The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program released a new report last week (April 19) that hits on a topic central to our revitalization strategy for Flint and Genesee County. The report, titled “Renewing America’s economic promise through older industrial cities,” compares 70 older industrial cities with other urban areas to gauge how well they are positioned (or not) to adapt to key trends shaping our nation’s economic future.
The research defines an older industrial city as “a significant urban area with a history in manufacturing that has struggled over time to grow jobs in new sectors.” And then, based on various metrics measuring growth, prosperity and inclusion, the report goes on to group these older industrial cities into one of four categories: strong, emerging, stabilizing and vulnerable.
The Flint region – given our historic place in the global automobile industry and our manufacturing know-how – is identified by name in the report … and you can probably guess which of the four categories that we were placed. Rather than rehash here the vulnerabilities that exist in Flint & Genesee, it is far more productive to focus on the proactive measures that are already underway in our community.
For starters, even though the report references specific cities by name, it is really an examination of the entire metropolitan region anchored by that industrial city.
As such, we are not viewed as “Flint” or “Genesee County.” We are instead one – Flint & Genesee. And by working as one, we are better aligned for greater collaboration among our local stakeholders to promote job creation, job preparation and job access. Here in Flint & Genesee, we call that talent and it encompasses everyone from current job seekers to the next generation of workers for the jobs of today and tomorrow.
The strongest of the older industrial communities also are leveraging their sense of place by capitalizing on a renewed interest in urban environments. We are experiencing a similar resurgence with the restoration of historically significant architecture, such as the Capitol Theatre, and the Dryden and Ferris Furs buildings in downtown Flint. Those projects follow earlier renovations, including First Street Lofts, the Durant and the GM Durant-Dort Factory One. And there is more to come, including the current transformation of the old and vacant Woolworth Building into the Mott Community College Culinary Institute.
However, the downtown Flint renaissance is not happening at the expense of the growth and development elsewhere in Genesee County. Indeed, the region’s strong heritage in innovation and personal transportation is working to attract new investment around mobility and advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). As the region’s premier business membership organization as well as the lead economic development agency for Genesee County, the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce will do all it can to support entrepreneurs and existing businesses, with a heightened focus on those working to capitalize on technological innovation.
In Flint & Genesee, we wear our moniker as being one of America’s “older industrial cities” as a badge of honor. That heritage has equipped our community with the tools, the know-how and the people for strong, inclusive economic growth. What’s more, the Brookings report validates our approach.
Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.