Did Vote Against Transit Doom Detroit’s Bid to Win Amazon HQ?

State Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) says a modern transit system is the one thing we’re missing on Amazon’s wish list.

Jake Neher/WDET

Detroit is one of many cities vying to become the home of Amazon’s second North American Headquarters.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has put billionaire Dan Gilbert in charge of luring the company to Detroit.

Can the city’s most vocal and wealthy cheerleaders make the case and convince Amazon to locate here?

What are the obstacles to Detroit’s bid? Where would something like that be built here?

And did voters’ decision in 2016 to reject a mass transit millage doom Detroit’s chances to become Amazon’s second home and win $5 billion in new investment?

Click here to read a column from Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Chad Livengood about why he thinks Detroit’s bid won’t win

Click here to read a rebuttal to Livengood’s column from Michigan Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah 

State Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) joins Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson to talk about those questions. Conyers, the great nephew of Congressman John Conyers (D-MI), has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Georgetown University. He serves as minority vice chair of the state Senate Transportation Committee.

“We’ve got a really good bid opportunity,” says Conyers. “Considering the hurdle of transportation, however, we’ve got to really dive deep into how we’re going to bring one proposal to this organization.”

Click on the audio player above to hear the full conversation.


Here is an op-ed written by Sen. Conyers related to Detroit’s Amazon bid:


Moving Detroit forward.

It’s a classic situation that most Southeast Michiganders find ourselves in: whenever someone asks us where we’re from, we say we’re from Detroit — regardless of whether we hail from the suburbs, the city proper or anywhere in between.

Our parents are from here. Their parents are from here. It’s the city WE love and represent. That’s why the spirit of Detroit runs deep in all of us.

As Detroit begins to flourish, it’s time to remove the barriers to regional growth and allow our interconnected economic hub to thrive. We can begin by building a next-generation transportation system that will provide quick, easy mobility between the neighborhoods, suburbs and downtown business sector — something every other major U.S. city has accomplished.

If you’ve ever traveled to another big city, like Chicago, Seattle or Washington, D.C., you’ve seen firsthand how interconnected their transportation is. It has never been easier to get from one place to another without worrying about traffic, distracted drivers or parking your car.

With Amazon looking to invest $5 billion in a second headquarters, which could possibly bring 50,000 new jobs to Detroit, building reliable transportation has never been more important.

In fact, it’s the only thing that we’re missing on Amazon’s wish list:

● A metropolitan area with more than one million people? Check.

● A stable and business-friendly environment? Check.

● The potential to attract and retain strong technical talent? Check.

● A strong university system nearby? Check.

● Communities that think big and creatively? Check.

● Available land for an 8 million-square-foot headquarters? Check.

● A mass transit system for 50,000 new workers? Get back to us on that one.

Our current lack of mass transit options is an opportunity to create the most modern, interconnected design build in the nation. Unlike other big cities, we’re not locked into a costly underground rail system, and we have some of the smartest minds in transportation — including the highest percentage of engineers in the country right here in Michigan — on our doorstep.

A report by the Regional Transit Authority found that 62 percent of Detroiters work outside of the city, while 72 percent of Detroit workers live outside the city and commute to work. In a metropolis where employees pass each other every day going in opposite directions on their way to work, mass transportation benefits everyone.

I’ll be the first to admit that while previous mass transit plans were good, every proposal brought forward lacked two fundamental pieces: a unified system that combines our existing mass transit, and a plan to expand without saddling skeptical taxpayers with the cost. We need cooperation from the business community and taxpayers to fund a commonsense plan that works for everyone.

If we’re able to solve these two elusive aspects, I believe we are well on our way toward a plan that works for everyone.

Without a doubt, there will be naysayers. There will be people who will tell you that this isn’t possible and that the system doesn’t work. Well, I’m here to tell you that we can make it work if we want it to, but we have to begin taking those steps if we want to be an attractive option for Amazon, or any other future business investments.

It’s time to hop on the train that keeps Detroit moving forward.

Sen. Ian Conyers (D-Detroit) has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from Georgetown University. He serves as Minority Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and represents citizens of the 4th District in Wayne County that includes the cities of Allen Park, Detroit, Lincoln Park, Southgate.


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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.