By Cynthia Pasky

As Detroit’s Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr deals with staggering debt, the rising crime rate and blight, he will also find much as already been done to take advantage of our city’s unprecedented potential for growth, innovation, collaboration and sustainability.

Our business and philanthropic communities have seen Detroit’s potential and are vested and invested in our city.

  • The Kresge Foundation has invested almost $500 million in Detroit’s tri-county region over the last 20 years. Most recently it committed $150 million to the implementation of Detroit Future City, a comprehensive framework for re-imagining the city’s land use, and there are commitments from others. The plan is a roadmap for investments to strengthen existing areas of vitality and convert underutilized or abandoned land to productive uses.
  • More businesses are moving Downtown bringing an estimated 10,000 new employees to the city.
  • People are moving Downtown. The occupancy rate is 97% and more will move Downtown as new residences become available.
  • Construction on a light-rail line along Woodward begins later this year thanks to a coalition of philanthropic and private investors who worked with state and federal officials to bring regional mass transit to Detroit and connect Downtown with Midtown and its 30-plus educational, health, and cultural campuses. It also opens the door for an integrated regional transportation system for the first time in Detroit’s history.
  • Projects managed or assisted by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation in 2012 are expected to lead to $300 million in private and public investment in the city when completed, generating new or saving 5,000 jobs in the city.
  • Artists and small arts organizations are flocking to Detroit attracted by the challenges of urban renewal, the availability of inexpensive housing and the lure of philanthropic fellowships.
  • Philanthropic investments have turned the century-old sheds at Eastern Market, the nation’s largest public market, into more than 1,000 community gardens, restaurants specializing in locally grown and raised products and a handful of ambitious large-scale commercial urban farming ventures.
  • $100 million in philanthropic investments, coupled with $1 billion expansion plans for DMC and Henry Ford Health Systems, have spurred an entrepreneurial infrastructure in Midtown that supports creative people who want to jump-start an idea, flesh out a business plan or secure the capital to launch a business.
  • Investments by tech companies have made Detroit the only two-time winner on the top five list of fastest growing tech cities, according to the New York City tech job site Detroit was No. 5 on the list this year, with year-over-year growth of 10 percent in tech job listings. It was No. 1 on the list in 2011.
  • Click here for a fact sheet of other transformational efforts.

That is just a smattering of what has been done and only a small measure of what can be accomplished with Mr. Orr, Detroit’s government officials and the business and philanthropic communities working together. With a shared vision for Detroit we will stand among cities like Boston, Pittsburgh, Portland and Seattle that have reinvented themselves and now rank among America’s greatest places.

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