A New Detroit Attitude

Earlier this week I attended  TedX Detroit where I had an opportunity to speak with a lot of people including some recent Detroit transplants. What I heard from these new Detroiters is what I’ve heard this several times in the past 12-18 months. It goes something like this, “Wow, Detroit is cool…so much energy.”

Really, people are saying that about Detroit?  Yep, they are.

One young man, a 24-year old, who was here on assignment from Dallas, said “the creativity and friendliness of the people in this area is unlike anything I have seen on the east coast or in Dallas.”  He also asked me, “Has it always been like this?”

His question caught me off guard. “No,” was my immediate response. But I had to explain to him that this was once a very, very different area. There was a birthright expectation for so long… an expectation that we would walk out of school (high school or college) and walk into one of the automakers.  We would stay there for 30 years and leave with a pension that would take us into our old age.

For perspective, I have lived in the Detroit metro area all of my 53 years so I have seen a lot of changes. In the past handful of years alone, I have witnessed the loss of 350,000 manufacturing jobs in Michigan.  I also watched as auto suppliers lined up, one after another for bankruptcy. The effects have been devastating economically and socially.  Seth Godin, as usual, has an interesting take on the changes to industrial America http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/09/the-forever-recession.html.

But, if you haven’t kept your pulse on Detroit, you are missing the birth of some incredible ideas and some astounding young people. From Tech Town to Robot Town and from Josh Linkner to En Garde Detroit — we are seeing some ideas that were inconceivable a few years ago.  It is also refreshing for me to see ideas coming from across the social-economic spectrum.  There is no regard to skin color or gender; everyone is working together.

This is why I walked away from TedX Detroit energized: There are new ideas, new thoughts, new businesses, and a new spirit that are re-defining Detroit.  And I dare say these talents and ideas may have lain dormant had the aforementioned birthright remained in Detroit.

Are there still problems in Detroit and Michigan? Sure, there are a lot of problems.  But, at least I am seeing action not apathy and no longer an attitude of how come, rather an attitude of how can we.

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