News about Detroit not making the second round of the Amazon headquarters sweepstakes fell with a thud in mid-January — a month dark and gray enough as it is.
Social media was flooded with speculation about why, and it was largely focused on the usual suspects: inadequate mass transit, inability to attract and retain talent, shortfalls in our educational system, etc. In short, it was the continuing lack of a regional strategy.
A few years back, this would have been a bigger blow to our collective psyche. After all, we were a scandal-ridden and bankrupt city that basically had an inferiority complex. Remember when Whole Foods announced it would build a location in Detroit? In other cities, such news would be welcomed, but not treated to the enthusiasm exhibited around here. It was similar to Sally Field’s memorable Oscar speech: “They like us! They really like us!”
Today, that’s not the case. The reasons Amazon passed us by certainly need addressing, but there’s room for hope and optimism. In the city proper, we’re experiencing improvements on many fronts, from new construction and better city services to national retail brands opening brick-and-mortar stores.
Are we upset? Sure. Devastated? Not in the least. And perhaps we can learn some valuable lessons in the aftermath of the Amazon pitch — like the need to foster the growing recognition that our neighborhoods have to be part of Detroit’s renewal, not just downtown. And that working together as an
entire region is important.
Our thriving restaurant scene is another positive note. One of my favorite phone calls to make each year is when I inform the winners of our annual Restaurant of the Year. Click here to see our choice. Here’s a hint: it’s smack dab in the center of Detroit’s current upsurge.