Private industry is blooming here, even as the city’s finances have descended into wreckage.
In late 2011, Rachel Lutz opened a clothing shop, the Peacock Room, which proved so successful that she opened another one, Emerald, last fall. Shel Kimen, who had worked in advertising in New York, is negotiating to build a boutique hotel and community space. Big companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield have moved thousands of workers into downtown Detroit in recent years. A Whole Foods grocery, this city’s first, is scheduled to open in June.
On Friday, just as Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, was deeming an outside, emergency manager a necessity to save Detroit’s municipal finances, the once-teetering Big Three automakers were reporting growing sales.
“It’s almost a tale of two cities here,” said Ms. Lutz, who is 32. “I tripled my projections in my first year.”
Around the country, as businesses have recovered, the public sector has in many cases struggled and shrunk. Detroit may be the most extreme example of a city’s dual fates, public and private, diverging.
At times, the widening divide has been awkward, even tense. As private investors contemplated opening coffee bean roasters, urban gardening suppliers and fish farms, Detroit firefighters complained about shortages of equipment, suitable boots and even a dearth of toilet paper.
“You’ve got to walk before you run, and for many years we weren’t even walking,” William C. Ford Jr., executive chairman of the Ford Motor Company, said of the developments of late within Detroit’s private sector. “But now it’s really interesting. Even as the political and financial situations continue to deteriorate, in spite of that, there is very hopeful business activity taking place.”
In the eyes of some, the signs of a private sector turnaround have only served to accentuate divisions: a mostly black city with an influx of young, sometimes white artists and entrepreneurs; a revived downtown but hollowed-out neighborhoods beyond; an upbeat mood among business leaders even as the city’s frustrated elected officials face diminished, uncertain roles under state supervision.
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