As local officials continue to battle over a proposed expansion plan of the Cobo Center in Detroit, officials from the North American International Auto Show said last week they want to see a possible solution introduced to the Michigan Legislature within 30 days.
The squabbling between Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Macomb County Board of Commissioners chairman William Crouchman, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano flared up in public last week during a radio show broadcast from a high-profile policy conference on Mackinac Island.
Issues raised included whether one region would bear more of the tax burden than others and who would be blamed if the expansion plan fell through and the auto show left the city. By the end of the broadcast, the elected leaders agreed that a compromise must be reached to expand the center in order to keep the auto show, which is estimated to bring in $500 million annually to the economically depressed state.
The current 120,000-square-foot expansion plan, proposed by Ficano, relies on roughly $600 million of borrowing. Under the plan, the state would create a new authority that would purchase the Cobo Center for $20 million from Detroit. It would have the ability to sell bonds. The project would in part be financed through liquor and hotel taxes. The state would also create a sales-tax-free zone in an effort to attract more conventions.
Local media last week reported that officials from the North American International Auto Show said that they want to go directly to the Legislature to push a bill that would help finance the expansion plan. If legislation fails, officials told the Detroit News that they would consider several options, including moving the show to Chicago or taking it to a new city every year.