Detroit’s Fix-It Men: In Their Own Words
When we made the unorthodox decision to feature Detroit on the cover of Forbes’ list of the Best Places for Business, we knew there’d be some snickering and catcalls. This is a city, after all, that’s been beaten down for so long we’ve come to expect the insults.
But anybody who takes a moment to stop spewing outdated cliches about the city would see that Detroit right now really is a land of opportunity. The barriers to entry for business are fairly low, and getting lower. Real estate is cheap, there’s an abundance of skilled workers seeking jobs, and the business tax structure has improved dramatically under new Gov. Rick Snyder.
Tim Bryan, chief executive of GalaxE Solutions, a New Jersey health care software company that’s opening a 500-person outpost here, told me he thinks Detroit is “the most affordable city in America.” Dan Gilbert, chairman of online mortgage company Quicken Loans, is so bullish on the city he not only moved his company’s headquarters downtown from the suburbs, he’s buying up downtown office buildings left and right and filling them with new tenants with the aim of creating a digital hub in downtown Detroit. “There’s the smell of something special happening,” Gilbert told me. “Detroit’s going to be a big story here in the next several years for America, and I think (businesses should) want to be part of it.”
Boosterism aside, Detroit is still facing some really serious problems: failing schools, high unemployment, urban blight. And Mayor Dave Bing has his hands full trying to revitalize the city while saddled with a $185 million budget deficit and a shriveling tax base resulting from the exodus of 25% of the city’s population over the past decade.
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