Detroit’s Renaissance

An economic rebirth spawned by a new administration is bringing both people and business back into the city

Leaving the sun and mountains of the picturesque Southwest behind him two and a half years ago, 27-year-old Derrick Martin headed to the cold and not-so-scenic northern city of Detroit. Aesthetically, many might find Martin’s move perplexing. But to the young Arizona native with a degree in communications, Detroit was the land of opportunity. It was General Motors’ former subsidiary, EDS, and the promise of engineering training that drew Martin to the Motor City.

“The southwestern area of the country didn’t give me the opportunity that I needed to make the money I wanted to make,” claims Martin. “But in Detroit, with the ‘Big Three’ automakers, the doors were wide open to get into engineering.” Even with the chance to develop new skills and increase his salary, Martin was initially hesitant to make the move to Detroit because of all the negative things he’d heard about it.

Now, with two and a half years under his belt as a Detroiter, Martin is pleased with his decision and would encourage others to consider making the same move. “You see more professional blacks here,” he adds, “and that gives a strong support base, broad networking avenues and refreshing social opportunities.” During the ’70s and ’80s, success stories like Martin’s would not have been told; it was a different time for Detroit, one of overwhelming challenges. Heavily dependent on the auto industry for its bread and butter, the city was hit hard when domestic auto manufacturing took a turn for the worse. Crime rose, and businesses and residents were fleeing the city for safer ground in the suburbs. Besides that, the city once known as the home of the soulful, sentimental sounds of Motown was now better known for its infamous “devil’s night” fires.

Fast-forward to the late ’90s–a new era with new ideas for a new Detroit has many referring to it as the “comeback city.” For the last several years, the auto industry has been strong and healthy, churning out hefty profits-which translate into more jobs and business opportunities. The combination of generous federal grants and large urban development projects is drawing businesses and residents back inside the city’s borders. And, the isolation between Detroit and its suburbs is slowly giving way to shared interests and oneness among communities.

There’s no greater demonstration of this new spirit of camaraderie than the community’s united effort to take the devil out of the pre-Halloween fires that had plagued Detroit for decades. Thousands of residents from the metro area joined forces with city residents to patrol the streets, making the arsonous eve a thing of the past. Besides making the streets safer and turning around the city’s negative image, area residents frequent the sports and ever-expanding entertainment venues downtown, while city dwellers take advantage of some of the finest retail shopping at upscale suburban shopping malls in Oakland County, one of the richest counties in the nation.

Detroit is fast becoming a city to be reckoned with. And, while much of its plan still remains on paper, its

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