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HARD TIMES IN HIGHLAND PARK (MICH.)

By D Magazine |

Highland Park is in a lot of trouble. People are leaving the suburb as fast as they can pack their bags.

Gasp. Horrors. Is this scenario some sort of science fiction? But wait, this isn’t our Highland Park, but Highland Park, Mich., a middle-class suburb of Detroit that is suffering like most cities in the industrial Northeast and Midwest from declining population and recession-plagued businesses.

They’re also suffering from the sun-fun-and-profit image of the Sunbelt. Dallas is a leader in the population shift. (So is Houston, for that matter. But who wants to leave Detroit if you have to live somewhere like Houston?)

Just how much places like Detroit and Highland Park, Mich., are suffering was illustrated by the recently released 1980 census returns. They showed Dallas, Houston, and all of Texas growing by leaps and bounds.

During the last decade, Dallas population grew from 844,621 to 904,078 and leapfrogged Baltimore to become the nation’s seventh largest city. Houston did even better, gaining better than 300,000 new residents and cracking the nation’s top five cities at Detroit’s expense.

Highland Park, Mich., lost more than 8000 of its 35,000 residents during the Seventies. Now the Dallas Morning News and the Times Herald are big sellers there. Reason: the help wanted ads.

Houston lost to Dallas/ Fort Worth in the race to become the state’s largest metropolitan area. The Dallas/Fort Worth area is now home to just under 3 million people and is the country’s eighth largest metropolitan area. Houston is ninth.

The Dallas Chamber of Commerce reports that it is swamped with hundreds of calls a week from northerners who want to know about employment and housing.

The callers may be inspired by a recent government survey that reported Dallas was the least expensive of all major cities in which to live. According to the government figures, an average family of four can maintain a middle-class existence on just $30,077 a year.