As we usher in Labor Day Weekend 2017, I wanted to share a few impressions of what’s been happening in my hometown of Detroit, the city that is synonymous with the working stiff. The above photo is part of Diego Rivera’s famous Detroit Industry murals, displayed proudly at the Detroit Insititute of Arts. They were painted in the early 1930s and symbolize the working class ethic of the city and its people.
My travels take me all over the country – and sometimes the world – and in the last year or so, I’m hearing many questions about Detroit. What’s really going on? Are things really getting better? And is the city (and the metro area) finally turning the corner?
So I’m pleased to tell you – yes, conditions on the ground here have improved – considerably. For the first time in my life (and I’ve lived her for six decades), I can tell you that Detroit is on the right track. It has a long way to go, of course, but there is a palpable sense of electricity and optimism in the air when you head into the city, marked by new restaurants and name brand stores, actual tourist destinations, and a vibrant sports scene.
In just a couple weeks, the much-anticipated Little Caesars Arena will open, kicked off by a 6-pack of Kid Rock concerts. (Will Stroh’s Beer be on sale?) And soon, both the Detroit Red Wings and the Detroit Pistons will occupy this amazing venue. For the Pistons, it’s a return to Detroit after decades of playing hoops in the suburbs. And you may not know that Detroit is one of only two cities (Denver is the other) with all four sports teams playing their games in the downtown area.
On the far upper left is Ford Field, to its right Comerica Park, and in the center, the new Little Caesars Arena, part of a much larger District Detroit development project that will turbocharge downtown development for years to come.
It takes a combination of smart politics, solid civic and financial support, and perhaps some good fortune to achieve a turnaround of this magnitude. Detroit has been able to make good on all three.
A great article in Politico Magazine earlier this week by Edward-Isaac Dovere provides a fascinating analysis of Mayor Mike Duggan, and what he’s meant to Detroit’s recovery. The political environment here in Detroit was toxic for many years, and Duggan has achieved a 180° shift.
And then there are Detroit’s two major developers and visionaries – Dan Gilbert (Quicken Loans) and the Illitch family (Little Caesars Pizza, the Red Wings, and the Tigers). Both have been key drivers in shaping and financing Detroit’s resurgence.
Of course, the automotive industry has enjoyed a sustained period of health and stability these past few years.
While there was some disagreement about whether the Feds should have bailed out GM and Chrysler nearly a decade ago, the reality is that Detroit (along with Michigan) would have experienced nuclear winter had both companies not been financially rescued.
While Detroit no longer is a car manufacturing hub, every automaker, their Tier 1 suppliers, and other companies (Pandora, Google) that interface with the industry have facilities or offices in Metro Detroit. I foresee the day when the NAB will follow suit, helping radio stay connected to the movers and shakers in the automotive sector.
And as many of us get ready to make the trek to Austin for this year’s Radio Show, my sincere hope is that in the not-so-distant future, Detroit will be in consideration as a host city for our industry’s biggest and most important get-together. It would send an important message to both the automotive community, as well as everyone in radio, about the radio industry’s renewed commitment to the car.
As you celebrate Labor Day with friends and family this weekend, share this Detroit story with them.
It’s a good one.
I’ll be co-presenting “Radio’s New Strategies & New Platforms” with AmplifiMedia’s Steve Goldstein at The Radio Show, Wednesday at 4pm. I’ll have new data to share about how radio stations are displayed in car dashboards, and why the radio industry needs to raise its game.
Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.
In 2008, jacapps was launched - a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,000 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created - a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the "connected car" and its impact.
Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media's commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.
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