The return of America’s cities…. except Detroit

The Census Bureau released new figures today, and they contain some good news. Apparently, after years of decline, people are reentering America’s older cities.

It only stands to reason that, as fuel prices rise, people would congregate in cities – especially cities with decent mass transportation, infrastructure and access to jobs. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t look as though Detroit is going to be able to share in the rewards of this national trend. While other cities are growing, Detroit’s population is continuing to plummet.

Here’s a clip from today’s Detroit News, on the same census data:

…Detroit experienced the largest population drop of any city in the country in 2008, according to population estimates released Wednesday.

The numbers are not surprising: Early estimates of state and county populations showed that Michigan suffered the worst losses of any state and that Wayne County lost the most people.

Despite Detroit’s successful 2007 challenge of its population count last year, after which the U.S. Census Bureau “added” more than 47,000 to the city’s estimate, the government estimated the city lost another 4,900 people from 2007 to 2008, leaving it with 912,062. It remains the 11th largest city in the country…

And it’s not just the city of Detroit. It’s the entire state. The only other state close to matching our drop in population, from what I’ve read, is Rhode Island. They’re no doubt losing people to more successful urban areas, like Boston and New York, just like we’re losing people to Chicago. People are gravitating toward functional urban centers. And this is good news. It’s something that we should be encouraging. Not to bring everyone down, but, with the end of the cheap oil era, it’s the only way we’re going to survive. We need to encourage people to continue this new trend toward urbanization. We need to start bulldozing far-flung suburbs. And we need to start returning the areas outside of urban centers to agriculture. We know all this. What remains to be seen, though, is whether Detroit will see the benefits of this trend, along with the rest of America’s older cities. Right now, it doesn’t look as though it will. It looks as though, without a functional urban center of our own, we’ll continue losing people to Chicago, and it’s a crying shame.

It didn’t have to be like this either. We could have invested in Detroit when we had the money. We could have taken steps to diversify our economy. We could have chosen not to bury our heads in the sand concerning the twin realities of global warming and climate change. We could have elected competent officials… or, at the very least, a few that weren’t crooks. And instead of placing our most recent bet on the film industry, we could have placed it on wind power, like Utah did. While I loved having Robert DeNiro living 20 feet from my front door, I’d rather have the alternative energy industry putting down real roots, building factories, and hiring skilled workers… Sorry if I sound bitter tonight, it’s just that I hate seeing other metropolitan areas starting to grow while we continue to sit on the sidelines, making stupid move after stupid move.

OK, I should probably end on a positive note… Here it is… Although it’s true that we’re losing people, the people we do have are getting larger. So, in a way, I guess we’re kind of offsetting it, right?

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8 Comments

  1. Beth
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Don’t worry about the falling population. That will soon be reversed. We have a plan to correct it. Granholm is talking with California and other states about housing their prisoners here!

  2. dragon
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    Some progress is being made. I agree it’s a little late , but don’t completely ignore the positive developments that are happening.

    June 26, 2009

    New advanced manufacturing/software technology center in Van Buren Twp.expected to create 1,200 high-tech jobs

    LANSING – Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that General Electric Company (NYSE: GE) has chosen Michigan for a new advanced technology and training center to be located at Visteon Village in Van Buren Twp. (Wayne County). The company plans to make a significant financial investment in the new center that is expected to create 1,200 direct jobs and more than 1,600 indirect and spin-off jobs, according to an economic analysis conducted by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

    Joining the governor in today’s announcement was GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt, U.S. Senators Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, President Obama’s Director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers Ed Montgomery, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, Lt. Governor John D. Cherry, Jr., and other state and local officials.

    “No state is working harder than Michigan to diversify its economy and create new jobs,” Granholm said. “GE’s decision to invest and grow in Michigan demonstrates that we have the high-tech workforce and competitive business climate necessary for global giants like GE to thrive in the 21st century.”

  3. Posted July 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Hmm – that’s not good to read. I hope when the year is over we get a report saying things are turning around here :P cause two years in a row would be… kinda a bummer trend.

  4. Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if the population of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti are declining too. Washtenaw county sometimes seems to be a little island of hope where the downtown area of Ann Arbor just keeps getting taller and more dense while the smaller towns at least hold their own.

  5. Jules
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Ha! I first read that as stupid movie after stupid movie.

  6. Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Jules,
    OMG, so did I!

  7. Mike want longr name
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Mark, you’ve made a number of comments recently about how we’ve somehow given something away to the movie industry, and that we’d be better off not having done that, and I want to better understand exactly what you mean. Now, I haven’t really researched our Hollywood Hail Mary, but my understanding is that it’s just tax breaks, that we allowed film related business to operate without paying taxes that they otherwise would have. I won’t be surprised to find that some goods or services are being supplied with taxpayer money (police security services, use of public spaces), but I’m pretty sure that it’s just tax breaks. So I take it that your argument is that if we hadn’t given those tax breaks, we would instead be collecting those taxes, and be able to spend them on schools, roads, etc. But you do seem to acknowledge that these movies would not be shot here at all if we had not offered tax breaks. So what exactly have we sacrificed to bring these movies here?

  8. Robert
    Posted July 14, 2009 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Mike want longr name, no, the taxpayers of michigan are paying up to 42% of production costs spent on resources and labor originating here in the state. It’s not just a tax brake.

    It is mostly a PR move but I am am still for it.

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