Rebound Cities Offer Lessons for Detroit

This piece from <em>The New Republic</em> looks at the "urban disaster" of Detroit and compares it to other cities that have come on tough times in the past. Cities like Belfast and Turin offer examples of how Detroit can come back from the dead.
December 17, 2009, 6am PST | Nate Berg
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"It is strangely fitting that the recent auto bailout endowed Detroit with a new corporate patron hailing from Turin, Italy. Like Detroit, Turin was once a grand capital of the auto industry, which accounted for 80 percent of the city's industrial activity, most of it with Fiat, Chrysler's new owner. But the Italian auto industry didn't fare much better than the American one in the face of new competition. Fiat's Turin operations went from 140,000 workers in the early 1970s to a mere 40,000 in the early '90s. And with the collapse of Fiat came the collapse of Turin. Its population plummeted almost 30 percent in 25 years. National and local leaders focused more on combating domestic terrorism from the Red Brigades than on providing basic services. The city spun through four mayors in seven years and accumulated a budget deficit in the mid-'90s of 120 billion lira.

Recovery from this kind of spiral begins with political leadership. And, in 1993, the city elected a reformist mayor, Valentino Castellani, who devised a breathtakingly ambitious plan for the city. Potential investors were never going to have faith in Turin unless the city spelled out its strategy with specificity, so the plan laid out 84 "actions" for development, which Turin vowed to implement by the year 2011."

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Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 in The New Republic
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