Whither Detroit

By Jeff Rundles | Jul 25, 2013

The news in July of the $20 billion bankruptcy filing by the City of Detroit should be a cautionary tale for every city and state in the union: don’t put all of your economic eggs in one basket and keep a sharp on all of the baskets created.

To be sure, Detroit’s economic problems, part of the so-called “Rust Belt” deterioration phenomenon the whole country has been witnessing and discussing since the 1970s, was not caused solely by the massive decline in the nation’s automobile industry. There were severe social issues and an unbelievable failure in politics and government that contributed mightily. On the other hand, had the American automakers paid attention to foreign competition and had kept their end of American manufacturing operating at highly profitable levels, the disaster that is Detroit today would probably not have happened or would at least be much less devastating. I said it before about the more recent General Motors bankruptcy and subsequent government bailout: If GM had simply made the Toyota Camry 35 years ago we wouldn’t had to have the bailout conversation.

Still, though, if you’re the “Motor City” or “Steel Town USA” (Pittsburgh), economic changes in that single sector – which are cyclical and inevitable – are bound to create problems. Yeah, sure, Silicon Valley has been rolling along quite nicely for 30 years or so, but Detroit and Pittsburgh did the same booming thing for decades.

So let’s look at Colorado. There are more than 5,500 manufacturers in this state, most of them small- and medium-sized businesses, and, thankfully, they represent dozens of industries over a broad spectrum of endeavors. There’s nothing here that would suggest the kind of wide-spread economic collapse witnessed in Detroit and Pittsburgh, for instance. And even the largest sector of what is generally considered manufacturing, agriculture, is broad-based enough here to most likely withstand an economic upheaval in any one commodity.

We hear, of course, all the time about high-tech businesses operating and forming in Colorado, as governments and economic development boosters like to tout the conventional wisdom of that industry delivering high-paying jobs. But cutting through the chaff to look at the wheat in manufacturing reveals thousands of businesses here in brewing, fabrication, emerging technologies and even, so I hear lately, apparel design and cut-and-sew manufacturing.

This only scratches the surface and we here at CompanyWeek are determined to go deeper and expose – and champion – the powerful and growing manufacturing sector in Colorado. Here’s hoping it remains diverse and gains even more diversity as it grows and grows and grows. Because, Whither Detroit…