By CHARLES ROLTSCH
Capital News Service
LANSING- Aerotropolis may be a strange, unknown word to most people, but in
Southeast Michigan, it’s touted as a key to economic development.
An aerotropolis is a city-planning scheme with an airport at its center and
aviation-related businesses surrounding it.
The aerotropolis concept reasons that major areas of economic growth are also
areas with transportation hubs. Seaports in the 18th century, railroads in the 19th century
and highways in the 20th century helped the cities that catered to them grow and prosper.
Pending legislation is designed to assist the development of a $170 million
areotropolis development around Detroit Metro Airport and Willow Run Airport, six
miles to the west. A hearing is scheduled for next month.
The legislation would give tax abatements to businesses related to air travel
located around the airport, said Bob Ficano, Wayne County executive.
“Development incentives will be granted as a result of coordination and
agreement with the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the Aerotropolis
Development Corp. (ADC),” he said.
Under the proposal, an ADC would be a public board of local officials from
municipalities within three miles of an airport with more than a million passenger-
boardings a year. That would limit the prospect of a Michigan aerotropolis to Detroit
A study funded by Detroit Renaissance, a backer of aerotropolis development,
said the project would create 64,000 jobs and $10 billion in new economic activity.
But the expansion isn’t without dissent. For example, fuel prices have led major
airlines in the past year to cut flights, leading skeptics to argue it may be a white
It’s not the first time an airport expansion turned out to be a flop.
The Lambert-St. Louis Airport in Missouri undertook a $1 billion runway
development in 1998, destroying 2,000 homes in the process, yet planes seldom land
where those homes once stood.
Concern over competing with Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is causing concern too. It
transports almost five times the amount of cargo as Detroit Metro and is nearly at
capacity. John Rakolta, member of Detroit Renaissance, says he thinks that’s a potential
asset because cargo will come to Detroit rather than an overbooked Chicago.
The Taylor City Council, just east of Detroit Metro, passed a resolution opposing
the aerotropolis development.
“We don’t mind them growing if and when there is a need for additional
capacity,” said Mayor Cameron Priebe. “We don’t want to stand in the way of job
opportunities and economic development, but in Taylor we have issues with noise, safety
Co-sponsors of the legislation include Reps. Ed Clemente, D-Lincoln Park; Dave
Hillenbrand, R-Lowell; Gabe Leland, D-Detroit and Hopgood D-Taylor.
The bills are pending review in the House New Economy and Quality of Life
Committee on Nov. 6. Rakolta says he wants legislative action this year.