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On Economic Downturns and Autonomous Cars: Insights from a Detroit Business Journalist

 

As a senior reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business, Dustin Walsh has been a firsthand witness to the tumultuous changes Detroit’s economy has faced in recent years. Walsh, who will moderate a CEO panel at Paving a Path to Growth, a workshop hosted by Staples and ICIC on February 11 in Detroit, recently spoke with ICIC’s Eliza LaJoie about the future of Detroit’s economy and business community.

ICIC: Much of your business reporting focuses on the automotive industry here in Detroit. Do you foresee the auto industry always remaining at the core of Detroit business?

DW: The auto industry will always be the blood of this city, but the definition of a car will change. Your car will be like a roaming living room. As a small business reporter I’ve ridden in five autonomous vehicles so far. Car-sharing is also a game-changer. [The auto industry] will be a blend of consumer electronics, entertainment, all these buzzwords.

 

ICIC: What unique advantages do Detroit businesses have after weathering the economic downturn?

DW: Industry in Detroit was siloed before the downturn. Now, the opportunities exist to help out your competitor to get things done. It’s a little more forward-thinking. For example, you’re seeing the auto market working together to attract talent, participating in more public-facing events, more messages going out together.

You’re also seeing people having more understanding of how their businesses as a whole affect their industry and their community. Opening and closing factories used to be a purely economic decision. Now there’s a renewed interest in creating jobs for Detroiters, people who live in the city, not just in the suburbs. There’s a re-focus on making Detroit an economic center for people who actually live there.

Lear Corporation is opening a design center to lure employees [who attended] the College for Creative Studies, tapping into this new emerging creative class in the city.

ICIC: In addition to your news reporting, you also blog about new technological advancements and in some cases encourage your city to embrace new innovations. What do you see as your role in helping move Detroit industry into the future?

DW: I care about where I live and work, and I think it’d be disingenuous if I didn’t point in the direction of things that matter that readers may not be seeing.

Where money is spent these days is largely on R&D, so the kinds of jobs that are here are changing. Manufacturing is completely changing. Everyone is asking “Is a robot going to take my job?” The answer is “yes,” so the question is what are the new jobs, and are you prepared? If we put people to work, we can solve the rest of the problems.

 

On February 11 at the Paving a Path to Growth workshop, hosted by Staples and ICIC, Walsh and three Inner City 100 CEOs will share insights into how successful, rapid-growth companies can grow while remaining true to the core values and ideas that set them apart. Click here to learn more and register for the no-cost event. 

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