The Chainlink

I need some help with a LARGE project relating to bicycle and component production.

Hey guys, here's the deal. Some friends and I have started working on a plan to move bicycle production from Taiwan/China to Detroit, MI. I'm going to Interbike to pitch it to people, but I need some numbers to be pitching. What I need is some fairly solid numbers as to the cost of producing a bicycle in Taiwan, and the same bicycle in Detroit. There are obviously tons of factors that can't be accurately estimated, but a rough picture should be possible.

please hit me up with anything you come up with. Treechunk@gmail.com

http://www.retroit.org/blog/

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Hi Brian, thanks for chiming in! I am going to preface this post with the declaration that I have consumed rather a lot of mead this evening, and I am feeling talky, so here goes....

I was born and spent most of my formative years in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.
I commuted by bmx bike 6 miles each way on medians and shoulders in said suburbs before I moved in to Chicago. 5 and half years ago I cut the end of my finger off in a fixed gear chain and had to quit my job at Office Max. I volunteered at Working Bikes more and more, got hired, and then got hired at Rapid Transit Cycleshop, where I am now the service manager. Bikes, quite frankly, are my life, and THAT is why I picked the industry I did to bring to Detroit. I am undergoing a lot of training in leadership at this point in large part because I want to see this actually happen. There is not yet any organization on this train, most likely one will have to be started pretty soon. My funding, as yet, does not exist. That is the short, straight, to the point answer. My goal is not to get funding, my goal is to get so many people behind this that it gets REAL government support, as there are SO many reasons this needs to happen, be it the health of the American people, be it the future of our economy, be it any hope of jobs for our country, whatever.

Where did I come from? Let me tell you... I have been a dreamer who saw himself as such a failure that actually attempting one of his dreams, failing, and having the world know, was not even an entertainable possibility. I have spent most of my life unable to take action out of fear of failure. I am no longer that person. I may fail, but I sure as shit am not going to fail for lack of trying. I have my vision, and I am going forward with my vision in Detroit because I think Detroit is capable of taking it and running with it, and showing the way to the rest of our nation. I don't want credit, I'm not in this for money, I'm in this for our world to become a workable planet, where people make choices based not only on what benefits them, but what benefits their fellow man, and I see this as a door that leads to a hallway that leads to that. I am through with cynicism, which has ruled my life, and I am doing what I am doing because I love humanity, and I want to be a contribution. I am finally being who I have spent my whole life being too afraid to try to be. Does that round out who I am? Detroit can trust me because what I want is for Detroit to WORK, not the way Chicago does, which is a joke, but in a way that no city has to the best of my knowledge. My vision of Detroit, my driving force, is about PEOPLE, and it's about those people respecting and loving each other, it's about those people having jobs they love, jobs that contribute, and being a community because they want to be.

Sorry about the rambling, as I said, I'm a bit drunk.

Sam

Brian Kennedy said:
Mr. Van Dellen, I’ve been staying off of this thread because I don’t know squat about the cost of manufacturing a bike. However, I’m fresh off another great cycling weekend in Detroit and I think my Detroit experiences give me some leeway to converse. I appreciate how receptive you have been to criticism and your efforts to keep the discussion on topic. With a couple of exceptions, I’ve found the information and exchanges on this thread to be of high quality and I’ve enjoyed following it.

First, Sam, I would like to know more about you so I can gauge your commitment. If we know nothing about you, you leave us to fill in the gaps with our imaginations. All we know right now is that you have appeared out of nowhere with an extremely ambitious plan (which still intrigues me) to revolutionize an industry worldwide while revitalizing an American city that is currently on its knees. Knowing more about you may help us see more of your perspective and understand your motivations better.

The following pieces of information would help me understand your endeavor better:
Where you are from?
What is your cycling background?
Are you representing yourself or an entity?
What is the source of your funding? A nationwide advertising campaign alone is a multi-million dollar effort, let alone retooling Detroit.

Some may be under the impression that you have no cycling background nor particular interest in Detroit, rather you just combined what’s hot (cycling) with what’s not (Detroit’s economy) for arbitrage opportunities. I believe there may have been some defensive comments because the natives are not going to allow you anywhere near their city if you can’t prove your motive is to help Detroit by providing jobs, and not just advancing yourself. Coming from a native Metro Detroiter, Mr. Van Dellen, let me tell you you’d better do your homework and study as much about the history of Detroit as possible or they will never trust or respect you.

H3, you bring up a great point about being from “Detroit”. It is so true that most people who say they are from Detroit do not live in the city. It’s just that saying you are from Detroit is a lot easier than saying you are from Livonia and then spending the next few minutes just getting back to the fact that it’s a Detroit suburb. Even when I was from “Detroit” I was talking about Downriver, but who is going to know where that is? Very few. Now I just say that I used to live in Metro Detroit and that seems to do the trick.

I think we need to remember that Detroit is a city that basically evicted its population starting in the late 60’s with the riots. Yes, I know there were other riots too but ’67 was the nail in the coffin. When your city burns for a week and the US Army is patrolling your streets, people are going to leave. Many of the baby boomers in the suburbs lived in Detroit at one time and can tell stories of its prosperity and how it hurt to leave the city. After white flight, most people’s lives still centered on the city itself because they worked there. I can’t put a blanket dismissal on the opinions and interests of suburban Detroiters (about 4 million in collar counties) just because they don’t live within the city limits. The suburban Detroit population proves over and over again that they will come to the city if you give them a reason. I think that is fair. The vast majority of people attending games at Comerica, Ford Field, and Joe Louis Arena are from the suburbs. I just participated in Tour de Troit this weekend, which was a smashing success (Todd Scott was a huge part of this) with huge numbers, and I can guarantee most of the participants were from the suburbs. What does that say about their interest in the city when 1500+ people want to come to and explore the city their parents left or to see remnants of what was, combined with examples of what currently is? A lot. Sorry to beleaguer, but my point is suburban Detroiters have a huge stake in the future of that city and we can’t dismiss what they say just because they don’t live in the city.

On the other side of the coin is that you can’t truly appreciate what it is like dealing with a city you don’t sleep in. Being subject to the laws, city services, police, schools systems, and taxes of a given city means that what you have to say carries a lot of inherent weight.

I agree with yellow jello that it may be wisest to try and create joint ventures and partnerships with existing manufacturers to bring production to Detroit instead of relocating everything. Ignoring the reality of foreign competition is one of the things that got Detroit in its current mess. Tariffs and quotas are not the answer. When the US hit Japanese imports with tariffs and quotas in the 80’s the quality of American cars went down as prices went up.

Dr. Doom, Detroit is a proud city. I don’t think you planned on offending anybody and most of what you said about Detroit was actually pretty true, but guess what? They’re frickin’ tired of hearing about it. Detroit and Detroiters want to hear solutions and ideas and are tired of being the most popular exhibit at the Museum of Failed Urban Planning, Greedy Unions, Corporate Greed, and Racial Segregation. I’m very happy to see that you have obviously cycled in the city and see its potential. For some reason, I too noticed an inordinate number bike salmon but they were all on the street and not the sidewalk.

Before bashing department store bikes, let’s keep in mind a typical American family. A kid growing up is probably going to go through four bikes by the time they are old enough to leave home. First, they’ll have a tricycle, then a bike with and without training wheels, next will be a 20” bike, and then probably and adult sized bike when they are in Jr. High or high school. That’s too much cash for families to be spending at a bike store when more economical alternatives exist. Additionally, the average adult who just rides a bike on the weekend in fair weather will probably be able to go their whole lives on one department store bike. I don’t think the buying decision is based solely on the present economy. Department stores have commoditized bikes and that needs to be accepted.

If you choose to choose a market segment above and beyond that, you are choosing to do business in a niche market. It’s hard to mass produce and achieve economies of scale in a nice market. Those who use bikes for commuting, grocery shopping, employment (couriers), or competitive cyclists are going to need something more but they are a small portion of overall cycling.

I think this ended up a little more rambling and incoherent that I had planned but I think I was mostly on topic. If I see I generate replies that are not on-topic, I will remove this post. In conclusion, Mr. Van Dellen, I would love to see your idea work and I want to encourage you to pursue it. It is a mountainous endeavor and where there’s high risk, there’s higher potential reward. I just want to make sure that if it ever works, most of that reward stays in the city of Detroit.
There are many reasons I think Detroit is suited to this project more than Chicago to take on this project. First, most of Chicago's manufacturing history is exactly that, history. It's gone. Detroit, while moving away from the industrial city it was, is much closer to what is needed than Chicago. Quite frankly, I think the people of Detroit are more likely to be realistic about doing what it will take to make something like this happen than the people of Chicago. We're too comfortable. We don't have any idea of what's coming, or what will be necessary to combat it. Also, we DO NOT NEED IT the way Detroit does. These three points corral a whole ton of smaller arguments between them, and I think they alone are necessary. There are many other rust belt cities that might be possible, but Chicago is not one of them.

Dr. Doom said:
I meant less to bash Detroit (if my life were in a different place I'd move there tomorrow) than to point out that Chicago might be at least as viable a site for such an ambitious project. The South Side has a lot of the same needs as Detroit and a lot of the same resources, but it's a much easier place to do large scale business because the city government is actually functional. For instance, just to blue sky (and what else are we doing here?), you can pretty easily imagine Chicago wresting some federal funding and tax breaks to manufacture Velib/B-Cycle-style bikes in the city. I'm not really sure that's true of Detroit.
Sorry to disappoint but I tend to get upset when I see people who would rather get defensive and nit-pick the semantics of how and why an area is depressed then put that same energy into changing the situation; that whole thing was also hardly a personal attack.

Detroit, at least when it comes to the metro area, is a city in need of saving if there ever was one and every time I am up there and witness what is going on there one of the common factors I see holding progress back is nobody in the area wants to admit just how bad the city has become. I think partially it is misplaced pride but I also think it is an issue with how and where the prosperous people of the city of Detroit live. In my experience most people in Detroit live, and mostly work, in the surrounding area and a small percentage of them work in a small, well maintained, area of the city proper which is quite nice but the rest of the city is a mess in every possible way. There also seems to be a tiny bit of night life in this small area but for the most part Detroit is a dead city. I don't know if it is because people like what they have, or they don't want to admit there is a problem or they just have not experienced a vibrant and lively city to know just how bad their city center is.

The first step to fixing any problem is to admit to it and Detroit, in my opinion, definitely has a problem.

Somebody here has a viable idea and an obviously strong desire to make it happen and rather then a warm welcome people who live around Detroit are spending time upset somebody wants to help...

Brian Kennedy said:
DUG, I know you weren't seeking my approval but I'm disappointed in the personal attack. I was listening to what you had to say earlier, but now you lost me.
I'm enjoying the thread. Thought I'd toss a log on the fire.

This is a press release regarding a multi million dollar bike manufacturing plan for Detroit. (Please note publication date.)

And here is a NYT report of bike culture in Detroit. Seems the city is actually shaped like a wheel! hm.

I would love a good affordable domestically produced bike. I think I could justify a soma or kogswell frame at the moment. But wouldn't it be more realistic to have Detroit retool for production of coaches for intercity high-speed rail and urban mass transit?
If you read that article all the way through, it gets pretty wacky. I have never read a practical joke that was more accurately aimed at me in my life:). Bicycles, as a product, are REASONABLY simple to produce. While I completely agree that such coaches would be awesome, and should be built, likely even in Detroit, that is not my project. You're more than welcome to take it on. The more industry in this country, the better, the more jobs, the better. Also, in regards to the article in the NYT, that was one of the two things that got me started on this whole crazy ride to begin with. It was posted on Facebook within a few hours of this video (http://vimeo.com/2371774) , and taken together, they brought forth an idea that has grown and grown.

Barry said:
I'm enjoying the thread. Thought I'd toss a log on the fire.
This is a press release regarding a multi million dollar bike manufacturing plan for Detroit. (Please note publication date.) And here is a NYT report of bike culture in Detroit. Seems the city is actually shaped like a wheel! hm.
I would love a good affordable domestically produced bike. I think I could justify a soma or kogswell frame at the moment. But wouldn't it be more realistic to have Detroit retool for production of coaches for intercity high-speed rail and urban mass transit?
Sign me up. I've been thinking of ways to get Detroit back in the loop lately too, and this has crossed my mind more than once. The only reason I moved out of Michigan was for work, but I'd move back in a heartbeat if I knew there were jobs there.

Sam, I also see Detroit as a blank canvas. My problem as well has been how to get something started. Obviously lots of capital and planning is needed, but like another poster said, once there is a reason to go there, people will come back. I also have an idealized view of what a reconstructed Detroit would look like, and I know that if we get enough people together with a common goal, we can come very close to achieving it. Just look at what they've done to the riverfront already.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/21/business/media/21carr.html?_r=2&a...

I just read the above article, and once again, my mind was blown. This is BEGGING to happen, and the media is BEGGING to cover it! It can start with press coverage and grow, the funding will come with exposure to people with said funding. I'm VERY excited to read your response, I'd love to have your help. I am going to Interbike this week to start talking with bike manufacturers about this, when I get back I'll talk with you more.

El Gecko said:
Sign me up. I've been thinking of ways to get Detroit back in the loop lately too, and this has crossed my mind more than once. The only reason I moved out of Michigan was for work, but I'd move back in a heartbeat if I knew there were jobs there.

Sam, I also see Detroit as a blank canvas. My problem as well has been how to get something started. Obviously lots of capital and planning is needed, but like another poster said, once there is a reason to go there, people will come back. I also have an idealized view of what a reconstructed Detroit would look like, and I know that if we get enough people together with a common goal, we can come very close to achieving it. Just look at what they've done to the riverfront already.
good video Sam. Kind of sad. But some beautiful images.

I was a little surprised about people keeping goats and chickens, and the progress wildlife has made reclaiming the urban core.

ok Detroit make me a bike, I'll ride it back to Chicago.

Sam Van Dellen said:
If you read that article all the way through, it gets pretty wacky. I have never read a practical joke that was more accurately aimed at me in my life:). Bicycles, as a product, are REASONABLY simple to produce. While I completely agree that such coaches would be awesome, and should be built, likely even in Detroit, that is not my project. You're more than welcome to take it on. The more industry in this country, the better, the more jobs, the better. Also, in regards to the article in the NYT, that was one of the two things that got me started on this whole crazy ride to begin with. It was posted on Facebook within a few hours of this video (http://vimeo.com/2371774) , and taken together, they brought forth an idea that has grown and grown.

Barry said:
I'm enjoying the thread. Thought I'd toss a log on the fire.
This is a press release regarding a multi million dollar bike manufacturing plan for Detroit. (Please note publication date.) And here is a NYT report of bike culture in Detroit. Seems the city is actually shaped like a wheel! hm.
I would love a good affordable domestically produced bike. I think I could justify a soma or kogswell frame at the moment. But wouldn't it be more realistic to have Detroit retool for production of coaches for intercity high-speed rail and urban mass transit?
The video is kinda sad, but to me there's far more emphasis on the hope, on the people rebuilding, on the wildlife taking back the land, and the sadness wasn't the part that stuck, ya know?

Barry said:
good video Sam. Kind of sad. But some beautiful images.

I was a little surprised about people keeping goats and chickens, and the progress wildlife has made reclaiming the urban core.

ok Detroit make me a bike, I'll ride it back to Chicago.

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