By COREY WILLIAMS
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) – Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan told business and other leaders in southeastern Michigan Wednesday that the city is ripe for investment, citing positive economic development since the city emerged from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history four months ago.

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Duggan gave opening remarks at the Global Cities Detroit Economic Conference, a public forum on the region’s potential for global trade and investment.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses are finding Detroit’s cheap real estate attractive. Outside of downtown and the city’s Midtown neighborhood, vacant and blighted land is abundant.

“It is still real good value to come here for buildings and properties,” Duggan said.

The Global Cities Initiative, a joint project of the Washington-based Brookings Institution and JPMorgan Chase, works with business and civic leaders to help grow local economies by strengthening international connections and competitiveness.

Duggan has pushed an extensive blight removal program that has resulted in the demolition of thousands of vacant houses across the city. Programs also have been put in place to allow residents to buy and clean up vacant lots adjacent to their homes.

Detroit-based automotive financial services company Ally Financial Inc. announced last month that its headquarters will remain downtown rather than move to the suburbs. Ally also said it would move 600 workers from other locations to new offices downtown.

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Construction also continues on a light-rail project that eventually will carry commuters in a 6.6-mile loop between downtown and Detroit’s New Center Area.

Meanwhile, the City Council on Tuesday approved rezoning plans to allow Olympia Development of Michigan to move ahead on work for a $450 million hockey arena that will serve as the new home for the Detroit Red Wings. The arena is expected to open in 2017, anchor a 45-block entertainment district and stimulate growth between downtown and Detroit’s Midtown.

Local policymakers also are exploring new opportunities to bolster economic growth and looking at ways foreign direct investment can contribute to development efforts, according to a Global Cities Initiative analysis.

“There is so much to learn here in Detroit – both lessons of caution and lessons that give us a real sense of optimism,” said Peter Scher, head of Corporate Responsibility for JPMorgan Chase. “We see in Detroit’s revitalization the possible future of other cities.”

JPMorgan Chase is funding the 5-year, $10 million joint project with the Brookings Institution.

“More strategic economic development planning, especially planning that plays on Detroit’s strengths, will not only draw more foreign investment and increase international trade, but also create higher-paying jobs,” Scher said.

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