Good morning. It's Dec. 18. We are apparently two weeks away from 2022. I had someone fact-check this because it does not seem quite right. But it checks out.
In the Crain's newsroom, we're starting to look back on a strange, stop-and-go year. If you're anything like me this week, it's hard to remember what happened earlier today, let alone a full nine or more months ago. But just as I dig through the archives to bring you historical footnotes in the Saturday Extra each week, I can tell you based on a thorough investigation of Crain's Detroit Business reporting published since Jan. 1, 2021, that indeed, many things happened over the course of this year: business stories of consequence, big deals done, trends documented.
The overarching theme that emerged in this research: how upside-down, out-of-whack and ever-shifting everything was this second pandemic year. Supply chains kinked up, causing shortages of everything from Spanish cheese to Lush bath bombs, thanks to the "bullwhip effect," which was my pick for Crain's Newsmaker of the Year. (Alas, our editorial board decided not to break our longstanding tradition of including only human beings on the list.)
The residential real estate market, driven by low inventory and buyer demand for larger spaces during the pandemic, was "bonkers," as one source memorably described it. And it helped fuel growth in our hometown mortgage industry, and some sparring between local rivals.
How many times did your basement flood this summer? Climate change-exacerbated natural disasters made headlines across the country all year, and the Detroit area was hit with historic rainfall and severe flooding, giving us too many occasions to use this now-iconic photo (taken by our own Kirk Pinho) of a forklift retrieving a car from a watery freeway. The storms took an expensive toll — cultural institutions are still recovering from the damage, as just one example — and brought on a reckoning with the urgent need to invest in our infrastructure (see also the Southwest Detroit Mystery Bubble, which we finally learned the cause of this week). At least there's some (OK, a lot of) money coming to help with that.
Many words will be written about the ups and downs of our second COVID year, which is ending in the middle of yet another surge — and with a wave of omicron cases almost certainly on its way. At the outset of 2021, we were tired, but hopeful: vaccinations were coming, offices were working on reopening plans, and in the Saturday Extra we playfully discussed if we'd ever go back to business casual. We chased vaccination appointments, got our shots at Ford Field and TCF Center (which was renamed this year, in another big business news story), and expected the light at the end of the tunnel to get closer. Instead, it kept flickering in and out of view, leaving us in an exhausting holding pattern that I described in this newsletter in February as like "walking in sand." It's jarring to read a story that could have been written yesterday, save for a detail that feels light years away: "Michigan leads the country in cases per-capita, and hospitalizations have nearly doubled in two weeks. This week also brought the foreboding news that the P1 variant, which could re-infect people who have already been sick with COVID-19, was detected in Bay County." The P1 variant? Wiped from my memory utterly, how about yours???
This week we published a remembrance of some business leaders we lost in 2021. We'll be running more reflections next week, so stay tuned.
As for the Saturday Extra, it's been the true highlight of my year, and I'm so glad you're reading.
What stands out to you as you reflect on things personal and professional in 2021? I'd love your thoughts: [email protected].