Detroit: The Iconic City

Other than a quick half-day trip for a business meeting, this was the first time I’ve gotten to spend time in Detroit since the “meltdown” in 2008. I got to talk to several cab drivers and lots and lots of people, from executives to ordinary workers. There are some thoughts I’d like to share.

click to enlarge photo

I took this photo from the front porch of Hitsville, U.S.A. yesterday morning. At right is the Motown studio. The tall building at left is the Henry Ford Hospital. In the distance, the tower is the original General Motors Headquarters.

Outside of Washington, D.C., is there any place where three such uniquely American icons, Motown, Henry Ford, and GM, can be seen in the same glance, on the same street?

From yesterday’s newspaper headlines, I understand there are a lot of people who were unhappy with Clint Eastwood’s commercial for Chrysler in during Sunday’s Super Bowl. I didn’t think it was political at all. I saw it as Detroit as an American icon. And, when you look at the photo above, it is undeniably true.

This city has had a very rough time since 2008. While you get from the airport to downtown much faster due to the lack of congestion, the cabbies tell you what life has been like.  More than one pleaded with me to call them to take me to the airport yesterday afternoon (didn’t make my flight, had to spend an extra night).

That said, I sense that Detroit is turning around. There are a lot of very smart people here. Quiet optimism prevails with both the management and UAW folks I met with.

When I was sitting next to the chancellor of a public university in Wisconsin on a plane in 2009, she told me she was pessimistic for America. I explained that I thought — after we cleared out the recent turmoil — America’s best days are still ahead of us, provided we keep true to our values of liberty and free enterprise. I still believe that and so, apparently, does Clint Eastwood.

Keep up the great work, Detroit. We are all cheering for you!

Full disclosure: Ford, GM, and Chrysler are all clients of AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, my day job. 

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