By on December 9, 2011


After intensive study, the automaker and union-funded think tank, the Center For Automotive Research (CAR),  came to the conclusion that closing down automotive manufacturing sites is not as catastrophic as originally thought. Nearly half of the 267 U.S. automotive manufacturing plants that had been shuttered since 1979 have come back to life.

With generous support from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers, CAR catalogued 447 sites in 28 states that had operational since 1979. Of those, 60 percent were closed.

Automotive News [sub] read beyond the press release and unearthed that 65 percent of the closed sites belonged to General Motors, 16 percent to Ford, 16 percent to Chrysler and 3 percent to other automakers. Said Jay Williams, Director of the Office of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers:

“While each community with a closed automotive facility faces unique challenges, this report helps shine a light on how community engagement, a focus on flexibility, and the involvement of the private sector, non-profit groups, and all levels of government can help them recover. The findings will assist our office as we continue to help leaders navigate the local, state, and federal resources available to revitalize former auto communities.”

Most of the new sites received a new job for industrial purposes, others were converted into warehouses, commercial facilities, educational institutions or even for recreational purposes.

 

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50 Comments on “Center For Automotive Research: Plant Closures Not So Bad After All...”


  • avatar
    GS650G

    And some were reclaimed by nature or became eyesores for the surrounding community.

    • 0 avatar
      MrWhopee

      Like the former Packard plant?

      • 0 avatar

        The study has to do with plant closures since 1979. The Packard plant has nothing to do with recent plant closures and much to do with screwups of Detroit’s city government. Packard stopped using that plant over 50 years ago. It’s generally thought that the plant’s been abandoned for decades but according to my friends in the Packard club and Packard Motor Foundation, the building was occupied by a variety of businesses into the 1980s at least, until the city decided they wanted to tear it down through eminent domain. Tenants fled and the property eventually passed into the hands of a sketchy landlord.

        Sorry for the rant but I am SAFT of seeing pictures of the Packard plant and Detroit’s train station as symbols of the city’s decline. It’s lazy journalism. There was a picture of the Packard plant used to illustrate this exact story at one of the sites that I visited earlier today. Those buildings are symbols of a failed municipal government that can’t even tear down an eyesore more than anything else. I don’t envy Dave Bing or even the city council, buffoons though most of them are. The city has been functionally bankrupt for decades, surviving only on handouts from Lansing and Washington. It hasn’t had the tax base and business base to pay its bills for a long long time and the city continues to obstruct development.

        Hantz Farms would already be growing stuff on their urban farm if the city council wasn’t determined to tell Hantz how to run their business.

        Right now Detroit’s urban prairie, huge plots of empty land, seem to me to be more emblematic of the city than a factory that hasn’t built cars in nearly 60 years.

        One thing that I couldn’t find in the CAR study was what percentage of the repurposed buildings are still in the automotive sector. The pdf at the CAR’s site said that a significant number were still making automotive things but didn’t quantify the percentage.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        http://www.detroityes.com/home.htm
        tour the ruins of Detroit with reckless abandon. It’s a whole lot more than a train station or Packard plant. But I agree with Ronnie that it’s more representative of failed leadership and management than anything else.

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        Come on now. Those two buildings represent the decay of Detroit and how NOTHNG is, or has been, done about it! The two “buildings” you reference are symbols of the dramatic decline of Detroit over several generations and how it has been allowed to happen through arrogance, political and cultural moral decay and simple greed.

        Drive down Woodward from Jefferson to Wayne State. Would you be happier if a picture of one, or all, of those buildings was substituted for the train depot?

        Detroit is NOT an “urban prairie”!!! Detroit is a wasteland of empty houses, rotten buildings, and derelict factories with a few empty plots throughout. It is only an “urban prairie” in the sense that many areas of Detroit, not all, are home to only drug dealers and prostitutes, not home to “good people”.

        I know it is your hometown and you are proud of Detroit but please accept what Detroit is: a relic of the past that refuses to accept its position in the now and work for a better future. Kind of the same attitude that exists within GM now that I think about it…..
        Detroit has many, many, many serious issues both cultural and financial to deal with. Up until now I have seen NO evidence that anyone there wants to deal with the issues in front of them…

        Finally, do you know that the train depot was never actually used for anything?! That’s right, it was built and never finished on the inside. Much of like Detroit’s present and past it was a facade covering up the emptiness within…..

      • 0 avatar

        Finally, do you know that the train depot was never actually used for anything?! That’s right, it was built and never finished on the inside. Much of like Detroit’s present and past it was a facade covering up the emptiness within…..

        Another myth about Detroit. I greeted people arriving at that station as a kid with my parents and when I was in college I took a train from Chicago to Detroit that disembarked at Michigan Central. Michigan Central was the state’s main train terminal from before World War One into at least the 1970s.

        My point is that the train station and the Packard plant are not symbols of Detroit’s industrial decline since the 1970s (pretty much the focus of the CAR study since the majority of the closed plants are in or near Michigan). Packard went out of business when the Big 3 were at their greatest power.

      • 0 avatar
        skor

        What you describe is common to older industrial areas almost everywhere in the US. Business or industry that once thrived in the area goes into decline, is made obsolete by new technology, etc. The skilled/wealthier people decamp, leaving the poorer people behind. The local government is seized by the incompetent and corrupt. The politicians encourage a culture of dependency that they milk for all it is worth, paying themselves, and their cops and teachers, salaries that far surpass what was paid to the same gov workers when the area had a productive local economy.

        It’s more than just failed municipal government, it’s municipal government that is outright corrupt and only interested in maintaining the status quo. I’ve seen it happen in my own town. Once it was a solid, tidy, little blue-collar town. Now half the town residents seem to be cops/teachers and the other half has deteriorated into a shabby mess. Any attempt to change things causes absolute frothing at the mouth opposition from the town council. When a developer wants to put in some new construction the reaction is, “Sorry, we won’t allow McMansions because it will change the character of our little town.” The reason they don’t want the “McMansions” is because the people who will buy them will have money, and likely be well educated. Well educated people may take an interest in what’s going down at the municipal building, unlike the current residents who seem to be satisfied with staying home and watching Jerry Springer.

        Same for Detroit, the last thing Detroit politicians want is a real functioning city economy, because they would all lose their jobs, and to quote Mel Brooks as Governor William J. Lepetomane in Blazing Saddles, “We have to protect our phoney baloney jobs here, gentlemen!”

    • 0 avatar
      jeffzekas

      Yep… I am thinking the “Center For Automotive Research” is funded by the China Industry Council?… I mean, gee… all the steel plants have closed, all the textile mills have closed… and now, we close down all the auto plants? So, what is left? So-called “service industry” minimum wage jobs are all that’s left… Evidently, whoever wrote this study doesn’t live in Los Angeles (Burbank, CA once built Ford Mustangs) or Fontana (steel mills replaced by crack houses) or El Segundo (once Hughes and McDonnell Douglas Aircraft plants… now, the jobs are gone)… but then, evidently THINK TANK JOBS haven’t been shipped over to China… Yet!!! A country which does not produce finished goods has a name: it’s called a “colony” or “Third World Country”.

      • 0 avatar
        carbiz

        … don’t forget Gary, Indiana. Saw that town featured on that ‘Life After People’ show. Not a very good indictment on post-WWII industrial America.
        Sure, it’s a fantastic idea to abandon your factories. I am sure the port of San Diego thanks the impoverished citizens of Gary for their sacrifice…………. not!

  • avatar
    3800FAN

    Here in MA there was the GM Framingham assembly plant that closed in 1988. I donno how long the plant sat unoccupied for but now it’s home of ADESA, a huge auto auction company. I was a kid when the plant closed but Framingham has such a diverse local economy and there’s no ecenomic fallout in or around the area of the plant. From what I’ve been told most of the workers didn’t even live in Framingham.

  • avatar
    dejal1

    In 1979 the US population was 221,719,000
    In 2010 it was 308,745,538

    Even with off shoring our future, a lot of stuff is still made in the US and it has to be somewhere. Why is this a surprise?

    If the population remained the same since 1979 and we still off shored like we have, I think the percentage would be a bit different.

    • 0 avatar
      carbiz

      … DING DING DING! WE HAVE A WINNER.

      I hate buying Chinese made products, but searching high and low, it is virtually impossible to buy most appliances today that are not ‘Made in PRC.’

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    How GM built, then abandoned, auto plants is breathtaking. What an incredible shocking waste of money. GM’s long running success seemed to have created a mindset that every new platform required an entirely new plant and profitable by imagined sales of 500,000 units annually. So when that platformed flopped on the market, there was a massive retooling effort, or a plant closure. Just imagine what a massive amount of waste there was in real estate… An amazing portrait of 20th Century specialization and centralization failure.

    What loyalties were there between auto companies and these plants? Did they really care when mismanagement forced them to close down?

    And how long ago was 1979? Half of these abandoned sites aren’t a problem? Even after a generation of closure, half these sites are still a symbol of failure within our communities? Please, I’ll pass on the happy face lapel pin. Plant closings aren’t a problem, but they could be if it is in your community.

    And what were the definitions for “not a problem”? If a plant had been abandoned for thirty years, but is now used as a paint ball maze, would that fall under, “not a problem”? If a plant employed 4000 people at union wages, but those 4000 people have found work as salepeople and phone jockeys, that’s no longer a problem?

    Imagine if our standards were similar to the Center’s here. Imagine that thirty years after Hurricane David in 1979, the coasts of Mississippi and Alabama were 50% back to normal. You want to cheer about that? That would be considered “not so bad after all”?

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      If only the buildings are considered, rather than the jobs that took place within, and the salary levels that were attached to those jobs, and the local economic impact coming from the salaries attached to those jobs, then this is no analysis at all.

      I am continuously dumbfounded when I read the monthly economic statistics, which merely speak of job creation or unemployment application in qualitative terms and seemingly ignore the qualitative aspect and impact of these jobs. Replacing an engineer with a hamburger flipper may be a zero sum job position situation, however, it certainly is not a zero-sum qualitative or community impact or tax base situation.

      Sure, the situation as described by CAR is not all that terrible bad, however, I would bet it certainly is far from good.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        If only the buildings are considered, rather than the jobs that took place within, and the salary levels that were attached to those jobs, and the local economic impact coming from the salaries attached to those jobs, then this is no analysis at all.

        The report does make some effort to do that. (I skimmed the full version; at first glance, it appears to be more informative and objective than I would have expected from CAR.)

        But what you’re asking for is difficult to quantify. If a factory is being used to produce a product that nobody wants, then the jobs of those who make that unwanted good are going to be cut, regardless. It’s fair to prepare a before-and-after comparison, but the risk is high that comparisons will be made that are ultimately bogus, since those old jobs were going to be lost, anyway.

        The report includes some case studies. As I would have expected, plant closings can cost government a fortune. If the sites can’t be used for other industrial purposes, then the conversion costs are significant, and well beyond what private industry is willing to pay.

      • 0 avatar

        As I would have expected, plant closings can cost government a fortune. If the sites can’t be used for other industrial purposes, then the conversion costs are significant, and well beyond what private industry is willing to pay.

        But of course this is just another example of how wicked, evil businesspeople are at fault and how government is the victim. After all, if a business fails, lets go after the stockholders to pay the costs of failure because losing their investment isn’t enough punishment. After all, they made profits all those years. Someone’s pound of flesh must be paid.

        Of course all those years that profits were being made, cash in the form of taxes and fees were flowing into government coffers as well. Is what’s good for the business goose also appropriate for the government gander?

        It’s telling that you identify “government” as the victim and not “taxpayers”. As mentioned above, according to Packard enthusiasts that I’ve spoken with, it was the actions of the City of Detroit government that turned the Packard plant from a functioning and repurposed building into a ruin. Those may just be urban legends among Packard fans, but that’s what I’ve been told. Many of them had stored their cars in the facility and have visited it many times. They’re expert about Packard’s history and have credibility.

        Speaking of government costs, I wonder what the environmental remediation costs will be for the Solyndra factory site in California or if it will ever be repurposed at all.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        But of course this is just another example of how wicked, evil businesspeople are at fault and how government is the victim.

        Er, you really do need to do something about that reading comprehension problem of yours.

        The point was rather straightforward: these properties don’t have sufficient value to be attractive to most users in the private sector unless the costs of conversion are subsidized. That leaves government holding the bag.

        And if you had read the study properly, then you would know that very few of the sites end up being repurposed for automotive uses. Half of them remain vacant, and few of the sites that are repurposed are used for automotive production.

      • 0 avatar
        VanillaDude

        First of all, I am a conservative.
        I am pro-business and libertarian.
        But this report does not make me feel good. It does not give me hope that after a community loses an automobile plant, good things happen – even after thirty years. It just doesn’t.

        There are some things that seem to have problems getting fixed. When a gold mine runs out of gold, you have a hell of a hole and a community without a future unless that community had other ventures justifying it’s existence other than being a gold mine town.

        What we have here is a report that tell us that 50% of communities still don’t find a way out of a death spiral if they had depended upon an automobile plant as a source of it’s economic engine – even after thirty years.

        You see that 50% that do, and want to cheer that as some sign that nothing has to change. Others, like me, see that and see a need for improvement.

        There has to be a better way to do this, and this report only seems to want to claim that there really isn’t a problem – which isn’t true.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        this report only seems to want to claim that there really isn’t a problem

        You must not have read it. It says the opposite.

        The best outcome for a community is usually to keep automotive facilities operating in the first place. As a result, local and state officials should make every effort to keep these facilities open. When that is no longer an option, these closed facilities represent challenges and opportunities for communities to reinvent themselves by finding new, productive uses.

        Read between the lines: CAR is telling governments that they should help the automakers to keep their plants open. You can guess what that “help” would entail.

      • 0 avatar

        And if you had read the study properly, then you would know that very few of the sites end up being repurposed for automotive uses. Half of them remain vacant, and few of the sites that are repurposed are used for automotive production.

        “very few”? Where do you find that phrase or anything like it in the study report? There’s nothing at all in the study that says that few of the repurposed building are used for automotive production. In fact, it pretty much says the opposite. You’re really straining at gnats here. No, scratch that. You’re just making sh!t up.

        I read the report specifically to see what percentage of the repurposed buildings are still in the automotive sector because that’s a particular interest of mine. I’ve visited many historic automotive sites around Detroit and I was surprised how many are still in the car biz somehow. For example, across from the Russell Industrial Center (where Detroit Electrics were built) is a building currently used by a stamping company that used to be where Ray Dietrich built LeBaron bodies.

        Unfortunately, the report doesn’t quantify the number of buildings that are still used by the automotive sector. This is what the study says (emphasis added):

        Of the 267 facilities that closed since 1979, 128 have been repurposed. Former production facilities, and the properties on which they are situated, are valuable for a variety of new uses. The most common site reuse is for industrial purposes, including some that are auto-related, as well as logistics and warehousing. In other situations, especially when a community’s economy has shifted away from manufacturing, the facility may be demolished to make way for an entirely new use of the site, such as retail, education or housing.

        While the word “some” is somewhat flexible, in light of the fact that the study report said that the “most common use” is industrial and the first industrial use listed is “auto-related”, I think a reasonable person would conclude that in this case “some” means a significant percentage, rather than “very few”.

        In conclusion the report says,

        Finally, while there are many potential uses for closed automotive facilities, the highest and best use for a community is for the facility to remain in the automotive industry, which has been shown to support the highest number of quality jobs in the community. Beyond seeking new automotive investment, automotive communities have assets in their technological base, educational infrastructure, and skilled workforce. Capitalizing on these assets is paramount to moving communities forward.

        That argues exactly against your point. If “very few” repurposed plants have remained in the automotive sector, why would CAR say that the “highest and best use” of a plant is to remain in the automotive sector? Why recommend a solution that hasn’t proven to be effective?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        There’s nothing at all in the study that says that few of the repurposed building are used for automotive production.

        Er, there’s a nice chart on the bottom of page 22 of the report that identifies the total. (Coincidentally, that figure is 22. 22/267 = 8%.)

        You need to type less and read more. You are so busy trying to form opinions that you don’t even understand what you’re reading. This is a habit with you, and for someone who wants to play journalist as badly as you do, that habit is particularly undesirable.

      • 0 avatar

        You must not have read it. It says the opposite.

        The best outcome for a community is usually to keep automotive facilities operating in the first place. As a result, local and state officials should make every effort to keep these facilities open. When that is no longer an option, these closed facilities represent challenges and opportunities for communities to reinvent themselves by finding new, productive uses.

        Read between the lines: CAR is telling governments that they should help the automakers to keep their plants open. You can guess what that “help” would entail.

        You have to read between the lines because you deliberately left out the opening sentence because that makes it clear that CAR is talking about already closed plants being repurposed for other automotive use, rather than an argument for government bailouts, which is what you are trying to make.

        Here’s the actual quote (emphasis added):

        Finally, while there are many potential uses for closed automotive facilities, the highest and best use for a community is for the facility to remain in the automotive industry, which has been shown to support the highest number of quality jobs in the community. Beyond seeking new automotive investment, automotive communities have assets in their technological base, educational infrastructure, and skilled workforce. Capitalizing on these assets is paramount to moving communities forward.

        I see that you even capitalized the T in “the” rather than use an elipse. I suppose an ellipse, though, would have made it clear that you were excerpting something.

        You frequently accuse me of writing in bad faith, or stupidity. I’ll leave it up to the Best & Brightest to decide just who is acting duplicitously or just who has poor reading comprehension.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        You have to read between the lines because you deliberately left out the opening sentence because that makes it clear that CAR is talking about already closed plants being repurposed for other automotive use, rather than an argument for government bailouts, which is what you are trying to make.

        Again, your inability to read is astounding. Seriously, do something about it, because dealing with your inaccuracy-riddled “rebuttals” is tedious.

        Vanilla believes that this report is some sort of advocacy piece for plant closures. I correctly noted that the report offers the opposite position; in its view, plant closings are not desirable.

        The report doesn’t advocate for plant closures, it just describes some of the options that are available once they have closed. The picture that is being painted is not rosy. If he had read it, he would have known that, but like you, he tends to be a reactionary who can’t separate what he reads from his opinions on the topic. Expecting either of you to accurately summarize a document is simply too much to ask.

      • 0 avatar


        There’s nothing at all in the study that says that few of the repurposed building are used for automotive production.

        Er, there’s a nice chart on the bottom of page 22 of the report that identifies the total. (Coincidentally, that figure is 22. 22/267 = 8%.)

        Again you leave things out to make things look the way you want them too. The total number of sites repurposed for other automotive use is 28, not 22. 22 is just in manufacturing, 6 sites are in non-manufacturing automotive use. Also 267 is the total number of closed plants, not repurposed buildings, 128, which is what the study is talking about and what I was talking about. 26/128 is 20%. If you want to say that 1/5 is an insignificant fraction, well then, would you want to give up 20% of your salary?

        Looking at that chart, while they don’t break out other industrial uses besides automotive (22 of 76 industrial uses were automotive), if taken separately, on that list of ten uses, automotive would come in above seven of them, just below logistics/warehousing (33) and commercial (31). If “very few” of the repurposed sites are in the automotive sector, how would you describe the seven uses that are even less frequent than automotive? Miniscule? Tiny?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        267 is the total number of closed plants, not repurposed buildings which is what the study is talking about

        The report discusses both repurposed plants and plants that remain vacant.

        But of course, with your lack of literacy skills, you missed this. That’s not surprising — you obviously missed the chart that identified how few of these plants are returned to automotive production.

        Again, type less and read more. Make an effort to comprehend the material, rather than spinning it before you’ve even had a chance to process it. What you have to say seems even less compelling when you make it so obvious that you often have no clue what you’re talking about.

      • 0 avatar

        Expecting either of you to accurately summarize a document is simply too much to ask.

        Again you insist on playing Boris Karloff to my Bela Lugosi in Ed Wood.

        You’ve left out important parts of paragraphs and data from charts that are inconvenient to your ideology and argument. I’ve provided that actual data. I’ll leave it up to the B&B to determine just who more accurately characterized the study.

        The study talks of closed plants and that the best use is to keep them in the automotive sector. That’s not the same as saying their best use is to keep the original occupants in business with government bailouts.

      • 0 avatar

        The report discusses both repurposed plants and plants that remain vacant.

        The title of the study is

        Repurposing Former Automotive Manufacturing Sites

        Keep straining at gnats. It becomes you.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Pch101 repeatedly states government loses, pays, or get’s left holding the bag. Who created these companies, funded them, invested in them and ultimately lost their investment? I guess they come in second to the blood sucking government that didn’t have to make a profit yet always seem to need more capital. So when it all goes bust government complains about the strain on resources no longer funded by the companies demonized for so long.
        Detroit is a glimpse into the future of a number of large cities if they don’t get their act together.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The title of the study is

        Repurposing Former Automotive Manufacturing Sites

        I’m glad to you were able to copy and paste the title of the report. It’s just a shame that you are incapable of understanding the contents therein.

        Who created these companies, funded them, invested in them and ultimately lost their investment?

        If it benefited the companies to keep these plants open, then presumably their owners would have kept them open. Your point isn’t particularly relevant to the subject matter.

        Building better cars that people want to buy would have helped to reduce the number of plant closures, of course. But addressing the root causes of falling market share wasn’t part of the scope of the report, either.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Nitpicking the numbers in this report is pointless, as an inconsistent method was used to determine what constitutes a “plant.”

      For example, the former Delco Remy plants in Anderson, IN are all individually listed by plant number. Compare that to the former Delco Electronics plants in Kokomo, IN (where I used to work back in the 1980s) which only list two separate entries: 1) Delco Plant #5 (under Motors Liquidation Corp) shows as closed (and was demolished in 1993), and 2) Kokomo Electronics I which is shown as repurposed.

      No mention of the individual Delco plants such as Plants 1, 2 & 3 (all closed and demolished in the past 30 years), and I am assuming that all of the plants (6 through 10) at the US31 Bypass location are grouped as one. This is certainly not the same as how some other multi-plant locations are treated in the report, as you can read for yourself.

  • avatar

    Soo… this is less of a study of jobs disappearing, decimating the local tax base and more of a ‘how successful are huge factory building repurposing efforts’ study.

    I read about a town that had a Super Walmart whose tax incentives were expiring. Walmart picked up and built a new gigantic sprawling store a couple miles outside city limits so they wouldn’t have to pay taxes, then abandoned the store. The city couldn’t find new tenants or a business interested in moving in to such a space, so they finally gave up and converted/repurposed the store into a highschool.

    • 0 avatar
      Robert.Walter

      I wonder what became of the old high school. Trickle down abandonment?

    • 0 avatar

      Don’t blame Walmart, they’re just doing what you, and most everybody else, would do in their situation. Blame the government types that gave them the tax incentives in the first place.

      Walmart will put their stores where it makes the most business sense to do so.

      • 0 avatar
        GS650G

        Philly hands out 10 year tax abatements like halloween candy to businesses brave enough to relocate into the city. The workers have to move out of their suburban offices into town and pay 4.65% wage taxes to the beast. About a year or two before the grim reaper shows up at the company door, it’s time to relocate again. Sometimes the workers go with them, often times not.
        Rather than play catch the ball like this they should have lower, more competitive rates permanently and learn how to deal with the public costs which are out of control. But that doesn’t happen. Detroit’s death started with Coleman Young and his reign of terror.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coleman_Young#Assessment
        Someone should have told him there is neither a moat nor a wall around the city to keep the productive in.

      • 0 avatar
        John Horner

        Tax incentives by local and state governments to lure businesses are indeed a fools errand when viewed in the aggregate. Businesses are expert at playing the communities against each other.

        It would be much smarter if no such tax incentives were allowed by any community. Then they would have to compete with quality of life factors and not by throwing tax money at the businesses.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    You’ve gotta be cruel to be kind.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    Perhaps under CAR’s standards this would be qualified as a success

    Anderson Herald Bulletin, Oct 6, 2011

    “Local firm moving into ex-GM plant
    ERTL Enterprises plans to hire as many as 15″

    http://heraldbulletin.com/local/x1402469232/Local-firm-moving-into-ex-GM-plant

    Twenty years ago, little Anderson, Indiana employed as many as 25,000 auto workers. Now all of the plants have closed and the local economy is dependent upon pension money and folks who commute to Indianapolis, 40-odd miles away.

    That’s what would have happened to Kokomo but for the Chrysler and GM bailouts. Kokomo’s economy is pretty strong now and isn’t a drag on the rest of the state/country.

    http://heraldbulletin.com/local/x1402469232/Local-firm-moving-into-ex-GM-plant

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    I read about half of the report during lunch yesterday. What it does show is how incredibly difficult it is to actually redevelop or repurpose a large industrial site. You’ve got differing opinions on the property’s value, environmental cleanup considerations, property tax issues, financing availability and volatility, municipal and county regulations, and so on. Then throw a couple dozen lawyers into the mix. All of the planets have to line up, at just the right time, for something to happen.

    And what really gets me is why so many perfectly usable plants have been razed to the ground, when they could have been reused for other industrial uses (Buick City in Flint comes to mind). GM could have sold off the tooling to the ’96 Impala/Caprice and it could still be built today in one of these plants by a third-party company, for police/taxi use (a modern-day Checker Motors). Ditto with Ford and the Panther platform for police/taxi/town car/limo service. Why not?

    Anybody who is familiar with many of the countless former industrial cities knows how devastating most of these plant closures have been. The effects are ongoing and lingering. The city government of Flint, MI has just now been taken over by an Emergency Financial Manager (state takeover) for the second time in the past decade, and Detroit is not far behind, not to mention a few other Michigan cities. Some of these places will never, ever recover, despite all of the happy thoughts coming from the downtown planning and economic development departments.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If we recognize brownfield redevelopment as an important public interest, one of the ways that we can encourage it is by imposing a development fee on “green field” industrialization. You can look at the fee as either covering the cost of the brown fields or prepaying the cost of remediation of the new plant 20 years down the road or whatever. Politics and the need for jobs may make this politically untenable. The same concept though, might be more viable in the case of big box retail, making it more expensive to build a new box two miles from the abandoned one.

    Another option might be for charging higher property tax on abandoned commercial property. This recognizes the negative effect that abandoned commercial property has on surrounding land. Sooner or later the owner of the land will either make sure it is occupied, rebuild on it, or let it go back to the state.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, by all means the solution to incubating more business activity and more jobs is to impose more taxes and more fees that businesses have to pay before they start hiring. Yeah, that’s the ticket!

      The truth is that the single biggest barriers to redeveloping Detroit are the Detroit and federal governments.

      Who the hell wants to get involved with brownfield development when that’s going to involve the EPA?

      • 0 avatar
        jhott997

        “The truth is that the single biggest barriers to redeveloping Detroit are the Detroit and federal governments.”
        BINGO!!!
        Add corrupt police force who is in partnership with organized drug dealing.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    Seems to me the lesson learned here is to not become a company town to begin with.

    • 0 avatar
      Conslaw

      That’s kind of Apple Computer’s policy. They have about 35,000 employees in the US and more than 10x that amount work for contract suppliers overseas. The suppliers can pollute all they want and engage in just about any labor practice imaginable with only an occasional slap on the wrist. Free trade and globalization = lack of accountability.

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    “Finally, do you know that the train depot was never actually used for anything?! That’s right, it was built and never finished on the inside.” …. complete and utter nonsense as a 5 second search would have verified: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michigan_Central_Station

    I don’t know what planet many of you are living on, but, as a Michigan resident, hardly a day goes by where the wreckage of old auto plants isn’t on display. If one is lucky, they’ve been bulldozed flat, but unlikely to ever be redeveloped due to thorough contamination by industrial wastes. It’s much cheaper to build a new factory on corn fields than to clean up the mess. 67 listed superfund sites (most as a result of automobile manufacture) in Michigan, 3 in my county, and most have been simply fenced off with no action taken for 30 years.

    • 0 avatar

      HiFlite,

      The worst superfund sites in Michigan are illegal dumps. At least the industrial sites are a known quantity. One thing that I learned when I studied hazwaste mgmt was that many of the worst polluters won’t be constrained by regulations because many of the worst polluters are often criminal enterprises. There was a mobbed up battery disposal site near Kalamazoo. The animal carcasses that had to be disposed of when there was that incident when PCB was mixed into cattle feed ended up being illegally buried near Saginaw Bay, endangering the water supply. The problem with laws is that criminals ignore them.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        If only the metal recyclers paid cash on the spot for barrels of PCBs and asbestos floor tiles and pipe insulation, this problem would quickly take care of itself!

  • avatar
    cbee1234

    I remember we use to play paintball in the Packard Plant in the mid to late 90′s. It was by far the funnest place to play p-ball. Also, I knew someone who had an apartment in the plant, he lived there until 2000 or so. Knowing what Chicago and Pittsburgh did to their old factory sites and their cities in general it’s sad to see the amount of corruption and infighting that goes on in Detroit. Drive down Grand Boulevard and look at all the old Victorian style homes and all their architecture it brings a tear to me to see those homes in their current condition. Detroit could be a beautiful city again, I think Bing is the right man it’s the city council that’s stopping him. How sad.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Yeah, the formerly industrialized areas of the United States are a new paradise. Don’t worry about all those factories which were closed to move production to China. Why, four out of ten of the closed down platns are actually being used, at least partially, for something today! We in the US should be thankful that those factories closed down and the jobs were sent elsewhere ….

  • avatar
    obbop

    Hey, herd, Solo cup’s local closed-up plant is available.

    “730,000-square foot manufacturing plant and 230,000-square foot warehouse.”

    That’s a lotta’ square foots.

    Imagine the slot-car track you could put in there.

    And, perhaps, a roller skating rink.

    Allow skate boarding.

    “nearly $65-million in potential bonds that could be used for facility upgrades in order to attract a new tenant to the one-million square foot facility.”

    Square feet fetish in the local media.

    http://media.trb.com/media/alternatethumbnails/story/2011-12/294082900-11201810.jpg

    Heck, hire me to manage the place. I would convert the cup to living quarters.


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