of the Barden Companies Inc., whose bid to build one of the casinos was rejected by the Archer administration. Barden firmly believes that for at least one of the casinos not to be black-owned sets the community back. “Rarely in our history have we as a race been given the opportunity to determine significant participation in an industry,” he asserts. “For us not to take advantage of that is outrageous.”
With most of the white community’s support and the necessary backing of the Detroit Metro AFL/CIO unions, the Archer administration defends its choices for casino contracts. Citing Barden’s financial commitments as falling short of the contract criteria, officials believe the trickle-down effect would have ended up translating into few jobs for minorities.
“The important thing is that we ensure as many African Americans benefit from this venture as possible,” says the mayor’s press secretary, Greg Bowens. “Those assurances are in the development agreements because they spell out how much we want, in terms of African Americanowned businesses, to get from the casinos and stadiums.”
The supplier base has to have at least 30% African American participation. Additionally, the unions have pledged training and apprenticeships to fill the demand for skilled labor throughout development. The administration believes these assurances will allow the money to be spread around rather than creating a black ownership symbol in one person.
BE 100s CEO Bill Pickard, Ph.D., owner of Regal Plastics in Roseville, Michigan, is one of two general partners in the MGM Grand Hotel’s casino development project. He supports the mayor’s selection and will help to make sure that there is black participation. “I will advise and assist MGM in fulfilling the mayor’s and city council’s mandate on Detroit jobs, black contracting as well as participation in all facets of the management and ownership of the casino development project,” he says.
The casinos notwithstanding, Detroit resident and radio news anchor Michael Barr, wife Candace and their seven-year-old son, Mike Jr., believe Detroit is the place to be. “The casinos’ coming to Detroit is important, but that’s just one cog in the machinery,” Barr notes. “If there was never any talk of casinos, Detroit would still thrive–you’ve got the new stadiums coming, a thriving entertainment and cultural district, and city services have improved.”
Financially, the two-income Barr family has no complaints, noting that the cost of living in Detroit is very affordable in comparison to other major urban areas they once considered moving to. The Barrs say their three-bedroom bi-level house, located in a middle-income neighborhood on the city’s east side, has doubled in value since it was purchased eight years ago.
Likewise, native Detroiter Irving Weaver, his wife Griselle and their daughters Melissa, nine, and Nicole, four, benefited from the city’s rising property values when they were forced to relocate to Clarkston, Michigan. When GM moved a portion of its operations north, Weaver and family followed. Not only did the couple cash in on the sale of their Detroit home, which had nearly doubled in value, but Griselle, who had