I’m planning a trip to Detroit this month.
Some of you might be wondering why on earth I would do that, but I’m actually super excited. Why? Because I’m fascinated by the city. Detroit is such a dramatic example of how the fortunes of a city can change. I think some people forget what places like New York City and South Beach were like in the 1980s.
But more importantly, I’m interested in the future of Detroit and the opportunities that might lie ahead. In many ways, the city feels like a clean slate. It’s a city that’s trying to completely rebuild and reinvent itself. And there’s a lot of smart (and rich) people, like billionaire Dan Gilbert, putting their weight behind its renewal. Through his company Bedrock, he has quickly become one the largest private landlords in the city. I also have a good friend who’s working in Detroit on strategies for the Midtown area. He’ll be my “tour guide” during the trip.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in media headlines and so I want to see what’s happening first hand on the ground. Detroit has a long history of entrepreneurialism and so the eternal optimist in me wants to believe that it can come back.
One of its big challenges, however, is education. As Harvard economist Ed Glaeser put it in his book, the Triumph of the City, one of the greatest things about the Detroit of yesterday was its ability to create a lot of high paying jobs for people with little education. Now the city has to deal with that legacy and few jobs.
I’ll have more to say after my trip but, in the interim, what are your thoughts on Detroit? Can it come back? Will it ever be the economic powerhouse that it once was?