A requiem for Detroit? No, it’s a homegrown recovery – and you can help


I can’t help but respond when I see a national news outlet fall back on portraying Detroit as a lost cause.

The most recent case: An opinion column published Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal titled  “A Requiem for Detroit.”

Requiem? Really?

I’ll only momentarily address the lack of depth in William McGurn‘s column.

Yes, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing did ask for a recount on the Census numbers that recently showed Detroit’s population declined, but Bing didn’t leave it at that.

His message, consistent with the independence evident in the “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler ad campaign, has been that Detroit must adjust to its real size, not plan for the future based on the success of a recall. In fact, Bing has been arguing for Detroit to “right-size” for months before the Census numbers were released.

Furthermore, McGurn doesn’t tell us that, unlike the rest of Michigan and, indeed, the rest of the U.S., Detroit’s demographic is trending younger. With a median age of around 30, this is a place where young people want to be.

I’m frustrated by all of the negativity, and frankly, it’s not what I see.

I see a city that, in terms of space, can completely contain San FranciscoBoston, andManhattan.

I see a city with a thriving Eastern Market and a growing local food movement.

I see a city with enough real estate to feed its residents by food it could grow within its own boundaries, if empty land is converted to growing that food.

I see a town with a thriving incubator for business with TechTown. I attended TedXDetroit, where I learned how individuals are contributing, and I attended sold-out technology events held in the gorgeous building that Compuware shares with Quicken Loans and a Hard Rock Cafe.

I gave a talk at a conference in Colorado a few months ago, where I talked about positive things happening in Detroit.

And I always get emotional when I think or talk about the MathCorps, an amazing program fromWayne State University that’s making a difference for kids in Detroit, where the results, reported here, speak for themselves:

The average math ACT score for students who have participated in MathCorps for three summers or more is 21, the state average. The DPS average is less than 16. And since 1995, an estimated 90 percent of Math Corps students have graduated from high school and 80 percent have gone on to college. That 90 percent graduation rate compares to less than 50 percent among Detroit Public Schools students overall.

Yes. A few people from Wayne State got together and found a way to engage students and get them not only to graduate from high school, but to excel in math and to go off to college.

People in Detroit care. Detroiters aren’t waiting for help from the federal government to rebuild. They’re doing it themselves. Yes, Detroit experienced a man-made disaster, but it’s also creating a man-made recovery. Requiem? I don’t think so.

And we can all get involved.

There’s a two-hour bus tour of the city April 22 to highlight the exciting things that are going on in the city. Or you can join the Motor City Blight Busters in one of their many programs. Learn about Public Art Workz, revitalizing the community through bold, innovative community public art projects.

Invest in a frame of Lemonade Detroit,” Eric Proulx‘s film about the comeback of the city. Take kids of all ages to the Detroit Science Center. Go visit the amazing Detroit Institute of Arts, the beautiful Belle Isle, discover the nightlife, the restaurants, and the Fisher and Fox theaters.

I think you’ll learn why young professionals are moving into the city as you experience the renaissance of this great city.

So, instead of dwelling on one narrow view, I prefer to listen to Detroiter Aretha Franklin, reminding us to “Accentuate the Positive.” Because there’s sure a lot of positive energy in Detroit these days.

The gorgeous riverfront tells me that this city will not die.

Detroit_Night_Skyline.JPGCourtesy of Wikipedia 

? I’ll see you at TedXDetroit 2011, where we will all certainly conclude that this is not the time for a “Mass for the dead” for Michigan’s largest city.

Dianne Marsh is co-founder of SRT Solutions, an Ann Arbor custom software development firm that specializes in using newer technologies to build effective software.

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