The VIEW from here

Maybe Flint isn’t so bad

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

Gary Gould — Managing Editor

OK, let’s face it, the seat of Genesee County has a bad reputation. The name Flint has become synonymous with shootings, drugs, killings and carjackings.

But as I’ve said before, it’s not the entire city and it doesn’t have to be the status quo here.

Crain’s Detroit Business magazine recently ran an article posing the question whether Flint is a better place to do business than Chicago. Apparently if you’re in the business of buying banks, it is.

On Sept. 13, Akron-based FirstMerit Corp. announced it was buying Flint-based Citizens Republic Bancorp Inc. — a $912 million stock deal. This move took the banking world by surprise, Crain’s said,

FirstMerit, a well-run bank with a lot of capital, buying a bank headquartered in Flint, rather than Chicago. It was an unexpected move, but one that makes me wonder whether Flint’s glory days are truly over — or if there is still life there after the auto industry’s departure.

The article goes one step further in looking at the true “demise” of the auto industry, suggesting quite possibly that industry is far from over here.

As one commentator on the banking industry put it — “An alternative reading of FirstMerit’s deal is that it has more to do with the rebound in Michigan.

“The relative opportunity in Michigan looks pretty attractive. The economy in Michigan as compared to Chicago is surging because of the auto industry,” said Terry Keating, a managing director at Amherst Partners in Chicago, in the Crain’s article.

I had to take a double-take at the article. It did indeed say: “The economy in Michigan, as compared to Chicago, is surging because of the auto industry.”

Is this possible? Flint, the epitome of economic hardship. Emergency managers. Budget cuts. Huge budget deficits. Mass migration of the population from the area. And still, there is hope for an economic turnaround?

FirstMerit Corp. must see something different than the rest of us, because if you listen to almost everyone you hear the same story. Flint is going nowhere fast.

But then, in my profession, you get to see things like the way the arts and theater are flourishing in Flint. You see new businesses starting up here all the time — in Flint and its suburbs.

The town is not dead.

Not yet.

There must still be hope if you stop and consider for one moment the fact a prosperous bank which is growing would rather come to Flint than Chicago because of what it sees as a boom in the auto industry is.

Five years ago I would not have thought it possible. Today I still even have to try and wrap my head around the concept, but maybe it is true. Maybe Flint will finally get the economic rebirth it has been waiting for all these years.

If such a thing is possible, then maybe there is a hope for other industry here in Flint and Genesee County. One can only hope and keep working to see that future comes to be here in mid- Michigan.

I for one would love to see the day when my children can have careers and a family here like I did, and my parents before me. There’s really nothing better, in my opinion, than coming home.

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