The Other Side of Detroit


That picture is of a house in the city of Detroit. Surprised? Don’t be. Detroit actually contains numerous intact neighborhoods ranging from working class to upscale. These are seldom shown in the voluminous photo tours of the city that tend to focus exclusively on decay, and too often on the same handful of sites such as Michigan Central Station, a practice Vice Magazine dubbed “ruin porn.”

The decay is there. The collapse is real. That is the story. But it’s not the whole story. Amid the truly legitimate and titanic struggles of Detroit there’s another side, one that’s too seldom told. In the interest of completeness, I’ll share some of it today.

Most of this material is not original to me. It was created by two people I know only by their handles of “hudkina” and “LMichigan”. I don’t know who they are, though I get the vague impression they work for the state of Michigan. They seems to spend most of their time engaged in quixotic message board debates about Detroit. I’d suggest they start blogging instead. At any rate, credit to them for the ideas and picture links, though the data is mine.

Strange But True

Detroit is Big. When you hear about Detroit, a mention of its population collapse can’t be far behind. Detroit’s population fell by 50% from its peak and it was the first city to fall below one million in population after first exceeding it. The region has fallen out of the top ten metro areas in size nationally. But the other side is that Detroit is still big (perhaps too big, but that’s for another day). The city of Detroit has 912,062 people, making even the city still the 11th largest in the United States. Detroit has 100,000 more people than San Francisco and is 50% bigger than Boston.

Detroit’s metro area has 4.4 million people, making it the 11th largest in the United States. That’s about the same size as Boston or Phoenix. But wait, there’s more. Nearby Ann Arbor is technically not part of the Detroit MSA, but probably soon will be. That’s another 350,000 people. And Detroit doesn’t include anything on the Canadian side of the river because it is in another country. The Windsor, Ontario area adds another 300,000+ people.

Detroit is Dense. You’ve seen the pictures. I’ve even posted some. The miles of empty streets and “urban prairie”. A recent comprehensive survey recently discovered that fully one third of Detroit’s lots are vacant. But despite this, the overall density of the city is far higher than you might expect.

The city of Detroit has 6,571 people per square mile. That’s almost 60% more dense than Portland, Oregon (4,152)! Detroit’s density is roughly comparable to Seattle (7,136) and Minneapolis (6,969). It’s more dense (sometimes much more dense) than Denver, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Milwaukee, or St. Paul.

And if one third of Detroit is vacant, then localized densities must be much higher.

Detroit Has Money. Detroit may be a very poor city, but with so many people in it, there are still a significant number of folks with money living inside the city limits. There are 18,140 households in Detroit with income over $100,000 per year. Milwaukee, hardly a basket case, has 19,297. Upscale Minneapolis only has 29,460, a mere 10,000 household gap vs. Detroit in high earning households. Now both of these cities are smaller (Minneapolis much smaller) and so are proportionately much richer. But the point is that in total, there actually are a material number of households in the city of Detroit with significant incomes.

The Detroit metro area also has numerous upscale suburbs that hold their own with any around the country.

Detroit Has Immigrants. Another thing that distinguishes Detroit versus other struggling cities is that it has been able to retain a significant foreign born population. Detroit metro is 8.5% foreign born, which does trail the US average of 12.8%, but it is well above places like Cleveland (5.8%) or Cincinnati (3.6%).

Detroit has also established itself as the hub of Arabs in America. Muslims frequently get a bad rap, but unlike Muslim populations in Europe, which are often stuck in marginalized ghettos, the American Muslim population is more educated and makes more money than the population as a whole, according to some reports. They range from Arab party store owners to Pakistani Ph.D.’s. Detroit’s Arab population is, like many immigrant groups, highly entrepreneurial.

While over 350,000 domestic migrants left the region, Detroit metro saw nearly 100,000 new international migrants move in during the 2000’s. For these people at least, Detroit is still a land of opportunity.

Detroit Has Real Assets

Detroit also has some legitimate and impressive assets. First is “Brand Detroit.” In one of the famous Cleveland tourism videos, the song ends with “at least we’re not Detroit.” Actually, Cleveland might actually be better off if it were. As with winning the NBA draft lottery, it’s better to be worst than second worst. Detroit has a powerful brand that literally resonates around the world. I think it’s fair to say that for people overseas with any familiarity with America, Detroit is one of the cities they know. Most other places are ciphers.

Detroit is the main gateway to trade with Canada. It also has a world-class airport that was just ranked as the most passenger friendly large airport in the United States by JD Power. Originally a Northwest hub, it is actually benefiting from that carrier’s merger with Delta. Detroit is the second largest Delta hub and its primary gateway to Asia. In an era where global connections are more important than ever, Detroit has or soon will have flights to London Heathrow, Tokyo, Seoul, and Hong Kong among other destinations.

Detroit also has a globally important legacy of innovation in popular music, ranging from Motown to electronica to hip-hop. Artists like Eminem, Kid Rock, and the White Stripes still call Detroit home. Also, it is home to the well-regarded Cranbrook school of art, as well as the College for Creative Studies. If creativity really is key to the future economy, Detroit has it.

Pictures of the Other Detroit

Here are a selection of Detroit photos you aren’t likely to see in the latest “ruins of Detroit” survey.

A farmers market at Eastern Market:

Click HERE to see the full article more photos highlighting the beautiful architecture in Detroit.

D. Tour Spa at MotorCity Casino Hotel is among the Michigan participants in Dove Deodorant’s national Spa Week promotion. The bi-annual event promotes $50 full-service treatments at the finest spas across the country. Spa Week runs from April 12-18.

D. Tour Spa is a 8,000 square foot facility complete with thermal whirlpools, steam rooms, dry saunas and rain shower facilities. The spa has 10 treatment rooms.  It is located at 2901 Grand River Avenue inside Detroit’s MotorCity Casino Hotel.

D. Tour is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. D. Tour is closed Tuesdays.

As a participant in 2010 Spa Week, presented by Dove Deodorant, D. Tour Spa is offering the following treatments for  $50 each:

*A 45-minute D. Tour Drive Scrub with Sugar Scrub – This signature service offers gentle body exfoliation and massage treatment sure to lift the spirits.

*A 45-minute Express Manicure and Pedicure – Stop in for nail shaping, cuticle exfoliation, moisturizing and polish with a flash dry finish.

Appointment: Call (313) 309-4595 or visit  

Brewers from six continents earned awards from an elite international panel of judges this week in the 2010 Brewers Association World Beer Cup—the world's largest-ever commercial beer competition. The eighth bi-annual competition announced awards to brewers from 19 countries ranging from Australia and Italy to Iceland and Japan.

This year, 642 breweries from 44 countries and 47 U.S. states vied for awards with 3,330 beers entered in 90 beer style categories. The entries in each category were eligible for gold, silver and bronze awards. Judges presented a total of 268 awards.

The 2010 World Beer Cup eclipsed the record of the Brewers Association's own Great American Beer Festival (GABF) to become the largest commercial competition ever. There were 3,308 entries judged in the 2009 GABF, compared to the 2010 World Beer Cup's 3,330 entries judged.

A detailed analysis of the entries and awards can be found in the 2010 Brewers Association World Beer Cup Fact Sheet.

"Brewers from around the globe participate in the World Beer Cup to win recognition for their creativity and brewing ability," said Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association, the U.S.-based trade association that has put on the competition every two years since 1996. "For a brewer, a World Beer Cup gold award allows them to say that their winning beer represents the best of that beer style in the world."

Detroit Area Winners:

Old Ale, 15 entries
Gold: Fourth Dementia Olde Ale, Kuhnhenn Brewing Co., Warren, MI

German-Style Brown Ale/D├╝sseldorf, 26 entries
Silver: The Detroit Dwarf, The Detroit Beer Co., Detroit, MI

Belgian- and French-Style Ale, 57 entries
Silver: Saison du Bastone, Bastone Brewery, Royal Oak, MI

American-Style India Pale Ale, 104 entries
Gold: Norm’s Raggedy-Ass IPA, Big Rock Chop House & Brewery, Birmingham, MI

Imperial India Pale Ale, 69 entries
Silver: Bonnie’s Raggedy-Ass Imperial IPA, Big Rock Chop House & Brewery, Birmingham, MI

Other Michigan Winners:

Herb and Spice Beer or Chocolate Beer, 109 entries
Bronze: Black Licorice Lager, Short’s Brewing Co., Bellaire, MI

Category 61: Robust Porter, 64 entries
Silver: Founders Porter, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Category 62: Sweet Stout, 25 entries
Silver: Cream Stout, Redwood Brewing Co., Flint, MI

Category 67: Strong Ale, 26 entries
Silver: Dirty Bastard, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Category 82: American-Style India Pale Ale, 104 entries
Silver: Centennial IPA, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Category 89: American-Style Imperial Stout, 37 entries
Bronze: Imperial Stout, Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI

Click Here to Cast Your Vote Now! 

Hurry, last day to vote is tomorrow, April 7th!
Live 2 Give Foundation is giving away 2 tickets to 3 lucky winners to the Red Wings v. Blue Jackets game TOMORROW (Wednesday, April 7th) at 7:30. How do you win? Tweet the most empowering, inspirational and uplifting 140 characters about the state of Michigan to #L2G!

Our recent partner, Celebrities Against Autism, has given L2G 6 tickets to the Detroit Red Wings game this Wednesday out of appreciation for the volunteering we offered at the 50/50 Joe Louis Raffle. BUT WE WANT TO GIVE THESE TICKETS TO YOU!

T4T Guidelines:
- Tweets must include the hashtag: #L2G

- Tweets must be received before noon on Wednesday, April 7th

- There is no limit to the amount of tweets you can submit

- Tickets must be picked up at Mars Advertising on Wednesday between 4:30 – 6:00 (MAP)

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We encourage you to be creative! Include links, pictures, videos, and quotes. There is NO LIMIT to your ability to catch our eye and win these tickets. How will YOU Tweet 4 Tickets?

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As the FIRST Robotics state championships take place at Eastern Michigan University, Lori Gleason, a physics teacher at Milford High School, has been honored as 2010 FIRST Robotics Teacher of the Year.

Presented by WWJ Newsradio 950 along with Kettering University, FIRST Teacher of the Year competition is meant to honor those teachers who, as team mentors, give selflessly of their time and resources to support the bright and talented Michigan high school students designing, constructing, and competing in the FIRST Robotics competition.

Gleason wins the award as the #1 vote recipient in voting by thousands of FIRST students and WWJ listeners.  As winner,  she will receive a $1,000 check and a trophy from Kettering University.

One nominator writes, "Ms. Gleason has been a physics and chemistry teacher for over 11 years at Milford High School in the Huron Valley School District. Her desire and hard work to help students succeed is as strong today as it was when she first started...Whether she is tutoring one on one or working in small groups after school, Ms. Gleason is there for the students."

"Teamwork is also important to Lori," writes Gleason's second nominator.

"She is aware that it takes a team, not an individual, to build a robot and she wants every member to know that as well. She has the students work in small groups so that people are encouraged to communicate with each other... Lori taught all of the members that communication is the key to success and that no one knows what you are thinking unless you tell them. Because of this, team members learn the vital skill of communication, which they will use for the rest of their lives.

Lori makes sure the individual team member knows that their contribution is essential to the group's success. Countless times Lori has gone above and beyond her mentoring duties to help HOT Team students succeed.... Students are very aware of Lori's obvious passion for the HOT Team. In the student's eyes she is the most influential mentor on the team."

. To check out the team website, click here.

To learn more about FIRST and view videos of some of the robots  in action, visit this link.

The event is a FREE tweet-up of sorts, but non-tweeters and non-dog owners are more than welcome!

Yelp community will be making baked goods for dogs AND people (including vegan and gluten-free goodies) and coffee for donations during the event.  Items to be raffled off include a gift certificate to Traffic Jam, Canine to Five and some goods from Omni Hotels. Donations from the raffle go directly to the Animal Welfare Society of Southeastern Michigan and is located in Madison Heights.

EVERYONE is welcome to attend!  Please RSVP through the Twtevite or e-mailing Erica Finley at

Motor City Flicks

Last Friday before his appearance at the Royal Oak Music Theater, acclaimed directer Kevin Smith told the Drew & Mike morning show on WIRF that he will be shooting his upcoming hockey movie Hit Somebody in metro Detroit this year.  The film is rumored to star Seann William Scott and Johnny Yong Bosch and will be set in the 1970s in the final days of old-time hockey, the World Hockey Association, and blood-splattered ice.

Most intriguing are reports that Smith is teaming up with local Detroit author Mitch Albom to write this adaptation of famous Warren Zevon’s song by the same name.

Frozen Four Moves To Bigger Stage At Ford Field

Associated Press

Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves hopes that holding the Frozen Four at Ford Field in Detroit will help draw attention to college hockey the way NHL has benefited from playing outdoor games.

"I think it's a good idea to go and try it and see how it works out," he said.

The NHL game at Wrigley Field last year between the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings drew the biggest television audience for a regular-season NHL game in nearly 34 years. More than 30,000 fans are expected to attend the games in Detroit. The semifinals are on April 8 and the title game is April 10.

The Badgers (28-11-1), who are seeking their seventh national title, will face Rochester Tech in the opening game. The Tigers, who have won 12 straight, are in just their fifth season in Division I.

Miami of Ohio (29-7-7), which came within a minute of winning last season before blowing a two-goal lead and losing in overtime, will play Boston College (27-10-3). The Eagles have ended the RedHawks season in three of the past four years.

BC coach Jerry York said he was initially opposed to playing in such a large venue when it was proposed because he was worried about ice quality and fans being too far away. But he changed his mind after seeing how excited his team was to play at Fenway Park against Boston University in January.

"The chance to play at Ford Field I think is going to be a positive one," he said.

He also is encouraged that the NHL's ice expert, Dan Craig, will be monitoring conditions and that portable stands will bring fans closer to the action.

Eaves, who has coached the Badgers in outdoor games in front of 40,890 fans at Lambeau Field in 2006 and in front of 55,031 fans at Camp Randall in February, said playing indoors in such a large venue will bring different challenges.

He expects it to be warmer in the larger venue and is concerned it could cause players to cramp up.
"Another thing is, how far is the walk? I've heard rumors they're going to have golf carts for the goaltenders. So these are some of the logistics we're going to have to deal with," he said.

Rochester Tech coach Wayne Wilson isn't worried about the venue, he's more worried about how his team is going to handle playing on a bigger stage.

"There are a lot of possible traps and distractions out there. But with this particular team it's another game against another very good team in a different facility," he said. "It's Wisconsin on another ice sheet."
He's more concerned about the attention his team is receiving as heavy underdogs. The Tigers entered the tournament as the 15th seed.

Wilson said he consulted with Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore, who last year became the first coach to guide a No. 16 seed into the Frozen Four. Wilson said Serratore warned about not getting caught up in the media attention.

"The guys started believing everything and were all so excited that they lost a little bit of their grit, they just lost a bit along the way because of the attention they were getting through the media," he said. "We can either listen to him and benefit from someone whose been through it or do our own path and maybe follow into the trap."

Miami coach Enrico Blasi said last year's experience playing for the national championship should help this year's team deal with the distractions.

"Once you've been there it's not as new, it's not the novelty of being at the Frozen Four. Hopefully that will calm us down and help prepare us to stay focused," he said.

Tickets for BravoBravo! On Sale Now!

Tickets for this year's BravoBravo! fundraiser, supporting Michigan Opera Theatre and the Detroit Opera House, will go on sale tomorrow, April 1, 2010.

In its 11th year, BravoBravo!, presented by Bank of America, will take place on Friday, June 4, 2010 from 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. at the Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway, in Detroit. Tickets cost $85 during the month of April. The event, coordinated by the young professionals group of the Michigan Opera Theatre Volunteer Association (MOTVA) brings together the city's top restaurants, showcases its best live musical acts and draws thousands of revelers all in support of Michigan Opera Theatre (MOT).

This year's event is co-chaired by three of Detroit's most involved young professionals: Jerrid Mooney, Jen Knapp, and Rich Rice. Fashionistas take note: BravoBravo! spans the globe this season, transporting high fashion straight from the runways into the elegant rooms inside the Detroit Opera House.

BravoBravo! supports the continued success and daily operation of Michigan Opera Theatre. In 2009, BravoBravo! drew a record crowd of over 2,000 young professionals and raised over $180,000 to support MOT. For 2010, organizers aim for a goal of $250,000 to support MOT's artistic and educational programs. Since its inception, BravoBravo! has raised more than $800,000 and is considered a critical fundraising effort for Michigan Opera Theatre.

Tickets can be purchased at the Detroit Opera House box office, by phone at (313) 237-SING, or online at The event is expected to sell out.

BravoBravo! attendees must be 21 or older.
Michael Thompson
Associated Content

It's April Fools' Day - the 24-hour period where most everybody seems to be angling for a laugh at somebody else's expense.

For the novices among us, some of the best advice for garnering a chuckle comes from those who make people laugh for a living.

"Being foolish is what we do every day," says Pj Jacokes, producer for Go Comedy! Improve Theater in Ferndale. "So April Fools' is like a day off for us, because everybody else is with us on that day."

Comedian Mike Green of Warren, a mainstay at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle in Royal Oak says an occasional part of his comedy routine has an April Fools' aspect.

"It's just a little trick I play. A practical joke," Green says. When an audience member heads for the restroom, Green cuts off his microphone and speaks quietly to the remainder of the group. He explains that near the end of his show, he is going to tell a supposed joke, but "it's not gonna make any sense at all."

Later, when the time arrives, this non-joke will cause immense quiet in the room. However, when he gets to a chosen keyword such as "monkey," everyone bursts into planned laughter as they keep an eye on the person who'd earlier had been away.

Invariably, Green says, the person will join in the revelry, although often with a somewhat puzzled expression. He says this is simply a human instinct, a desire for belonging.

To change things up a bit, Green will instead gather information on the person when he or she leaves for the restroom, such as the type of car they drive or the number of children they have. Later in the show, he pretends to be a mind-reader. "They freak out like I'm really psychic," he says with a laugh.

Green notes, "After the show, nine times out of 10 they will approach me and say, 'Yeah, yeah, my friends told me what you did. I can't believe I fell for it.' But people are good-natured, and they realize it's a comedy club."

At Go Comedy! Improv Theater, Jacokes says patrons always have an opportunity for foolery (today or any other day) because their format involves audience participation in an improv setting.

"The thing that sets improv apart from stand-up, for me, is that it's a unique experience," Jacokes says. "You will never see the same thing twice. The audience dictates what happens, so they have some ownership in the show. If a stand-up wants to talk about airplane food or diseases, you don't have any say in it."

Jacokes says, "April Fools' is pretty much a one-shot deal, without a whole lot of meat on it. It's not like Presidents Day, when you have 44 different targets."

Mark Ridley, owner of the Comedy Castle, says most April Fools' Day activities are pranks rather than jokes, better suited for a morning radio drive-time host than to a stand-up comic.

"Basically, I've treated April Fools' Day just like any other day in the 31 years I've been in business," Ridley says.

A stand-up comic might make playful fun of an audience member's hair or clothing or whatever, but that's not really in the April Fools' Day mode, Ridley says. That type of interplay falls in the category of teasing rather than pranking, he says.

The Moth 

Detroit SLAMs are on the first Thursday of each month at:

Cliff Bell's
2030 Park Avenue
Detroit, MI 48226

Upcoming SLAMs in Detroit:

April 1: On the Road
May 6: Money
June 3: Scars
July 1: Persuasion

7pm Doors/7.30pm Stories
$5 at the door

Learn more about how to prepare your true, 5-minute story and sign up for the Detroit mailing list - we'll send you a note one week before every Detroit StorySLAM with tips and tricks on how to come up with the best story.
Detroit Medical Center

Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan’s (RIM) wheelchair basketball team, the Detroit Diehards will compete in the National Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NWBA) April 7-11 in Denver, CO. The Detroit Diehards are one of 22 Division III teams competing for the national championship title.

RIM’s Diehards are seeded 7th in the tournament after finishing their regular season with 16 wins and 9 loses. RIM’s 14-member team is comprised of athletes with physical disabilities, aged 17 to 50 from throughout southeast Michigan.

Teams qualified for the Nationals via NWBA-sanctioned regional tournaments – the teams playing in this event in Colorado will be the best of the best.

Players to watch on RIM’s Detroit Diehard team include Darryl “Tree” Waller and Mo Philips. Darryl is an amputee who has been competing since 1978. He has been a member of three Paralympic teams, winning gold and bronze medals, and has played on four World Cup teams. In 2002, Waller was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame.

Philips is also an amputee who has been playing and coaching both nationally and internationally for over 25 years. Over his playing career, Philips has won 3 National Championships and was inducted into the National Wheelchair Basketball Association Hall of Fame in 1998. Philips also serves as the coach of the Diehards.

The NWBA is comprised of over 200 wheelchair basketball teams within twenty-two conferences. Founded in 1948, the NWBA today consists of men's, women's, intercollegiate, and youth teams throughout the United States of America and Canada.

RIM has been sponsoring the Detroit Diehards since 2002. The team is supported through grants, donations, and fundraising events such as RIM’s annual “Celebrity Wheelchair Basketball Game,” (

DMC’s Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan is one of the nation’s largest hospitals specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. The Institute is home to many innovative programs, including the Southeastern Michigan Traumatic Brain Injury System (SEMTBIS), one of only 16 federally designated centers of excellence in the U.S. for the treatment of brain injuries, and the Center for Spinal Cord Injury Recovery, a world-class facility designed to implement and study innovative treatments in spinal cord injury recovery. RIM is one of eight hospitals operated by the Detroit Medical Center (DMC). The DMC is proud to be the Official Healthcare Services Provider of the Detroit Tigers, Detroit Red Wings, and Detroit Pistons.

Ace Show Biz

"Scream 4 will take its cast and crew to Michigan to shoot the movie there. The report comes out as Production Weekly claims they have learned that Dimension Films has opened up offices for the movie there, allegedly to take advantage of the city's film production tax incentives, which is said "attractive".

The previous films were filmed in different cities in the U.S. The first film's principal photography took place in California. Then director Wes Craven moved the set to Georgia for "Scream 2", which was also partially shot in Los Angeles. The production of the third installment, meanwhile, was held in Los Angeles too.

Dimension Films gave the green light to "Scream 4" on March 23 with Wes Craven, who has helmed the first three films, on board to direct the upcoming thriller. Shooting is planned to start in spring for April 12, 2011 release. Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox and David Arquette are set to return to join the cast for the new installment of "Scream" film franchise

Tom Henderson
Crain's Detroit Business

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 2006, Elizabeth Redmond moved to the Windy City to try to turn a school project into a business.

Her clean-tech design project would use high-tech ceramics to convert the energy generated by pedestrian and vehicular traffic into direct current that could be stored in batteries. She worked by day trying to secure funding and at night as a waitress in a high-end vegetarian business.

Redmond, 25, grew up in Dexter and missed the Ann Arbor area — especially bike rides along the Huron River — but what got her back to Michigan last year were the economic support systems at the state and regional level.

“Chicago is a really neat town, but the resources of a small community in Michigan are much more accessible than those in Chicago. I couldn't find much support there,” she said.

Her company, Powerleap Inc., is now a virtual tenant at Ann Arbor Spark's downtown Ann Arbor facility. She doesn't have an office there but uses its facilities and has been provided a wide variety of support services, including help with a new business plan and a due-diligence package for potential investors.

“I think this company is going to be huge, and I want it to be in the state where I grew up,” she said.

These days, it's never a surprise to hear of a 20-something who has moved to Chicago, New York or L.A. in search of greener pastures. Redmond, though, is among a crop of young professionals who realized the region's perks and potential and chose to return.

Brian Mooney seemed to have it made as an up-and-coming 20-something in Chicago, where he worked from 2002-2004 as a project manager for a construction company. But Mooney, who grew up in Rosedale Park and went to University of Detroit Jesuit High School and UM, found himself missing Detroit.

“I loved Chicago. I loved everything about it, but I have an absolute love for the Detroit area, he said.

“Being able to invest my time and energy in the city and help bring it back, preserving some of the world's best architecture, pulled me back,” he said. Mooney, 29, is a project manager for Detroit-based J.C. Beal Construction Inc. and has worked on projects at the Detroit Athletic Club, the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, Christ Church-Detroit downtown and a number of projects for Ilitch Holdings Inc. In addition, he serves on the Clawson Downtown Development Authority and is active with the Motor City Blight Busters.

He has no regrets about having left one of the most vibrant cities in North America.

“We've been hit really hard, here. Everyone is tightening their belts. I see it as an opportunity to be more creative,” he said. “People here are tough-minded, focused and passionate. Detroit's going to be a success story, maybe the biggest success story.” 

When Tim Atkins, now 27, graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2006, he, too, moved to Chicago.

“It was a graduation present to myself. I loved Chicago. I thought it was great,” he said. “I loved everything about it, but I missed the community feel of Ypsilanti, and I missed my friends.”

After 13 months, Atkins moved back and is now managing partner in Pakmode

Publications L.L.C., which has published a series of student survival guides for Michigan and Ohio universities and which publishes emYOU! The Magazine, a monthly that covers the EMU campus and Ypsilanti community.

“I wanted to start my own business, but rent everywhere in Chicago was going to be ridiculous,” said Atkins, who rents space in downtown Ypsi, where he avails himself of networking opportunities through the Spark East incubator across the street.

“There's a sense of community here — people helping each other out. I can make a difference here. I couldn't make a difference in Chicago,” he said. 

Sean Forbes, 28, grew up in Farmington Hills and lived in Rochester, N.Y., from 2000-2006 while attending the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

He moved back to form the Deaf Performing Artists Network, now Deaf Professional Arts Network, which produces music videos for the hearing impaired. He works with Joel Martin, Eminem's publisher, owner of 54 Sound Studio in Ferndale, and the sort of music impresario that has helped make Detroit famous for generations.

“I just love being here,” he said. “It's a comfort thing. ... All of the other places I've lived and visited, one thing has always rung true in my head: You can take me out of the D, but you can't take the D out of me.” 

Peter Allen, president of Ann Arbor-based Peter Allen & Associates, a developer of mixed-use urban projects and an adjunct professor at UM for 30 years at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, said the examples above are part of what he sees as an emerging and long-term trend.

“I've been taking my students to downtown Detroit on the first Saturday of February for 15 years. They get to see the city at an ugly time. It's a great time to measure their enthusiasm. This year, the metric for enthusiasm was off the charts,” he said. 

“These are all graduate students. They're MBAs or law students or architects, and many of them have lived all over the world. They see Detroit and they see some of the greatest empty buildings in the world. And they say three things. "One, I can have a lot of fun here. Two, I can make a difference here. Three, I can make some money.' Students see themselves making a difference, and they can't do that in New York or Chicago.

“Detroit is the most undervalued big city in the world. They get their leadership and safety and education issues under control, and it's going to be a lot of fun watching it come back.” 

“With all the national attention on Detroit recently, this generation, which wants to save the world, sees this as the place to do it,” said Lou Glazer, president, Michigan Future Inc. “The irony is that we may have momentum now to keep these young professionals. They see Detroit at rock bottom and they want to help fix it.”

Between October 2007 and March 2008, Michigan Future surveyed 5,360 recent Michigan college graduates. Forty-nine percent had left the state, with 17.7 percent of those who left living in Illinois, 10.7 percent living in California and 8.2 percent living in New York.

Glazer said good numbers are hard to come by, but he assumes the recession that hit after his survey accelerated the issue of out-migration of young professionals. Thirty-three percent of those who left said they had no job offer in the state, and an inability to find a job was easily the No. 1 reason for moving.

Another study was published in July 2008 by Michigan Future, titled Young Talent in the Great Lakes: How Michigan is Faring.

It showed that 21.3 percent of all households in metropolitan Chicago, or 744,000, where headed by young professionals, compared with 21.3 percent, or 269,000, in metro Minneapolis; 14.7 percent, or 311,000, in metro Detroit; and 4.9 percent, or 15,000, in the city of Detroit.

“The brain-drain issue is entirely a function of the job market in Michigan,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “Michigan has had a history of young people who left and came back when they were ready to raise a family, which speaks to the quality of life here.”

“If you look at the most dynamic economies in the U.S. — Austin, Texas, Silicon Valley, the Research Triangle, Boston — all have a strong entrepreneurial culture,” said Greg Main, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. “It's absolutely imperative we keep our young professionals. That's where a lot of entrepreneurial energy comes from.”
The FutureMidwest team has been buzzing for days about our exciting new speaker announcement, and now we can finally blurt out the news! We’re thrilled to tell you that Jay Adelson, CEO of Digg, will be our FutureMidwest keynote speaker on Friday, April 16. Jay will deliver the keynote address before the evening networking/entertainment program. Joseph Jaffe, chief interruptor at Powered, also joins the speaker lineup and will kick start the conference as the opening presenter Friday morning.

Jay and Joseph combined have extensive knowledge about online marketing, technology and the social Web. Under Jay’s direction as CEO, Digg has grown to more than 40 million visitors per month and is now considered one of the top socially-focused Web sites. Jay is a well-recognized expert on technology and the Internet who has spoken at a variety of industry events and conferences. 

Prior to Joseph’s current role at Powered, he worked with mega brands like The Coca-Cola Company, Panasonic and Kraft. He provides daily and weekly commentary on all things related to new marketing on his “Jaffe Juice” blog and podcast. Check out Joseph’s bio for more background details.

FutureMidwest starts in less than a month! Let the countdown begin.  Click HERE to get your tickets!

Looking for a wild and exciting way to network with young professionals in the Metro Detroit area?

The Detroit Zoo is offering the opportunity to mix and mingle (in the Wildlife Interpretive Gallery) among the butterflies and hummingbirds.

The 21-and-older event will be held Thursday, April 22, 2010, 6:30-9:30p.m.

Ticket prices are $15 for Zoo, Detroit Young Professional, Fusion and After 5 Detroit members and $20 for non-members. Ticket prices include parking, one drink ticket and complimentary hors d’oeuvres. A cash bar is available for beer, wine and specialty drinks.

Tickets can be purchased in advance online HERE. Tickets will be sold the night of the event for $20 for all guests.

Detroit Restaurant Week Spring Edition April 16-25

Goodwill's PartnerShop in downtown Detroit offers free ice cream March 23 during National Ben & Jerry's Free Cone Day, announces specials for Foursquare users.

The Goodwill Industries Ben & Jerry's PartnerShop in downtown Detroit will hand out FREE 4 oz. ice cream cones to anyone who stops by Tuesday, March 23, as part of Free Cone Day. The PartnerShop, owned and operated by Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit, provides paid work experiences for Southeast Michigan youth with barriers to employment.

PartnerShop employees receive training in resume-building and personal skills development, helping them gain important skills to prepare for their future. Proceeds from the PartnerShop support Goodwill Industries training and career development programs.

Also launching during Free Cone Day is the PartnerShop’s special offers through, a location-based social network that offers businesses the chance to reward repeat and loyal customers. Ice cream fans will be able to check-in from their phone at Ben & Jerry’s online venue on, and will be offered a free small cone for every fifth virtual check-in. Users holding the virtual title of mayor (the Foursqure user with the most check-ins at the specific location) will receive a 10 percent discount on any order.

In the past two years of the organization’s nearly 90-year history, Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit has placed more than 2,000 Wayne, Oakland and Macomb County individuals into new jobs and provided education, training and career assistance to thousands more in the region.
"It's a great thing to see these young adults, who have overcome so much, laughing, smiling and even singing while handing out the free cones," said Lorna G. Utley, President and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Greater Detroit. "The PartnerShop exists to prepare them for successful careers. It also supports our efforts to help Metro Detroiters become trained, trusted and ready to work."

Time & Location:

Tuesday, March 23, noon to 6 p.m.

1014 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, in the Compuware building at Campus Martius


Web Site's Funny Texts Lead to App, TV Show

Stephanie Goldberg

When some people find out that Lauren Leto quit law school at Wayne State University after her first year to focus on her Web site, they lecture her about responsibility and planning for her future.

And then they find out that little Web site of hers averages about 4.5 million hits a day.

Leto, along with her college friend Ben Bator, who also passed on law school to concentrate on the business, launched in February 2009.

The site, which features funny and often shocking text messages submitted from area codes worldwide, has spun off into multiplatform ventures including personalized T-shirts, a book, an iPhone app and talk of a Fox sitcom to be produced by Adam Sandler's production company, Happy Madison.

Some of the more popular Texts From Last Night include, "I was just told by a cop that my party was the most epic party they ever crashed," "This is a mass text. Does anyone know where I am?" and "Rather than putting your name in guys phones, you just texted 90999 to donate $10 to Haiti and then gave it back to them."

But Leto says that even after a development deal and an app that's been downloaded by more than 300,000 people in 230 countries and territories, her parents can't help but worry about their daughter.

"They're nervous that one day I'm going to wake up and no one will want to look at my Web site anymore," she said with a laugh.

Another site that has succeeded by making strangers' stories available to the public is FML, which launched in French in 2008 and became accessible to English speakers in January 2009.

FML, otherwise known as, is composed of the funny, self-deprecating tales. For example, on March 8, user what434 wrote, "Today, I learned that you don't put your diamond earrings on over your bathroom sink. FML."

"It gives people an outlet to post whatever screwed up their day," said Alan Holding, community manager at FML. "We're just trying to provide a fun Web site where people can share their funny secrets."
The site receives about 5,000 submissions and averages 3 million hits a day.

Like their counterparts at FML, Bator and Leto had no idea what they were in store for when they started Texts From Last Night as a blog to keep in touch with friends after graduating from Michigan State University in 2008.

But it wasn't until the book contract came along, almost one year after the site launched, that Leto realized the potential of Texts From Last Night.

"After the book deal, we knew it was OK to deplete our savings and put money into the site," Bator said. "It's really fun the way we've been able to cross mediums like this. ... [How] late-night exploits can be inspiration for a book and a TV series to be enjoyed by millions."

With about 15,000 text messages submitted to the site every day, Leto, Bator and his brother Philip -- a senior at Michigan State who helps weed through the submissions -- keep busy.

"Everyone texts," Bator said. "They'll send a text before they'll call. [Cell phones] are like little confessionals you bring out with you at night, and we get to read everyone's diary."

Leto said her friends still message her when they see a 313 (Detroit, Michigan, metro) area code pop up on the site.

"They'll say, 'Oh, my God, that was totally you,' " she said. It's not.

"It gets annoying getting texts from people hoping I'll put them up on the site. ... They think I can't tell. Like, why are you writing me about vomiting in your hair?" she laughed. "I hate text messaging now."

Check out Panasonic’s Full HD 3D home theatre system and new product line next week from Monday to Wednesday at the Detroit Opera House.

Panasonic has begun a nationwide tour to bring the experience of Full HD 3D TV home entertainment directly to consumers in 15 major markets. The tour will have 3 caravans simultaneously traveling on the East and West Coasts and Central U.S., beginning in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

What will be available at the event:

·         Enter to win a Panasonic Full HD 3D Home Theater System; one winner will be selected from all visitors who enter during the three-day period

·         Learn tips and techniques from photography experts from the Digital Photo Academy on Panasonic’s newest line of LUMIX cutting-edge digital still cameras and camcorders

·         Try out Panasonic’s newest consumer electronics products, including gaming in Full HD 3D

·         See demos of Skype, DirecTV 3D content, and more

·         Learn more about Panasonic’s commitment to developing eco-conscious  technology

·         Interview Panasonic executives


·         Monday, March 22, 2010 – 11:00AM-6:00PM

·         Tuesday, March 23, 2010 – 11:00AM-6:00PM

·         Wednesday, March 24, 2010 – 11:00AM-4:00PM


Detroit Opera House

1526 Broadway

Detroit, MI 48226
Experience the wonder and magic under the “Big Top” of the Shrine Circus from March 18 – 21, 2010 at their brand new location, the Hazel Park Raceway.

The 102nd Shrine Circus will feature dazzling and breathtaking performances by acclaimed international acts that promises to be more marvelous, more astonishing than ever before.

Join us under the big top for an action-packed experience, featuring mischievous elephants, prancing horses, flame-throwing gaucho dancers and the high-flying, death-defying Sun Chinese acrobats.

Show times are as follows:

Thursday, March 18, Friday, March 19 & Saturday, March 20:

10:00 am, 4:00 pm, 7:00 pm

Sunday, March 21: 1:00 pm, 5:30 pm

“We are proud to be able to continue the tradition of the Shrine Circus in Metro Detroit, the home of the first Shrine Circus in the world,” said Chuck Baer, Shrine Circus Director. “The Big Top tent will offer a more intimate experience and give children and adults alike, an up-close and personal access to the acts that they’ve never had before.”  

Children of all ages are welcome to marvel at the magnificent big top performances, and lose themselves in the whimsical sideline entertainment that includes cheery clowns, exotic elephant rides, face painting and moon bouncing.  Concessions are available throughout the performance.

The new location at Hazel Park Raceway will include fenced, secured and lighted parking, a huge petting zoo, carnival attractions, and of course, the big show. Tents will be heated, handicap accessible and have first class amenities. The Detroit Shrine Circus dates back to 1908 when it was held at the Light Guard Armory, located at Larned and Lafayette in downtown Detroit.

Tickets are on sale now at Prices range from $15 - $30 when purchased online and the box office.

Discounted tickets are available at select local retailers, including Hungry Howie’s.

For more information please visit Hazel Park Raceway is located on the corner of 10 Mile Road and Dequindre and accessible from area freeways.

Associated Press

Saab Spyker Automobiles NV may announce that it is locating its U.S. headquarters in the Detroit suburb of Royal Oak.

Bill Mullan, a spokesman for Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, tells The Associated Press that a tax incentive for Saab is on the agenda for the Michigan Economic Growth Authority's Tuesday meeting.

Mullan said he could neither confirm nor deny that Saab has chosen Royal Oak as the site of its North American headquarters. But Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison told WJBK-TV that he expected Gov. Jennifer Granholm to make the announcement at a Tuesday news conference.

General Motors Co. in January sold Saab to Dutch carmaker Spyker Cars NV in a $74 million deal.

Daniel Duggan
Crain's Detroit

After four years of preparation, the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau has secured a conference that it expects to generate close to $3 billion in economic impact over five years.

Dubbed by insiders the “Super Bowl of all conferences,” the 5,000-person American Society of Association Executives event will draw roughly 3,500 people in leadership roles of associations — people empowered to decide where their own conferences will be held.

“Any businessperson can imagine the idea of having all of their best clients or prospects in one place at one time,” said Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the visitors bureau.

Detroit won the 2015 conference of the Washington, D.C.-based ASAE, held for the leaders of trade groups and associations from around the country.

Though the conference is still five years away, Alexander said planning has already started. And while this event won't have the same level of media attention as the Super Bowl or the Final Four, Alexander said the hospitality industry is planning the same level of attention.

“We'll be naming a host committee, we'll be figuring out how many volunteers we need, decorations at the airport,” Alexander said. “And we're working on specific strategy for how to use this as a way to market the entire region.”

Alexander said the visitors bureau went after the ASAE conference three years ago and lost.

Since then, he and the entire staff have made securing the conference a priority. The visitors bureau has become very involved with the group, sponsoring other events and programs; Alexander even took a spot on its board of directors.

Leading up to the city's pitch for the conference, Detroit-based public relations firm Starrconstand prepared a bid packet, which included a DVD player that played a four-minute movie about Detroit starring Kid Rock.

For the 20-minute pitch in Washington, D.C., Waterford Township-based staging company Corporate Optics was hired to arrange and control three televisions, each showing different images while Edsel Ford II and Alexander spoke to the selecting panel.

Part of the pitch is the host city's vision for the three parties held at an ASAE convention: opening ceremonies, the food-and-wine party and the closing ceremony.

Detroit pitched an opening ceremony on Belle Isle with fireworks and a laser light show; a “culinary throw down” at The Henry Ford and a “concert of wild proportions” at the Fox Theatre to end the event.

The presentation was one of the best given to the board for the current round of bidding, said John Graham, president of the ASAE.

“I've seen some good presentations in the past, and that ranks up there as one of them,” he said.

Graham served on the board of the American Diabetes Association with Ford, so having him as part of the pitch was a nice touch, Graham said, “and Larry knew that I'd think it was a nice touch.”

Though Graham added that the presentation is the icing — the city's hotels, facilities and venues are the cake.

“You can have a great presentation, but you have to have a package to offer,” he said. “The city deserves a lot of credit for developing into a destination that will be attractive to a lot of meetings.”

Will the event really be worth it? Not even a question, Alexander said.

According to the ASAE, 20 percent to 25 percent of the executives who attend a conference will book an event in that city within five years.

For an average year with an attendance of 5,000 people, Alexander said 3,500 attendees represent conventions. So, based on the ASAE's analysis, Detroit could expect 700 to 875 conventions in five years.

Alexander said direct spending on a convention in Detroit can range from $2 million to $25 million on the high end.

Considering an average of $3.5 million per event, for 800 new conventions, the region would get $2.8 billion in direct spending.

Nashville earned new conferences after hosting the event in 1998 and 2005, said Butch Spyridon, Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO, though the exact number wasn't available.

He said that while the event is time-consuming and expensive, it has a tremendous return on investment. The city has been selected for 2014.

“There is a certain segment of the (meeting and convention) market that has a comfort level about where they will go,” he said. “When you can get clients out of that comfort area, you can demonstrate what you can do in your city.

“We've found that when we can get the client base into our city, the closing rate increases dramatically.”

For Detroit, the meeting will be a chance to show off the facilities, hotels and the region, said Tim McCarthy, visitors bureau chairman.

“We'll be showing off the city,” said McCarthy, also president and COO of Detroit-based Checker Cab. “But we'll have a great plan put together to encourage those in attendance to bring their business back to the region.”

The Gov Monitor

Governor Jennifer M. Granholm today announced that seven projects supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) have been recognized in the fifth annual Trade & Industry Development magazine economic development awards competition.

These are seven of the key projects that propelled Michigan to third place in Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup competition for major new corporate investments in 2009 announced last week.

“For the second week in a row, our economic development efforts have been recognized by a global site selection publication,” Granholm said.  “We will continue going anywhere and doing anything to further diversify the state’s economy and create new jobs in Michigan.”

The CiCi Awards competition recognizes the top 30 projects in North America for 2009 in two categories: Corporate Investment and Community Impact, honoring the company investing in the community as well as the economic developers who played a role in securing those investments.

In the Corporate Investment category, Michigan led the field with six awards out of a possible 15, four of them in the clean energy sector.

The projects recognized were:

Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy anchoring what will be the nation’s largest renewable energy center on the site of the former Ford Motor Wixom assembly plant.

Advanced-battery development and manufacturing firms A123 Systems (Livonia) and Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions (Holland), and solar manufacturer Suniva (Thomas Township, Saginaw).

Nexteer Automotive, the former steering division of Delphi Corporation, now focused on development of advanced steering and driveline systems technology.

Quicken Loans, the nation’s largest online lender, undertaking a $240 million expansion and headquarters relocation to Detroit.

The Community Impact award honored MEDC’s success in winning the new General Electric advanced technology and training center in Van Buren Township (western Wayne County) which will become GE’s largest single-site IT operation.  It is based in large part on Michigan’s roster of engineering and technology professionals.

“These awards pay tribute to the economic development talent and professionalism available in communities around the state,” MEDC President and CEO Greg Main said.  “Perfecting these deals requires the highest degree of collaboration and cooperation in generating new investment from inside and outside of the state.  Our local partners are a major reason Michigan is a leader in attracting and nurturing growing companies, based on our aggressive initiatives, strong business climate and hard-working and talented workforce.”

Describing itself as the only vertical market publication dedicated to site selection, Trade & Industry Development has a circulation of 25,000.

David Murray

Road trips demand a rare breed.

For many the road trip consists of nothing more than the mundane transportation from point A to B. Stopping along the way to gather the useless trinkets or pecan roll.  The highwayman’s last export.

This trip was different. There would be no relaxing pleasure cruise. No poetic moments of insight while gazing  through the pastoral scenery. Instead this would be nothing more than a mad dash through the gritty turnpike of America. All the way pushing the limits of personal endurance and technological limitations.  This would be a true adventure.

My companions consisted of a short Pilipino, a Ryan Seacrest look alike, and the girl. Good people. We all would embrace the madness.

Our trip started in earnest on Monday morning, March 8th. Together we would set out to prove that Detroit still meant something. That there was talent and drive not ready to turn over and die. This would make our home town proud, and a long the way we would indulge ourselves in the energy that would ensue. Living the true Detroit experience.

The vehicle chosen for our travels, was the Chevy Traverse. A beast of a machine full of buttons, dials, and gadgets that no human should ever have access to. We had already packed enough technology with us to maintain our attention level at a relatively safe point. Any additional distractions would surely take us over the edge. Regardless we pressed on.

Stopping at some local haunts, it became immediately apparent that this project was much bigger than ourselves.

Most people were willing to extend their hand and help in any activity that was required of us. Only in a few instances were we asked to not enter. This helpful attitude was shared throughout our trip. Many would stare in wonder, but always with a small smile of curiosity. One could sense that people, regardless of race, gender, or geographic locations, where ready for some levity after the heavy steel blanket they had been wearing for the past few years.

We wouldn’t be alone on this trip. Seven other groups of individuals were also on the same mission. Along the way communications and activities would be shared online. The general attitude of the other teams was that we had set the bar high right out of the gate. It would then become their mission to take us down. The target was painted, and we knew we were in the firing line. Nothing to do now, but push “Hustle Dragon” to the edge.

This was my 1st experience having wifi in an automobile, and like the distant relative you loathe to visit. It wasn’t always functioning. At times it ceased to exist. Even our back up devices would fail to deliver.

Regardless of these setbacks, our troupe pushed on.

Endless hours of video editing, posting content, and car sickness would not bring us to our knees. But the true source of energy for our trip, was the community back home. You could feel their excitement as we inched closer to the finish line. The support was amazing, and it was the deciding factor of our victory.

Finally, we made it to our destination.

With a large sigh of relief we all took a moment to silently congratulate ourselves for a job well done. We had dodged all the bullets, beat all the odds, ignored the doubters and the swine, represented our home town, and made it in time for the next party. There would be little time to rest. Duty would call to represent Detroit once more.

It was time for South by Southwest.

*Important Note*

Team Detroit  is the official winners the first Chevy SXSW Road Trip Challenge!  Congrats!

Trailer 'Grown in Detroit' from Mascha Poppenk on Vimeo.

Dutch filmmakers Mascha and Manfred Poppenk have captured the interests of educators, community organizers and social activists around the world. Their recent documentary Grown in Detroit shines light on an incredible effort that is currently taking place in a city often discredited as one of decay and despair. For this, they received the Community Empowerment Film Award from the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. Reverend Jesse Jackson presented the award to Mascha Poppenk during the annual NCRC conference on Friday, March 12 in Washington D.C.

"We are honored that Grown in Detroit received this prestigious award from the Coalition," said Mascha Poppenk, filmmaker. "It’s a powerful, uplifting story about the rebirth of the city told by the actions of teens and their educators. The message they teach us applies to the world, not just the residents of Detroit. The award is for the people of Detroit, CFA in particular. It’s their story, we were privileged to capture it."

Grown in Detroit features urban organic farming efforts organized by the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school of 300, mainly African American, pregnant and parenting teenagers. In Detroit alone, there are more than 3,000 pregnant teenagers who drop out of high school each year, nationwide more than 500,000.

The passionate educators at the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit are working to make a better future for the young women by using their natural resources. The school is one of only three like it in the United States. As part of the curriculum, pregnant teens are taught agricultural skills at the farm next to the school. The young mothers, often still children themselves, learn through organic farming to become more independent and knowledgeable about the importance of nutritious foods. Many of the teens initially dislike farm work but the aversion disappears as they see their crops growing and being sold for profit.

While Detroit may have a reputation as one of the most impoverished and dangerous cities in the U.S., this award winning documentary exposes a different side; the side about residents who are emerging by using their resource and creating unique solutions.

Ironically, after the destruction of many abandoned homes, nature has taken over and the city. Detroit is literally greening from within. Satellite images speak for themselves; more than one third of the city has become green again, just as it was before the industrial era. This new landscape is creating opportunities and hope for the city and its residents. Land that was used for farming a century ago has again been cultivated, this time by the urban farmer, out of necessity and resourcefulness.

This “back to the roots” concept is a simple, yet effective solution for a city that has to start all over again and perhaps a lesson to be learned for the rest of the world.
Katherine Yung
Gannett News Service

Decades after Motown Records put Detroit on the world's entertainment map, a little-noticed tax break could help usher in a new era of music-making in Michigan.

The state is offering tax credits of up to 42 percent for the production of music CDs and videos. The credits were designed to lure big-name artists to record in Michigan, which already is home to chart-topping performers such as Eminem, Kid Rock and Bob Seger.

The incentive is tucked away in the package of tax breaks for the movie industry. But Michigan officials have not promoted it because they have put all of their efforts into growing the state's film business.

As a result, even though the tax credit has been available since April 2008, no one has taken advantage of it, which may change as more people learn about the incentive.

"If we could market that with the labels, do you know how much business we could bring to Detroit?" asked Brian Pastoria, a partner at Harmonie Park Studios, a Detroit recording studio. "It would be an incredible thing."

Like many others, Pastoria didn't know about the tax break. When Pastoria heard about Michigan's tax breaks for recording artists, he was so excited that he quickly told his contacts at major recording labels.

"They had no idea," he said. Were they interested in the incentives? "Very much so," he said.

"This makes all the sense in the world," said Pastoria, who has worked with a number of prominent artists, including Aretha Franklin, Eminem and the Velvet Hearts. "I think it could start something. This is huge."

He's working on bringing production of a new tribute album for British music legend Frankie Miller to his studio, and the tax credits would definitely help. Making the album could easily cost $1 million because it would involve more than a dozen top performers.

To be sure, Michigan's music incentives won't help everyone. They can be claimed by only those who spend at least $50,000 in the state. Big-name artists backed by major record labels usually sink much more than $50,000 into an album. But other performers won't be able to meet the requirement.

"They are going to exclude a lot of independents," said Al Sutton, who records and mixes Kid Rock's albums and owns Rust Belt Studios in Royal Oak.

Sutton noted that if the requirement were lowered to $20,000, he could lure several out-of-state bands to record at his studio.

Ken Droz, a spokesman for the Michigan Film Office, which administers the incentives, said that artists with small budgets don't need the tax breaks. For major performers, spending $50,000 "is a song," he added.

Companies that meet the re-quirement can get up to a 42 percent tax break, the same percentage that's offered to movie and TV production companies. The law defines a sound recording as "a recording of music, poetry or spoken-word performance." It must be in a digital media format, such as a CD.

Just like with movies, companies must apply for the tax breaks in advance, and it usually takes a year before the money is paid. Anyone building a recording studio in Michigan also can qualify for the tax credit, Droz said.

While the Michigan Film Office has not marketed the tax breaks and has no plans to do so, that isn't stopping a few companies from exploring the incentive's potential benefits.

Dickinson Wright, a Detroit-based law firm, has a Nashville, Tenn., office that's looking at the tax breaks for some of its clients in that music industry hub, said Steven Enwright, one of its entertainment attorneys.

Unity Studios, which has begun building three sound stages in Allen Park, plans to operate at least one room for recording music at its facility, said Eric Cedo, the company's director of marketing.

"The music industry and film industry go hand in hand," he said. "We really need to get back to what Motown did."

Michigan isn't the only state offering tax breaks for recording artists.

In 2007, Louisiana increased its tax credit for sound recordings from 15 percent to 25 percent. Last year, it made the tax credit refundable, which means companies can get checks from the state, not just credits against their tax liabilities. The minimum spending requirement in Louisiana is only $15,000.

So far, several jazz and blues albums and movie scores have been recorded in Louisiana, as well as the Dave Matthews Band's most recent album, "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King."

The tax credits are "just starting to get noticed," said Sherri McConnell, executive director of Louisiana's Office of Entertainment Industry Development.

In today's multimedia world, an album is often just one marketing tool for a band, so Louisiana offers several entertainment tax credits. For example, New Orleans' Imagination Movers, a hit band for children, has a Disney Channel series, albums and concert tour.

Each of these productions can qualify for tax breaks if they are filmed, recorded or performed in Louisiana.

Michigan also offers several entertainment incentives, but so far has marketed only the ones for movies. But a new company, Fantasm 3D, hopes to be among the first to take advantage of the state's tax credit for making music videos. It's preparing to film a 3-D music video for an artist from Michigan whose name it would not reveal.

"The incentive will open the door to the idea of coming here to shoot," said Ralph Watson, Fantasm's CEO and a former performer and record producer. "There's a lot of talent here, undiscovered talent."

Additional Facts

More than movies
Films and TV shows aren't the only creative productions eligible for Michigan's 42 percent refundable tax breaks.

What else qualifies for the incentives: Documentaries, music videos, interactive games, video games, movie trailers, Internet programming, Internet videos, sound recordings, videos, digital animation and interactive Web sites.

What doesn't qualify: Radio programs, weather shows, financial market reports, talk shows, game shows and awards shows.
Detroit Free Press

Free Press columnist Mitch Albom has sold more than 28 million books worldwide.

At times, it might seem as if he has won as many writing awards during his quarter-century with the Free Press. For instance, 13 times he has won the country’s most prestigious sports column-writing contest; only one other columnist has won it more than once.

This weekend, Albom was selected for the biggest prize of his journalism career: the Red Smith Award.

The award is bestowed annually for lifetime achievement by the Associated Press Sports Editors. It was started by the country’s sports editors in 1981 when it was presented to its namesake, the legendary New York columnist. In the ensuing years, it has been awarded to a who’s who of the most influential sportswriters and editors, including Jim Murray, Jimmy Cannon, Shirley Povich, Edwin Pope and Dick Schaap.

The voters are past APSE presidents and Red Smith winners, charged with identifying people who have made “major contributions to sports journalism.”

“Mitch’s work and career speak for themselves — he’s given much to Detroit, he’s a wonderful writer, he’s multi-talented, he’s earned his success and recognition,” said Paul Anger, editor and publisher of the Free Press. “And this award recognizes Mitch as among the greatest sports columnists ever.”

Anger, APSE’s president in 1994-95, spent 18 years as sports editor of the Miami Herald and saw the early days of Albom’s column-writing career in the early ’80s at the Herald’s rival, the Ft. Lauderdale News and Sun Sentinel.

Albom joined the Free Press in 1985. And the rest, as the awards prove, is remarkable history.

He will receive the Red Smith Award at the APSE’s June convention in Salt Lake City.