Catrin Einhorn of The New York Times reports from Flint:
A 100th birthday party, one would think, is cause for special celebration.Thanks to Dave McDonald and Tom Larsen for passing this along to me.
But here in Flint, the honoree is the company that both built the city and left much of it collapsed. And so, like generations of a family recognizing a controversial patriarch, people here are taking note of the centennial of the founding of General Motors with a complicated mixture of respect and anger, pride and hurt.
“It’s still good they’re doing something for Flint,” said Fred Morse, 34, a self-employed construction worker whose father worked for G.M. for 36 years. “But people need jobs more than they need entertainment and free hot dogs.”
But General Motors disappointed some of its staunchest supporters here by contributing little. A public relations representative attended some meetings, but eventually stopped coming. (G.M. officials said she was transferred to another job.) Organizers dreamed of a finale with two concept cars representing G.M.’s future, but one was already booked and it cost too much to ship the other. So the Flint organizers will content themselves with 2008 models from a local dealer.
General Motors officials said that Flint was one of many cities with a historical connection to the company, and that faced with its own financial uncertainties, it could not pay for events in each.
“This industry is in tremendous change, and the world economy is in tremendous change,” said Bill O’Neill, a G.M. spokesman. “It’s important for people to understand that as the industry changes, what they understand as General Motors will change.”