If you were to ask someone from out of state, what words they would use to describe the City of Detroit, you would most likely hear answers such as: corrupt, bankrupt, impoverished, and dangerous. We are all aware that Detroit has seen better days. What once was considered the “Paris of the West” and “The City of Tomorrow,” Detroit has become a shell of its former self. Detroit used to be a model American city, where innovators like Henry Ford and the Dodge Brothers helped to establish a strong economy that employed hundreds of thousands of people. That Detroit has become a distant memory.
Detroit has now become known for political corruption, high murder rates and a dismal economy. The recession of 2008 had decimated an already bleak economy. At one point, it was estimated that the city’s unemployment rate was 50%. Then, it had seemed that Detroit had hit an all-time low when they became the largest American City to declare bankruptcy in 2013.
Despite all of the hardships that the city has gone through, it appears that Detroit is slowly making a comeback. Leading that comeback is Dan Gilbert, founder of Quicken Loans. Gilbert moved his company’s headquarters to downtown Detroit in 2010, employing thousands of people. Beyond bringing his company to Detroit, Gilbert has invested millions of dollars into redevelopment efforts. He has bought and renovated numerous buildings downtown that have long sat vacant.
In addition to billionaires betting on Detroit’s future, Millennials also have hope for the future. The demand for apartments in the downtown area is at its highest level in recent memory due to a huge wave of Millennials who want to live and work in the city. A big part of this migration into the city has to do with the city’s startup scene.
In recent years, there have been numerous entrepreneurs who decided to set up shop in Detroit. These startups are changing the face of what Detroit can be. They are diversifying the city’s economy and attracting top talent, who were normally more inclined to look at places like Silicon Valley. The emergence of this new startup scene has caught the attention of venture capital firms, (including Dan Gilbert’s Detroit Venture Partners), who are now looking to invest in Detroit. In fact, Detroit had more venture capital activity than Ann Arbor in 2014. Along with VC firms investing in startups, several accelerators and co-working spaces have popped up that allow entrepreneurs to gain useful business expertise and advice.
One might ask why anyone would want to start a business in Detroit. One reason is that there are many young entrepreneurs out there who want to be a part of Detroit’s revival. They have the ability to go to any popular startup hub around the country, but instead they decide to stay in Detroit. These entrepreneurs want to be a part of something more. They want to make a difference in the community. These startups have the ability to turn Detroit’s fortunes around. However, this is not something that will happen overnight. Detroit still has a long way to go before it can be considered a great American city again. We always have to keep in mind, Rome wasn’t built in a day. With the help of these entrepreneurs, Detroit will come back, perhaps stronger than ever.
Marketing and Communications Intern