Business, City Transformation, Regional Transformation

We must keep the faith in Detroit


Rome wasn’t built in a day and a city can’t be rejuvenated over a long weekend.  Detroit’s rise to its former glory will be a long one, so we all have to accept that and hold strong.

I was reminded of that the other day during a conversation with someone who equated Detroit’s coming back with a hopeless act.  This wasn’t a joke or bit of hyperbole, he was dead serious.

7_woodward holiday lights_woodward holiday lights_michiganexposures.blogspot.comThis guy, Tim from Pontiac, didn’t have the excuse many out-of-regioners use …that they just don’t know. I won’t bore you by going into what we had been discussing, but we were about to change topics.  As I countered his statement, he pointed out Detroit has been saying it’s coming back for years.

On one hand I understand the frustration.  It is a long climb, and sometimes it can seem like a never-ending march. There is a lot of work to do, and almost every area needs improvement. It is truly daunting.

Throw in the fact that Detroit has become a never-ending punch-line synonymous with broken-down failure for every hack trying to get a cheap laugh, and even those with the strongest faith may start to question the reality of prosperity.

I told him I understand the frustration but don’t condone the defeatist attitude.

As I pointed out this wasn’t a joke, I could have dealt with that.  But honestly saying there is no hope, without a hint of irony is disrespectful, harmful and intentionally blind just so you can have a moment of woe-is-me.

Numerous groups and individuals are giving their all to have Detroit return to its former greatness. The private and public sectors, companies and non-profits, have people who give of themselves.  Both well-known faces and everyday people refuse to give up on Southeast Michigan’s anchor.  They bring in new companies to supply jobs, combat the problems in the neighborhoods, help the disenfranchised and do any number of things to aid the city and its residents.  Their work does not deserve to be shuffled off into a corner and ruled as meaningless so some people can have a pity party.

They can’t really make the excuse they don’t see the revitalization because it is talked about and written about all of the time.  I’ve seen it talked about. This blog site, Detroit Unspun, has talked about it. It isn’t exactly a secret.  It’s sometimes even the lead at 6:00 or 11:00 news or on the front page.

Still, there are too many times reporters parachute into our city and only see the bad things and those become the leads of their stories.

Can you really let these negative stories … stories that could be in the news in every metropolitan area … rule your decision to give up on a region, bury the good and wave a white flag, especially when they are so often written by out-of-regioners?

We all need to acknowledge the work being done.

FLOWER DAY 2013-MAY 19 2013-Marco Mancinelli 027As lame and cheap as it sounds, the success of Detroit requires faith to succeed.  It doesn’t need to be a child-like faith where you don’t expect any bump in the road or ignore the cold realities of life. There needs to be a belief that things will get better … and that belief needs to transcend downtown and move into the suburbs and the rest of Southeast Michigan.

That will make the difference and inspire more people to throw their hats into helping Detroit’s revitalization. It also will give those already trying a renewed sense of purpose by letting them know all their work isn’t just a whisper in a void.

Wanting the city to rise back up isn’t pie-in-the-sky, and saying people are turning it around isn’t being overly optimistic. Believing Detroit can come back isn’t warm and fuzzy sentiment. It goes beyond that. It is the cold, clear need for survival.

You have to go a long way from the city limits to find a sizable group not tied to Detroit in some major way.  When people like Pontiac Tim spread the defeatist attitude we all suffer.

You can pull for Detroit for altruistic reason or for the pure selfish reason that it will improve your life as well.  Then again if those don’t motivate you then do it because Cleveland, honest to gosh Cleveland, just might be looking down on us, and no one wants that.

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