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June 21, 2012 - Image 33

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-06-21

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Designation Detr®it

Revitalize Detroit from page 1

News; Tack Yong Kim, publisher
and owner of the Michigan Korean
Weekly; Osama Siblani, publisher
of the Arab American News; and
Bankole Thompson, senior editor
of the Michigan Chronicle.
Gilbert was accompanied by
Carolyn Artman, senior public
relations manager; David Carroll, a
Quicken Loans vice president; and
Bruce Schwartz, Quicken Loans'
Detroit relocation ambassador.
Oshagan explained to Gilbert the
importance of engaging with the
group: Its publications reach thou-
sands of readers in the ethnic and
minority communities of Southeast
"Each of them is not only a
publisher of their papers, but
newspapers in ethnic and minority
communities really are key institu-
tions in those communities," he
said. "They get the word out, and
they maintain a sense of communi-
ty by having people see each other
in the papers."
In the nearly 90-minute meeting
with the editors and publishers,
Gilbert explained why his focus
has been on Detroit's Downtown.
First, he is a native Detroiter, born
in the city just like his father and
grandfather. They both ran small
businesses in the city, and Gilbert
remembers spending time at them
as a youth.
But a few years ago, he became
aware of what he called a "disturb-
ing trend."
We were moving into this brain
economy from a muscle econ-
omy, and the wealth-producing
entrepreneurs, the technology
people, the marketing people, the
people who participate in the new
economy where wealth is being
created ... were moving to other
states," Gilbert said. "Clearly, they
didn't view — and hopefully that's
changing now — the urban core of
Downtown Detroit as a viable op-
tion for them."
Then, when 10-year leases at
Quicken Loan offices in the sub-
urbs were expiring, company of-
ficials decided to move the whole
operation to the city. That's when
Gilbert decided that he would lead
a revitalization strategy.
"We said, 'Look, if we're going to
move our whole business Down-
town, if we're fortunate enough to
be in the city with several thou-
sand people working for us, it's
not going to be us moving into a
building and hoping other people
follow, – he said. "We want to move
in here and really impact change
and make it much, much broader
than us."
In August 2010, about 1,700
people moved into the Compuware
building. Others would follow and
set up shop in several other build-
ings Gilbert's companies own.

Because he tracks where his
employees live, Gilbert knows that
Detroit is gaining between 20 and
30 residents each month from
among his workforce. In addition,
nearly 600 college interns will gain
experience at his companies this
"It really occurred to me that if
there was anything we could do
to get young people excited at
universities and colleges, it was to
get them down here. Detroit pretty
much sells itself once they come
down here," Gilbert says. "Our
focus, of course, is Downtown, but
we think the heartbeat of a city is
Detroit's critics may remain
skeptical of the city's progress,
but Gilbert is understanding of
that attitude. "We're fighting four
or five decades of decline, so
there's a legacy of frustration that
is inherent in the city for people's
memory," he says. "There are not
that many people probably who
remember things going this way. I
understand that it will take time to
change that feeling, but I'm very
Gilbert also answered questions
about whether the city's neigh-
borhoods would benefit when
he is using such a laser focus on
"I would think, over time, the op-
portunity and jobs that are created
Downtown would create opportuni-
ties for folks in the neighborhood,"
Gilbert says. "I don't think that's
the only thing that will help the
neighborhoods, but lack of eco-
nomic opportunity and education
are the two big things causing the
neighborhoods to be where they're
Gilbert and his staff admit that
concerns about safety and secu-
rity sometimes keep people from
heading Downtown.
"That's always a question,"
Schwartz says. "So we've taken a
big focused role on trying to make
the city safer, especially down here
where our people are. We've taken
the lead with a command center,
which is in the Chase Building,
which is going to monitor the area.
There are hidden cameras all over,
you can literally zoom right in."
Such efforts, Gilbert hopes, will
help the currently vacant retail
space become more attractive to
small business owners who could
move in and help him complete
the next phase of his plan.
"For us, the big thing this year
is retail. We have thousands of
people we've put in these build-
ings. The buildings are almost full.
There are more coming," he says.
"I know a lot of the ethnic folks are
involved in retail, and that's some-
thing we'd love having." ❑


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