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Cobo upgrade a test of regionalism?

As we look back over this past program year in this edition of the Detroiter, it is easy to see there are many issues that carry over from year to year. The issue of regionalism is no exception.

Can regionalism work in Southeast Michigan? This is the million-dollar question for the Detroit Region to answer right now. An early test of our regional leaders' commitment to working together may just be with solving the Cobo Center issue. Year after year, the debate over upgrading Cobo is the backdrop of the North American International Auto Show. The implied threat is that if Cobo is not updated and expanded, the Auto Show will find a new home.

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There are plenty of incentives for not allowing this to happen. Hosting the North American International Auto Show helps position the Detroit Region as the world's automotive capital, a designation we cannot afford to lose. Generating more than $500 million annually, it is clear the Auto Show is vital to not only the region's economy, but the state's economic standing as well.

The national and international media coverage garnered from the show is invaluable to the Detroit Region's business development efforts. This media coverage reinforces the Detroit Region's image as the global automotive brain center and helps to attract and retain jobs in this critical industry here in Southeast Michigan.

We have already witnessed initial signs of a commitment to doing what it takes to upgrade Cobo through regional collaboration. Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficanco have put ambitious plans and funding proposals on the table. Now we need other regional leaders to get on board to promote what is best for the region. Like any political agreement, a compromise is needed. Working collaboratively as a region is the only way to reach a solution.

There is also a role for Lansing to play, given the economic impact of the Auto Show. Lansing helped pay for a convention center on the west side of the state and should do so for Southeast Michigan.

Southeast Michigan's business community has been working behind the scenes for months. The fact that it is September and Cobo remains a major priority for business leaders and elected officials is a good sign. The usual approach over the last few years has been to talk about Cobo in January when the Auto Show is in town and then forget about it again until the following January.

The Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Renaissance will continue to work closely together in the new program year to keep the business community engaged on the Cobo issue. We stand ready to help broker a deal that everyone can live with. Regional collaboration is essential if we are to develop a viable solution for creating a world-class convention center that keeps the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. If we don't, Chicago, L.A. or New York will, and time is running out.

Tammy Carnnike is the COO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.
COPYRIGHT 2007 Detroit Regional Chamber
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Government Relations
Author:Carnrike, Tammy
Publication:Detroiter
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Sep 1, 2007
Words:507
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