Flint, Michigan: A City Ahead Of The Rest Of Us

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture as part of the Making It In America project. I am a Fellow with CAF.
I am in Flint, Michigan today, getting ready to drive down to Jackson for this evening’s “Keep It Made In America” Town Hall. Flint has been through it and has come out the other end. Now the rest of us are going through what Flint has been going through.
Many people know about Flint from the 1989 movie Roger & Me. In the documentary General Motors had closed factories in its home town, outsourced the jobs, and left the community behind. This sort of corporate behavior was becoming common by 1989 but it was still shocking that an American company would do this to Americans and America. The movie focused on the effect this had on Flint and its people. You might remember seeing block after block of boarded-up homes and people talking about how the try to get by.

This has now been a familiar story for decades, companies closing factories, outsourcing the jobs, abandoning the communities, a few at the top pocketing the money and leaving absolute devastation in their wake.
I was last in Flint three years ago, visiting relatives. Twenty years after the movie Flint was still struggling, in depression, its downtown full of closed stores and many of the blocks of boarded-up homes were worse, if anything. There were “For Sale” signs everywhere, and this was before the national housing bust. But there were many signs of people learning to cope. The Farmer’s Market was going strong. The University of Michigan was working on a new campus, the Mott Foundation and others were working on various approaches to try to help the community…
So here I am again. You can see three years worth of progress here. Revival is clearly occurring. The new U of M Campus is open and clearly making a difference. Part of the downtown is clearly revived, including the Durant Hotel restoration, while other parts are under construction. The Farmer’s Market was named one of the best in the nation. There are fewer “For Sales” signs around. All around there is a better mood. Crime is still bad, there are still abandoned buildings, but a corner is turned.
Flint Farmer’s Market:

Flint Ahead Of Nation
So Flint has been through it and has come out the other end. Now the rest of us are going through what Flint has been going through. And the rest of the country has a ways to go before we will see the other end of this. Roger & Me was 1989 and now it is 2010. The same crap is still going on, and more so. As I said, in 1989 it was still shocking that American corporations would treat Americans and America the way they did. But now we have been through another two decades of the few at the top closing factories, outsourcing the jobs, devastating the communities, pocketing the money and then using their financial power to demand tax breaks to further defund government. The difference is that now we all live with the effects, not just Flint.
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