Metro Detroit


The Detroit metropolitan area, often referred to as Metro Detroit, is the metropolitan area located in Southeast Michigan centered on the city of Detroit. As the home of the “Big Three” American automakers (General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler), it is the world’s traditional automotive center and a key pillar of the U.S. economy.

At its core, Metro Detroit comprises the counties of Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb. These counties are sometimes referred to informally as the Detroit Tri-County Area.

The Detroit Urban Area, which serves as the core of the Metropolitan Statistical Area, ranks as the 9th most populous of the United States, with a population of 3,903,377 as of the 2000 census, and area of 1,261.4 square miles (3,267 km2).

The United States Office of Management and Budget defines the Detroit–Warren–Livonia Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as the six counties of Lapeer, Livingston, Macomb, Oakland, St. Clair, and Wayne. As of the 2000 census, the MSA had a population of 4,441,551. The Census Bureau’s 2008 estimate placed the population at 4,425,110, which ranks it as the eleventh-largest MSA. The MSA covers an area of 3,913 square miles (10,130 km2).

The nine-county area designated by the United States Census Bureau as the Detroit–Ann Arbor–Flint Combined Statistical Area (CSA) includes the three additional counties of Genesee, Monroe, and Washtenaw, the metropolitan areas of Flint, Ann Arbor, and Monroe, plus the Detroit-Warren-Livonia MSA. It had a population of 5,357,538 as of the 2000 census. The Census Bureau’s 2008 estimate placed the population at 5,354,225. This CSA covers an area of 5,814 square miles (15,060 km2). Lenawee County was removed from Detroit’s CSA in 2000.

With the adjacent city of Windsor, Ontario and its suburbs, the combined Windsor-Detroit area has a population of about 5.9 million.

When the nearby Toledo Metropolitan Area and its commuters are taken into account, the region constitutes a much larger population center with an estimated 46 million people living within a 300-mile (480 km) radius of Detroit proper.


The region’s nine county area with its population of 5.4 million has a workforce of about 2.6 million with about 240,000 businesses. Metro Detroit has made Michigan’s economy a leader in information technology, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing; Michigan ranks fourth nationally in high tech employment with 568,000 high tech workers, including 70,000 in the automotive industry.  Michigan typically ranks third or fourth in overall Research & development (R&D) expenditures in the United States.     Metro Detroit is an important source of engineering job opportunities. The domestic auto industry accounts, directly and indirectly, for one of ten jobs in the United States.

The Renaissance Center, GM’s world headquarters

In April 2008, metropolitan Detroit’s unemployment rate was 6.9 percent; by April 2009, it rose to 13.6 percent during the recession.  Metro Detroit shared in the economic difficulties brought on by the severe stock market decline following the September 11, 2001 attacks which had caused a pension and benefit fund crisis for American companies including General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler.  During the Economic crisis of 2008, President George W. Bush extended loans from the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) funds in order to help the Big three automakers bridge the recession. The President extended the loans to aid the auto industry’s restructuring plans which include a goal to convert long term debt into equity and to make costs competitive.[

 In spite of these efforts, the severity of the recession required Detroit’s automakers to take additional steps to restructure, including idling many plants. With the U.S. Treasury extending the necessary debtor in possession financing, Chrysler and GM filled separate ‘pre-packaged’ Chapter 11 restructurings in May and June 2009 respectively.

Metro Detroit serves as the headquarters for the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command, known as TACOM, with Selfridge Air National Guard Base. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) is one of America’s largest and most recently modernized facilities, with six major runways, Boeing 747 maintenance facilities, and an attached Westin Hotel and Conference Center.

Detroit has major port status  and an extensive toll-free expressway system.  A 2004 Border Transportation Partnership study showed that 150,000 jobs in the Detroit-Windsor region and $13 billion in annual production depend on Detroit’s international border crossing.  A source of top talent, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is one of the world’s leading research institutions, and Wayne State University in Detroit has the largest single-campus medical school in the United States.

In 2004, led by Metro Detroit, Michigan ranked second nationally in new corporate facilities and expansions. From 1997 to 2004, Michigan was the only state to top the 10,000 mark for the number of major new developments.  Metro Detroit is a leading corporate location with major office complexes such as the Renaissance Center, the Southfield Town Center, and Cadillac Place with the Fisher Building in the historic New Center area. Both BorgWarner and TRW Automotive Holdings chose Metro Detroit for their new headquarters. Quicken Loans, National City Bank, Ernst & Young, GMAC, Visteon, and OnStar are sources of growth. Compuware, IBM, Google, and Covansys are examples information technology and software companies with a headquarters or major presence in Metro Detroit. Electronic Data Systems (EDS) makes Metro Detroit its regional headquarters, and one of its largest global employment locations. The area is home to Rofin-Sinar, a leading maker of lasers. The metropolitan Detroit area has one of the nation’s largest office markets with 147,082,003 square feet. Virtually every major U.S company and many from around the globe have a presence in Metro Detroit. Chrysler‘s largest corporate facility is its U.S. headquarters and technology center in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills. Downtown Detroit reported $1.3 billion in restorations and new developments for 2006.


Tourism is an important component of the region’s culture and economy, comprising nine percent of the area’s two million jobs. About 15.9 million people visit metro Detroit annually, spending about $4.8 billion. Detroit is the largest city or metro area in the U.S. to offer casino resorts (MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino, Greektown Casino, and nearby Caesars Windsor).  Metro Detroit is tourist destination easily accommodating super-sized crowds to events such as the North American International Auto Show, the Windsor-Detroit International Freedom Festival, Tastefest, 2009 NCAA Final Four, and Super Bowl XL. The Detroit International Riverfront links the Renaissance Center a series of venues, parks, restaurants, and hotels. In 2006, the four-day Motown Winter Blast drew a cold weather crowd of about 1.2 million people to Campus Martius Park area downtown. Detroit’s metroparks include fresh water beaches such as Metropolitan Beach, Kensington Beach, and Stony Creek Beach. Metro Detroit offers canoeing through the Huron-Clinton Metroparks as well as downhill and cross-county skiing at Alpine Valley Ski Resort, Mt. Brighton, Mt. Holly, and Pine Knob Ski Resort. The Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge is the only international wildlife preserve in North America, uniquely located in the heart of a major metropolitan area. The Refuge includes islands, coastal wetlands, marshes, shoals, and waterfront lands along 48 miles of the Detroit River and Western Lake Erie shoreline.

Metro Detroit contains a number of shopping malls, including the upscale Somerset Collection in Troy and the Great Lakes Crossing outlet mall in Auburn Hills, both major draws for tourists.

The region’s leading attraction is The Henry Ford, located in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn, which is America’s largest indoor-outdoor museum complex. The recent renovation of the Renaissance Center, a state of the art cruise ship dock, new stadiums, and a new RiverWalk have spurred economic development. Nearby Windsor has a 19 year old drinking age with a myriad of entertainment to complement Detroit’s Greektown district. Tourism planners have yet to tap the potential economic impact of the estimated 46 million people that live within a 300 mile (480 km) radius of Detroit.


Professional sports has a major fan following in Metro Detroit. The area is home to many sports teams, including six professional teams in four major sports. The area’s several universities field teams in a variety of sports. Michigan Stadium, home of the Michigan Wolverines, is the largest American football stadium in the world. Metro Detroit hosts many annual sporting events including auto and hydroplane racing. The area has hosted many major sporting events, including the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Super Bowl XVI, Super Bowl XL, the 2005 Major League Baseball All-Star Game, and the first two games of the 2006 World Series.


A view of the Detroit International Riverfront from Belle Isle.

The first Europeans to colonize the Detroit area were French, and their legacy can be observed today in the names of many area cities (ex. Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Ile) and streets (ex. Gratiot, Beaubien, St. Antoine, Cadieux). Later, there was an influx of persons of British and German descent, followed later by Polish, Irish, Italian, Lebanese, Greek, Jewish, and Belgian immigrants who made their way to the city during the early 20 century and during World War II.  There was a large migration into the city of from the rural South following World War I.

Today, the Detroit suburbs in Oakland County, Macomb County, and northeastern and northwestern Wayne County are predominantly white. Oakland County is among the most affluent counties in the United States. In Wayne County, the city of Dearborn has a large concentration of Arab Americans, mainly Lebanese. Recently, the area has witnessed some growth in Albanian American, Asian American and Hispanic populations. Immigration continues to play a role in the region’s projected growth with the population of Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint (CMSA) estimated to be 6,191,000 by 2025.

In the 2000s, 70% of the total Black population in Metro Detroit lived in the City of Detroit. Of the 185 cities and townships in Metro Detroit, 115 were over 95% White. Of the more than 240,000 suburban blacks in Metro Detroit, 44% lived in Inkster, Oak Park, Pontiac, and Southfield; 9/10ths of the African-American population in the area consisted of residents of Detroit, Highland Park, Inkster, Pontiac, and Southfield.




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