By Edward Cardenas
SOUTHFIELD (CBS Detroit) – Dan Gilbert took a five-hour flight from Detroit to pitch Detroit to attendees of the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco in person.
Gilbert had a conversation with Michigander Matt Burns, senior editor for TechCrunch, about the opportunities for professionals who need to visit Detroit to understand the rebirth of the city.
“It is hard to imagine if you haven’t been there,” said Gilbert, to those attending the conference near Silicon Valley. “The perception is always so much different than what you see what’s going on on the ground here.”
He added that there is a huge local talent pool with graduates from local universities, and those from colleges on the coasts, which is creating a “brain gold rush in Detroit” of people “looking to make a mark.”
Those who come to Detroit and work for, or create their own, start-ups have an impact because they are “involved in something bigger” by working and volunteering in the city.
He also countered some of the negative perceptions of the city by telling the audience at the conference, and those watching on the live stream, that the popular media images of blight with shots of the vacant train terminal and Packard plant doesn’t represent the city.
He stated that crime is down 30 percent and the “city center is a pretty safe place” and there is a four-year plan to remove the 80,000 blighted properties.
“Blight is like cancer,” said Gilbert, who added that neighbors may not keep up their properties if their neighboring property is blighted. “When you take it all out and it is all gone, hope is renewed.”
Additionally, the days of “mismanagement” by city government which led to Detroit hitting rock bottom is “behind us” and “there is no tolerance for it now.”
He encouraged those in attendance to come see the changes for themselves.
“If you visit Detroit, I guarantee you will have second thoughts about what is going on,” Gilbert said.