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Editorial: Detroit’s fall

Detroit and its auto industry were long among the poster children for American manufacturing.

The city in Michigan really came into its own in the 20th century, powered by the development of the automobile. Consider that as the auto industry was in its infancy, there were 125 different companies trying to be the one to succeed. As the industry grew, so did Detroit, becoming the fourth largest city in the nation, where thousands upon thousands of blue-collar workers filled the plants that produced the American automobile.

But if the first half of the 20th century was one of taking Detroit to new heights, the second half was the slide, one that picked up speed for the city and its signature industry. Loss of economic opportunities helped fuel racial tensions and flight by the middle class to the suburbs.

The Motor City may have once symbolized the power and greatness of American ingenuity and labor, but during the last part of the 20th century and into the 21st it has struggled to rid itself of its troubles that plagued so many of the industrialized cities of the North.

In too many ways, Detroit is a shell of its former self as mirrored by the vacant and decaying plants and factories, boarded-up houses and empty lots.

Maybe it was inevitable, then, that Detroit’s troubles would accumulate into a financial mess that had the city having to file for bankruptcy.

It’s sad, and the turnaround won’t be simple, easy or quick. The gutting of Detroit, be it in its financial obligations such as pensions or wholesale selling of city assets, primarily real estate, is not the answer.

Americans all around the country should not be turning their back on Detroit, any more than they would another city or place in trouble. The private and public sectors can partner to help rebuild the city.

As a nation we can be the hand that reaches out to help Detroit get back on its feet.

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