Detroit’s Private-Sector Boom Leaves Residents in the Lurch

Jack Bedrosian

The New York Times reports that Detroit's private sector may be making a comeback, but the public sector and the vast majority of city dwellers continue to struggle.In a city officially declared last week to be in a state of financial emergency, the private sector has fared just fine, with the city adding the second most manufacturing jobs from January 2010 to 2011, and boasting an impressive 7 percent in job growth. This success, however, has been concentrated in the city's downtown and midtown sections. “There are lots of attempts at tremendous things going on," says Daniel McNamara, President of the Detroit Firefighters Association. "But for you and me, has our world changed any? Not so much. There are so many individual tragedies going on.”—a sentiment felt by over a third of the city's population who continue to live in poverty.“There’s been way too much focus on the corporations and not enough on the residents,” Krystal Crittendon, a mayoral candidate who has been critical of various government incentives to outside investors," told the New York Times. “Private businesses are coming in and basically purchasing properties for a penny, but meanwhile there’s no concentration on the neighborhoods and the common folks. We have to be sure everyone participates in this recovery.”This has been most evident in a massive flight to suburbia, resulting in Detroit's population dropping by 25 percent from 2000 to 2010, the largest percentage loss during that time for any American city of comparable size (aside from New Orleans in the wake of Katrina). Recent estimates have the city currently home to roughly 707,000 residents.Business leaders are unsure how Governor Snyder’s announcement last week that the city had reached the point of financial emergency will affect their newfound prosperity. According to the New York Times, the prospects of a new, state-assigned city manager, sweeping departmental changes and potential renegotiations with labor unions are making the city's business class leery, while the majority of individuals just hope their city can get back on track. “Everything has sort of been operating on separate tracks,” said Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit organization that tracks demographic, economic and housing trends in the region. “The business and philanthropic communities had basically just decided to go ahead in spite of government.”

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