For the first time in decades, the Motor City is showing a little horsepower.
Chrysler’s (F:IM) 2011 net profit is expected to be $600 million, just one year after posting a loss. In May, it paid back $7.6 billion in government loans, six years ahead of schedule.
Detroit is still in dire straits. In November, Mayor Dave Bing said that without layoffs and drastic cuts in pension and medical costs, the city will run out of cash by April.
For the first time in the lifetime of most residents, none of the city’s major sports teams are terrible—in fact, most are pretty good. The Tigers reached the American League Championship, and each post-season game brought the city between $5 and $7 million in ticket, travel, food, beer, and memorabilia sales.
One of the city’s oldest and most devastated neighborhoods has become a magnet for artists, musicians, and hipster entrepreneurs. Slows Bar B Q, a restaurant founded in 2005 by former model Phillip Cooley, has quickly become a city institution.
In October, Ford (F) posted a $1.6 billion third-quarter profit. A new labor accord will allow the company to invest $16 billion and keep it on track to increase its U.S. market share for the third year in a row.
Detroit is in the midst of remaking five and a half miles of its industrial waterfront, complete with paths, pavilions, fountains, cafe, and a butterfly garden.
This year Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan moved its corporate headquarters and 3,000 workers downtown. Quicken Loans moved 2,000 more employees into the headquarters it built in 2010.
Tax breaks have attracted big-budget Hollywood productions. The Fisher Building, a 1928 landmark, showed up in the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moon (at a cost to the state of $6 million in tax breaks). In 2011, Governor Rick Snyder capped film incentives at $25 million.
GM Renaissance Center
GM (GM) this year regained the title of world’s biggest carmaker, taking it back from tsunami-battered Toyota (TM). The company boasted its biggest profits in 20 years and is the sales leader in the U.S. and China. The Chevrolet Cruze is the top-selling compact sedan in the U.S. GM has sold more than a million of them worldwide.
Whole Foods (WFM) in 2011 announced it would open a store in the city. Right now downtown Detroit doesn’t have a single national chain grocery store.
TechTown is a research and technology park created by GM, Wayne State University, and the Henry Ford Health System. Tenant Bizdom U, a business incubator founded by Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, gives selected Detroit-based startups training and funding.
By Drake Bennet, Bloomberg Businessweek