Thoughts and Reflections About Detroit During 2014

It’s official and as announced​, Detroit is exiting bankruptcy and is, hopefully, on the road to recovery and growth.

As we head into the 2014 Holiday season and the remaining days of this hectic year, let me share with you my thoughts on Detroit based my observations and conversations I’ve had with others throughout this year.

I have shared my thoughts periodically on Detroit–its trials, tribulations and periodic successes–and what I believe it needs to focus on as it redefines and repositions itself for the future.

I have shared with you my heartfelt emotional wrangling resulting from my hometown entering into bankruptcy–something, I thought I would never see in my lifetime. I’ve also shared cautious optimism I have for Detroit, post bankruptcy. A city which needs to be financially stable, leaner, economically diverse with emphasis on offering reliable services in the areas of public safety, transportation, enhanced education, improved lighting, blight removal and an overall, improved infrastructure. Ultimately, this will lead to a stronger Detroit.

In 2014, I’ve been fortunate to interview many business leaders and entrepreneurs for this blog and my Small Talk radio show. I have been struck by, at all levels, the level of commitment to recharging the Motor City to ensure its long-term viability and stability.

To wit, here’s just a brief sampling from business leaders and entrepreneurs I’ve interviewed as to why I’m feeling optimistic year-end:

    • David Girodat, President & CEO, Eastern Region, Fifth Third Bank, expressed enthusiasm and optimism about moving the bank’s regional operation and 150 employees into the city’s core. According to Girodat, it reinforces the bank’s commitment to Detroit’s revitalization, neighborhoods, entrepreneurship while providing access to an expanded, urban talent pool in the core area of the state’s most populous city. The move will occur in spring, 2015.


    • Ryan Hooper, Creative Director, Pure Detroit, reflected on how 15 years ago when Pure Detroit started in The Whitney building, Detroit-branded t-shirts were not in demand–just like the city itself. Fast forward to 2014, Pure Detroit is now in four locations and The Whitney building, which had been closed, is being renovated and expected to have residential tenants move beginning in January, 2015. And now, Detroit-branded t-shirts are one of the hottest items coming off the shelf, including being worn by the likes of Ben Affleck sporting his “Detroit City” shirt during the ALS ice bucket challenge–which went viral this past summer. And of course, who can forget the “Detroit vs Everybody” t-shirt? This, in my opinion, captures the essence of what I like to say–the Detroit attitude.


    • Jon Campbell, McDonald’s Owner & Operator, with seven locations across metro Detroit, recently decided to have a “grand re-opening” of a restaurant–in the west-side Detroit neighborhood where he grew up. In fact, Campbell used to ride his bike past the location where he now owns the restaurant. His newest location, on Grand River and Lahser, opened in November and now employs 37 Detroiters. The good news? It’s slated to hire more.


    • George N’namdi, founder, N’namdi Center for Contemporary Art, discussed relocating to the city from the suburbs because of the arts’ role in enhancing educational and cultural opportunities. This midtown-based art center is expected to expand its lifestyle-based offerings into additional entertainment venues in 2015.


    • David Blaszkiewizc, President, Invest Detroit, shared the organization’s increased commitment to supporting entrepreneurial programs across the entire city. Additionally, with additional funding from the Chase Fund, et al, enhanced investment in various program-based efforts will yield longer-term benefits for small business development and entrepreneurship across the entire city.


    • Brian Clark, an entrepreneur from Detroit who’s now in San Francisco, who shared his story of using Hackathon winnings to support his technology-based business venture. Yet, while he’s out West, he continues to reach back to advise small businesses in Detroit and hopes to invest in and open a Detroit office in the future.


  • Detroit Lions, our beloved football team, continues to be engaged with Hatch Detroit by providing resources to assist businesses looking to start and/or expand their opportunities. And like Detroit itself, the Lions are experiencing a renaissance and hoping to nail down a playoff spot. Go Lions!

Much has been written about Detroit’s demise. However and evidenced by the above individuals and organizations, along with thousands more, we can see hope in its future.

In my opinion, Detroit is the city of Hope. I believe its future is shining brightly, although this light flickers, dims and is fragile, at times.

Why? Because of the commitment to this city and the spirit of collaboration from those across the city, state and region.

My hope is, as we celebrate this season with family and friends, we continue to celebrate this great metropolis of 5 million we all call home. One that has given America cars, Motown music, the middle class and more. The epitaph is not to be written yet because there’s still more to come. Stay tuned.

Happy Holidays!