It’s easy to get caught up in the constant talk of Detroit’s troubled finances, but not every part of the city is struggling. Downtown has experienced quite a boom with recent developments. But, what does that mean for Detroiters? Are residents getting a piece of the action?
The private sector continues to grow. Large corporations like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Quicken Loans and Warren-based firm Campbell Ewald are moving much of their employment base to the city’s center. Add in the anticipated downtown locations for Whole Foods and 7-11, and you’ll find that the city is on track to experience an economic resurgence. Will that equal more jobs for those living within the city limits?
In the midst of all the hoopla over a newly-appointed EFM, Detroit teeters on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s a situation juxtaposed with the auto industry’s recent announcement of record-breaking sales. A sector that knows all too well the reality of the city’s current condition, area car makers made a tremendous turnaround from their their state just before the 2009 federal bailout.
Many residents now feel that Detroit represents “a tale of two cities.” On one side, promise and prosperity. On the other, desperation and despair. Undoubtedly a standout case, Detroit reflects the cross-country dilemma of a struggling public sector. What’s happening in the private realm appears far away from the realities of most ordinary citizens. As the city struggles to maintain providing essential resources to its residents, private companies contemplate opening a new coffee shop, boutique or eatery. While a hopeful climate for area businesses, the city’s financial hardships extend from average Detroiters up to local government.
The situation might appear grim, yet some remain encouraged to think of the glass as half full as opposed to half empty.
“More businesses moving into the city means more jobs,” said George Jackson, president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
The DEGC is a non-profit organization that works closely with the City of Detroit and other partners to support existing businesses and to bring new companies and investments to the city. While Jackson eagerly anticipates the prosperity coming to Detroit, he also acknowledges a growing concern among the city’s residents.
“The problem is that the current workforce doesn’t have the skills required for what’s available,” he said. “A large segment of the population isn’t prepared to take advantage of the opportunities.”
Jackson believes training funds must be better utilized to help people prepare for permanent jobs:
“We must work with employers to find out what they need, and be ready to train individuals to fill those positions.”
Not all of the jobs coming to the city require a four-year education. We now live in an economic era where technical and vocational opportunities abound. Taking advantage of non-traditional programs has become the quickest route to getting a job, and one that pays well. Jackson recognizes it has become increasingly important for our educational system to prepare students for the fastest growing fields.
Community colleges have served as a breeding ground for talent trained in technical and vocational careers. There are several opportunities available in areas like IT, manufacturing and healthcare. Encouraging students to train for these fields will better help them to compete in the current economy. While Jackson acknowledges that two-year schools are currently doing a “great” job, he expressed that funding must be better allocated so that more individuals can utilize such opportunities. Creating a real connection between job seekers and employers is the key to helping the community tap into the economic boost. Jackson addressed the downfall of our educational system as an area of primary concern.
“Our schools must have a vocational track,” he said. “Some of the jobs available require degrees, but some do not. The big question is, do we have the skills required and is Detroit’s available workforce prepared?”
With the possibility of major store chains and big business coming to Detroit, George Jackson looks forward to an expanding economic front and its many possible benefits. He expects these new ventures will be successful, and serve as a major boost to the city’s economy.
“We’re going to soon witness something in Detroit that we haven’t seen before,” he said.
Granted, the local community faces unique changes. However, it’s important that residents remain excited about what’s to come and focus on taking the required steps to strengthen their ability to take advantage of upcoming opportunities.