I talked a while ago about the need for an aerotropolis near urban communities. Flint, Michigan is no different. Once upon a time Flint was mass producing automobiles. Blacks from the South moved to the North (the first Great Migration) to find jobs in the automotive factories and created a middle class (with the exception of racism).
Today, Flint is a high crime area with no jobs, mass population loss and failing education. It's leadership is still stuck in a civil rights era that has passed. The young people who are trapped in Flint are hopeless and have no way of getting out. Their outlet is drugs, prostitution and homicide.
There is a way to create a better Flint. However, it will take innovation and true leadership to move the vision forward.
Flint has to embrace the silver rights movement. Its constituents must understand the value of wealth creation through rebuilding its educational system. The Flint Community School District can take some notes from DPS Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb and DC Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee.
Both charter schools and traditional public schools should foster and build a cooperative with our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. These schools should serve as both financial engineering schools as well as urban and regional planning institutions to recreate Flint.
The biggest prize Flint has presently is Bishop International Airport. This is not some rinky-dink airport. Commercial airlines fly out of Bishop but the area must be redeveloped. If cities historically sprang up around rivers and railroads, the new metroplexes will rise around airports.
This is where Flint becomes a rising star once again.
For example, Dubai is in the middle of the desert, however, it developed an airline network that led to dramatic growth in passengers and cargo, and the commercial development that goes along with it.
Cities with the sense to build themselves around powerful airports, instead of banishing them to blight, are poised to become the vital nodes of commerce in this century because they offer speed, agility and accessibility.
Today, commercial and residential centers radiate from airport terminals and runways. Companies, increasingly reliant on air transportation to move people and goods quickly in a global economy, locate nearby. About 54% of U.S. exports move by air, up from 42% in 1990. High-tech companies have a 50% higher demand for air transportation than smokestack industries. When thousands of jobs are created, new homes follow.
Airports are temporary homes and offices for thousands of travelers every day and permanent workplaces for countless others. Chicago O'Hare, for example, employs more than 50,000 people, enough to populate a small city. Business people come from around the world to conference centers at or near the airport.
Memphis is the most natural example in the nation because it has the highest percentage of employment and growth connected to an airport, he said.
A University of Memphis study in 2004 showed that the airport is responsible for 166,000 jobs -- one of every four in the region -- and more than $20 billion in annual output.
FedEx, the region's largest employer, has 32,000 transportation-related workers in Memphis.
But the real power of the Memphis aerotropolis is that five railroads also converge here; the city has easy access to interstates; and it has the nation's third-largest inland harbor.
Flint can do the same. What we have to do is connect our educational system with urban an regional planning to create an economy that works for us. The aerotropolis represents the logic of globalization made flesh in the form of cities. Whether we consider globalization to be good or simply inevitable, it holds these truths to be self-evident: that customers on the far side of the world may matter more than those next door; that costs must continually be wrung from every process; that greater efficiency is paramount, followed closely by agility; and that distance equals time, which equals friction.
To cope with these demands, we've already taken to living much of our lives in the digital world. But for every laptop order that zips to Dubai via email, a real 747 must wing its way back with the laptop itself in its hold. If the airport is the mechanism making that possible, everything else--factories, offices, homes, schools--will be built in relation to it.
If other urban areas such as Muskegon, Flint or Saginaw were to proceed with building an aerotropolis it would be the union of urban planning, airport planning, and business strategy. We have to move urban communities in Michigan such as Flint into a global market.
For example, Hong Kong is premising its entire world-trade strategy on the primacy of the airport. Chek Lap Kok Airport (Hong Kong International Airport) already has a mini-city stationed on a nearby island for its 45,000 workers.
Flint also can take a page from its urban neighbor 60 miles south..Detroit. Marketing for the Detroit Region Aerotropolis should start in 2009 after stakeholders complete a four-step strategy to prepare the 60,000 acres near Metro Airport for development.The efforts will turn the corridor from Ann Arbor to Detroit into an economic engine for the state, generating 60,000 jobs.
• Work with the state to develop business incentives, including a pending request to the state to turn the district into a tax-free renaissance zone.
• Form an Aerotropolis Development Corporation among the surrounding municipalities in both Wayne and Washtenaw counties.
• Complete a business attraction plan.
• Develop a marketing plan that brands the Aerotropolis in the U.S. and internationally.
According to a media release, the plan targets 13 sites comprising 10,000 acres of vacant land for the first stages of development. Over a 25-year construction period, projects in the Aerotropolis would produce $173 million per year just in building activity.
Again, Flint can compete and get into the international game if we can get rid of the civil rights leadership in the city. It's time to place silver rights leadership into the City of Flint to help move that city forward. A silver rights platform could not just only benefit Flint but Genessee County as a whole because we would be rebuilding a tax base that is already depleted.