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Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown 336

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-can-one-of-you-build-robocop-please dept.
jfruh writes: "Over the past few years, the growth rate in Detroit tech jobs has been twice the natural average. The reason is the industry that still makes Detroit a company town: U.S. automotive companies are getting into high tech in a big way, and need qualified people to help them do it. Another bonus: the rent is a lot cheaper than it is in San Francisco. '[A]ccording to Automation Alley's 2013 Technology Industry Report, the metro Detroit area grew to a total of 242,520 technology industry jobs in 2011, representing a 15% increase from the 2010 level of 210,984 technology industry jobs. No other benchmarked region had greater technology industry growth than metro Detroit in this period. Further, according to the report, this growth helped propel metro Detroit to a ranking of fourth among the 14 benchmarked regions, passing San Jose."
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Detroit: America's Next Tech Boomtown

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  • by MAXOMENOS (9802) <maxomai@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:24PM (#46788215) Homepage
    If true, this is great for Detroit. That said, what the heck is the "natural average" of job growth?
    • This article feels like all those ads you see at the bottom of news stories that are disguised to look like related news. They all talk about how great things are in Detroit and how cheap the land and buildings are and how the economy is "booming". Is it sad that Slashdot has fallen so far that my suspicion meter is starting to move when I see articles like this?

    • Re:Query (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bobbied (2522392) on Friday April 18, 2014 @01:49PM (#46789017)

      That said, what the heck is the "natural average" of job growth?

      It's a number ploy by a marketing firm... Detroit is showing the best *improvement* in jobs... Which really means last year they created 10 jobs, this year it's 20, for a 100% improvement.. Nobody else comes close....

      Trust me, you DON'T want to live anywhere near there..

      • It's a number ploy by a marketing firm...

        It most assuredly is not a marketing ploy. There is a HUGE number of technology jobs in and around Detroit Metro and always has been because guess what? There is a LOT of technology that goes into manufacturing cars. Robotics, computers, automation, coatings, materials science, welding, forming, stamping, chemicals, etc. As the auto industry has bounced back from 2008-2009, job growth has rebounded too. It's actually not surprising at all that Detroit's job growth is rather high at the moment.

        Trust me, you DON'T want to live anywhere near there..

        Only moro

        • by bobbied (2522392)

          Only morons who have never actually come to Michigan think that. Look, 80% of Detroit Metro is outside the City.

          I lived just west of Detroit for 2 years. Couldn't wait to move.

  • I heard that they gave Omni Consumer Products^W^W^W Google to clean up the town. They're doing something with drones.
  • in that area of the country? it does not seem so, to me. seems more like deep red states, more or less. not exactly what tech people flock to, to be honest.

    weather is a huge turn-off. culture of progress and new ideas is not there.

    crime and corruption IS there. well, the ceo's will like it, at least; but the rest of us, not so much..

    • by Stickerboy (61554)

      in that area of the country? it does not seem so, to me. seems more like deep red states, more or less. not exactly what tech people flock to, to be honest.

      Yes, because conservative views have turned the tech industry off from flocking to Texas for jobs. There's a sarcasm tag embedded there.

      • by plopez (54068)

        I've flat out told recruiters I will not move south of the Mason-Dixon line. At least as far west as Texas. And don't get me started on Texas. My dad left there as soon as he could and I have no desire to return.

      • by Richy_T (111409)

        Hey, Tennessee here... Do you think you could stop sucking up all the technology workers? We're experiencing a bit of a tech boom here and need some ourselves.

    • Ah, you appear to be confusing "people interested in high tech" with "fanatical zealots of a dualistic ideology". One of these is actually progressive, the other is not.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zordak (123132)

      in that area of the country? it does not seem so, to me. seems more like deep red states, more or less.

      Detroit? Deep Red? Detroit has not had a Republican mayor in 50 years. Detroit is your liberal, socialist utopia. Liberals should be flocking there to bask in their success.

      • by Jahoda (2715225) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:03PM (#46789109) Homepage
        How you get moderated "insightful" for such nonsense is beyond me. Detroit's problems are rooted in race and the class system that existed there long before it became a republican talking point to blame Detroit's problems caused by "socialist liberalism". I like to think this is the kind of place such a black and white view of the world gets buried where it belongs.
        • by OhPlz (168413) on Friday April 18, 2014 @02:15PM (#46789209)

          Democrats and labor unions have run Detroit for what, six decades? How much longer do they need to fix those "preexisting" issues? Or is it that their ideologies simply don't work?

          • by anagama (611277)

            The Democrat label means nothing. If Nixon was running in an election today, they'd have to put him on the ticket with the greens or something. Even Obamacare is basically Nixon's health care plan with the liberal parts eliminated. These Democrat and Republican labels have become so meaningless, they should just change their names to Blue Team and Red Team. It's much more accurate to say that GOP ideology, as put in practice by DNC candidates, is the poison in the system.

          • by guanxi (216397) on Friday April 18, 2014 @06:32PM (#46791693)

            It may seem to fit that partisan narrative, but you don't really know Detroit politics. The Big Three run Detroit, in any meaningful sense. The economy of the city is completely dependent on them, and as auto company jobs have declined since the 1950s, so has Detroit. GM just went bankrupt and Chrysler nearly did; it's hard to blame that on local Detroit politics.

            Race problems have been huge. Much of the city's talent was effectively barred from eduction, productive employment, or decent housing for a long time. The riots in 1967 did not come from a vacuum, but from decades of oppression by the white population. You probably haven't read about the riots that would happen when a black person dared to move into a white neighborhood. George Wallace (former Alabama governor and ardent segregationist) won the 1968 Democratic primary in the city!

            If you really want to understand Detroit and urban politics, and the role of race, read this history (which won the Bancroft Prize [wikipedia.org], among others):

            The Origins of the Urban Crisis [princeton.edu] by Thomas Sugrue

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      crime and corruption IS there. well, the ceo's will like it, at least; but the rest of us, not so much..

      CEOs are drawn to the kind of crime you find on Wall Street, not the kind of crime you find in most of Detroit.

  • Wanted (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slapout (93640) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:31PM (#46788271)

    Wanted: People who are smart enough to work in tech, but dumb enough to live in an unsafe place.

    • It doesn't necessarily mean someone is making a dumb decision. This can be a perfectly legitimate, sensible option, IMO.

      I knew people who moved to Mexico in the past, with similar motivations. If you can earn enough money there, you can easily afford to build yourself a fortress of a house and hire people to go out and run errands for you, etc. It might not make sense for someone with a whole family to take care of. But a younger, single person who might tend to be more of an introvert in the first place

    • Re:Wanted (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wile_e8 (958263) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:42PM (#46788367)
      Note that this article is about "metro Detroit", not "Detroit". Plenty of safe places to live in the Detroit metro area, especially on a tech worker salary, they're just outside the city proper. And even if the jobs were in actual Detroit, it's still possible to commute from outside the city. But whatever, it's an article mentioning Detroit, let's just bash Detroit.
    • by msauve (701917)
      That's like saying the valley can't attract tech workers because of Oakland (well, except that Detroit actually has less crime than Oakland).
      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Detroit actually has less crime than Oakland.

        Because NOBODY lives there who has the option to move so there is nobody to have a crime committed on, except during the day when...

        OR is it because the last real police officer they had in Detroit was named Axel Foley so there is nobody there to report crimes to, much less investigate them?

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      Wanted: People who are smart enough to work in tech, but dumb enough to live in an unsafe place.

      Yeah. http://www.theverge.com/2013/1... [theverge.com]

      You want a nice safe place like SanFrancisco And people who can't stand a little cold might be upset to know it isn't really all that warm either.

  • by sjbe (173966) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:31PM (#46788285)

    Over the past few years, the growth rate in Detroit tech jobs has been twice the natural average.

    It's not just growth. Detroit has had lots of tech jobs for decades. It's been in the top 5 markets for many types of tech jobs for a long time. There is an ENORMOUS amount of technology that goes into automobile manufacturing. Robotics, CAD, industrial automation, materials science, welding, forming, coatings, chemicals, software and more. There are very few places in the USA with a higher density of engineering talent and opportunity.

    Oh and before someone makes yet another ill informed remark about Detroit City, don't confuse Metro Detroit with Detroit City. Oakland County, immediately to the north of Detroit is one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the entire USA and has a AAA credit rating. Michigan is actually a really nice place to live, especially if you love the outdoors. Ann Arbor which is close by is a fantastic college town too if that suits your sensibilities.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Top two cities with the highest density of engineers are Huntsville Alabama and Palm Bay/Melbourne Florida for what should be obvious reasons.

      • >Huntsville Alabama and Palm Bay/Melbourne Florida for what should be obvious reasons.

        Should be but isn't. Why are they they the top two cities with the highest density of engineers?

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Wow and this is supposed to be news for nerds?
          NASA Huntsville is home of the Marshall Space Flight Center.
          Melbourne Florida /Palm Bay? The largest town near Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Base, Patricks Air Force Base, the Eastern Test Range, Harris corp, Raytheon, Boeing, and many other companies involved in space flight.
          Big Nasa programs in relatively small cities means an extremely high percentage of highly educated tech people.

      • by msauve (701917)

        Top two cities with the highest density of engineers are Huntsville Alabama and Palm Bay/Melbourne Florida for what should be obvious reasons.

        ...the ability to live off the government.

    • and that point right there is why it bugs me when people were advocating letting the auto industry wither away.. there's a HUGE amount of intellectual capital and industrial potential that simply wouldn't exist without the auto industry.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by dlt074 (548126)

        which would of been picked up by the next, possibly innovative, auto company to come along an buy up all the union heavy, bloated, bureaucratic, bankrupt companies assets at rock bottom prices. there is/was no need to bail the industry out. people like/want cars. somebody will always be around to make them and people move were the jobs are. you don't stop being valuable or employable because the company you work for goes out of business. it's called a free market. which we haven't had for some time.

        as for

        • by sjbe (173966)

          which would of been picked up by the next, possibly innovative, auto company to come along an buy up all the union heavy, bloated, bureaucratic, bankrupt companies assets at rock bottom prices

          Wouldn't have happened because the supply chain would have imploded. GM gets liquidated and it would have dragged Ford and Chrysler down with it because they all share the same suppliers. Even the CEO of Toyota publicly admitted that liquidating GM would have been a bad idea because it would have hurt them badly too. GM being liquidated puts Delphi and Lear and a bunch of other Tier 1, 2 and 3 companies out of business. My company would have folded and not come back.

          you don't stop being valuable or employable because the company you work for goes out of business.

          When a company the size of GM + its

  • List of the most dangerous cities in the US for 2013 [examiner.com]. Detroit is 3rd, right after Flint, Michigan.

    • However, if you take into account the probability for natural disasters in the SF area, you may end even with Detroit. This article is misleading because it considers the criminality as the only threat to decide to which extent a city is dangerous or not. That's not fair.
      • I think the annual winter more than compensates for earthquake and fire risk. I grew up in the Detroit area, and I'll take the earthquake and fire risk in the hills around LA over winter, thanks.

  • Wait for it.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by retech (1228598) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:37PM (#46788329)
    I went back for a visit last winter. It's sad. There are tiny pockets of hold outs and then the rest is just a free for all. Scrappers have gutted ever bit of available metal from any empty building not staffed with armed guards. This is best done with a sledge hammer and torch. The buildings are not recoverable after that. The roads are worse than a dirt road. At least gravity levels those out a bit. Then there's the crime.

    I found a hipster pocket in DelRay. Perhaps one of the most obliterated areas. The homes are early 20th cen and cute. They sell for about $10 - 100. If you can find a buyer. There was a 2 block section of white hipsters fixing up their little gems. Baby strollers, all the trimmings. And I commented to a friend who still lives about .5 miles away: "Don't they realize when things get bad enough they're gonna be food for the locals?" He just laughed and said no.

    Nothing has really changed there. Sadly it won't. The mentality is still the same. No matter how much money you throw at it. The city is corrupt from the ground up and has been for 100+ yrs. The new mayor may help. But he'll most likely give up like Archer did. Without a major paradigm shift in mentality it will always be Detroit.
    • they'll move on when the time comes. Most of 'em have degrees. They'll leave behind the slums. While they're there the locals won't mess with them, because if they do the police (who are heavily armed thanks to 30 years of hand-me-downs from the military) will bust some heads until they do. Remember the last round of riots in Los Angeles? Everyone laughed and called them dumb because they trashed their own neighborhoods. That wasn't by choice. There were cops in full riot gear with military grade tanks cord
      • by retech (1228598)
        LA and Detroit are two entirely different beasts. Unless you have a dead body of some kind a cop does not respond in Detroit. It's been policy for decades. Car accidents and robberies are reported by the victim downtown. They used to have a specialized response team nicknamed the Big Four. That was a good deal of ass kicking if that car showed up. But budget issues did away with them in the late 80's. Detroit's police are not as well armed as the citizens.

        I just wonder about the ensuing hipster massacres
  • It could happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ErichTheRed (39327) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:44PM (#46788387)

    I'm a Rust Belt kid, so seeing northern cities on something of a comeback trajectory is a good thing to me. The problem is image -- you have to find techies who are willing to put up with a very messed up local economy and deal with winter. I'm from Buffalo, and winters there are very long and cold. The obvious benefit is that the cost of living is much lower than California or similar. I couldn't believe last time I was in CA to visit a friend that they had just paid almost a million dollars for a 3-bedroom house with no property. I don't care how good the weather is, that's absolutely nuts, and I live in the NYC metro area, so I know about high real estate prices.

    I think it's all cyclical. Right now where I am, everyone is moving to North Carolina (Why??) People cite a much lower cost of living. That's true -- you can sell your Long Island house and buy (literally) a mansion on several acres in NC. The only problem is that Charlotte, RTP, etc. are still cities and real estate that's close to jobs is going to be more. Your mansion is going to be 25 miles' drive from anywhere. Atlanta has a similar issue -- people deal with multi-hour commutes so they can live in a massive house inside a gated community in the middle of nowhere. Side note - a friend of mine who moved there for a job refers to Cary, NC as an acronym -- Containment Area for Relocated Yankees.

    Personally, I love winter and would have no desire to move somewhere like Florida, Texas, or Arizona. Right now, those are the cheapest places business-wise, so jobs move there. But the northern states can play the game too. New York just gave some new businesses a 10 year tax holiday if they locate in certain parts of the state. All the state economic development agencies engage in this kind of poaching. The only problem is that the South is better at it because they don't fund schools and local governments to the same extent. If Michigan and Detroit are serious about this, and can afford it, then the businesses will move back. Executives don't care because they would either stay put or be happy just about anywhere. To them, it's not all that hard to pick up and move.

    Low real estate prices, compact metro areas that mean short commute times, etc. are advantages that these states and cities can use. We'll see if it pans out.

    • All the state economic development agencies engage in this kind of poaching. The only problem is that the South is better at it because they don't fund schools and local governments to the same extent.

      Of course, it's worth noting that low tax rates aren't the only consideration. If you have crappy schools and a low standard of living, then you might have a harder time drawing good employees. If you have crappy infrastructure, then you might have a harder time conducting your business. If your business requires an affluent population and other businesses to deal with, then a sparse population with little economic development doesn't make for a good location. Cuts to the local government are often not

  • by dacarr (562277) on Friday April 18, 2014 @12:54PM (#46788493) Homepage Journal
    Yanno, I can't help but think of this scene [youtube.com] from the Kentucky Fried Movie whenever somebody suggests that something is going to go to Detroit.
  • I grew up in the midwest and prefer the west coast. When I want snow, I can go to the mountains to experience it.

    I have a few relatives who expressed displeasure because I bought an imported car 16 years ago (don't blame me for wanting a well made car when America's big 3 where producing a lot of junk). I still drive that car today; they've had to replace their American made cars a couple times. They lived a couple of states away from Michigan, I'd guess that Michigan itself would be worse. As a techie,

  • by jtara (133429)

    I left Detroit for San Diego around 1985. I wrote software for various auto-related stuff (CNC, gauging, factory automation, SQC, Variation Analysis...) when I was there, and the experience was invaluable.

    The irony is that the percentage of tech works now is likely many times what it was when I was there. The job loss has been in blue-collor factory jobs, support jobs for the closed factories, service and retail to support all those workers, etc. etc. etc.

    Yea, my old high school (Cass Tech) got gutted by a

  • Low numbers making small increases can be made to sound impressive if expressed as percentages. True fact.

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