The U.S. state of Michigan Tuesday received more bad news as the state's biggest bank, Comerica, announced it is moving its headquarters and at least 200 jobs from Detroit to Dallas, Texas. VOA's Barry Wood, recently in Detroit, files this report on the tough times facing the U.S. automotive capital.
Comerica says it is moving to Dallas because it has large operations there and the southwest is its biggest growth area. Comerica was the last major bank to have headquarters in Detroit, the depressed center of the auto industry, where the population has shrunk to little more than 800,000.
Michigan's Governor Jennifer Granholm lamented the loss of Comerica, calling it a bitter pill to swallow. Comerica occupies a relatively new 45-story building near Comerica Park, the home of the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
This is the latest in a string of job losses that add to deteriorating finances for both Detroit and Michigan. Last month Daimler Chrysler announced that it is cutting its U.S. work force by 11,000 and that 5,000 of those job losses will occur in southeast Michigan. The company based in Germany has indicated that it may dispose of its Chrysler affiliate, which has not earned significant profits since being taken over by Daimler Benz in 1998.
Unlike most parts of the United States, Michigan is experiencing hard times and absolute job losses. While auto production in the United States fell by 12 percent since 2000, Michigan experienced a 28 percent decline and the loss of 326,000 jobs. Unemployment in Michigan is seven percent compared to five percent nationally. As U.S. based car companies have slashed production and jobs, no state has been harder hit than Michigan. Experts say the state is currently losing jobs at the rate of 4,000 per month.
Keith Crain, the publisher of Detroit-based Automotive News magazine, says Detroit and Michigan's decline is far from over.
"Unfortunately the governor of our state and the legislature have not done a good job in trying to create the right environment for business growth in our city," he said. "Right now they are debating about new taxes that will be devastating for a lot of companies and in my opinion will encourage even more companies to leave."
Crain and others place considerable blame on the powerful auto workers union, whose declining membership still enjoys high wages and generous health care benefits from automakers no longer able to afford them. Detroit-based General Motors lost $10 billion in 2005. Former number two automaker Ford is slashing its work force and fighting for survival. Japanese car companies have built more than a dozen manufacturing facilities in the United States, but none of their workers are represented by the UAW, the United Auto Workers union.