September 28, 2009 By Hilton Collins
The last few years have been rough for Wayne County, Mich., on the economic front. In June, County Executive Robert Ficano proposed about 500 layoffs in his 2009-2010 budget because of a looming $105 million shortfall -- obviously bad news for county employees.
The county is home to Detroit, the famous pillar of the American auto industry. According to a study by the Center for Automotive Research, auto-related jobs accounted for one out of every 10 U.S. jobs in 2003. Two large domestic automakers have since gone bankrupt. General Motors filed for bankruptcy protection in June, and President Barack Obama forced Chrysler into federal bankruptcy protection in April so the company could merge with Italian automaker Fiat.
"The bottom line is: There is no money. Our revenue comes from taxes. People are moving out, and businesses are folding. There's no money," said Tahir Kazmi, the county's CIO.
Something had to be done to keep business in the region and improve the economy. Wayne County leaders had the foresight to partner with the private sector in an endeavor to attract new business and lighten the local government's IT burden.
"We were thinking, 'What can we do here that will lead into at least a starting point for a technology hub?'" Kazmi said.
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