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Why Techonomy Still Believes in Detroit

Image of Detroit skyline via Shutterstock

Image of Detroit skyline via Shutterstock

As the media forecasts the dire consequences of yesterday’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy filing—and reports on the universal lack of surprise that it comes from the Motor City—Techonomists are booking airline tickets and hotel rooms to attend the second Techonomy Detroit conference. They’ll join a conversation on September 17th about the potential for a tech-induced revival there and in other post-industrial, economically challenged urban areas.

Techonomy has called Detroit “a city energetically, desperately working to revive,” and at the 2012 conference, Techonomy’s David Kirkpatrick proclaimed “there is no better place for a conversation on these national priorities.” Thought leaders including Square’s Jack Dorsey and billionaire investors Steve Case and Dan Gilbert concurred with Kirkpatrick’s view that the Techonomy Detroit events are a way to “shine a light on how technology can transform U.S. competitiveness, create jobs, grow our economy, and revitalize our cities.”

To be sure, these thought leaders have never been in denial about how desperate Detroit’s circumstances really are. And that helps explain why conference delegates will remain optimistic about the chances for a Detroit resurgence, even as pessimists dish on who’s to blame for its death spiral. The consequences of declaring bankruptcy to 100,000 creditors and reneging on pensions and retirement benefits remain to be seen. But Techonomy doesn’t believe they will derail a tech-based revival. (GrowDetroit’s Alex Southern agrees, explaining why in an interview on Bloomberg West.) Instead, many say hitting a restart button will enable the city to get on with recovery faster.

The New York Times reports: “Some Detroit business leaders who have seen a rise in private investment downtown despite the city’s larger struggles, said bankruptcy seemed the only choice left — and one that might finally lead to a desperately needed overhaul of city services and to a plan to pay off some reduced version of the overwhelming debts. In short, a new start.”

Meanwhile, The Atlantic today recalled nearly a century of media predictions of Detroit’s demise, including this one from 1957: “Urban deterioration offers at least one advantage. Once a city core has become as run-down as Detroit’s, you can start to rebuild fairly cheaply.” As Kirkpatrick wrote here last year, “If technology is the key ingredient to rejuvenating the American economy, it has to work where the problems are biggest and the task the hardest.” Two reasons to maintain optimism that Detroit might yet be a proving ground for a US economic recovery.

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One Response to “Why Techonomy Still Believes in Detroit”

  1. Danielle Thomas says:

    I feel compelled to write the following post because there is so much negative written about Detroit but, it’s HUGE positives that I have really researched have not been revealed. To me Detroit truly is a great opportunity for anyone and possibly able to respond to whatever your looking for but within your affordability.

    For the past twelve months I have been reviewing the possibility of relocating to Detroit as a more favorable residential than my present home in Philadelphia.

    I am a middle income retired single woman and I own my own home in a good neighborhood of Philly. But, I also realize that when I soon age to age70 I will want to reside in an apartment Highrise in the downtown area of a City, I’ve always lived downtown or on the fringe of it as I do now. Downtown is my lifestyle as a single person. I also require that any apartment be in a building and community dominated by an income range that at least begins with persons of middle income; in order to reduce degree of crime and rowdy behavior. Irregardless of the crime reputation of the overall City of Detroit, like any big City; Detroit has sustained a civilized Governance of it’s Downtown and in it’s revival I see that even greater control and advanced refinement in it’s downtown area is implemented.

    Along with these credits Detroit in its Highrise apartment buildings offer better buildings and apartments than Philadelphia and at a much lower price.

    As a retiree it is very important that I have scenic Views as I look out my apartment window. Most Philly Highrise apartments totally lack View, instead you look directly at the building across street from you, might as well be living in a row home. Yet, rent starts at about $1,800 for a adequate size but sometimes small one bedroom, and usually no amenities (no social rooms for games or just lounging). Many downtown Detroit buildings in addition to very spacious apartments they also have social amenities, very important for a single person especially an elder; just being able to sit amongst other residents has an indirect social communication. But, Detroit buildings offer a lot more than just a few social rooms for sitting, yet, at rents for a one bedroom starting as low as $1,200.00 monthly and in Midtown as low as $900.00 but still with a view and large apartment; all this that is totally impossible in Downtown or Midtown Philadelphia. (I also reviewed Pittsburgh and found more deficiencies than Philadelphia has for livability).

    Detroit’s, present bankruptcy does not deter my concentration upon it to become my new residence; although my personal affairs will not be settled in Philadelphia until next year, to allow the move; I WILL MOVE!

    I see Detroit as a new start, a great opportunity for LIFE during this my new phase of life as an elder but, I intend, with Detroit’s help, that this new phase of life be a pleasantly Happy and maybe even some excitement; due to all the many events in Downtown Detroit, events Philly lacks. But, very important, such a life will be very affordable, even on my middle income money. I could live at Luxurious residents in downtown Detroit that I would not be able to afford for any duiration of years in Philly. Detroit residences like: The Millender Center, The Broderick, Fort Shelby, The Whitby building, and the forthcoming renovations of the Highrises – 1214 Griswold apartments, the Milner Hotel, and several other Highrises downtown/midtown .

    I also love that these buildings are mostly Pre-War, which adds to their soundproofing because, I have never been able to tolerate noise from adjacent tenant apartments..

    I love that in Detroit in many buildings I can have a view of the River; 99.9% of Philly buildings you have no river view in addition to having no views at all.

    As far as the present Detroit bankruptcy is concerned I really find it horribly unfortunate for the retirees, I know how I would feel! I hope something can be worked out that maybe on installments Detroit Government can pay back to the retirees any loss in pensions.

    As a Pennsylvania retiree, I know how extremely important the pensions is. We retirees have sacrificed our life working to earn pension and it’s now supposed to support our elder fragile years; so to reduce it can be an economic catastrophe!

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