WisBusiness: Former Detroit mayor expresses hope for auto industry

By Tammy McCubbin

For WisBusiness.com

During a visit to Milwaukee, former Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer expressed optimism the ailing auto industry would rebound and the nation’s economy would turn around under the leadership of the Obama administration

“I think the industry will turn itself around,” Archer told a Marquette Law School audience as part of the “On the Issues with Mike Gousha” public affairs series Tuesday.

“I think Obama has a better sense of what would happen if [GM and Chrysler] would go out of business,” he said, adding that the Bush administration was reluctant to help the industry early on.

He said that Obama is surrounded by a very good team, with strong economic people around him.

“We’re going to claw our way out of this economic situation,” Archer said. “I believe we’re on the right track.”

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Archer served on the Michigan Supreme Court from 1985 to 1993, and he was mayor of Detroit from 1993 to 2001, for which he is noted for boosting the city’s economic development efforts.

Archer highlighted his efforts to rebuild and encourage residential development in Detroit’s downtown in order to boost the economy during his eight years as mayor.

“We had to do something,” Archer said. “While promoting living downtown, businesses started coming.”

He also stressed the importance of maintaining a strong relationship between cities and suburbs as a key to economic success.

When asked how Detroit is doing economically he pointed to continued difficulty.

“It’s worse than you read,” Archer said.

He said about 25 percent of the people in the city are unemployed, and in the 18-34 age group, up to 30 percent do not have jobs.

Archer attributes the economic situation in Detroit partially to problems with its education system.

“As Americans, we cannot afford to have the drop-out rates that we have and be competitive,” Archer said. “We have to change America if we want to become and continue to be economically strong.”