Letter from the Editor: Outpace and Outrun

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R.J. King
R.J. King

As we move into the new year, metro Detroit and Michigan can expect a steady economic recovery once the COVID-19 vaccine(s) is widely distributed. But there’s a lot of work ahead of us, too.

For starters, Michigan must draw more people. The state continues to lose population, an exodus that has yet to be addressed in meaningful ways.

To reverse the tide, we need to better diversify the economy, draw more skilled jobs that drive income growth, government must become more efficient, and K-12 education requires an overhaul to improve outcomes and level the playing field as it relates to funding and facilities.

Looking at other economic sectors, a trend established in 2020 where people either built or moved to larger homes is expected to continue for the foreseeable future.

In turn, more homeowners are installing secondary power sources such as fuel cells, generators, and solar arrays in case the grid goes down. Owning or renting a second residence, whether an urban apartment or a rural cottage, will become more common, as well. People want options in case other viruses reach our shores.

In the hospitality space, the new Daxton Hotel in downtown Birmingham, set to open on Feb. 24, will be another jewel in the region and state. Offering five-star amenities, the 151-room hotel was developed by Mark Mitchell and the Aparium Hotel Group, the latter enterprise that brought forward the award-winning Foundation Hotel in downtown Detroit.      

“We offer guest rooms, junior suites, and terrace suites, the latter of which are somewhat unique to the region,” said Aaron Black, general manager of the Daxton Hotel, during a recent tour. “The views of the city from the terrace suites are breathtaking.”

The main lobby includes a lounge, highlighted by a black marble bar that leads into Madam, the main restaurant that will be overseen by Executive Chef Garrison Price. The dining room includes a coffered ceiling and floor, seating for 80 people, and a private dining room for 12 people. The cuisine will be a mix of American and California fare.

The hotel offers a family theme. Mitchell named the hotel after his son, while the presidential suite, the Colby, comes from his wife’s first name. Madam, meanwhile, is a collection of first initials from family members.

Other industries that are ripe for growth include health care, especially if we can duplicate more wins like Pfizer and BioNTech’s CODVID-19 vaccine being produced in Kalamazoo, along with aerial cargo taxis (passenger versions will follow), machine learning, logistics, streaming entertainment, and fintech. 

On the automotive front, passenger cars will continue to lose sales to SUVs and pickups, while advances in electric propulsion will come more frequently. But until a robust charging network for consumers is built around the country, fleet operators will be the main driver of sales. As for autonomous vehicles, it will be a step-by-step process. Humans, as we’ve learned, are much better drivers than the latest machines.

To improve on the technology, the good news is metro Detroit is the only place in the world that offers the R&D, talent, and manufacturing base to advance mobility at scale, whether for ground or aerial vehicles. But if we don’t offer a world-class education, from K-12 through college, other regions and states will eventually pass us by.

— R.J. King, rjking@dbusiness.com

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