“I’m tired of being ashamed of where I live,” declared Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North America, at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference. His colleagues are likewise frustrated. “With all the national bashing of the region,” an aversion to Michigan is ingrained in the minds of potential job prospects, said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor. Detroit is the city of long lost sex-appeal. Echoing the dejected sentiments of a clockwatching professional with a clientele of reluctant customers, Bill Ford added: “We have to do an incredible sales job to get them to come.”
1,500 business and political leaders gathered on Mackinac Island on Friday to vent their frustration with where they live. They have my full sympathy. When Ed & I visited Detroit end of April, we stayed in a nice hotel two stone throws from RenCen. I asked for an ATM. The concierge said “right this way, Sir.” I was directed to a hotel shuttle. They drove me around the corner and to an ATM. The shuttle waited. I told him to go back. “Oh no, we are not allowed to let our guests walk around by themselves.”
The Freep, reporting from the conference, concluded that “there remained a nagging worry that the battered image of Detroit and Michigan will take a long time to shake.”
And it’s not that nothing will be done to change Detroit’s off-putting image. Reuss said GM “will soon create a Web site to connect its employees with a range of volunteer opportunities.” The Freep thinks that might not be enough:
Asked whether GM and other major companies could be doing more to help Mayor Dave Bing fix Detroit’s daunting problems, Reuss said, “Yeah, there’s always more you can do. I think he needs help, not that’s he’s not totally capable, but there’s always more you can do.” He didn’t offer specifics.