Make no mistake. If global retail giant Amazon ends up choosing Detroit for its second headquarters, it will be more than just having a marque presence in the Motor City.
It will be restoring the economic dignity of many Detroiters by providing them with meaningful jobs, in a city where poverty has become a glaring moral scandal.
The 50,000 estimated jobs that Amazon having a Detroit ZIP code could bring will help to guarantee economic security for many in the city.
Think about it. Every report about the city’s progress in the last two months has affirmed an undeniable fact: Many are left behind in the comeback of the city and as result, continue to swim in the pool of economic injustice.
To help break that unacceptable cycle, Detroit needs a massive economic intervention program like the kind Amazon promises.
I am hopeful that powerful market players like Amazon will continue to invest in helping rescue those who are trapped in a vicious and generational cycle of poverty in Detroit neighborhoods.
Just as Henry Ford a century ago launched many in the black community into the middle class with good paying jobs at Ford Motor Co., Amazon could have a similarly profound impact on the lives of Detroiters.
It is not outside of the realm of possibility to think that discerning companies can be serious agents of social transformation. In fact, they are increasingly answering the call to be catalysts for social transformation and addressing the growing social inequity that has pervaded our communities.
Nitin Nohria, dean of the Harvard Business School, in a recent Q&A with investment banker Goldman Sachs, said business has a role in the fight against global poverty.
“The single most important form of dignity that you can give a human being is for them to feel economically self-reliant. There is only one way to do that and that is business,” Nohria said.
I couldn’t agree more. There has to be a shared commitment and any investment on the part of the business community helps restore the dignity of those who have felt economically marginalized by providing them with meaningful jobs to make a decent living.
That is why the prospect of Amazon coming to Detroit is eliciting contagious excitement across the city.
After all, businesses — big and small — are important stakeholders in the Herculean task of helping to address what some community activists rightly see as gravely embarrassing economic injustice around us.
Detroiter Bill Noakes, an attorney who was formerly executive vice president of Meijer Corp., said Amazon will be a game changer for the city.
“I believe the jobs, if delivered upon, will help improve the quality of life for many Detroiters. Given the number of jobs — about 50,000 — Detroiters will benefit,” Noakes said. “Even if only 20 percent of the jobs, 10,000, go to Detroiters, that would be a huge spike in employment. That’s the direct impact of Amazon’s jobs.”
He added, “There are indirect effects that also must be considered, such as, increased tax revenues to the city, improved services as a result of that revenue, spin-off businesses associated with Amazon’s operations, and the city being viewed as a place where young educated Detroiters will want to stay rather than departing for Atlanta or other cities.”
Detroit billionaire investor Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans who is leading the effort to bring Amazon to the city, remains highly optimistic about the possibilities.
Let’s cross our fingers and hope that this could be the beginning of a new chapter for Detroit. The city needs all the help it can get and regardless of your political persuasion we should all be rooting for the Amazon deal. Because it will mean good investment into the future of the city.
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