Seeds in Detroit

I was in Detroit recently to follow up getting my Global Entry credentials completed. Now, it’s been maybe 15 years since the last time I rolled through Detroit so I was looking forward to seeing what, if anything had changed. One still gets the news reports about all the stray dogs running loose, the abandoned houses, the crime, the loss of jobs. Considering the last time I was in Detroit, it was coming sundown and I observed a pack of coyotes running through the downtown district, I wasn’t expecting much…

… which is usually when you’re thrown for a loop.

I was pleasantly surprised to find much of the downtown area revitalized and refurbished. It still felt like something of a ghost town, as least this time unlike the last, I felt a heartbeat in there somewhere. Mind you, they did have to bring casinos in to help but the irony in that is that the casinos actually helped to bring crime down in some of the areas surrounding them. Further, Detroit has been spending a lot of money in building up its riverfront park, adding more miles of green public space to picnic in or jog, or just enjoy looking at the river. A lot of cute “trendy” eateries and shops are reappearing in the city center (okay, some of them definitely “hipster” in nature but I don’t go into my opinions on that on THIS page). Personally, I saw quite a few properties and brownstones that would go for tons of cash in the Chicago that I personally would love to own if I had the cash (and it was Chicago) which got me thinking…

See, if you start to go out to the edges of the Detroit, the surrounding neighborhoods, there is still a huge problem. People have left; some are coming back, but not in the numbers yet still to start to turn the neighborhoods around. The jobs, the jobs, it’s always the jobs… they aren’t there. The legacy of Detroit is car manufacturing and well, that’s never going to be back to what it once was. Parts of the population feel stuck, can’t afford to move, no future if they stay. And so the blight deepens except in the few places that big money can reach or even has the impetus to do so.

Which brought me to thinking again about those lovely houses that are oh-so-inexpensive (yet dangerous), the people who once helped produce all that rolling iron, and the manufacturing prowess that the US once had. I start to think about things like Kickstarter, entrepreneurship, technology, workforce retraining, and out of the box thinking. I think about risk and I think about how much potential there is in that risk. I think about how because the US shipped off so much manufacturing overseas, we’ve lost some of the ability to innovate and develop because we’re not on the front line of facing the problems when they show up on the production floor. It doesn’t always take someone from Harvard of MIT to come up with a great idea- often time it just takes having an active mind presented with an immediate problem and a moment of insight. Putting all these thoughts together and my deep down desire to be the female “Bruce Wayne” and own one of those tall retro towers in Detroit with me having a nice lair full of all things nerdy on the top three floors as I overlook the river myself, I came up with this, which probably isn’t a particularly original thought but still interesting:

What would it take to get Detroit back into manufacturing? Who would be bold enough to pilot a project to see if common belief is true- the US cannot be competitive with Asia when it comes to technology manufacturing, or, maybe… maybe things aren’t so cut and dry.

I don’t want to spend time here regurgitating facts, figures, estimates, and other discussions about “why not” because I think we spend far more time thinking about “no” these days than thinking about “how?”

What I want to explore is if anyone or any corporation is willing to take a chance, a real college try, on retraining some workers up there, reopening one of those closed auto plants, and seeing if we can make some chips, or some computers, or something, something, that people can take pride in and prove that maybe all that “Harvard “ thinking is just that- thinking. Again I wish I had a few million to plop down and try this experiment. I wish I could get an Apple or a Dell or an HP to back me to see if it could be done on an experimental basis. Trying to throw something up on Kickstarter has crossed my mind several times and it’s more that I don’t have the cycles to really reach out to companies and say “Hey, let’s start a social experiment that has financial consequences of a POSITIVE nature.” Let’s see if we can prove the “easy way” wrong.

I drove through Detroit, glanced across for a moment at Windsor, thought about everything that is wrong and everything that is right about the US, the history, the future, my love for technology, and my hidden desire to actually help improve society, even if I occasionally act like the female version of Gordon Gekko from Wall Steet fame. Let me say once here and for now, and then we’ll all forget it- I learned to play the game and at the end, I play the game to dish out the spoils as I see fit and it isn’t for having Ducatis and yachts… I want to make a real change using what I know, what I observe, and what I think the potential there is in people when they can see the dream for themselves and feel they legitimately have the ability to reach for it. I want to create more opportunities and more innovation. I want to somehow make that happen (and still ride my Ducati *wink*), and prove that a few people in key positions aren’t always right and in this case, in the case of Detroit, I think it could be something better, something more.. than just something that is surviving. There is a huge difference.

Perhaps as the holidays roll around and maybe I get a few more moments to dream myself, I’ll get something up on Kickstarter, I’ll contact Dell, Apple, or hell, maybe even Richard Branson because I admire that guy. I want to see if I can plant a seed and see if I’m right. I have a few ideas of what to build there. Okay, I have more than a few.

I really do think the potential to be more is there. I think we can make people not afraid of dreaming again.

P.S. I highly recommend “Screw It, Let’s Do It” for anyone who has the remote interest in business and going against the flow.

P.P.S. HI!! Not dead yet! Just busy! :)

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