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Fast Lane

Piece of Oz -- A Momentum Changer

Against very long odds, the Detroit Pistons brought down the Los Angeles Lakers like a house of cards. Team effort tamed and frustrated the superstars. It was a fivegame series like everyone predicted; everyone just picked the wrong team as champion. Against similar odds, the city of Detroit seems on the brink of a surprising comeback as well. A cosmopolitan, swanky city until the race riots of 1967, Detroit went into a tailspin for nearly 30 years, most of it Mayor Coleman Young presided over and he was seemingly helpless at stopping the long gradual slide.

The continual exodus of people, businesses, restaurants and jobs kept snowballing most of my adult life. Visitors like me no longer stayed in the city; hardly anyone left to see there. Much more effective to stay in the suburbs.

I have often thought that if you took the high-rise buildings out of Southfield, Troy and other locales and dropped them into downtown Detroit you would pretty much have Oz. That could come to pass anyway. Mayor Dennis Archer somehow reconnected businessmen and other leaders with the city beginning in 1994 and seeds sowed then, and in ensuing years, are reaching fruition. New stadiums, new office buildings, parking structures, Greektown, casinos keep appearing. GM relocated.

Some might not agree, but I think Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is also of good heart and boundless energy and is keeping things moving. Some say he’s just too young. I say he’s not Young at all!

The new Governor Jennifer Granholm is such a breath of fresh air in Michigan state politics and genuinely seems to understand that Detroit is the fulcrum for leverage of every kind. She’s everywhere and always saying the right thing and holding the high ground. A team of good “face the music, get it done” people is coming together bringing hope for the rebuilding of a great city. Others have done it. Cleveland, Baltimore, Indianapolis to name some of the most successful.

Most recently parachuting out of the sky into Detroit’s largest Renaissance zone is Arvin Meritor’s Light Vehicle Systems Detroit Technology Center. This stunning Campbell/Manix edifice brings hope to the surrounding acres of rubble and dirt. Just prior to a press conference last month, I asked ArvinMeritor Chairman and CEO Larry Yost about the center and if he thought sentiment had swung back to rebuilding this once great city.

“Yes it has. A strong Detroit is a great resource in every respect,” he said. “I’ve wanted to be a part of something for the inner city all my career, and now I just feel there is so much more to do.”

Driving down to the Center the first time, the landscape seemed so vacant I thought I must be lost. But suddenly it was there, this piece of Oz fallen from the sky. And I thought to myself, I bet there are lots of wizards in there.

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Sun. September 20th, 2020

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AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRIES

Founded in 1895, the world's first trade magazine covering the automotive industry.
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