Downriver Detroit could best improve its economic climate by reducing its property tax burden, which acts as a disincentive to economic development.
Local property taxes must be reduced if Downriver is to compete with areas like northwestern Wayne and Oakland counties, which have experienced record economic growth this decade.
Downriver benefits when Detroit is the economic center of southeastern Michigan. To the extent that Downriver officials can, they should support actions which would improve Detroit's economic climate, such as lower property taxes and an enterprize zone approach.
Oakland County economic growth has occurred largely without reliance on property tax abatements, the economic development strategy that is most discussed Downriver. Decreasing economic disincentives and providing opportunities for entrepreneurs will prove more beneficial to Downriver economic development in the long term than abatements.
Privatization already exists to a limited degree Downriver, and should be further explored. The high and increasing tax burdens of the Downriver area can only be offset by extraordinary public services. One way to achieve this goal is through privatization. Such action would establish a different picture of Downriver; a picture of an innovative area acting to improve its economic climate.
Privatization commissions should be established in all 17 communities to review the prospects for transferring services from the public to private sectors. Downriver residents already identify one existing service that has been privatized – garbage collection – with efficiency. Consideration should be given to privatizing fire protection Downriver.
Schools of choice would introduce competition into public education, improving the quality for students, parents and qualified teachers alike. Construction of a private east-west expressway connecting I-75 with I-275, and a private bridge to Canada would significantly improve Downriver's attraction as a center for economic development.
Downriver has the potential to become an economic growth area which can lead Michigan. But area communities must act together to create a reputation for efficiently-provided local services at non-burdensome tax rates. Accomplishing this goal will require bold and creative leadership, and above all else, a vision for the future.