Detroit is often in the news today with regular and recent coverage in the NYTimes, Wall Street Journal, and the cover article for a July issue of Forbes Magazine. Significantly, the reporting seems to be shifting away from the narrative of the once great American City disintegrating into a burned out warzone-like state as citizens flee to greener, safer, more vibrant locales. By now, is there anyone with a modicum of interest who hasn’t seen the widely distributed photos comparing a “bombed out” Detroit today with Japan’s atom-bombed cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or that doesn’t know the much-repeated fact that the city of Detroit, the size of San Francisco, Boston, and Manhattan combined, has a present day population of only 713,000 (down from a peak of 2 million in the 1960s)?
These stories are getting old. Fortunately, there is new news coming out of Detroit pointing to rebirth and general optimism – and even comparisons to Tribeca and Berlin.
A key part of Detroit’s transformation rests on political leadership. Detroit was left reeling from blatant corruption, scandal, and searing betrayal in the dramatic and unceremonious downfall of narcissist and former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (whose sleazy saga continues with a federal indictment even as he exits prison). On top of the economic implosion and collapse of the auto industry, the lack of honesty and integrity in city government acted as a rot that exacerbated Detroit’s troubles. Current Mayor Dave Bing is generally recognized as a straight shooter with credibility built up over the years as a Detroit NBA star and a very successful entrepreneur and businessman. His strategy to turn around Detroit is predicated on shrinking it – razing thousands of abandoned buildings and building population density. The latter will concentrate city services, bring efficiency to counter Detroit’s staggering deficit, and create vibrancy.
Coming to the aid of Bing and the daunting challenges facing Detroit is an energized and serious group of stakeholders. Consider this:
Susan Hopp is a big fan of and native of Detroit.
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Susan Hopp is a Presidio MBA in Sustainable Management. She writes about a wide range of topics reflecting the intersection of sustainability with societal response. Coming from a career in technology start-ups, she knows the power of business as a powerful change agent.