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Tina Kozak, circa 1987, with her grandpa and sister at the Belle Isle aquarium.

I had the privilege of attending the unveiling of Dan Gilbert’s vision for Detroit yesterday; a vision that will undoubtedly become a reality, because as Gilbert pointed out, he doesn’t have a Plan B as it would distract from Plan A. While much of what we saw was conceptual, the opportunity that exists is very real. And I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything.

Born in Detroit and never living more than a few miles away, I’ve always been passionate about the city. A cheerleader. A buzz agent. An optimist. While I tend to see the good, I don’t ignore the challenges (OK, big challenges/problems/disasters) we’ve faced as a city from the 1960s to today. My grandfather was a Detroit business owner. His store was damaged in the riots, but instead of looking back on those times with fear and anger, I’ve always looked back with hope that the city will someday return to glory.

The part of yesterday’s program that moved me the most was when Fred Kent, president of Project for Public Spaces, one of Gilbert’s placemaking consultants, said this:

“The future of Detroit is grounded in the past. We can go back to that and do better.”

This struck me. People have always romanticized the past, the good old days, the days when you could shop on Woodward Ave. The vision that goes beyond that, beyond the past to something even better, is the most exciting part of this movement called Opportunity Detroit.

Earlier this year, I had my own opportunity, the opportunity to become a shareholder in Franco Public Relations Group. As if I weren’t already invested in the success of the city, I now call myself a Detroit business owner. And Franco has its own strong roots in Detroit. We’ll celebrate 50 years in the city in 2014. I’m right where I want to be, and I think Detroit is right where it needs to be.

I can feel the opportunity. I can see the vision becoming a reality. I’m so glad I’m here to be part of it.

With leadership from people like Dan Gilbert, the Downtown Detroit Partnership, the Detroit Regional Chamber and the other 400 business leaders that surrounded me during yesterday’s announcement, I’d say we’re poised to go back and do better.

Tina Kozak is President at Franco.

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