Tim Mahoney, I’m looking at you here. You’ve done a lot to lead by example. You’re a fellow Detroit resident, which is what I’m estimating is what 98% of Ren Cen employees can’t say, and like me, also had wheels stolen. Through that adversity, we’re practically family at this point, even though we’ve never formally met. And what I’m saying comes from the heart: Chevrolet, and GM as a whole, needs to help make Detroit a more attractive place.
As one of the city’s largest employers, there hasn’t been much effort put forth by General Motors lately in shaping downtown Detroit to be more vibrant, younger and sexier. For no other reason, here’s why it needs to do so: if Chevrolet wants to hire young blood and attract the coveted hearts and minds from Silicon Valley, New York and elsewhere, it has to play a bigger role in terraforming the city’s downtown area and beyond. There’s frankly too much competition and options for a well-equipped college graduate and potential hire to naturally desire to move to a city where, at the surface, is a cold and dysfunctional place with a high crime rate, just to make a living. It needs something that draws more people into living here — not just the starry eyed entrepreneurs and the herds of bohemians, each with six roommates — without the city sacrificing its soul.
It pains me to say that Gilbertopia/Quicken Loans have moved in and seemed to have grabbed the spotlight as the employer doing the most to encourage its workers to move into the D. An entertaining atmosphere at work (even if that work involves the dirtiness of occasionally selling subprime mortgages), housing stipends, and even shuttle busses. Perhaps a few pages out of that playbook would be appropriate. And maybe some sort of regular event or attraction that brings more people into town every weekend, aside from the typical Lions, Tigers or Red Wings games.
Why hasn’t Chevrolet hosted a Cars and Coffee on Belle Isle? Or in any of the eyesore parking lots festooning the riverfront? Why isn’t there a damn Chevrolet vehicle museum in downtown Detroit? Or how about supplemental driving education seminars held locally? These are all things that Chevrolet can provide the community and its employees, without straying from what Detroit has always historically been: The Motor City.
And while I get that mass transit has never historically been GM’s favorite thing (the now-shuttered Truck & Bus Group notwithstanding), the new Lyft partnership announcement is very interesting. Will GM and Lyft use Detroit as a hub for a futuristic transportation solution? Can GM and Lyft compete with the fail trolley being installed on Woodward Avenue that dares to call itself a “light rail” line? I know I can’t be the only person who would like to see that. Ultimately, Chevrolet and GM should ask their employees what they would like to see in our beloved city of Detroit, or what it would take for them to move there, and see what can be done to make it so.
GM’s efforts in The Riverfront Conservancy are a start. But largely moot if you can’t stop a vast majority of the thousands of people within the Silver Silos from going home to the suburbs, or if you can’t attract a city-loving millennial workforce to move in and enjoy it after hours. We’ve noticed the kind of ghost town Detroit can be in the evening when nothing particular is going on. A 142.9 square-mile city shouldn’t be that way.