You can call Detroit the Motor City, or call us Hockeytown (because we do). You can mispronounce our name as the Pistons’ announcer does when he cries, “DEEE-troit Basketball.” And now you can call Detroit “Urban Pathfinder” for our work bringing retail businesses downtown. The Brookings Institution is giving us an award with that name, and although it doesn’t have the snap of a sports nickname – it’s just as significant.
It means we have been doing an outstanding job of bringing retail and entertainment businesses into Detroit – particularly downtown – by demonstrating that there is potential here for success in spite of traditional data or longstanding perceptions that might be discouraging. Brookings’ Urban Markets Initiative and the Social Compact have shown in Detroit and other cities that older forecasting tools used by site location consultants can underrepresent the potential for new business growth, but it also takes an active hand by public and private partnerships to tap into that potential. And that’s where Detroit has stood out.
The DEGC managed $30 million in public infrastructure and permanent building façade improvements that were partially matched by additional private investments downtown; we encouraged conversions of office space into loft apartments; helped restaurants and other entertainment venues grow around two brand new sports stadiums; and worked with other private and public organizations to transform downtown into a lively, 24/7 neighborhood. Compuware, General Motors, PricewaterhouseCoopers, EDS, Ernst & Young and others have moved into new, class A office spaces. And we are now seeing three new casino hotels shooting up into the skyline.
I’ll be accepting the Pathfinder Award from The Brookings Institution on behalf of Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick and the City of Detroit while I’m at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) Spring Convention in Las Vegas. Stop by and see us if you will be there.
Jackson is president and CEO of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, a non-profit organization that works with businesses, government and other organizations throughout Detroit to encourage and manage economic development projects.