A strong culture is one that has dependency upon itself along with outside resources. The economy is hard if nearly impossible to predict, and this puts severe strain on a community that is dependent on one employer. Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Flint are examples of these types of communities. When a manufacturing process or company pulls out of a city, many problems arise. Flint is a city which has had a significant portion of an industry leave. GM used to be the heart of Flint, until the decision to downsize was made. This caused approximately 40 thousand of the 80 thousand GM employees to loose their jobs. Recently there was a debate pitting two sides of an issue. The question consisted of the decline of General Motors in Flint. Is it a catastrophe or does it provide an opportunity for the community. Members of the panel included Bill Donahue (pro-opportunity), Larry Thompson (pro-opportunity), Dorothy Reynolds (catastrophe supporter) and Ruben Burks (catastrophe supporter).
In the beginning, there were many advantages of having GM as the dominate employer in Flint. The quantity of GM jobs in Flint provided for an economic boom town in the 1960's and 1970's. Money from General Motors trickled down from the workers to every part of the economy of Genesse county. The population was on the rise which meant more homes, roads, and businesses. It was all to good to be true. When Roger Smith (then President of GM) decided to relocate numerous jobs from the Buick City, it was time for Flint to pay the piper. The large dependency on GM brought upon a rapid decline in the economy unparalleled by any city in United States history.
The removal of jobs from GM caused many problems in Flint. Dororthy Reynolds gave many statistics which proved how much the decline of GM hurt Flint. She pointed out that since the removal of GM jobs, Flint has become the 2nd most dangerous city in America while being the 6th most segregated. The lack of economic development since the early 1980's has also had a terrible impact on the children of Flint and Genesse county. Thirty percent of the children in Genesse county live at or below the poverty level where the graduation rate in the schools has shrunk to 57%. Mrs. Reynolds also pointed out the fact that only three new home developments have been started in the last 18 months. Ruben Burks was also invited to share his opinions on the catastrophe surrounding Flint. Unfortunately for the audience, his relationship with the United Auto Workers was at a level to where he couldn't expand on his negative GM opinions.
The other side of the issue brought Bill Donahue and Larry Thompson to the podium. First to speak was Mr. Donahue. He brought several points of opportunity for Flint. The first point concentrated on the stabilization of GM employment in Genesse county. Secondly, he pointed out the need to diversify the economy. His third point was to align the schools, colleges, and churches to work together for the common goal. Larry Thompson also had several points of his own on the opportunity that Flint possess. Again, the need to diversify the economy was a major point. He pointed out that the finger pointing between the two sides is not productive and is actually inhibiting Flint from looking past what happened in the early 1980's. Mr. Thompson's quote of "Growing as a person is when you suffer some sort of loss" provides the opportunistic attitude that is lacking in the Flint.
Both sides presented arguments that supported their respective feelings. It would be great if the majority of the citizens of the county possessed some sort of opportunistic attitude. For instance, the diversification of the economy will be very difficult as many of the former GM workers will not be willing to work for less than $18 dollars an hour. Unfortunately, many of the new jobs, when and if they come to Flint, will pay quite a bit less than General Motors. The inclusion of the poor community will also take time as many of the lower class would prefer to milk the welfare and public assistance programs. Perhaps the only sure thing about Flint is that it will take time to heal the wounds left by the General Motors Corporation.