Detroit's historic bankruptcy has not fazed everyone in what was once the nation's fourth-largest city. A burgeoning community of entrepreneurs is seeing opportunity and the chance to rebuild the Motor City.
"Some people feel like 'Oh my God,' there should be panic in Detroit! But I felt a sigh of relief," said Amy Kaherl, who runs a unique program selling meals to fund entrepreneurial ideas. "Time to just move on."
Detroit's nimble entrepreneurs and community leaders haven't been waiting for a bankruptcy filing, or court resolution to determine their fate. From parsing out microgrants to repurposing old warehouses, entrepreneurs—some millennials—have been harnessing the business adage "there's opportunity in a bottom." And while some efforts are just beginning, they're collectively helping Detroit reinvent itself as a city less reliant on manufacturing and big auto jobs.
'Don't feel sorry for us'
Community leaders during the past few years began creating urban renewal, often with small projects. As a point of reference, Detroit is a sprawling city, about 140 square miles with diverse neighborhoods and needs. The days of corporate giants such as General Motors propping up the Motor City are over, some entrepreneurs say.
"We love GM. We love the Big Three (automakers) and the jobs they do create," said Phillip Cooley, a Detroit entrepreneur behind several city projects, including Slows Bar B Q restaurant. "But the idea those hundreds of thousands of jobs in manufacturing (will) come back here, that's absurd to think we can wave a magic wand and they will come back," he said.
"There's not one big industry that's going to come in and save us," said Kaherl. She runs Detroit SOUP, a combination community meal and pitch fest for aspiring business and community leaders. "We can be an innovation city. We love living in Detroit," she said. "Don't feel sorry for us."