What British cities can learn from Detroit: Motor City's turnaround should be a model for regeneration

 

British cities seeking to adapt to the realities of the new global economy should model their plans on the success of United States conurbations including Detroit, a former urban development advisor to President Obama has told The Independent.

Bankruptcy and the flight of more than one million of its citizens since the collapse of the automotive industry have turned the once mighty Motown into a byword for decline.

But Bruce Katz, vice president of the Washington think tank the Brookings Institution, who has advised both the Clinton and Obama White Houses on urban regeneration, said that Detroit was now part of the metro revolution that is transforming the lives of millions of citizens and rebuilding the shattered US economy.

He said that the clustering of education and health sectors in the city’s Midtown area was leading the resurgence in fortunes of the vast metropolis which sprawls over 138 square miles.

“You have small manufacturing companies and tech companies coming in. That city will revive from its core. Its only three per cent of the land mass today but it provides 50 per cent of the jobs.

“Today I think most great cities in the US are going to see explosive growth in these small cores – the down towns which tend to be along riverfronts, and then tend to have most of the assets that great cities have: the cultural venues, the sporting venues the institutions,” he said.

Mr Katz, who was in the UK to address the BT Global City Leaders Summit at the International Festival for Business in Liverpool, said local government had been forced to step into the vacuum left by political deadlock and partisan in-fighting in Washington to deliver millions of jobs lost in the recession.

Old tires rest near the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit (Getty) Old tires rest near the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit (Getty)

He highlighted the development of Roosevelt Island in Manhattan as an example of a city-led initiative masterminded by former mayor Michael Bloomberg which has seen the creation of the $2bn Cornell Tech “genius school” with which New York hopes to one day rival Silicon Valley.

Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city with a population of just 160,000, had used its capital budget to build the fastest Internet in the US.

“That tells companies you can come to Chattanooga and you can be big data computing in a nanosecond,” he said.

Meanwhile, city leaders in Portland, Oregon had brought together the disparate environmental and sustainability companies and was now marketing their products and services worldwide.

“This is very low-cost and the mayor is literally making them secure business deals in the rising cities of China, India and Brazil. Jobs back home, sustainable growth abroad – it’s a win-win,” he said.


US policymakers came to Nordic countries, northern Germany and Holland for ideas to generate jobs through collaborative networks of civic, private and political leaders. He said Britain remained too preoccupied with looking to central Government for the solutions to problems.

“What I find when I come to Europe or the UK is almost an exclusive focus on public when the economy is delivered through a public-private partnership writ large. Once you expand your purview to what the private sector is doing or what the civic institutions are doing then the role of cities becomes amplified,” he said.

Mr Katz said the world was on the verge of a technologically driven “growth spurt”, much of it based around low-carbon. Cities such as Boston, Seattle, Austen and San Francisco were “technologically on fire” creating computer software products that would revolutionise education, healthcare, finance as well as retail and manufacturing.

Bruce Katz vice president at the Brookings Institution (Rex) Bruce Katz vice president at the Brookings Institution (Rex)
In the vanguard cities of the post-recession world, suburban sprawl was now halting with companies relocating to urban centres. It was up to local leaders to make places where the best and the brightest wanted to be, he said.

It was up to local politicians, as well as business and university leaders to head the changes – many of which cannot be achieved at a national level. Meanwhile, voters wanted their cities to be more empowering and city government to have more resources.

“You should not be making a lot of decisions about things in a bureaucracy in Whitehall it should be pushed down the system. The more powerful they are the more they will be able to work with their businesses and universities to have that breakthrough effect and spark that next innovation and jobs wave,” he said.

Three cities for the UK to follow

Detroit, Michigan: Bankrupt basket case since collapse of car makers but now 10 per cent of city’s metropolitan workforce is employed in research and development in advanced industries. Creation of new innovation district is attracting high tech companies.

Chattanooga, Tennessee: Christened Gig City for its high speed broadband, it boasts Internet speeds 50 times faster than elsewhere in the US and on a par with world's fastest in Hong Kong. Switch-on has created 1,000 jobs and led to downtown regeneration.

Portland, Oregon: Urban green belt laws adopted in the 1970s made the city a hub for environmental and sustainable technologies. City leaders have developed trade strategy to China, India and Brazil which has created jobs and prosperity for small firms.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
News
Coca-Cola has become one of the largest companies in the world to push staff towards switching off their voicemails, in a move intended to streamline operations and boost productivity
peopleCoca-Cola staff urged to switch it off to boost productivity
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Regulatory / Compliance / Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - 12 Month Fixed Term - Shrewsbury

£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...

The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there