Saturday, February 23, 2008

Greimel and Rogers: Counties benefit from bigger Cobo Center


Commissioners: Counties benefit from bigger Cobo Center

• February 22, 2008

The economic imperative for expanding Cobo Center is clear. According to a study by economist David Sowerby, more than 16,600 jobs are directly tied to Cobo activities. Almost 5,000 of those jobs are in Oakland County. Moreover, 80% of the jobs are directly tied to the annual North American International Auto Show, and organizers of the auto show have long warned that, without an expansion of Cobo, the show would be forced to move to another state or would be significantly diminished in importance.


Based on reasonable concerns raised by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano has revised his Cobo expansion plan to make it more affordable. By reducing the proposed expansion from 270,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet, the new plan costs $100 million less than the previous one.

This and other commonsense changes mean that the hotel and liquor taxes that are currently levied to pay for the last Cobo expansion would only need to be extended for seven years, from their scheduled expiration in 2015 until 2022, in order to pay for the needed expansion and renovation of Cobo.

Activities at Cobo contribute approximately $180 million to Oakland County's economy every year. That constitutes an 18-to-1 annual return on the hotel and liquor taxes that Oakland County hotels, restaurants and bars would pay if the taxes are extended for seven years.

There is room to question a handful of details about Ficano's proposed plan, but Lansing's leaders should not allow squabbling over details, which can easily be resolved, to stand in the way of facilitating the expansion of Cobo and the economic growth and jobs that it provides.

Some will undoubtedly question why our state and region should invest in the City of Detroit in the wake of the scandal that has engulfed Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his administration. But the expansion and renovation of Cobo Center have never been about Kilpatrick. They have always been about fostering economic growth in southeast Michigan.

Now more than ever, it is critically important that we invest in our region's economy and create jobs by expanding Cobo.

TIM GREIMEL, D-Rochester Hills, and MIKE ROGERS, R-Farmington Hills, are Oakland County commissioners. Write to them in care of the Free Press Editorial Page, 615 W. Lafayette, Detroit, MI 48226 or at

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