Today is, unofficially at least, "Love Detroit" Day.
The robust Detroit Lions are about to enter the NFL playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Chrysler just announced the addition of 1,100 new auto-assembly jobs in the city, great news following the ebullient 2011 U.S. car sales reports this week. And Motown is spiffing up for an influx of thousands of foreign journalists and auto-industry executives attending the 2012 North American International Auto Show next week — not to mention the other thousands of Michiganders who will attend the public part of the Detroit Auto Show the following week.
So if Detroit lovers could take a snapshot of any particular day and just live in it for a while, without the clock moving forward, January 6th, 2012 might be that day. Nothing has been ideal in fiscally strapped and infrastructure-challenged Detroit for a long time and might never be again, but today's news has presented a trifecta of developments that the city will certainly embrace for a while.
The jobs announcement, of course, was the most heartening. Chrysler will add the employment when it tacks on a third shift at its Jefferson North assembly plant in the city in 2013 to handle rising sales and new versions of the SUVs built there, the new Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, and presumably to pave the way for manufacture of a Maserati-designed SUV at the plant.
In announcing the addition, Fiat and Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sounded like he was getting ready to disclose the theme of a new Super Bowl commercial for Chrysler, perhaps one that would build on the now-iconic "Imported from Detroit" commercial featuring Eminem that the company ran in the last Super Bowl. But he didn't go that far.
"Our future, like the history of our brands, is interwoven with the city of Detroit," he said in a statement. "Detroit long has been home to renowned innovators and craftsmen, So it is in the Motor City, home of our industrial heritage and a resilient people, that we are entrusting the manufacture" of the vehicles. Marchionne, by the way, was also just announced as the 2012 chairman of the United Way Campaign in Southeastern Michigan — a smart move to cement local ties.
Meanwhile, as the city prettied itself for the auto show, it also was disclosed that NAIAS has committed to keep the show at the downtown Cobo Center through at least 2017. That was thanks to a $300-million upgrade of the facility over the last couple of years after show sponsors threatened to pull the exhibit out of the city proper over the site's inadequacies and disrepair.
And there are the Lions. Few are predicting that the team will upset the New Orleans Saints when they square of in the first round of league playoffs on Saturday night: Detroit is the No. 6 seed in the National Football Conference tournament while the Saints, winners of all their home games this season, are the No. 3 seed and playing in their beloved Superdome.
But there's no discounting what the Lions have accomplished since the ignominy of an 0-16 season, the worst for any team in NFL history, just three years go. Their steady rise since then reflects and is reflected in another sort of renaissance — another significant, if very far from complete, one — in Detroit itself.
Monday, after a likely Lions loss or maybe some unpredictable logistical problem at the auto show, might not look so hot. But today sure is good.