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?

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