Thursday, August 10, 2017

What Detroit and small towns have in common

I was in Detroit a few years back, and I saw a small sampling of the challenges. They reminded me of small town challenges with empty buildings, declining population, and turning to entrepreneurs for the future.

The people of Detroit reminded me of small town people. They were friendly, and looked me in the eye. It was a funny pattern. They'd say, "Don't believe everything you hear about Detroit." They wanted me to know it's not as awful as people say, that good people live there. It felt like a small town, hoping you don't all think they're hicks.

So I keep reading articles about Detroit, and the people working there. Outside experts keep telling them it can't be done, that the problems are too big. And people come in from outside, to save them. 

Whether it's Detroit or a small town, I hate that outlook, "we're going to save them." People, stop looking down on us. Help us do what needs done or get out of our way.

One of those articles, Saving Detroit, spurred some small town thoughts.

  • "A successful small business person can make a difference." In a small town, it takes less success or wealth to make a bigger difference. 
  • "A vibrant city needs a vibrant center. Suburbs cannot fill that need." Most small towns are pretty compact, and not very suburb-y.
  • Like Detroit, a small town does attract "the poorest, least educated and most unskilled – because it’s such a cheap place to live." But many small towns have shrunk, and face the same challenges of having more space than they need for their current people.
  • "If Detroit manages to revive its downtown, like Chicago's Loop, it will take a long time to stretch that prosperity outside of the core, like Chicago faces today." For a small town, is it any easier to spread the prosperity around? Is it possible that prosperity is harder to concentrate in the first place? 

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