Although I was traveling during the recent Detroit mayoral debate at the Mackinac Policy Conference, I was following the candidates via various social media sites.
Quite frankly, I was taken aback by some of the responses of the candidates when asked what the most pressing issues were and are for Detroit as we enter into a critical election later this year – a year when there will be a new mayor elected for the state’s largest city.
The responses ranged from fighting crime, confronting the fiscal crisis, dealing with abandoned houses, education and fixing lights across the city.
No doubt, these are critical issues which, if not confronted, will continue to accelerate the city’s decline.
However, I was surprised by the lack of emphasis on creating jobs.
Look, the other issues need to be addressed–however, with no jobs, people will continue to flee the city. While city services are vital, if people continue to leave, there will be no one to provide services for.
Just last week, it was announced, Detroit’s population declined 4.7 percent. Albeit slowed, it’s still lost people. If there’s a lack of jobs, people will continue to leave.
Let’s look at the residual benefits of job creation.
For example, the more jobs there are and people are employed, crime is generally down and revenue (state and local taxes) increase. With more people working, people generally feel better about themselves.
I believe the No. 1 focus for Detroit’s next mayor should be job creation and not just job reallocation. Yes, we’re seeing movement of jobs and residents moving downtown and midtown, but many of the additional 10,000 workers have simply relocated from other parts of the metropolitan area and/or state.
Again, that’s great news.
On the flip side, PulteGroup just announced it’s moving its corporate headquarters to Atlanta and with that, 300 jobs.
The challenge is to identify and bring incremental jobs to Detroit and ensure its residents are properly trained to handle positions in a changing, global market.
I’ve written about small business business development for the last several years and, I believe, entrepreneurs are key to driving economic development and jobs to the city. This is one solution, et al. for addressing the job losses.
As an example, I applaud Detroit Lion Ron Bartell for investing, developing and preparing Kuzzo‘s restaurant to open later this summer on Livernois, which was known as the “Avenue of Fashion” when I grew up in northwest Detroit in the 60’s and 70’s.
In those days, Livernois was full of stores and shops that employed local residents.
Bartell’s new business will eventually grow and hire, hopefully, based on increased demand for his restaurant. If so, he can reinvest in the community by hiring local people, if qualified, and expanding into other locations.
Now, expand what he’s doing over 139 square miles across the city and imagine if his business model could be replicated on major thoroughfares and in struggling and successful neighborhoods. The overall impact of hiring Detroiters and suburbanites would have a residual benefit for everyone who lives and resides in this great American metropolis.
Back to the debate.
I don’t bemoan the fact we need a strong infrastructure and basic city services, but focusing on job creation is another way of generating population and revenue stability and growth.
Until this happens, Detroit will be in a downward financial spire for years to come.
Let’s make sure this doesn’t happen.