Stephen McGee / for NBC News
The building has been abandoned for years, but its windows aren’t broken and there’s no graffiti on its walls – unlike so many other forgotten hulks nearby in the long-impoverished southwest corner of Detroit.
Community organizers promise to soon reopen the Mexicantown Mercado and turn it into an anchor for the city’s Latino community. They also hope to turn the complex into a shining example of what can happen in Detroit with help from the companies that transformed the once sleepy Midwest town into the Motor City..
As part of Operation Brighter Future, Ford Motor Co. is pumping $10 million into the resurrection of the Mexicantown Mercado – which will serve as a new food bank and community center and be renamed the Ford Resource and Engagement Center. Company officials, notably including new Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields, promise still more aid to come for the long-beleaguered Detroit..
Such moves are not entirely altruistic, said Fields. Detroit’s long-running problems don’t just serve as the butt of jokes when he travels, but the transplanted Jersey boy has also seen firsthand that it can be difficult to get others to migrate to Motown. .
“The community we live in can be either a draw – or not – to get the best and brightest we need for our company’s future,” Fields said. .
Ford is by no means alone. Since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009, General Motors has ramped up its involvement in a city that is teetering on bankruptcy. So has Chrysler, which moved its headquarters to the fringe suburb of Auburn Hills more than two decades ago..
There’s no question that Detroit needs all the help it can get. .
The making of Motor City.
In the years after World War II, the “Arsenal of Democracy” was a major part of American pride about its industrial muscle – and the primary source of the machines that helped transport U.S. workers out to the fast-growing suburbs. But over the years, the factories and jobs followed, leaving a city of abandoned assembly and supplier plants and rapidly shrinking communities, especially after the riots of the mid-1960s..
Whole neighborhoods have vanished or are largely filled with abandoned homes and once-thriving businesses. In the 1950 census, Detroit’s population peaked at 1.85 million, making it the nation’s fifth-largest city. That dwindled to 706,585 people in 2011, according to the U.S. Census estimate. During the previous decade, the city lost one resident every 22 minutes.
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