The recent census numbers are out and it would seem like the city of Detroit is a big loser – to the tune of over 200,000 people in the last 10 years. The number drops the current population of Detroit to it’s lowest population since – 1910! (read more here)
I know I don’t usually think like most people, but I don’t see this as a negative. Let’s face it, Michigan has been hit hard the past few years – it’s caused a ton of people to move out of state, move out of Detroit to find work. One major way to bring an area back, is this unique type of transition that takes place within an economic environment that is almost “natural-selection-ish”.
With 250,000 fewer people to employ – it gives those who are in the area, better odds at finding a well paying job. Historically low property values, gives those who couldn’t afford it before a chance at ownership. Empty buildings being torn down, gives the city a chance to start a new. In a major way you get the feeling that history is giving Detroit another shot to start again. It’s allowing us to spray off the dirt on the sidewalk out front of the shop in the morning, and begin a new day.
The numbers are extreme – the numbers tell a devastating story of a city – but they don’t tell it’s current, they don’t tell it’s future. If you were to come to Detroit today, you wouldn’t see a thriving city, but if you take a minute to really look, you see unlimited opportunity for someone who has vision. A company with 10,000 employee could come into Detroit right now and set up it’s headquarters, and literally own the city. Could you do that in New York, LA, Boston, Houston, Chicago, D.C.,Phoenix? I’m not exaggerating – literally own the city. Who’s your competition? GM? Ford? Chrysler? Not really anymore – their workforces are shadows of what they were – and while they are all much more healthy now – they will never be the powers that they were.
Fast Company had a great article on Detroit last year: Demolishing Density in Detroit: Can Farming Save the Motor City? That looks at the concept of taking the city back to green spaces, back to it’s “roots” – literally – and starting all over. Can you imagine a 10 square mile radius of farm land in Downtown Detroit? What would happen? Crime would disappear, small developments of housing would come back, small shops and eateries would slowly make it’s way back, little by little the city would start again. Neat concept – that probably won’t happen, but a great vision of how to really turn around Detroit in a purposeful way.
Losing population isn’t always a bad thing – and it certainly isn’t a bad thing for Detroit at this point in the cities evolution. Let’s get smaller, let’s get more competitive, let’s get back to being a city/state on the rise.