Never have the stars been so aligned in support of Detroit’s recovery. There’s Rick Snyder, a pro-business governor, winning another four-year term that takes him through 2018. Mayor Mike Duggan and members of the Detroit City Council are working together instead of acting as adversaries.
The historic Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings have come to a close, and the city, with strident attention to financial performance, can now set aside savings and surpluses each year for future growth and to meet potential infrastructure needs. And there’s the business community, which, since 2010, has added thousands of workers and hundreds of residences inside the central business district and its near-lying neighborhoods — Midtown, Corktown, and Lafayette Park. There are also notable retailers like John Varvatos that are designing new stores along Woodward Avenue.
In fact, the John Varvatos store is the first in a wave of retailers that are considering setting up shop in the central business district. Look for Tiffany & Co., Michael Kors, Apple, Trader Joe’s, and others to add outlets along or near the lower Woodward Corridor, between Grand Circus Park and Campus Martius Park, in the next three years.
Soon, downtown Detroit will have its own version of The Somerset Collection in Troy, and individuals and families will be able to stroll along the city’s sidewalks and visit name-brand and home-grown retailers, memorable restaurants, three sports stadiums, casinos, and theaters — all of which will be located near the M-1 Rail line that’s being installed along Woodward from Jefferson Avenue to West Grand Boulevard (set to begin operation in fall 2016).
“Welcome to Detroit, you can do business here now,” says Stephen D. Steinour, chairman, president, and CEO of Huntington Bank, which has invested and loaned millions of dollars to support the state and the city’s recovery since 2009. “We’re bullish on Michigan and Detroit because they’re making the right long-term economic activity.”
While Steinour believes the removal of the city’s blight, caused by more than 50 years of civic mismanagement, remains a stumbling block to Detroit’s recovery, he sees a bright light at the end of the tunnel. “Business leaders like Roger Penske, Dan Gilbert, and Cindy Pasky are leading the way in dealing with the blight, which has never happened before,” he says. “And those people know how to get results.”
Robert A. Dye, senior vice president and chief economist at Comerica Bank, says Detroit, for the first time in decades, is showing signs of real improvement. “In Michigan and Detroit, you’re seeing consumer confidence rising, business confidence is on an upward track, and commercial real estate is coming back — and that means good news for the west side of the state, with all of the office furniture manufacturers.”
Dye cautions that going forward, Michigan has to do a better job of diversifying its economy beyond manufacturing, which has long been a Michigan staple. “You don’t want to be a one-horse town; (luckily), we’re seeing other sectors growing, like technology, health care, biosciences, and agriculture,” he says. “You need more financial services firms like Quicken Loans, and certainly the addition of the hockey arena and (nearby) residential district (slated to open in fall 2017), along with the improvements in the transportation sector are really helping Michigan and Detroit.”
In other words, it’s full steam ahead for the regional and state economies. db