the rusty and gritty images of Detroit often depicted in Chrysler ads featuring our bad-boy Lion Ndamukong Suh and they have some idea that many Michiganders foster an undying and fierce hatred of our southern neighbor not named Indiana.

No amount of quality office furniture out of Grand Rapids or tasty fudge from Mackinac Island can overcome the negative publicity for our state generated by Motown, whether its downtrodden reputation is rightfully earned or not.

I know you’re thinking it, but no, you can’t just give Detroit back to Canada. The only way to save the city of Detroit, its suburbs, and our state as a whole from being forgotten as a viable place to live and do business is to put Detroit on the path to being a fully-functioning and healthy city, even if it requires some of Michigan’s limited resources to do so. With a great deal of work and reform, a healthy and eventually vibrant Detroit can one day provide the Great Lakes State with the hub of business and culture it is sorely needing and can export a positive image of our whole state to the rest of the world.

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