Now that I am here my perspective has shifted even further. Although Detroit fell on tough times, what the media has failed to accurately depict is how the community has banded together to rebuild. Detroit natives truly love their city and are doing everything in their power to preserve its rich history and promote development. This became abundantly clear to be on the DXF bus tour we took of the city.
As we rode around Detroit, the tour guide showered us with information about the city. Did you know that Detroit has the second largest theater district in America only behind New York? Or that some of these historic theaters are being restored? Or that Wayne state students passionately lobbied to save a historical building on campus? Or that Detroit native and founder of Quicken Loans Dan Gilbert returned to invest over 5 billion in downtown Detroit? Because I certainly didn’t. The more I learned, the more impressed I became. Towards the end of our tour we visited the Heidelberg project, which was the physical embodiment of the Detroit spirit we had learned about all day. Everything the art was composed of was old, thrown away, and forgotten. However, the pieces themselves contained powerful messages. A recurring theme in the Heidelberg project were clocks. You could not go more than a couple feet without spotting one. Once through the exhibit, we asked our tour guide what they meant. He told us clocks referred to a Detroit slogan “the time is now”-meaning the time to act, the time to change, the time to improve is right now.
I saw this slogan in action last week at TechTown, the non-profit Chris and I are working with. On Tuesday, we had the opportunity to attend Retail Boot Camp’s showcase. Retail Boot Camp is an eight-week week program that helps prepares entrepreneurs to open brick- and- mortar businesses in the city. The program culminates in the showcase were all the graduates of the boot camp present a pitch to compete for one of the five $5,000 dollar prize packages. It was incredible to see the program graduates’ drive, hear about the hours upon hours of hard work they devoted to their businesses, and learn about the unique ways in which the businesses were contributing to their communities. It was even more exciting to sit in on a meeting the next day where TechTown’s SWOT City team discussed the next steps in helping the graduates accomplish their goals. Although Chris and I are only contributing in a small way this summer, it is exciting to think the economic impact report we put together could help procure funding that would enable them continue their incredible work.