|GM wanted to move its headquarters from Detroit to its Tech Center location in Warren to save money and potentially avoid receiving TARP funds. Government said “no” — Detroit is 90% Black; Warren is 78% white|
The Renaissance Center’s development was the result of private interests working to create a built environment in downtown Detroit that was comparable to the malls and office parks offered by the suburbs. Businesses that supported the development wanted to create a private space that could easily be controlled and monitored to fashion a safe, crime-free place for shopping, work, and nightlife. People could park, work, eat, shop, and see a movie all at one site, and the result was the creation of a minicity within Detroit. It was not only physically separated from the rest of the city–making pedestrian access difficult-but also the stores inside catered to a middle- to upper-class clientele. Some critics came to see the center as a “fortress” for the middle- and upper-class whites who still wanted a downtown experience. Symbolically, the center brought the suburbs to downtown Detroit. It was not only physically separated from the rest of the city–making pedestrian access difficult-but also the stores inside catered to a middle- to upper-class clientele. Some critics came to see the center as a “fortress” for the middle- and upper-class whites who still wanted a downtown experience. Symbolically, the center brought the suburbs to downtown Detroit.
In 1970, whites made up 99.5% of the city’s total population of 179,270; only 838 non-whites lived within the city limits. Racial integration came slowly to Warren in the ensuing two decades, with the white portion of the city dropping only gradually to 98.2% in 1980 and 97.3% as of 1990. At that point integration started to accelerate, with the white population declining to 91.3% in 2000 and reaching 78.4% as of the 2010 census.
The politics around GM, with its great size and complexity, not to mention its iconic status, promised to be even more intense. Our loving to-do list was full of pitfalls. One day Fritz called me to propose moving GM headquarters from the Renaissance Center to GM’s Tech Center in suburban Warren, where we had driven the Volt back in March.
The move would cuts costs, he said, as well as symbolize the leadership’s determination to become more to down-to-earth and hands-on. I thought the idea was great, just the kind of action I was hoping to see from Fritz. But when I described it to [Brian] Deese (who served on President Obama’s Economic Policy Working Group), he went nuts. “Are you out of your mind?” he said. “Think what it would do to Detroit!”
Though small in financial implications for the company – the headquarters was worth perhaps $165 million – compared to the $626 million that GM had paid for it just a year earlier (Sic … GM would spend only $76 million to buy the building in 1996, but spend $500 million renovating the complex) – GM’s departure would be a major blow to Detroit. In a one-year period, the once proud city was already suffering with one of the worst unemployment rates in the country, and among the worst murder rates, would see two of its biggest employers go bankrupt, its flamboyant ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick convicted of perjury, and its NFL franchise, the Detroit Lions, become the first in football history to go 0-16.
Deese had some people analyze what a mostly vacant RenCen would mean to Detroit real estate. The estimate: a double-digit hit on already deflated real estate prices. Fritz proposed donating the RenCen to the city- though who actually would use it was unknown.
Leaving the RenCen made strategic sense, however, and was supported by Harry and David. The Tech Center had lots of empty space and much larger floors, so more departments and people could sit near each other, improving teamwork and communication in a culture that desperately needed more of both.
The debate, not surprisingly, soon moved beyond Team Auto. Gene Sperling was one of the many to fight the move. “It’s over for Detroit if you do this,” he yelled in a meeting at [The United States] Treasury. “Don’t do this to Dave Bing” – the city’s new mayor, a former NBA star and successful auto-supplier entrepreneur. “He’s a good man trying to do a good thing.” The city relied on GM for $20 million a year in tax revenue, Gene pointed out, and the blowback would be fierce. Deese checked with Larry, who in turn spoke to Rahm [Emmanuel], and word came down that the move would be a bridge too far.
Fortunately, this unique intervention into a specific GM matter was never leaked to the press, saving us from having to explain how it comported with our policy of letting GM and Chrysler manage their own affairs.
As the Obama campaign continues to tout the GM bailout as an industrial policy success, the Treasury Department continues to revise upward the staggering losses inflicted on U.S. taxpayers.
On the day Government Motors, aka GM, announced it was recalling at least 38,000 of its vehicles — Impalas used by police nationwide and in Canada — due to a crash risk, a new Treasury report said it now expects to lose $25 billion on the bailout, $3.3 billion more than forecast earlier.
As the Detroit News reported, this loss was based on GM’s stock price at the time of the report, which was 15% higher than the previous report. Because the stock price has fallen since then, the latest report likely understates taxpayers’ real losses.