Is something magical about to happen in Detroit?

by Ulises Silva, Detroit LISC Communications Program Officer

Photo: Detroit Free Press

There’s a lot of positivity converging upon Detroit these days. Businesses are starting to open up shop here. Ambitious projects like the New International Trade Crossing and the M1 Light Rail are in the works. And today, an NBA legend told a packed press conference that we can, in fact, work together to deliver a win to Detroit.

It would almost seem that, despite the lingering perceptions that Detroit is a dying city (“Why should we invest in Detroit?” being a common question, and one our Sustainable Communities director, Angelita Espino, responded to), the Detroit narrative is beginning to shift toward one of hope, revival, and transformation. And it’s starting to shift because of the efforts of businesses and residents alike whose faith in Detroit has never wavered—and whose faith appears on the verge of being rewarded.

Detroit’s revival needed businesses to re-invest in Detroit in order to create good jobs and retain local talent. That’s exactly what’s starting to happen. Blue Cross Blue Shield, which is relocating 6000 workers into the Renaissance Center, and Quicken Loans, which is moving 3000, are two of the bigger companies now setting up shop in downtown. Meanwhile, Quicken Loans owner Dan Gilbert has been backing up his passionate talk about Detroit with real action. He’s purchased four downtown buildings, and is making serious investments to turn downtown Detroit into a high-tech entrepreneurial hub.

It seems that more and more businesses are starting to believe in the new narrative: that Detroit is, in fact, a great place to invest in. And today, Detroit Venture Partners, a venture capital firm that will back 12-15 technology startups per year by investing up to $3 million in each, announced that NBA legend Magic Johnson has become DVP’s fourth partner. It’s an exciting announcement, not least because a national celebrity is now lending his star power to Detroit’s transformation. And it’s a magical moment that lends credence to the idea that the national perception of Detroit is shifting. There is talent here. There are opportunities for investment here. It seems the rest of the nation is finally realizing this.

As important as it is to have businesses believing in Detroit, it’s equally important for residents to believe in it as well. The media is still, by and large, painting a despairing picture of Detroit, so it falls on those of us who know better to counter this narrative. This, too, is already happening.

In this fast-evolving age of social media, dedicated Detroiters are blogging and tweeting about their city and countering the national narrative that there is nothing good happening here. Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) will be launching an online platform to share inspiring stories from Detroit neighborhoods. Groups like Detroit Regional News Hub and Inside Detroit are working tirelessly to promote the city and illustrate why it’s a great place to be.

People need to hear these stories, including Detroiters. Because even Detroit residents remain misinformed about the things happening here, or perhaps skeptical because they’ve seen other revitalization efforts come and go. But good stories that are shared and repeated can go a long way toward informing residents or changing perceptions. Good stories offer hope and glimpses into a possible prosperity for Detroit. People need to hear these stories, because people are and always will be Detroit’s greatest resource. Without people who believe in the city, Detroit cannot win.

The narrative of Detroit’s decline has run its course. Detroit is on the cusp of something extraordinary. It’s on the verge of creating a new narrative about resilience and revival that may one day inspire similar revivals in other cities. And it’s that narrative that businesses, residents, and everyone who loves Detroit can help to compose.


Posted on July 21, 2011, in Community, Neighborhood Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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