The theme of the 2012 Democratic campaign was that the One Percenters are the problem and government the solution. The reality on the ground is the opposite – were it not for the innovation of Detroit’s successful entrepreneurs where government has failed, Detroit would be even more of a basket case.
From Gilbert to Ilitch to Karmanos, Detroit’s wealthy have been willing downtown back to life. Now comes another billionaire, homebuilder Bill Pulte and his grandson, with a bold, innovative approach to finally tackle the city’s blight crisis – a crisis that effects crime, emergency resources, and property values.
“Government has been wasting money doing blight demolition in a non-concentrated manner,” Bill Pulte Jr. tells me. “We’re bringing free market principles to the problem.”
Indeed, Big Government has been an utter failure in blight intervention – throwing up permitting, paperwork, and cost barriers to getting the job done. Meanwhile, a pilot project by the Pultes cleared a neighborhood at HALF the cost per house of government efforts. Pulte Homes became America’s biggest homebuilder by innovating scaled-production, subdivision housing. Their blight solution? Reverse engineer the process by clearing whole neighborhoods.
Jillian Kay Melchior, a former Detroit News intern now reporting for National Review, has the details:
Unlike previous municipal-led efforts, the Blight Authority is hiring contractors based solely on which bid offers the highest quality and lowest cost, taking union and open-shop bids alike. Whereas previous demolition efforts attacked one building at a time, hopping around the city, the Blight Authority seeks to target whole regions. The goal, Lieutenant Colonel Henderson says, is to maintain around 2,000 structures in the queue at any given time. This concentrated, large-scale approach helps the group save on transportation and complete the project more efficiently. And when they leave, the neighborhood is clean.
The Blight Authority is also taking a whack at the red tape that’s held up previous efforts. It has negotiated with the city and DTE Energy to waive some of the fees and permitting expenses. . . . Finally, where previous efforts took the waste material from a demolition to the landfill 40 to 80 miles away — another expense — the Blight Authority recycles around 80 percent of the rubble.
“I don’t know if government and government administrations are designed to solve problems,” Henderson says. “I think they’re designed to administer regulations and keep the status quo. . . . But an undertaking of this magnitude will always overwhelm a city. That’s why we have [a philanthropic sector] that will come in and assist.”
The White House wants to confiscate more of Detroit’s entrepreneur dollars to feed Washington’s bureaucratic black hole. Detroit is evidence that businessmen’s money is most efficient at home where it can be concentrated on solving problems like Detroit blight.