RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Here's another newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize: the Detroit Free Press. Some readers in Detroit may have missed the news about the paper's triumph; that's because the story was in Tuesday's edition, and the Free Press doesn't make home deliveries on Tuesdays anymore. The newspaper recently cut down on home deliveries to save money, and to keep itself in business. The city of Detroit is also trying to remake itself in the face of economic challenge, which is why my co-host, Steve Inskeep, is spending the week there.
(Soundbite of bell)
Unidentified Man: The next station is Cobo Center.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
We're covering Detroit's economy and right now, we're riding a train, an elevated train - a people mover, it's called - that loops around Detroit's downtown, which means you get a spectacular view as you move among the early-century skyscrapers of this city, many of which are vacant. This is a deeply troubled city. We have been talking with Richard Florida, author of "Who's Your City" and other books. He has studied the way that regions grow and attract people, and he argues that this area and many others are putting the emphasis on the wrong thing.
Mr. RICHARD FLORIDA (Author, "Who's Your City"): I know in this time of economic crisis, people are saying, well, where are the jobs going to come from? And clearly, there has to be a focus on providing good work. But at the same time, in a place like Detroit, it's not just about attracting companies and firms and jobs; it has to be about retaining and attracting and motivating people.
INSKEEP: Well, let's think about that for a minute. If you're trying to attract a company, you offer the company tax breaks, you offer the company a great industrial site, you tout your great workforce. How is it if you're a city or region that you attract individuals?
Mr. FLORIDA: Well, I think this is exactly what Silicon Valley did 40 or 50 years ago. It said, you know, we're open for business; if you have an idea, come here and make it work. And I think one thing the region can do is - maybe -and this may seem like a strange idea in troubled times - instead of bailing out the auto firms and giving industrial incentives to companies that are going to go and try to come and create low-skill, dead-end jobs, why not use that same money to enable business start-ups and business formations and encourage people to take real risks, to come to Detroit and create their own businesses?
And I think what the region really has to realize is that the future after auto can be better. I saw that happen in Pittsburgh. I saw the city move away from steel - although steel plays a role - become more innovative and entrepreneurial and actually, the quality of life in Pittsburgh improved a lot. The city shrunk, but the quality of life improved a lot. I think Detroit can realize that. It could be a better, higher-quality-of-life city, a more exciting city after auto than it was with auto.
INSKEEP: You seem optimistic about Detroit's future. But are you optimistic that parts of Michigan will re-emerge and succeed, or that the whole region will re-emerge and succeed?
Mr. FLORIDA: Well, I think the great tragedy of Detroit has been this tragedy of a separated, segregated city and region, a largely African-American core surrounded by a largely white, and to some degree immigrant, suburban periphery. And when I look at Detroit, I see a tremendous legacy and reservoir of urban energy. I don't see just crime and social pathology and high drop-out rates and schools that don't work - of course that's there. But if I really had to give advice to the region, it would be, stop this legacy of thiefdoms and fracturing, where, you know, there's a city that the suburbs don't want to be associated, there are these fabulous university towns like Ann Arbor and Lansing. If that region can work together, it will be a whole lot more than the sum of its parts. The region will not succeed by fighting with itself.
INSKEEP: Well, given that, isn't there a danger that it could be too late for a place like Detroit?
Mr. FLORIDA: There is a very great danger that it can be too late for a place like Detroit. It can only remake itself in a new way, with a new kind of innovative and entrepreneurial and creative energy. That's its only hope. That's its only hope for the future.
INSKEEP: Those are the views of Richard Florida, author of "Who's Your City," and one of many voices we're hearing as we focus on retooling Detroit. It's a look at Michigan's economy.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.