Detroit: What Lessons for Victoria from a ‘Post-Industrial’ City?

Dr Tom Barnes

Victoria’s manufacturing sector has been in decline for several years. A range of workplace closures – not least the announcement by Australia’s last remaining carmakers that local motor vehicle manufacturing would be wound-down by 2016-17 – have had a significant impact on communities. There is much to learn from international experiences and responses to deindustrialisation and manufacturing job losses. Detroit is perhaps the global exemplar of industrial decline. Once the fourth great city of the United States, Detroit has undergone decades of deindustrialisation and depopulation. More recently, the social fabric of the city was severely undermined by successive economic recessions, the collapse and bailout of General Motors and Chrysler in 2009-10 and the bankruptcy of its municipal government in 2013-14.

Despite these enormous challenges, Detroiters are reinventing their city right now with innovative and dynamic collaborations between government, businesses, philanthropists, non-profit and community organisations. Based on recent research in Detroit, including multiple interviews with its civic, business and political leaders, this is one of the first reports to document these collaborative efforts in the 12 months since the city emerged from bankruptcy.

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