The Detroit Regional Chamber’s second annual Detroit Policy Conference was terrific. Worth attending in future years. 800 folks turned out to focus on how to accelerate the revitalization of the city.
As we have written frequently a vibrant Detroit is essential to Michigan’s future prosperity. Because in an increasingly talent driven economy, central cities are where young mobile talent wants to live, work and play. The most prosperous places across the country are big metros anchored by vibrant central cities with a high proportion of its residents with a four year degree or more.
(MLive just published an article that starts with: “It seems kids these days just don’t want to work in the suburbs. Campbell Ewald knows this. Dan Gilbert knows this. The idea of driving to corporate islands away from the vibrancy and amenities of downtown life may have been appealing to someone at some point, but for years now the trend has been that young American professionals want to be downtown.”)
No one articulates this better than Dan Gilbert. Who makes the case as well as anyone that metro Detroit and the state need the city of Detroit to work. More importantly Gilbert is a major force in making Detroit a talent magnet. Matt Cullen CEO of Gilbert’s Rock Ventures was one of the highlights of the Detroit Policy Conference. (MLive did a good overview of his presentation which you can find here.) Cullen reviewed the progress made in the last few years –– a pretty astonishing list –– and what is coming in the near future to make downtown Detroit an attractive place to live, work and play. New residents moving in, new residential development underway, more and more companies locating downtown with more on the way, new office building development, plans for new retail, thousands of internships available at companies downtown, M1 light rail, the continuing development of the riverfront walk and bike path and the list goes on and on.
The private sector and private foundations have been driving Detroit’s growth without a lot of support (or even worse barriers) from the city, regional and state governments. Even with an emergency manager on the way for the city, now is not the time to shrink government support for Detroit. The imperative for the city, but also for the region and state, is to grow –– not shrink –– Detroit.