And yet, there is hope. Detroit has begun to reinvent itself, both in the city and in the metro area as a whole. SE Michigan does have a ton of engineers and a high level of R&D dollars being spent. While the bankruptcy is sad, just as GM's bankruptcy on 1 Jun 2009 was, it'll be far sadder if Detroit can't continue to reinvent itself as it has from the darkest days of 2008-9. The bankruptcy is payment for the sins of the past - but this purgatory should lead Detroit on a path to success. There's no reason that Detroit can't mirror what North Carolina's Research Triangle did in the '90s and '00s. And considering how much Detroit has made America look at herself over its history - I think we should all be rooting for the Motor City to rocket forward from here.Contra what your local economic development council tells you, you can't grow that kind of R&D focus overnight. There's probably plenty of reasons that Detroit can't turn itself into RTP, and not soon enough for it to make a difference -- a shame, to be sure.
Not only can I not help but love Detroit - I can't help but believe in that city too.
[Seems to me that the main difference between Detroit and the RTP region is difference in economic focus of the regions: automobile manufacturing versus life sciences. Which one of those does America still have a relative comparative advantage in? I also wonder if there's a difference between the concentration of research-oriented universities in the RTP region and the Detroit area.]
UPDATE: Lisa Jarvis and Celia Arnaud point out that the more likely places for a life sciences renaissance in Michigan would Ann Arbor or Kalamazoo. This actually reminds me of something that I meant to point out in the original post, which is the seeming annihilation of Michigan's pharmaceutical research centers during the 1990s/2000s. It would be interesting to know what percentage of Michigan resident life scientists ended up 1) leaving the region, but still working in pharma or 2) staying in Michigan, but leaving pharma.