Many revolutionary types in Detroit today will tell you that the City’s downfall was brought on largely by the influence corporate automakers have had historically over urban planning and policy. Even the 1987 film Robocop was a comment on corporate overreach and the preference for privatization in the city. You’d be hard-pressed to find an online news article about Detroit that doesn’t mention the Big Three automakers’ recovery from bankruptcy and the Great Recession as a force behind Detroit’s impending comeback.
Nobody’s denying the great successes Detroit’s automakers have won for the white American middle class family since the early twentieth century. But I am questioning whether we should still be focusing on what the Big Three and other large corporations can do for Detroit today. A symbol of failed corporate investment in the City is the General Motors Renaissance Center. The fortress-like facility was built in the aftermath of Detroit’s infamous 1967 rebellion with $300 million from Ford and was bought by General Motors in 1996 after decades of dismal return on investment. But here we are, after rescuing two of the Big Three from bankruptcy, with not much to show for it by way of jobs or money in Detroit.
The latest debate about corporate involvement in Detroit can be summed up by an exploration of the story on Whole Foods in Cass Corridor/Midtown. The City’s idea of sustainable development, unfortunately, still involves subsidizing large corporations to move into Detroit. The Wall Street Journal reports that $5.8 million of the new store’s price tag was financed by local and state grants – a sizeable chunk of money for a City that will inevitably file for bankruptcy. Along with the controversy over the subsidies necessary for Whole Foods to open its doors in Detroit comes a whole debate about food justice and gentrification in the City.
What impact have large corporations like Whole Foods had on your community?
Credits: Data linked to sources. Renaissance Center photograph by Kevin Chung. Whole Foods image linked to source.