Economic development Downriver is linked to Detroit's
economy, which has declined while growth has increased in Oakland County.
Historically, Downriver has benefitted from Detroit's position as an economic
activity center. The decision of the Big Three auto manufacturers (General
Motors, Ford and Chrysler) to base their operations in Detroit spurred economic
development Downriver. The auto industry led to creation of the steel industry,
which has been important Downriver.
Today, total production
costs for many firms can be minimized by locating Downriver if Detroit is an
economic center. Firms will generally find that transportation costs to the
center of economic activity are relatively low, as they can locate Downriver
along the I-75 north-south and I-94 east-west corridors. Firms near major
economic centers can take advantage of this relationship by locating near
There has been a loss of
this relationship Downriver as Detroit's economy has faltered. Former
Detroit-based firms like AAA Michigan or K-Mart/Kresge are today based in
northwestern Wayne or Oakland counties, further from Downriver than when they
were located in Detroit. Transportation costs Downriver have increased in some
instances as economic activity has moved north into Oakland County.
In many ways, Detroit is
being replaced by Southfield, Troy and Auburn Hills as an economic center.
Transportation and other economic advantages have been increasing for
northwestern Wayne and Oakland counties while declining in the Downriver area.
Consider the example of a
Southfield or Troy-based firm. Other companies doing business with the firm
would find it to their advantage to be located close to Southfield or Troy to
minimize transportation and production costs. Other firms then begin to locate
in Southfield or Troy to take advantage of the business climate and other
The economic trend toward
Oakland County has benefitted firms in communities like Auburn Hills, Farmington
Hills, Novi, Rochester Hills, Southfield and Troy. At the same time, Downriver
communities have been disadvantaged because they are two or three times as far
from the center of economic activity.
Today, exploring the I-75
and I-96 Oakland County transportation corridors is a vastly different
experience than travelling along Fort Street, I-75, Telegraph Road or West
Jefferson Avenue in the Downriver area.
 It is clear that Detroit's economic
decline and the commercial rise of Oakland County has affected the Downriver
area in a negative manner.