Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'll Go On Record As The First Person To Suggest It.

During the week following the Super Bowl, there was more talk (around here, anyway) of the 2-minute Eminem/Chrysler spot than any of the game highlights. Em cruising around Detroit in a black Chrysler 200 while the VO spoke of the Motor City's work ethic. Nationally, I think the spot was well-received. Locally, it was a rallying point for the comeback of the century that we're all still waiting patiently for. The spot sure did stir the hearts of Detroiters who haven't given up on the dream.
For those of you who were in the loo when it first aired (or maybe you just tuned out once you saw a Super Bowl spot without a talking dog), here's the spot:

The past few years in Detroit, the question has been: how do we re-energize the City without relying on the auto industry? It wasn't long ago that Chrysler was literally minutes from death. GM was lying on the table under a sheet. Ford was ... doing 'just OK'. The City was asking: what will be the next industry or "the next big thing" to bring Detroit back among the living?
Bio-medical has been tossed around as the next great savior of the 313. Alternative energy has been tossed around. Urban agriculture has also been .... OK, stop laughing. That's a real idea. I'm not making it up. Mayor Bing has openly asked for ideas on revitalizing his City, and now has to deal with a collection of Robocop freaks. Seriously, they're looking for ANY idea that will work. And as a result, there's no unified movement in any single direction here. We are collectively grasping at straws.
So what's my straw? What do I know?
I remember Atlanta in 1987.
It was a pit. It was a crime-ridden and drug-infested mess. Not the shining star of the South as it is today.
And then they did something crazy and insane: they bid on the Summer Olympics.
Ballsy move by Billy Payne and Andrew Young. But it paid off.
Suddenly, the City had a unified direction. A goal that everyone seemed to finally agree on and comprehend. Instantly, there was a deadline for success, and everyone knew what was required of them. It wasn't easy, but they got there.
The short term economic impact was estimated at $5.14 billion. Atlanta changed dramatically as new sports venues were built, park space was created, sidewalks and streets were improved, and housing patterns were altered.
Downtown received several tangible legacies from the Olympics. In addition to an improved pedestrian environment, preparations for the games included the construction of new housing and the conversion of existing buildings into lofts that gave the city a twenty-four-hour population helping to reverse several decades of decline.
Mostly, though, it made ATL an international player for years to come. A city with a greater self image and a city with an ego that it certainly didn't have in 1987 when the idea was first uttered.
If you want one word with magical power, it's the O-word. People of all ilk instantly know what it means without further discussion.
World Cup Soccer? It's one of the "mega-events", but it requires an explanation. World's Fair? Ditto.
But everyone knows the O.
And you'll know who believes in Detroit by whether or not they laugh when they hear it.