Detroit’s Rebirth: Shuffling Seats, or Real Growth?

Detroit’s Rebirth: Shuffling Seats, or Real Growth?

Crain’s Business recently had an article about Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson. I’m a huge fan of Patterson, but have to admit I was a bit perplexed when I saw his comments about Dan Gilbert. According to Patterson, Gilbert’s move to recruit suburban firms to move downtown seemed to him to have “no net gain or upward movement for…the region.” Patterson claimed he wasn’t impressed by Gilbert’s efforts, calling it, “moving pieces around the chessboard.”

Reading that Gilbert was merely shuffling seats from Oakland Country to Detroit stumped me at first. Then I recalled the shift in Gilbert’s revenue, and realized that his efforts were about more than just shuffling seats. I believe strongly in what’s called “giver’s gain” – Gilbert is reaping the financial rewards of his generosity. His intern program, if you ask me, is the perfect example of giving. Did he need to hire all those interns? It’s a huge cost on his end to make room for all of those kids, but by doing so, and offering incentives to his staff to move into Detroit (along with several other great companies who are doing the same), he’s helping give people reasons to move downtown. As a result, the desire to live in Detroit has soared.

Gilbert isn’t the only one making this effort; many companies have come to us over the last few years with the goal of moving their offices downtown. People want to be a part of something, and though Detroit has been through some rough patches, the city has that special something. I’m just glad people like Dan Gilbert are seeing it. Though I am a Patterson fan, I have to tell you: I simply don’t agree with his take on Gilbert. This isn’t about “moving the chairs around on the deck of the Titanic.” It’s about a greater economic movement, and one that’s revitalizing our city.

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