Closing the “Detroit Divide” Gap

“The new Detroit is changing the minds of people around the world!”

I am so proud of ‘The D’ that the vision came to fruition.

“Was downtown…and it certainly is NOT the Detroit many people image (sic).  Placed (sic) look awesome, and tons of people having a great & SAFE time.”

As part of its holiday tradition, Detroit recently celebrated its tree-lighting.  The sights and sounds were simply spectacular and, as evidenced by the glowing comments on social media, the city looked great and is certainly on the rebound.

Or, is it?

Clearly, the momentum continues downtown and people are enjoying the energy that downtown and other parts of the city have to offer.

Between motorized bikes, new stadiums, restaurants, rehabbed and new buildings, an influx of people and jobs and investment, one can feel the renewed vigor, excitement and changing attitudes

However, let’s be careful and not get ahead of ourselves.

And let’s not lull our collective psyche’s into thinking that “new Detroit’s”  vision is coming to fruition.

The “Detroit Divide” continues.

According to a recent Moody’s Investors analysis, “Detroit’s (Ba3 stable) downtown is transforming amid a hub of large-scale developments, population growth, and surging employment.”

The summary continues, “However, this momentum only encompasses seven of Detroit’s 143 square miles and 6% of the city’s population. Strengthening the city’s property tax base beyond the city center would better position it to afford its already high debt and pension burdens.”

This analysis reinforces my observations  based on recent visits with businesses and residents in parts of the city.

Albeit a small sample size, I, along with business associates, recently had the opportunity to visit and discuss neighborhood challenges with Detroit’s  business owners and residents.

And what we found is a mixed bag.

Clearly, there’s momentum, but there’s still the “Detroit Divide” and work needs to be done across the entire city.

What is the “Detroit Divide”?

It’s a perceptual gap that exists between where people live and work relative to the excitement percolating downtown and other parts of the Motor City.

To wit and not surprisingly, key neighborhood issues  fall in the following categories:

  • Crime
  • Poverty
  • Jobs/Job Training
  • Education

And while those interviewed generally agree economic development and investment are  moving in a positive direction, the overall key is expanding opportunities into the neighborhoods.  The prevailing thought is there’s an investment and development emergence in certain neighborhoods.

The general belief is development’s slow and needs to expand into Detroit’s fragile residential areas.

And while there are positive vibes regarding Corktown and Midtown development, for example, a simple question was asked, “…When will it hit my area…?”

When asked what they would like to see, residents indicated the following:

  • Job/Training Investment:       -Offer increased number of job fairs, recruiting and higher paying jobs where they live and work
  • Retailers:                                  -Attract service-related retailers and businesses
  • Corridor Revitalization:         -Address commercial centers and corridors blight
  • Business expansion:              -Make neighborhoods regional centers for downtown-based businesses
  • Investment:                             -Invest in neighborhood events and grassroots efforts providing training and entertainment options
  • Business Sponsors:                -Have businesses sponsor specific neighborhoods for job training and financial literacy efforts, for example
  • Tech Investment:                    -Invest in certain areas have them become tech centers supporting business priorities

There is recognition the Detroit is moving in the right direction, but while the investment and economic development gap remains unbalanced, in the minds of the residents, there will always be the “Detroit Divide”.

Now, is the time to continue to expand these efforts across the entire city so all parts of Detroit can benefit.

Mark S. Lee, President & CEO, The LEE Group, is a blogger and hosts, “Small Talk with Mark S. Lee” Sundays, via and 910am Superstation.