Detroit – From near bankruptcy to growth… an interesting lesson for the Nordics and Europe

Urbanisation is tricky to manage when a big company or industry in the city declines or closes. Similarly new large immigrant populations need support to get educated and find jobs. Detroit has some interesting lessons for us in Europe that can be applied to increase economic activity and regenerate a city and its new arrivals.

Detroit’s estimated population is has fallen to below 7000,000, a steep decline from a peak of over 1.8 million in the 1950s.

Just 4 years ago Detroit was on the brink of bankruptcy – now there is a great story is emerging telling how the city has worked with banks, companies and the federal government agencies to revitalise the city.

The main article is in Forbes magazine and is written by Allison Arieff is a contributing POLITICO Focus writer covering urban infrastructure and revitalization.

It is a long article and so here is a summary of the main points:

“A Model Of Recovery For America’s Cities”

Partnerships between the public and private sectors play a crucial role. In 2013, the Mayor’s office and a range of local groups including banks and companies helped fuel a recovery focused on stabilizing neighborhoods, re-training the workforce for today’s job market and bolstering local small businesses, while attracting new investors.

The private sector committing over $100 million in 2014 with plans to expand that to more than $150 million by 2019.

For a city that was losing population just four years ago, the latest indicators are encouraging: Unemployment has nearly halved and 8,000 more Detroiters are working now than at this time last year. The downtown area, once blighted and abandoned, is flourishing with restaurants and businesses. Some 2,000 vacant homes are being rehabbed and reoccupied.

But Detroit’s recovery is not just the feel-good story of America’s rustbelt – it’s a lesson in collaboration and partnerships.

Data-Driven Workforce Development

Detroit partnered with the Corporation for Skilled Workforce (non-profit body) and a bank to research employment barriers. Their research produced two reports in early 2016 evaluating the city’s untapped labor potential and solutions for increasing the employment rate.

The reports helped pinpoint high demand industries so training programs can tailor their offerings to meet the market demands. The board’s efforts are also supported by the Workforce Intelligence Network in Detroit, which keeps track of open jobs by location and industry, to provide the city and trainers with actionable market data.

To date, 15,000 Detroiters have received career and technical training. One example is The Greening of Detroit, a nonprofit devoted to restoring the city’s tree infrastructure while providing training for skilled jobs in forestry, urban agriculture and landscaping.

Open For Business

In 2014, Detroit focused on growing incubators, such as TechTown and Eastern Market, to provide local ventures with the resources and skills training. The incubators spurred growth, but research soon showed that a portion of Detroit’s most important small businesses were being left behind.

Many of the minority-owned small businesses weren’t expanding or even surviving because they couldn’t get access to funding. Minority-owned construction companies, for example, couldn’t bid on higher-end development projects because they didn’t have the funds to get more employees or equipment. A new fund designed to help minority-owned small businesses has awarded over 40 small businesses with critical capital. Today, Detroit’s minority-owned small businesses are expanding, not just surviving.

Stabilizing Detroit’s Neighborhoods

Detroit’s population was rapidly dwindling, due in part to failing neighborhood infrastructure. Detroit was overrun with unoccupied properties – approximately 91,000 vacant lots and 78,000 abandoned properties!

That’s why financiers directed more than $50 million of investments to building and supporting two new community development funds with Invest Detroit, a local community development organization, and Capital Impact Partners, a national organization focused on revitalizing neighborhoods. The funds finance community development projects in and adjacent to Detroit’s urban core with the goal of creating livable and workable spaces that attract and retain residents.

Connecting Detroit: The M-1 Rail

Blighted neighborhoods were not Detroit’s only challenge. The city’s automobile legacy bears the consequence of a historically underfunded public transportation system. In 2014, the city financed a new light rail, a 3.3-mile project to connect Detroit’s downtown to the cultural district. The light rail is expected to serve 5,400 riders a day, according to Michigan’s Department of Transportation, and has brought in new investors to develop housing and commercial opportunities along the light rail’s path.

Detroit’s recovery demonstrates how targeted efforts fueled by data and collaboration can work to solve a city’s problems. Cities can’t have small businesses if they don’t have a workforce to support them. And a workforce can’t thrive without stable communities and the means to get to and from them. While every city is unique in its own way and requires tailored solutions, Detroit’s comeback is a model for other cities to follow.

Read other news on the city site of Helsinki.

InBanks Business&Finance PoliticsTagsBusiness employment Government infrastructure
If you notice an error, highlight the text you want and press Ctrl + Enter to report it to the editor
I recommend
No recommendations yet


Post your comment to communicate and discuss this article.

Police suspect a fire that destroyed a flat in Helsinki Monday night was ignited by a Molotov cocktail thrown through a window. No one was hurt in the incident. Authorities are investigating a case of suspected arson and attempted murder in Helsinki related to a fire that broke out shortly before 8 pm Monday, ravaging an apartment in the city's Käpylä neighbourhood. Police suspect that a burning Molotov cocktail, also known as a petrol bomb, was thrown thr...
The ministry also wants the national communications regulator to determine whether Trafi's other consumer services can be safely restored on Wednesday. The Ministry of Transport and Communications has asked the Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority Ficora, to assess data privacy and security on the web services of the Finnish Transport Safety Agency, Trafi. The request follows a recent public backlash to Trafi's decision to open an online database wh...
Taking a train between Finland and Estonia will be possible by Christmas 2024, says the entrepreneur behind one of two massive tunnel projects being planned. Last week the FinEst Bay Area Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel project received 100 million euros from a Dubai-based construction group ARJ Holding – the first external financing made towards the estimated 15-billion-euro effort. Peter Vesterbacka - a man who made a fortune as a marketing boss at mobile gaming...
Several protest marches took place in Helsinki on Thursday evening. Police intervened to forcibly remove swastika flags from Neo-Nazi demonstrators. Police said on Thursday that they will open an investigation into neo-Nazis flying swastika flags in downtown Helsinki. Four protesters had reportedly been taken into police custody. Two processions made their way through Helsinki city centre Thursday evening. The neo-Nazi Kohti vapautta ('toward freedom') dem...
Most of Friday’s papers focus on Thursday's gala at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki where Finland's movers, shakers and honourees were invited to celebrate the nation’s 101 years of independence. Traditionally, media attention has centered on the best-dressed guests and this year was no exception. According to tabloid Ilta-Sanomat, among the most elegant invitees this year was MP Jaana Pelkonen, who wore a bright yellow sleeveless dress by French desig...
Helsinki handed over five decommissioned trams on Monday, two of which will make their way to the Mikkeli city centre for display. Helsinki City Transport (HKL) handed over five antique trams to new owners on Monday after a competition to see where the decommissioned vehicles would be best suited. The HKL competition prompted 94 applications from across the country to receive the trams free of charge. Three of the trams will remain in Helsinki, while two w...
People in Finland are prescribed more antibiotics than the EU average, police warn of neo-Nazi marches and the Finland 100 satellite blasted off. Finnish medical patients use broad-spectrum antibiotics more commonly than the EU average, even though bacteria in Finland are not especially resistant to antibiotic treatments. Daily Helsingin Sanomat writes that attacking a large number of different bacteria at once is all too common, and may lead to resistance...
This year's Finnish National Prize went to a rock star, a fashion designer, a film director and others for their contributions to cultural life in Finland. The Finnish National Prize, an annual cultural award from the Ministry of Education and Culture, went to Henry "Remu" Aaltonen, the drummer and vocalist of the 1970s band Hurriganes; the fashion designer behind Ivana Helsinki, Paola Suhonen; and Academy Award nominated director Selma Vilhunen. This year...
Artist's impression of the proposed Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel
Dubai engineering solutions giant ARJ Holding Ltd is investing €100 million in the Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel project, tunnel designer Peter Vesterbacka announced at a press conference on Monday. Mr Vesterbacka, chief of FinEst Bay Area, the group behind the tunnel project, pointed out the total cost of the tunnel stands at €15 billion, with an investment period of 30 years; the tunnel itself has a projected life span of 120 years, he said. Finest Bay Area Le...