Vegas, Silicon Valley and the old and the new Detroit

Detroit at nightThe “new Detroit”? The “new Silicon Valley”? Chad Smith retweeted a blog post that asked whether Vegas was the new Detroit. Now, the post is about mortgage rates and home values, but refers to unemployment and the greater economic situation that threatens Sin City.

It is amazing to me how we propagate stereotypes so freely, even though we might teach our kids not to do so. Now, this is not a post about the “rightness” or “wrongness” of that, since it seems to be a popular way to communicate a lot in ordinary speech with just a few words – a pretty effective thing to do overall, when we share the same distinction for what is said.

Meanwhile, how often do we think about what specific stereotype the writer refers to when they use it? What does it mean when Newsweek asks whether Silicon Valley could be the next Detroit… or when CNN asks whether Detroit could be the next Silicon Valley? Ummm… politics aside, did the country just flip on its head?

So there are two main questions that come to mind for me:

  1. What is the motive or intention of the writer to use the stereotype?
  2. Does the reader share the same background of what the stereotype means?

Now, please don’t get caught up in your stereotypes of these places. I just notice while one writer in California sees a wakeup call, comparing their region to the Motor City in a negative way, another writer sees the fruits of the significant efforts of a region to bootstrap itself and reinvent a better future in the wake of a great collapse.

Vegas suffered a setback in part from the collapse in housing, which the writer also connects to a huge influx of retirees and high unemployment rates. Now, I don’t know much about Vegas, and my own stereotypes may differ from others’, but I understand how a city and a region can suffer (and not just for their football team).

What I also see happening all around me is the work of a city and a region to unlock a puzzle, to exploit our natural resources, our hard-working citizens, our outstanding universities, and (to be frank) our strong desire to build our homes and live a good life… and focus on what we can actually produce that will be valuable in the global marketplace in addition to cars.

If Vegas or Silicon Valley want to compare to the “new Detroit”, maybe they should stop writing about what appears to me to be the “old Detroit”. In a forward-looking cycle of innovation, rebirth and growth, everybody wins. What do you think?

About ken
Creative insights, passion and technical adrenaline - strategist, agile coach and marketer, providing a good life for wife of 20 years & 2 awesome teenagers!

2 Responses to Vegas, Silicon Valley and the old and the new Detroit

  1. bfmooz says:

    I recently had this very conversation with another colleague. It is interesting that Detroit only gets consideration in negative tones historically. Couldn’t positive angles be applied to Detroit as well?

    Detroit has a rich music history. In the 80s, was Lon Angeles the “Detroit” of music? In the 90s, was Seattle the “Detroit” of the music industry? Never heard it once.

    Detroit was also the first city in the country to create a freeway system. By that definition alone, is every populous city in the country just a series of “Modern Day Detroits”?

    I’ve had many conversations with my father and others of his generation about how Detroit used to me such a beautiful place to go for a night on the town. This is our lifetime…it isn’t like we’re reading about history from centuries ago. Yet the very same people from this very era are the ones that have forgotten the not so distant past. Unfortunately, I’m too young to remember the glory days of Detroit, yet it’s a tragic irony that it seems to be my generation and those that follow me that are the defenders of the hopes for a Detroit resurgence.

    Another interesting perspective…is it’s just that that the people of Michigan have chosen to take the high road? Have you noticed that people from this area don’t tend to draw the same comparisons? At the risk of sounding very politically incorrect, did you ever hear any say that the uprising and rioting that was occurring in Cairo recently looked like a “Little L.A.”? When an earthquake rocked the nation of Japan, no one spoke about the “San Fran of the Orient”. Maybe we choose to look past the negativity and choose not to label for the sake of labeling.

    • ken says:

      Moose, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I do not know about labelling of others, or whether we are not fundamentally the same as others with regard to the concerns we have. The link I included to the CNN site is a positive article that asks about Detroit as the next Silicon Valley.

      If the housing collapse was inevitable structurally, in the same way as the collapse of GM, the shadow banking system and so many public pension programs across the country, not to mention the issues facing Social Security, then this is not about Detroit, Silicon Valley or Las Vegas. Our plans can only violate fundamental principles and mechanisms for a limited time before correction or collapse must occur.

      When it does occur, or preferably before then, we have to determine where we are headed and produce a positive narrative for the future. Ford Motor Company took heat in the middle of the last decade by laying off 10’s of thousands across the board, only to look prescient when the collapse in 2008 eventually came.

      How will Vegas deal with the structural issues it faces? What will Silicon Valley do about competition overseas? How will any of us reset our plans and expectations for a global marketplace in which the US has a different role than in the 20th century?

      If we think we can rest on our laurels or compel our way into competitiveness, then we are acting more like the old Detroit.

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