Autos could boost tourism
Today's closing of another hugely successful auto show should cause Michigan to pause and think about the tourism potential of its bread-and-butter industry. Clearly, the crowds at Cobo Center indicate car-related attractions can be destination points.
The state already has plenty of events, museums and historical sites related to the automobile.
But it doesn't do enough to package and promote these attractions. The auto industry should be a critical Pure Michigan subset.
There's a good base to work with. The Henry Ford remains the state's premier museum and has a heavy automotive underpinning. Its evolution of the automobile display is a solid foundation on which to build a multi-day tour for car lovers.
The nearby Automotive Hall of Fame celebrates the industry's pioneers and heroes. And the Ford Rouge Plant tour remains popular.
There are a number of other significant automotive interest. But too many of them aren't fully developed, and are either not open to the public or open only sporadically.
Put on the top of the list the Walter P. Chrysler museum in Auburn Hills, which houses three floors of classic and concept vehicles. Currently, it is open only to employees of Fiat-Chrysler, and occasional special events.
The Piquette Plant in Detroit, where Henry Ford installed an early assembly line, is open to the public, but on a very limited schedule. It features a wonderful collection of Model Ts, but needs some work to get it in prime tourism shape.
The Roush Automotive Collection in Livonia is a world class display of racing cars and equipment put together by legendary auto racer Jack Roush. But it is viewable by appointment only, and during a few special summertime events.
The Detroit Historical Museum has a very important collection of vehicles that are kept under protective bubbles at Fort Wayne, where the public rarely has a chance to see them.
And the Detroit Public Library's extensive archives of automotive history are also tough to access.
Combine these with a number of other private collections and smaller out-state museums such as the Alfred Sloan in Flint and the Olds in Lansing, and there's enough variety and quality to keep a tourist interested for several days.
If they were structured around a major event such as the North American International Auto Show or the Woodward Dream Cruise, they could provide an enhanced experience for visitors and an economic boost to the region. Visitors might even enjoy a track where they could have interactive experiences.
The Detroit Regional Chamber has titled one of its business attraction initiatives "Michigan is Autos."
It certainly is, and Michigan should sell that message to tourists.