Motown . . . Then and Now . . .

I punched the button in my car to connect with an On-Star advisor. When the call was answered, I asked to be transferred to The Cadillac technical assistance desk to get help in pairing my iPhone with the car. In a moment a younger guy answered and identified himself as Christopher. Part of what he needed to help me with depended upon me providing him with info and him sending me an email, so there were pauses and gaps in the conversation. In one such gap I asked where he was located (there are several service centers from D/FW up to Windsor, Canada). Christopher said he worked out of Detroit. Just making conversation I asked him how the local economy was doing. He replied, “Detroit is part of the mainline USA and it is doing just like the rest of the nation . . . no better, no worse!”  DUH

It seems Christopher was totally unaware that Detroit was once a city of almost two-million, was one of the foremost industrial and manufacturing centers on the planet, and had many high-paying jobs (a guy straight out of high school could go to work on an auto assembly line at $25 per hour while $8 per hour was the norm across the nation. Housing costs were much higher than most other areas.) The simple truth is that it was Motown . . . the place where automobiles were built and assembled. There were hundreds upon hundreds of smaller firms making components for those vehicles. In fact, back in the day there were over 275,000 businesses in the area, employing some three-million people. For a 20+ year period, Detroit led the nation in commercial development. Then global competition kicked in and changed much. It was all made worse by the Clinton Administration implementing the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which sent many Detroit jobs to Mexico . . . where those $25 per hour jobs could be performed by people working for $20 per day.

Today, the crime rate is one of the highest in the nation as is the unemployment rate. Back during that boom era, I did a couple of seminars each year in Detroit . . . usually at Cobo Center . . . the famous facility in the downtown area . . . the place was used for meetings such as mine, but with removable walls so it could also be used by the auto manufacturers for the annual car shows . . . where they displayed the new models. In those years Detroit was an exciting place with a booming economy . . . everywhere one looked there was new construction taking place. Folks from across the planet filled the hotels and restaurants. Motown had it going on back then, but it is a rather pitiful place today. I hope with all that is happening with the economy under Trump . . . a surging Wall Street, the return from abroad of many manufacturers, the wide range of regulation cutting, and the revision to the tax code that will entice American firms to bring back trillions of dollars that had been stashed away in foreign banks to prevent heavy taxation. Exxon-Mobile just recently announced plans to invest some $50 billion into the economy.

Christopher didn’t know much about economics or history, but the rascal did manage to help me in successfully pairing my car and phone. Now, I can lock and unlock the car or start the engine from a couple hundred feet away. Moreover, he was a pretty nice young guy.

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