During both World War efforts, Detroit’s factories and their manufacturing might was flipped from automobile production to support for the war effort. During World War II, at least 110 factories in Detroit retooled to produce parts for aircraft, tanks, and weapons.
Recently, the news media (Crains, Free Press, Detroit News) have reached back into history in an attempt to compare the Coronavirus global pandemic to a war effort. There are serious issues with comparing a public health response to a war, but today is all about the geography.
Detroit no longer has an arsenal from which to pull. There are no longer over 100 factories within the city limits. The auto industry’s operations are no longer are located in Detroit. The reverse prohibition trend in Detroit has led to the city’s strongest response as Detroit-based breweries and distilleries have started mass producing hand sanitizer rather than beer or spirits. Detroit’s industrial sewing ecosystem has also taken on the task of making face shields, gowns, and masks.
GM’s effort is largely focused at their China and Indiana facilities with a handful of metro Detroit suppliers involved. Ford is split between a South Dakota facility and a supplier in Plymouth, MI making that has already made 1 million face shields. Dow (Midland, MI headquartered) has marshaled their global reach to produce hand sanitizer.
Indicative of Detroit’s decline, global industry (specifically the auto industry) largely functions outside of the city in suburban factories, southern facilities, or where a lower cost workforce resides. Shout out to Detroit businesses shifting focus to address much needed supplies:
- Detroit Bus Company
- Detroit City Distillery
- Two James Distillery
- Eastern Market Brewing Co.
- Atwater Brewery
- Detroit Denim
- Pingree Detroit