(Mainichi: July 28, 2015 – p. 9)
By Hitoshi Omae
Visiting Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan (57) responded to a request for an interview with this newspaper on July 27. The Midwest city known as “Motor Town” went into bankruptcy in 2013. As a result of efforts including streamlining procedures for business start-ups in order to attract companies, “many companies have relocated here and 50,000 housing units have been built in the central part of the city,” he said. “We are optimistic.”
Mayor Duggan, who took office in January 2014, six months after the financial collapse, extricated the city from bankruptcy in December by putting together a financial reconstruction plan including a reduction of the municipal employees’ pension.
For a time, there was a concern that public services were declining and crime was increasing. The mayor emphasized that the city tackled issues of public order by inviting excellent American human resources, which “drastically improved public safety.”
Taking advantage of his visit to Japan, the mayor went to Toyota City, Detroit’s sister city, in Aichi Prefecture, the location of the headquarters of Toyota Motor Corporation. The mayor said, “I hope Japanese businesses will have renewed interest in Detroit,” calling for Japanese companies to investment there.
Jacques Panis (37), President of Shinola, a manufacturer of luxurious watches in the central part of Detroit, accompanied Mayor Duggan. More than half of Shinola’s 400 employees have experience working in the auto industry. Panis said, “Those employees understand the value of manufacturers better than anyone else.”
Affected by the financial collapse of Detroit-headquartered General Motors in 2009, the city filed in 2013 an application under the Federal Bankruptcy Act with debt of $18 billion (about 2.22 trillion yen), a record high for a local government in the U.S.