Detroit is well positioned to benefit from the trends currently shaping the nation. A tight labor market, combined with the area's low unemployment rate of 2.8 percent, reflect the larger prosperity of the country. Welfare statistics have fallen to the lowest level since 1970, and city officials feel there are almost more jobs than can be filled, particularly in the field of engineering.
Detroit has a large skilled labor force, which is supported by both industrial and public technical centers. Wayne State University, the University of Detroit-Mercy, and the Detroit College of Law are located in the region; technical and community colleges are numerous and include Henry Ford, Highland Park, and Wayne County Community Colleges, among others. The quality of life is very different from the image of living in a Rust-Belt city. Recreational activities, like golf, skiing, tennis, and sailing, abound in the region. Detroit is home to a renowned symphony, the renovated Opera Hall, several museums, major sports teams, and four-star dining establishments. The vibrant growing economy is shifting from sole reliance on the automotive industry to a diversified high-tech and commercial base. Recently named the largest metropolitan exporting center in the country, Detroit exports over $27 billion of industrial goods to countries around the globe.
An increase in the available number of high-skilled jobs has made employee turnover an issue of concern. To entice commitment from employees, local employers are offering higher salaries, stock options, and training programs. In return, the managers are sharpening their listening and social skills, making Detroit the perfect vehicle for business success. Excellent transportation and communication links make it easy for multinationals to stay connected. Throughout the 1990s, the business climate improved dramatically as a result of state and city regulatory and administrative reforms aimed at attracting and retaining businesses; this includes a competitive tax system, which rewards new investment and profitable companies.
A diversified marketplace, many of the world's innovative companies are based in Detroit or its metropolitan area. Among others it is home to Better Made potato chips, Duraliner truck beds, Falcon golf clubs, Faygo beverages, Jiffy mixes, Kowalski sausage, Lionel trains, Sanders ice cream, Shedd's spread, and Vlassic foods. Compuware, the world's eighth largest software company, is currently developing a massive, 130,060 square-meter (1.4 million square-foot) building and adjacent parking structure that accommodates 3,000 cars. Mexicantown Community Development Corporation has announced plans for an $8 million International Welcome Center and Mercado in Detroit's Hispanic neighborhood.
Free enterprise has always played a dominant role in Detroit's economy, but recently some residents rejected the idea of building a casino. Prosperity in the Canadian casinos prompted a change of heart, and the Motor City skyline has shifted. Two new casinos, MGM Grand and Motor City opened in 1999. Atwater and Greek Town casinos were scheduled to open in 2000 on Detroit's waterfront.
The value of commercial real estate in the city is prime. The last vacant piece of Stroh River Place, a large brick structure within a historic mixed-use development along the Detroit River, will be converted into luxury loft condominiums. Earlier in the twentieth century, the 14,864 square-meter (160,000 square-foot) structure served as the headquarters for Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company. The building will undergo a $15 million renovation and is the last building to be redeveloped by the Stroh Brewing Company. The complex, located south of East Jefferson, includes offices, loft apartments, stores, and restaurants. The lofts will be priced from $140,000 and are joined by several neighboring developments, including a $40 million headquarters for the United Auto Workers-General Motors (UAW-GM) Human Resource Center, expected to open in 2001.
Finally, Detroit remains the U.S. headquarters for General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Daimler-Chrysler, Mazda, and Volkswagen. With recent efforts by automotive companies to take a more global approach toward business, Detroit's economy should remain on the cutting edge.