Can Ukrainian cities repeat the story of Detroit?

Author : Andriy Dotsenko

Source : 112 Ukraine

The largest number of Ukrainian one-industry town is situated in the east of Ukraine, namely in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, currently embraced by anti-terrorist operation
12:25, 4 December 2017

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The largest number of Ukrainian one-industry town is situated in the east of Ukraine, namely in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, currently embraced by anti-terrorist operation. Vital activity of the bulk of the population in monoprofile cities directly depends on the functioning of one large enterprise. If an enterprise closes, a person cannot find a job in these cities. How to breathe life into the cities, which depended on one factory, which is now not functioning? "Robocop" movie, filmed in the city of Detroit, inspired me to find analogies. A ghost town, which has lost its mad fortune and in a few years turned into a ruin. I tried to figure out why it happened.

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The "Golden Age" of Detroit began on June 4, 1896. On this day, the chief engineer of the Edison Illuminating Company, and in combination an amateur inventor, launched the engine of his first "horseless carriage" in the former coal shed near the house No. 58 on Bagley Street in Detroit. The inventor who turned the barn into a real garage was called Henry Ford. So the future city of engines was born - Motor City. General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Chevrolet - the history of almost all of the largest car manufacturers in the US is directly related to Detroit. Automotive giants have become the locomotive of the city's economy. The city began to build extremely luxurious and pompous buildings, and this place was even called Western Paris. The appearance of Detroit changed in the eyes of one generation, and it seemed that only a bright future is ahead. Detroit also experienced explosive population growth: it became the fourth city in terms of the number of residents in the US. However, what happened in a few years?

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Automotive industry, which led to the flourishing of the city in the 1920s, actually killed him. Since the 1950s, Detroit has quickly deteriorated. The budget of Motor City ceased to be filled, the local government was forced to cut spending on social programs and infrastructure, which entailed the outflow of solvent citizens to the suburbs. Huge hotels built in the "stormy twenties", residential buildings were empty, because there was no one to use them. This place became an urban prairie.

To all other troubles of Detroit deindustrialization was added. It became especially obvious after the oil crisis of the mid-1970s. Giant, gluttonous American cars began to lose economic cars of Japanese and German production. The industry, which was the basis of the economic well-being of Detroit, was having the hard times. The factories closed one by one, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs and, again, left the city. Following the automotive industry, ferrous metallurgy and other heavy industry industries were affected, as their offices were located in Detroit.

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The authorities tried to rehabilitate the city by any means. In the 1970s, they took measures to revive it. New shopping centers, restaurants, cinemas and infrastructure facilities were opened. Their task was to breathe new life into Detroit. Also, funds were invested in the development of sports in the city. As a result, it became the focus of four top-rated sports teams, including the repeated Stanley Cup winner Detroit Red Wings. Detroit is also the center of musical culture. The name of Kiss’s song "Detroit Rock City" became the second name of the city, as well as Motor City.

Another savior of the city was tourism. The central areas of Detroit began were rebuild in order to attract tourists. The investments were tremendous. The city suburbs are still in a state of neglect, clearly demonstrating all the shortcomings of a one-industry economy, when the path from prosperity to oblivion, from the capital of the world to the ghost town, can be traversed in a few years.

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In my opinion, Detroit is the most striking example of the phenomenal one-industry town collapse. So, in 2008, Motor City was the most disadvantaged city in the United States in terms of crime, illiteracy, unemployment, and environment. Over 50 years, the population of the city has been reduced by more than two times, whole neighborhoods and skyscrapers have been dumped, and drug trafficking has flourished in the streets. However, the authorities still managed to breathe new life into this city. Such world lessons should teach us to think and predict the consequences.

Ukrainian owners of large enterprises, on which development of one-industry town, actually, depends, should be socially responsible, should take on additional obligations for the development of life in the city.

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As an entrepreneur I can confidently say that retraining and improving the skills of employees, support of educational institutions, environmental safety of the regions are very significant for the proper work of the business. Ukrainian entrepreneurs should remember about their social responsibility of business. And the state, in turn, should go for dialogue and create conditions for the development of small and medium-sized businesses: it could become the island that will save the city during the crisis of the key factory.

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