Mich. Suburb Tries to Woo GM to Leave Detroit

Warren Major Jim Fouts invoked a Buy-American-car rule for city workers.
Warren Major Jim Fouts invoked a Buy-American-car rule for city workers. (By David Kilkenney -- Via Detroit Free Press)
By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 27, 2009

WARREN, Mich. -- The U.S.-led transformation of General Motors and Chrysler has left many grabbing for a piece of the fast-shrinking American auto industry.

Dealerships across the country suddenly find themselves competing to be the last man standing. Factories in the Midwest are vying for a dwindling number of brands. And city officials in towns that depend on auto production are polishing up their marketing pitches to woo the car giants.

There are few places where this high-pressure competition is on bigger display than in Warren, Mich., where Mayor James R. Fouts has mounted a very public campaign to persuade GM to move out of its digs in the gleaming Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit and relocate its headquarters to his city.

Fouts is not shy about offering reasons why he thinks Warren, with a population of 138,000 and about 15 miles from Detroit, trumps the car capital of the United States.

Lower crime rate. Lower taxes. And he's got plenty of space at the GM Tech Center, a sprawling research and development complex built in the 1950s that once employed 30,000 people and now serves half that many.

Fouts says he'll throw in tax incentives for GM to build a new office building. He said he plans to present a five-and-a-half-page offer to GM officials on Wednesday.

Ordinarily, such a pitch might be quickly dismissed. But in a recent conference call with reporters, GM chief executive Fritz A. Henderson would not rule it out. Henderson's remarks set off a week-long frenzy of local talk-radio shows, newspaper stories and news releases, where people debated the merits of a move.

"Ford is in Dearborn. Chrysler is in Auburn Hills," Fouts said. "It's not like I'm doing something un-American."

Fouts tried to win support from Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm (D) and Ed Montgomery, Obama's point man for steering aid to communities dependent on the auto industry.

Neither exactly embraced the idea, but a source familiar with the restructuring discussions said the autos task force has not taken a position on the matter.

"That is a decision that will be made by the company," said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity. "I am confident the company would want to talk to all the stakeholders about it and consider all options."

Detroit's newly elected mayor, Dave Bing, has tried to stay above the fray.

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