I live in Flint, MI-a place that many people would not like to call home. Flint is home to a large amount of violent crimes and it ranked among the top 5 most dangerous cities in America between 2007-2013. In the past couple of years, Flint has seen a drop in crime but the city still has a large amount of blight, infrastructure problems, and petty crimes. Is there anything good about Flint? I would argue that Flint is actually a pretty sweet place to live: there are a ton of walking trails, great restaurants, libraries, colleges, and fun people. Flint is in a revitalization stage and I think in another 10 years it will be a sought after destination for jobs and recreation. To better understand the current dismal state of Flint, I had to look back to its great past and how far it fell from grace. This history was provided in the book Rivethead by Ben Hamper. Hamper worked in the General Motors Truck and Bus Factory for approximately 10 years between the mid seventies and mid eighties. As the title of the book alludes too, he was a riveter on the assembly line, responsible for building suburbans. The book is an excellent look into the life of an assemblymen: lots of alcohol, rock and roll, parties, drugs, and monotonous work. Hamper eventually was sent to a plant in Pontiac, Michigan but his career as a GM man ended due to severe panic attacks and anxiety. I highly recommend reading this book because it allows a glimpse into the life of a very blue-collar man; usually the type of guy who is not inclined to write or express their emotions: Harper is funny, edgy, and most importantly down-to-earth.
In 1977, Harper was making, as a fairly new assemblyman, the equivalent of 50 dollars an hour in today’s money. This amount of money was to be had by all people working at the automotive factories and the middle class was thriving. Flint was the birth place of Buick and had multiple GM, Chevy, AC Spark Plug, Delphi, and Fisher-Body factories. The peak of the automotive industry in Flint began in the late 30’s and continued until the late 60’s. Beginning in the 1970’s the auto industries began slowly closing factories and moving jobs overseas. Today there is one GM factory left and compared to Flint’s population peak of over 200,000 in the 60’s its current population is less than half that amount. With the exodus of people and jobs, the remaining population of Flint was forced to take lower paying jobs and support an infrastructure that was designed to survive on twice the tax revenue. This led to three financial emergencies in the 21st century and the placement of an emergency manager by the governor of Michigan. Flint’s peril mirrors that of other Michigan auto-cities such as Saginaw, Pontiac, and obviously Detroit. Flint is on the long road to recovery but other cities should learn from its mistakes. To be successful is the long run, cities must have diverse economies that depend primarily on highly skilled and highly educated laborers. Flint is getting better but let’s not have anymore Flintoid cities in the future.