Detroit will recover on the shoulders of business leaders


Grand Rapids Business Journal applauded Gov. Rick Snyder’s move in February to appoint a six-member Michigan financial review team to determine whether it should declare a financial emergency in Detroit and allow an emergency financial manager to take over city operations. Most out-state Michigan and business leaders saw what would happen even before the team arrived in the Motor City. Snyder has provided distinguished dialogue with almost every journalist or pundit the last two weeks, proclaiming the good news of moving toward a better future.

The editorial noted then: “Snyder is exactly the right person at the right time in this state’s history, fully capable of salvaging all that made Detroit great before it was covered in the stench of political crimes and so-called leaders who sought and seek power, not civic service.”

While national media speculates on rebuilding one of America’s great metropolitan cities, it is apparent to those in Michigan that the effort already has firm footing. The work of Detroit business leader and Rock Ventures owner Dan Gilbert to rebuild 22 properties in the last three years was orchestrated with similar commitments from Blue Cross Blue Shield and by Detroit corporate leaders who created a working group to assess and assist many issues of downtown work and living. Agenda items included everything from street lighting to safety patrols.

In about the same time frame, Meijer Inc. announced its plan to build a superstore on the city’s super corridor, Woodward Avenue. It opened last week amid headlines of Detroit’s salvation.

West Michigan companies have, especially over the last five years, taken an active interest in creating partnerships and doing business in Detroit. reported Friday that Open Systems Technologies had opened a more than 1,000-square-foot office in the Grand Park Centre building; Lambert Edwards struck a partnership more than two years ago in a merger with a counterpart in Detroit.

It is appropriate to note a 2013 book recently released, “The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy,” by Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley of the Brookings Institution. The book documents such scenarios across the country and argues that metropolitan areas, not federal and state leaders, are the economic engines. In a copyrighted excerpt, the authors write, “Cities and metropolitan areas are on their own. The cavalry is not coming. Mired in partisan division and rancor, the federal government appears incapable of taking bold action to restructure our economy and grapple with changing demography and rising inequality.

“Similar to the Tea Party and the Occupy movements, the metropolitan revolution is a child of the Great Recession. Yet it is reasoned rather than emotional, leader driven rather than leaderless, born of pragmatism and optimism rather than despair and anger. …Across the nation, cities and metros are taking control of their own destinies, becoming deliberate about their economic growth. Power is devolving to the places and people who are closest to the ground and oriented toward collaborative action. This shift is changing the nature of our leadership — who our leaders are, what they do, and how they govern. The metropolitan revolution has only one logical conclusion: the inversion of the hierarchy of power in the United States.”

The Business Journal is anxious to see Detroit rise again.

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