September — October 2022 Commentary

Detroit has an unmistakable soul — nobody can duplicate the soul we bring to the game.” – Big Sean
Illustration by James Yang
Illustration by James Yang

Detroit has an unmistakable soul — nobody can duplicate the soul we bring to the game.”
– Big Sean

Tourism – Raising the Bar

Detroit and the region have a golden opportunity to develop an annual marketing campaign to attract more visitors throughout the month of September, starting with the Detroit Jazz Festival in the central business district over Labor Day weekend and closing with the American Speed Festival at M1 Concourse in Pontiac.

The list of activities between those two bookends includes two high-powered automotive events — Concours d’Elegance and the North American International Auto Show — along with the Detroit Month of Design, the Detroit Black Film Festival, Brewed in Michigan, and a multitude of conferences, concerts, sporting events, and fundraisers. The good news is the month of September is already activated.

Sources: Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit Open Data Portal
Sources: Downtown Detroit Partnership, Detroit Open Data Portal

What’s needed is a memorable branding campaign that will draw interest from all over the world that’s on par with or exceeds popular annual festivals like South by Southwest, Burning Man, Coachella, and Lollapalooza. A compelling appeal to visit metro Detroit would drive additional revenue for businesses such as hotels, restaurants, entertainment and conference venues, museums, airports, car rental agencies, stores, and vendors.

The timing couldn’t be better. Time magazine recently named Detroit to its annual list of the World’s Greatest Places — a first for the Motor City — while national and international news outlets, conference planners, travel groups, and others are beginning to tout the city’s renaissance from the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in 2014.

What’s more, downtown Detroit is unique in that few cities in the world have a multi-billionaire like Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Rocket Cos., who owns some 100 buildings. In fact, he’s the largest property owner in Detroit by far. If one of Gilbert’s buildings hasn’t been renovated, it soon will be — and all of his properties are kept at a Class A level in terms of upkeep, cleanliness, and community engagement.

Outside the downtown district, the nearby neighborhoods have never been better, including Lafayette Park, the East Riverfront District and the RiverWalk (which is now being extended to the west riverfront), Eastern Market, Midtown, Corktown, and Mexicantown. Farther away, historic neighborhoods are improving, while multi-use rejuvenation projects like the North End are progressing full steam ahead.

Apart from that, there are plenty of recreational opportunities in September, including boating excursions up and down the Detroit River and neighboring waterways, biking and walking on trails like the Dequindre Cut near Eastern Market, motor rallies, historic home and garden tours, museum exhibitions, and more.

For example, the Consulate of Italy in Detroit and the Dante Alighieri Society of Michigan, a nonprofit organization tasked with promoting Italian language and culture, are presenting for the first time LoveITDetroit throughout September, as part of the Detroit Month of Design. A daily series of events and activities will be held inside the main lobby of the 1001 Woodward building, immediately northwest of Campus Martius Park.

A successful branding campaign for September would also serve to draw people who are eager to experience living and working in a Midwestern city that’s on the rise, and to attract talent at a time when the overall labor pool is shrinking. Detroit is a much better city and region today than it has been in decades, and it’s up to us to let the world know.

Health Care – Sinking Ship

It’s been a decade since President Barack Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, which was touted as a way of providing more people with health care and at cheaper rates than what’s available on the open marketplace. Obama stated: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor, too. The only change you’ll see are falling costs as our reforms take hold.”

The trouble is, the exact opposite has occurred. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for individual market policies averaged $244 a month in the United States in 2013, the year before the Obamacare exchanges came online. Last year, those same premiums had more than doubled, to $644 a month — and it’s likely worse now, given rising inflation over the past year.

President Obama also promoted the passage of the act as providing for more choices among health care providers. But in 2021, 64 percent of the counties in America had two or fewer insurers offering coverage via the Obamacare marketplace, and more than half of the nation’s counties had one insurer.

To help boost coverage, President Joe Biden’s administration has increased exchange subsidies to encourage coverage among the uninsured, but it often doesn’t fit their needs. Overall, Obamacare has led to fewer options for people, lower care, and higher premiums. While elected government officials tried to expand health care coverage, the act has proved to be too expensive and too cumbersome. 

Automotive – Electric Shock

As automakers race to secure key battery materials like lithium for electric vehicles, the emerging  market has a long road to travel before reaching mass adoption. In recent months, General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co., Stellantis, Volkswagen, and others have been locking up cathode materials in anticipation of collectively building millions of EVs.

While producing supposedly pollution-free vehicles is an admirable goal toward reducing overall CO2 emissions, numerous governments around the world have been pushing EV mandates as a way to bolster their standing among their respective citizenries. The trouble is, few government officials have a deep understanding of what it takes to introduce new technology, let alone brand-new vehicles that have a limited supply chain, utilize child labor to source some battery materials, have limited range, and are prone to fires following a crash.

In fact, electric vehicles like GM’s Hummer EV and the Ford Mustang Mach-E require a tremendous amount of emissions to produce. According to a recent report in The Wall Street Journal, “large-battery, long-range vehicles would have to be driven many tens of thousands of miles before they rack up enough mileage and save enough gasoline to compensate for the emissions created to produce their batteries.”