Is a strong Detroit good for West Michigan?


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday morning on the Today Show, anchor Matt Lauer laid out some pretty bleak numbers about the city of Detroit:

“$19 billion in debt. Unemployment rate of about 14%. About a third of the population has moved out over the past several decades,” Lauer said during an interview with JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon.

Dimon announced Wednesday the bank he runs will invest $100 million into the bankrupt city over the next five years.

“I think it would be an unbelievable thing to come together and help rebirth here,” Dimon told Today.

Lauer asked the CEO if he was sure he wanted to be in business with the Motor City.

“I think we can make this our finest moment. Can Americans come together: business, labor, civics — you know, government come together and build something and fix the city,” Dimon responded.

But would a strong Detroit economy take away from the West Michigan economy?

Paul Isely, a professor of economics at Grand Valley State University, thinks it will be good for the entire state.

“When people think about Michigan, they think about Detroit. So when we want to get a business to come to West Michigan, we have to overcome the stigma that people have because of Detroit,” he explained.

Isely points to projects like the Van Andel Arena, DeVos Place and the expansion of GVSU in Grand Rapids that have helped to revitalize downtown.

He said Detroit has taken notice of Grand Rapids’ success.

“If you look at the types of things they are doing right now, they are the types of things that were occurring in Grand Rapids 10 years ago. So they are using us as a blueprint,” he said.

But he said continued success in Detroit could mean stiffer competition for job recruitment here in West Michigan in the years to come.

“This initial sum of money shouldn’t create competition with this side of the state. As it strengthens, as we see reasons why people want to be in Detroit more, it could vary easily start to become a competition,” Isely said.

Isely also said a successful Detroit means more tax revenue for the state, which he said will utimately lead to more money for things like road repairs and education.

The $100 million investment announced Wednesday will be divvied up in loans and grants and includes funding for home mortgage loans, job training for Detroit residents and blight removal, according to Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV.

$50 million will go to Invest Detroit and Capital Impact Partners, which currently loans to Detroit development projects. Some $25 million will help with blight removal and other efforts. JPMorgan Chase also will use $12.5 million for job training programs.

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