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Detroit: Cobo Center to be Expanded?

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Detroit mayor wants to expand Cobo Center or build new complex

By Christine Tierney / The Detroit News

FRANKFURT -- After touring the vast Frankfurt auto show this week, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has no doubt that the North American International Auto Show needs to be expanded to be at least half as large as Frankfurt.

A Detroit panel is scheduled to deliver recommendations in December about whether to expand Cobo Center or build a complex for the annual show.

"We have to have more space," Kilpatrick told The Detroit News. "Every manufacturer I've met here has told me how they could be more creative if they had more space, and how important the North American International Auto Show is for them."

At the Frankfurt show, held every other year, automakers and suppliers display models and technologies in 10 large halls covering 2.3 million square feet. That compares with 650,000 square feet of space available at Cobo.

Detroit should nearly double that to between 1 million and 1.2 million square feet, Kilpatrick said.

"We'd have more unveilings, more product announcements and more concepts if we had the space," he said.

The Detroit auto show generates about $500 million for the region.

Besides space constraints, manufacturers have grumbled about labor costs in Detroit.

"We're more expensive than Chicago" for some shows, Kilpatrick said. He plans to raise the issue with the unions.

"We lose conventions because of the cost," he said. "We need to stay competitive."

Kilpatrick is also studying ways to increase the show's profile by organizing concurrent events or conferences bringing together politicians, industry leaders and regulators to discuss crucial environmental, technical and other industry issues.

Kilpatrick said Japan's Nissan Motor Co. suggested a job fair, "to meet with teachers and tell them what they look for" in terms of employment skills."

You can reach Christine Tierney at (313) 222-1463 or [email protected]

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Cobo Hall definately needs to be expanded if Detroit wants to compete with the big boys for conventions. The first time I went there, I was suprised how small a convention center it was, to be the main convention hall in a city Detroit's size. Its great Kilpatrick decided to return to Michigan after he graduated from Florida A&M in Tallahassee, FL. He really seems to have a lot of energy and the go-get-it-done attitude, which is needed to revitalize Detroit.

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It does need to be expanded if it wants to attract more conventions. The only real big convention we have is the Detroit International Auto Show, which I go to see each January. With a larger convention center, Detroit should be able to attract more large conventions, pumping money into the regional economy. Kilpatrick has done so much for the city. I don't agree with all his decisions, but he gets the job done. He has the kind of power where what he says goes, which is good when you're talking about downtown long as that doesn't include tearing down any more historic buildings.

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