Site Loader
Rock Street, San Francisco

Noam Chomsky, a celebrated American linguist, social thinker, and political activist said, “changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below” (“Noam Chomsky”). This phenomenon, as it applies to both community progress and regress, exists in the endless fight for social advancement as activists push for communities of social justice and fairness: fairness in institutions, in corporations, and in infrastructure. As corporations grow in capital, they concurrently grow in power. This results in an increased control within government causing externalities which affect people and their communities., Inc., an online product fulfilment service, is a textbook example of a company that quickly and powerfully grew and gained control, affecting commerce both nationally and internationally through an unprecedented tactic of growth which the government is struggling to regulate. Detroit, Michigan, which has seen the full effects of capitalist growth and fall, is now a contender for Amazon’s vicious, dominating tactics, as they recently announced their Request for Proposals (RFP) for a second corporate headquarters: Amazon HQ2. When bidding for Amazon’s HQ2, it is imperative that the City of Detroit consider the effects that big corporations have historically had on the city, what the citizens needs, and how they can plan to mitigate the negative effects to minimize injustice. Detroit, Michigan is a rust-belt city built on the foundations of a once-booming capitalist system that has failed to keep it alive. Parts of Detroit are haunted by the remanence of what it once was, leaving it searching for new economic engines. Although the land has been inhabited by the native Anishinabek peoples for thousands of years, Detroit is widely considered to have been founded in 1701 by Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac and his French soldiers and has since continued to serve as a port for the (mid-)western United States (“Timeline of Detroit”). Over the 300 years that followed Detroit’s founding, her population grew as immigrant groups moved into the area forming new communities and in a thriving, evolving, and diverse city. Powered by the boom of Henry Ford’s automobile, assembly line and five-dollar work day, the City of Detroit grew fast as people from all over the world flocked to the city to supply unskilled but high-paid labor (“Timeline of Detroit”).  However, as the movement of jobs led to white flight, racial tensions increased in the city, eventually leading to the 1967 Rebellion, a turning point towards the city’s historic downfall­. Detroit, dubbed “the Arsenal of Democracy”, has had a rocky history with social justice and civil rights. Although she has been on the forefront of progressive movements for many groups including Native Americans, Jews, and Blacks, the institutional inequalities that existed in Detroit during its founding (settler colonialism, segregation, socio-economic immobility, for example,) still exist in modern forms today. Given this history, Detroit should remain mindful of the institutional power that herself and corporations have over the people who live, work and play within the city. The rise and fall of Detroit has created two separate worlds: an “old” Detroit, which exists in memories of Model-T cars, assembly lines, coexistence, and economic prosperity, and today’s Detroit which conjures images of a city of ruins, crime, and poverty. During her Motor City boom, Detroit was the epitome of capitalist success as competition, command and change worked in tandem to create a rapidly growing economy. And today, for the first time since the 1960s, Detroit’s economy is growing again. Big businesses (namely Quicken Loans, Inc.) are moving into the city, inhabiting buildings that have stood vacant for 50 years. The employment ratio has increased from 25 jobs per 100 residents to 30 jobs per 100 residents since 2010; for comparison, the state of Michigan’s employment ratio is 50 to 100 (“Michigan Economy”). This is an important step in the regrowth and redevelopment of the city. But unfortunately, many of these new jobs are not going to Detroiters, but suburbanites, who only inhabit the city between 9am and 5pm; as proof, Detroit Future City data found that 158 thousand people live outside and work in the city, 49 thousand people live and work in the city, and 112 thousand people live in and work outside the city (Abello) . Consequently, Detroit’s problems are intersectional and cyclic. Her failing public schools, for example, are a cause and result of emergency management and lack of government coordination, but they leave nearly a quarter of young Detroiters without a high school Diploma or a GED certification (Kaffer). In effect, this lack of adequate education or technical training is one of many reasons why unemployment still remains higher than the state average. In an effort to help solve this problem, the development deal between the City of Detroit and the contractors for the new Little Caesars Arena, just north of downtown, required that the construction team to be comprised of majority Detroiters (51%). And as such, contractors paid nearly $3 million to training construction workers in the city to complete the project. Unfortunately, per a Detroit Free Press report, “the average percent of total hours worked by Detroit residents at the arena was still only 27 percent” (“Hiring enough Detroiters”). Thus, as Detroit continues to expand and grow once more, she should remain cognisant of her existing population, ensuring that they are well served in their existing, yet evolving communities. Just over a quarter of a century after the 1967 Rebellion, Jeff Bezos founded Amazon­ halfway across the country. In 1995, after spending many years working a Wall Street computer company, Bezos decided to invest in the rapidly-growing internet (Hartmans, “15 fascinating facts”).  As such, Bezos founded a new innovative, successful and revolutionary model for buying and selling that has since changed the way the world consumes books, movies, music, clothing, food, appliances, etc. It took many years before Amazon made its first profits, but the company quickly became the world’s largest bookstore, before revolutionizing the industry with the Amazon Kindle e-Reader in 2007. In 1995, sales were only $510,000, rising to over $136 billion in 2016 (González). Amazon has since become one of the most successful companies in history and Bezos has since purchased the Washington Post, Whole Foods, and Audible, among other technology and communications companies (Hartmans, “The fabulous life”). Amazon’s rapid success and expansion has allowed it to achieve unprecedented amounts of power and influence. Logistically, Amazon has nearly established a system in which it is so incredibly efficient to use their services, that individuals and businesses lack incentive to continue to shop local. A recently published Vice article titled  “Amazon is Trying to Control the Underlying Infrastructure of Our Economy,” outlines the misunderstood position of Amazon in the economy by arguing that Amazon has rooted itself by changing the ways customers live by marketing to anyone with access to the internet, selling everything from baby wipes to prescription drugs and loans (Mitchell). Furthermore, a 2016 Bloomberg Technology report explained how Amazon has changed the way consumers search for products. Rather than starting with a search engine to find a product online, customers now turn straight to Amazon (Soper). When using services like Dash Buttons, Alexa, and Prime, Amazon has control over what products are being purchased. They only offer the convenience of Dash Buttons for certain brands, ensuring consumers will buy the same product every time. And, when a customer tells Alexa to order more of a specific product, she will decide the brand of the product. Prime service is only offered on a select number of products; hence, Amazon’s control is being used to weaken competitors and popularize its own brands (Mitchell). Further, in negotiations to get Nike to sell its full line of products through Amazon’s website and compete with, Amazon turned in a complete list of counterfeit production companies to the police as a bargaining tool (Statt). Furthermore, Amazon has patented technology that would prevent consumers from comparison shopping between other retailers for cheaper prices, allowing page blocking or re-direction back to Amazon’s own page or Amazon owed sub-companies. With these tactics, Amazon has framed itself as a keystone in the economic online infrastructure. It has created a monopoly over nearly every other web and in-person retailer, therefore granting it market and undue control over allocation of resources (Fung). *Relate back to thesis + analyze*In efforts to continue to expand, Amazon announced that it will open a secondHeadquarters, Amazon HQ2. In late Summer 2017, Amazon released the RFP, prompting a bidding war, as municipalities scrambled to assemble packages– offering tax deductions, free land, and other resources. In the RFP, Amazon HQ2 announced that they plan to, “hire up as many as fifty-thousand (50,000) new full-time employees with an average annual total compensation exceeding one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000)… and expect to have over $5 billion in capital expenditures.” Without mistake, Amazon granted itself a month of free publicity as seemingly every local and national media source speculated what city had the most to offer, framing the Amazon HQ2 as a coveted prize, only to enhance the commerce of a city. However, Amazon is not only looking for places to build office buildings and new warehouses, they are looking for a blank canvas where they can build restaurants, coffee shops, and hip-new developments for the 21st century workplace environment they hope to create– both in and out of the physical workplace. *Relate back to thesis + analyze*         When the RFP was first released, Governor Rick Snyder directed Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to submit a single proposal from the entire Detroit metropolitan area. From there, Mayor Duggan called upon Dan Gilbert (founder of Quicken Loans and Bedrock Reality) to assemble a regional team, including those communities just outside of Detroit’s city-limits (Riley). Hopes of boosting the local economy with the trickle-down effect, and providing jobs to the educated peoples who live in the Detroit suburbs, not the immobile, less privileged peoples, many of whom have been living in the city since its previous economic boom. But in practice, giving Amazon incentives by cutting the top tax rate, does not lead to economic, income, wage, or job growth, thus one hopes that the proposal will include effective means of supporting today’s Detroiters, not tomorrow’s. Since its submission, no information about Detroit’s Amazon HQ2 proposal has been released. Although all 238 cities have already submitted their bids, most cities have yet to publicize their proposals. During the bidding process, secrecy is understandable; each city wants to minimize competition. A USA Today article suggests that, “The communities refusing to reveal their bids may signal that they fear backlash because what they are offering is unpopular and could crumble if revealed to the public. What they are offering to Amazon may not be credible”  (Jenson). The urban renewal and gentrification projects in the “7.2” – the focus of redevelopment that is comprised of the 7.2 square miles that surround downtown (Downtown, Greektown, Midtown, and Corktown) ­– get a lot of press, highlighting Detroit’s so-called comeback. Yet many Detroiters are asking themselves to what, and for whom is the city coming back?  The “other” Detroit full of institutional inequalities has always and will continue to exist. Significantly, the other 95% of the city not included in the downtown development efforts have had increased poverty and unemployment; they are targets for water shut-offs, unresponsive law enforcements, and tax foreclosures (Jackman).And as such, many Detroiters and metro-Detroiters see Amazon as the proverbial silver bullet that may come to save their city. But many of those who have been in the city for longer, or who live in the 100+ square miles outside of “the 7.2” do not necessarily feel as optimistic. Because historically, the City of Detroit has not always acted in the best interests of those most vulnerable, they should be intentional in prioritizing the interests and integrity of the existing community, while allowing room for growth.    Because the proposals for Amazon HQ2 have yet to be publically published, citizens should be concerned as to how the City of Detroit will plan to regulate this growth. That is to say, that the city is not only agreeing to welcome Amazon’s current plans (as outlined in the RFP), but also setting a precedent for rapid growth in the future. Amazon has been harshly criticized for its effects on the City of Seattle. A recently published Curbed article highlighting how Seattle has been changed by Amazon and the other tech companies (Boeing and Microsoft, for example) warns that “with total company spending on real estate reaching nearly $4 billion, the company now occupies 8.1 million square feet of office space spread across 33 buildings… the largest footprint by both raw area and percentage of any single company in any single city. In the last three years, it has gone from occupying 9 percent of the city’s prime office space to 19 percent. (Sisson).”City and community planners should take warning, after seeing how Amazon metastasized in Seattle. The growth in Seattle should act as a warning sign to city planners of Detroit . If Amazon chooses Detroit, the company will need to rapidly expand the downtown area with new office buildings and facilities. If not planned intentionally and thoughtfully, this downtown boom has the potential to displace many current Detroiters; this has already happened with Quicken Loans which is, in comparison, a smaller and less aggressive company but has done immeasurable damage by not mindfully expanding in the city. *Detroit has a lot to offer Amazon. The Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is one of the nation’s largest, and the Coleman A. Young International Airport has potential for revival. The City of Detroit was built to be accessible by cars, with wide roads and interconnected highway systems, decreasing traffic congestion. Michigan is home to great educational institutions, among them The University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, training young people who are likely to stay in Michigan if such jobs arise. Detroit, in many respects, is the canvas that Amazon is looking for. The city’s low population, vacant land, and updatable infrastructure could be an asset to a company looking to take over a city, and for a city looking for a company to take over. Plus, Detroit has about 25 square miles of vacant land; for comparison, the island of Manhattan could fit in the vacant land in Detroit (Davidson). A city which has fallen as hard as Detroit needs a drastic investment in jobs and infrastructure to get back on her feet. And without mistake, the “old Detroit” image of innovation and strength could provide an asset for Amazon’s image. Detroiters have incomparable pride in their city and this tactic has already been proved successful.Yet Detroit is not Amazon’s perfect candidate. The City of Detroit lacks Transit Oriented Development, and has struggled to coordinate transportation networks making it difficult, nearly impossible, for existing Detroit residents to navigate the city without cars. Her low housing stock, poor public schools, and uneducated existing workforce. Further, out of date infrastructure such as the combined sewage overflow system hinders opportunities for population growth without vast amounts of redevelopment (Gallagher, “Detroit’s Amazon).

Post Author: admin


I'm Dora!

Would you like to get a custom essay? How about receiving a customized one?

Check it out