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Friday, April 22, 2011

Global air traffic control hub in Michigan?

All sorts of different forces are pushing Michigan's economy in different directions. For the future, some would like to see Michigan become a hub for manufacturing green technology, like wind turbines. Others want Michigan to become the next Hollywood. Some are even content to simply rebound with the auto industry.

As we are down about a million jobs since 2000, I am happy to take all of the above and more. However, I have had one idea in mind for several years, and given recent news, I thought I would share and circulate.


  • There is a global shortage of air traffic controllers;

  • We don't have enough in the US, and the ones we do have will be retiring soon;

  • Other countries don't have enough either (otherwise we would probably import them), and air traffic around the world is growing;

  • Despite the high pay, air traffic controllers are overworked, highly stressed, and, according to recent news reports, falling asleep on the job

Possible solution:

Why can't Detroit become a global hub for air traffic control? The need for the personnel is clear, and I think we could both train and employ air traffic controllers locally. We could develop academies or training/certification programs or have our universities form departments for air traffic control. Instead of studying automotive engineering, perhaps mathematically included university students could pursue air traffic control. Furthermore, given the increasing connectivity, communication sophistication, and advancement in monitoring, why can't monitoring for airplanes/airports around the world be done from Detroit (or Romulus)? Just as we initiated the mass production of automobiles, maybe we can mass produce air traffic controllers and develop a high tech center than tracks and guides planes around the world. This could represent tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, and it is worth looking into. It would benefit Detroit while solving a global crisis.

I'm not sure what the requirements would be and how feasible this idea really is, but I hope the Aerotropolis people look at it. If anybody should think about something like this, it should be us. It really fits what we have here: we have a great airport, are building toward an aerotropolis, have a large talent pool of quantitative/analytical types that graduate each year from our universities, we have a relatively low cost of living, and many other advantages.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gathering of urban revitalization efforts in Detroit

There is an upcoming conference of national revitalization experts at the Westin Book Cadillac later this week. American Assembly has set up the event and has chosen Detroit for obvious reasons. Some interesting experts will be contributing, including the former mayor of revitalized Turin. For the most part, it appears to be a closed event, but there are a few open sessions, including lunch on Thursday with Mayor Bing to launch the program. If I can find more details about possible registration, I will update this post. Here is the Free Press article where I learned about the event:

Detroit Revitalization Fellows Program

I just came across a really interesting opportunity for those who hope to directly help Detroit. Wayne State University, with foundation backing, launched a program a few weeks ago to encourage graduate, post-graduate, and mid-career professionals to join different NGOs and entities working to reinvent the City. There is an application process and two two-year commitment involved. Candidates will be interviewed by different potential employers (e.g., Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Invest Detroit, the City of Detroit, the University Cultural Center Association, NextEnergy, and the Woodward Corridor Initiative) and matched according to mutual fit and preferences. Given the difficulty volunteering directly for the City or some of these groups (which I have experienced personally with the City and DPS), this is a great potential opportunity for passionate, talented Detroiters to apply their skills and help their City in high impact roles. Despite the short lead time, I will likely submit an application and strongly urge interested readers with talent, passion, and skills to apply as well. I think there will be strong parallels between this program and The Collaborative Group's Challenge Detroit project. You can find out more here: