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In the November 2009 issue of Black Enterprise, Can Detroit be Saved? highlights the industries that can conceivably take hold in Detroit to help wean the city from its dependence on the slumping auto industry and help ease the city’s financial crisis. In addition to those industries mentioned in the magazine, the city’s airport and tourism can serve as economic drivers. Here and the rest of the week, we’ll take a look at these components of the city’s much-needed multi-pronged approach to economic revitalization.
Transforming an airport into an economic driver — or Aerotropolis — involves creating a hub that would attract airline-related industries as time-sensitive manufacturing, e-commerce fulfillment, telecommunications, warehousing and logistics). According to Robert Ficano, Wayne County’s executive and chair of the Executive Committee for the Detroit Region Aerotropolis, this project could lead to the creation of more than 60,000 jobs and an $11 billion in economic impact — and generate tax revenues that can fund city schools.
In 2009, each of the nine communities surrounding the Detroit Metro Airport agreed to set aside land that’s designated Aerotropolis property and all the permits, zoning and such will be done within 60 days of application. The revenue generated by the Aerotropolis is shared between the communities. The executive committee is pushing for legislation that would create tax incentives for businesses that set up shop on these properties. Thus far, some $5 million to 6 million has been invested into the project. This model has been successful overseas. “Right now if you go to Dubai and say I want to do a development around the airport, they’ll get you all your permits, they’ll zone all your properties and they’ll build you an airport in 30 days,” says Ficano. “So it’s not about us competing against New York or Chicago. It’s about us competing against the world.”
The warehousing and logistics industries are a good fit for the city. The Metro Detroit area is crisscrossed by several major Interstate highways and freeways including I-75, I-94, I-96, I-275 and I-696. About 60% of the U.S. population can be reached overnight from Detroit. “We are potentially, I believe, one of the best logistics, warehousing, freight forwarding hubs in America. More trade goes through this city than America does with the whole of Japan.” points out Randal Charlton. “We’re on the border of another country, Canada, and 30% of all of America’s trade with Canada goes under the Detroit River or over the Ambassador Bridge.”