The Russian mayors have come and gone. The Chinese executives did the same. The contingent from Portland was very engaged. The columnists and bloggers from Chicago, London and elsewhere all found surprises. The New York Times seems to be “discovering” something interesting, tasty or cool in Detroit every few weeks. Time magazine explored the city for an entire year. In short, the world is making its way to Detroit, and it’s not because of some calamity or scandal, or even a big event such as a Super Bowl or International Auto Show. We are on a world stage right now because of hundreds of stories, successes and interesting people that all add up to a world-class transformation.
We’ve known that for quite awhile, because we are supporting it every way we can, but there is something satisfying about spending time hearing the interest from the Russian mayors, who were here because they represent one-industry cities that need to diversify their economies. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? While we talked with the Russians, Japanese public television was videotaping a story about W Industries, a company that successfully grew from auto supplier to advanced manufacturer in alternative energy, natural gas extraction, defense and aerospace.
The Chinese were here to consider business investments. They realize that Detroit is in the center of the greatest concentration of automotive research and development in the world. The constant re-invention of personal transportation is going on right around us every day.
Time magazine, of course wanted to witness bold moves from major players like Mayor Dave Bing and Quicken chairman, Dan Gilbert, but reporters from Time or its sister publications also covered entrepreneurial successes in our incubators, NextEnergy and Wayne State University’s TechTown. And they wrote about Detroit’s cheerleaders such as Slow’s Bar BQ’s Phil Cooley, City Living Detroit real estate broker Austin Black or I Am Young Detroit’s Mike Han.
As we are breaking new ground, we are also on the lookout for what we might learn from others. That’s why we have a delegate in Turin, Italy this month, reviewing the economic progress of the home city to Fiat.
The best news from all this buzz is that it is not too late to get into the game. We know of properties ripe for renovation or redevelopment, and we know the ways to support growth for startups or global companies. We have success stories, and if you are growing a business in Detroit we’d like to know yours. After all, the world is watching.
George W. Jackson
Jackson is president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a non-profit organization that works with businesses, government and other organizations throughout Detroit to encourage and manage economic development projects.