If you look up “Detroit jokes” you will be swamped with some harsh criticism of the city also known as Motown, Hockeytown and The City of Straights (Detroit translates directly from the French for ‘The Straight’)
The spiritual home of the automobile in America, there’s a story here of a city that has endured harsh times. On the border with Canada’s city of Windsor, it has paid a historical price for quirks of geography, industry and politics.
But times are changing, and we are only a tiny, but thoughtful, contributor to that change.
For Detroit is on the rise.
After years in the doldrums and embarrassing bail outs for its largest businesses, tens of thousands of jobs lost, and a historic low of the city going bankrupt in 2013, business people, cultural stars and sports icons have invested their hard-earned cash to put right these wrongs, and make the city good again.
And when we can highlight Kid Rock’s contribution to his backyard community (multiple millions of dollars donated to good causes) alongside investments from property magnates (Dan Gilbert) and sports teams and fast food chain owners (Mike Illitch), you may start to believe the will to succeed is to be taken seriously.
Even Microsoft recently took 52,000 square feet of downtown space, and both traditional and disruptive forces in the automotive supply chain continue to commit to Detroit’s heritage, workforce, and for the short term at least, outstanding value property.
Detroit’s unemployment rate is no longer eye-wateringly high either, it has fallen and continues to fall, lower now than the unemployment rate of France, original home of its founder, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac.
Our own story is of course, nowhere near this scale or cultural depth, but I think it warrants a mention –
M1 Concourse, home to AutoSens 2017, sits on a historic site that has been home to a series of auto manufacturing facilities for the past 100+ years. In 1905,a large portion of the property was developed into a factory by the Rapid Motor Company for the production of municipal vehicles. In 1908, a combination of Rapid, Reliance Motor Truck and Crescent Motors became General Motors Truck Co. During the decades GM owned the property, it was home to a variety of manufacturing plants and testing/quality assurance facilities.
The facility, which covered 133 acres and boasted 1.7 million square feet under cover, was decommissioned in 2008 and all but one building on the property was demolished – a regrettable victim of GM’s pre-renewal woes. In 2011, the property was transferred to the RACER Trust, which was created by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to position for redevelopment properties and other facilities owned by the former General Motors Corp. before its bankruptcy.
After completing a significant amount of due diligence on the suitability of the property for the intended development and obtaining the proper clearances and approvals from the Environmental Protection Agency, State of Michigan, Oakland County and the City of Pontiac, M1 Concourse acquired the land on August 6, 2014. Now the property has been reconnected with its 100+ year automotive history.
Like the rest of Detroit, their story too is one of positive willpower, and the company continues to build and develop strengths in the emerging eco-system of connected and autonomous vehicles, one of the earliest large investors in ride-sharing and fortunately for us, supplier of outstanding expert speakers.
And they’re no slouch when it comes to technology either, having filed in excess of 600 technology patents recently, relating to topics ranging across the automotive technology spectrum.
As for Detroit, there are jokes still to be told and enjoyed, but they are not about the city any more – they are in downtown’s joints, comedy clubs and bars, part of the increasingly fashionable cultural scene.
The M1 is one man’s crazy idea to worship car culture, and we are delighted to join their community as a temporary resident, just as we are looking forward to visiting a once-great city during its unstoppable renaissance.
Teaming up with the venue to run a great event for professionals, we are looking forward to highlighting an innovative business venture in a city which deserves another look.
Enjoy what there is to offer, because there’s a lot more to Detroit than what you may have heard.