As the automotive industry goes through a transitional period, the communities that were shaped by the once-thriving sector must change as well. On May 18, a summit featuring discussions among key federal, state and local leaders addressed the decline in auto communities and the tools needed to bring them into the next economy.
The event was co-sponsored by the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, the United States Department of Labor, and the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities.
Leaders from several auto-dependent cities and regions described their innovative strategies and partnerships to address community economic change, and opened up discussion with audience members about implementation and opportunities for new partnerships and federal reform. Speakers included Bruce Katz, Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas, and the co-chairs of the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers, Lawrence Summers and Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. The administration announced a new initiative to help fund the restoration of declining manufacturing properties as a part of General Motors’ restructuring—an idea echoed in Alan Mallach’s “Facing the Urban Challenge” paper released at the event.
Sessions focused on related aspects of economic transformation: reinventing industries, retraining workers, cleaning up contamination and blight, and creating new uses for underutilized land.
One particular panel focused on Detroit, the traditional center of the auto industry. Leaders discussed a holistic approach to reinventing a major auto city, from helping auto manufacturers and suppliers transition to new products to physically transforming a central city that has lost over half of its population during the last 50 years. Driving the vision are powerful partnerships with philanthropic and other community leaders.
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