I grew up in the suburbs north of Detroit and never really visited the city other than to go to a Wings game or go fishing in the Detroit River. My family never painted Detroit with a positive brush. After all, many of them once lived in Detroit and witnessed the city’s decline and the flight to the suburbs first hand. I’ve always wondered what Detroit was like in its heyday, when everything was newly built and Woodward was the main corridor in and out of Detroit. Historic photos compared to our present day are pretty amazing, but nothing would have compared to seeing it in person.
I began working at Franco in 2008 with that inherited perception, but since I’ve been working downtown, I have a new appreciation for Detroit. Even in the short time I’ve been here I’ve seen great improvements made in revitalizing the city. I am enthusiastic because I’m seeing steps being taken to restore Detroit to its former glory, to build a better Detroit, a new Detroit. Buzzfeed recently compiled 30 Photos Showing The Restoration of Detroit. It really is inspirational and just a taste of what is to come.
It will take time, but we’re getting there. Home sales are on the rise in some areas and vacant homes are being addressed by auctions and blight removal projects. Old buildings continue to be renovated for apartments and office space and Detroit was recently named one of the top U.S. cities for small businesses.
All of the positive news is often overlooked by Detroit’s problems. We were the largest city to file for bankruptcy, there are still countless vacant buildings and crime remains an issue. Unfortunately, these things are top of mind for many folks in metro Detroit, in Michigan and around the country. I’ve had too many conversations with neighbors who are too afraid to even visit Detroit. That perception needs to change. It needs to change locally before we can change it nationally.
It starts with us. To make metro Detroit a better place to live and work, we need to start by bridging the city with the suburbs. We all need to work together to become advocates for Detroit. We need to be the solution.
So, I propose, we all do something that might be out of our comfort zones. Next time you have an opportunity to talk about Detroit, use it to talk about the delicious food, diverse cultures and the second largest theatre district – behind only New York City. Use it to talk about the nightlife and beautiful riverfront. And, most importantly, use the opportunity to talk about the amazing people that make up this great city.
Let’s continue the stream of positive news. Share something positive about Detroit in the comments below, in the comments of the social media posts that promote this blog, and most importantly within your personal networks. Go all-in for Detroit.
Joe Ferlito is an Account Director and Director of Operations at Franco.