One of the most interesting chapters in my business career was working in downtown Chicago for cars.com. It was 1998, cars.com had just launched and Internet companies were hot. The energy and enthusiasm working for a start-up was fast-paced, pressure packed – and absolutely exhilarating.
And, the atmosphere in downtown Chicago was incredible. Thousands of people in their 20s and 30s, working hard and playing hard, too. Cool bars, great restaurants, amazing events, concerts, sports…just an all-around great vibe.
We moved back to Michigan primarily for family reasons and I always missed the energy level of an Internet start-up and a vibrant downtown. As much as I enjoyed my time at John Bailey & Associates and the five years since I’ve launched The DeVilling Group, I never really found anything that resembled the atmosphere in Chicago.
Until last night.
I attended a networking event at the M@dison Building and listened to a presentation about the many great things that are going on downtown. They played the “Opportunity Detroit” video with Kid Rock that launched during last year’s World Series…they talked about the many buildings that Dan Gilbert has bought and renovated…the businesses that have relocated…the retail efforts such as Somerset Collection City Loft and the new Moosejaw store on Woodward…the bars and restaurants and concerts and sporting events…and they talked about the companies that are being incubated right there in the M@dison Building.
After the presentation, I talked to many friends who work downtown at places such as Skidmore Studios, Lambert-Edwards & Associates, Quicken Loans and DTE. They all love working downtown. And, they all love hanging out downtown. And, they all agree that downtown Detroit is a cool place to be.
None of this is happening by accident. Quicken Loans, Compuware, Blue Cross Blue Shield, General Motors and DTE have all worked hard to attract talent to their downtown operations and have provided financial incentives to get people to live there, too. Right now, the residential occupancy rate is 97 percent and there are waiting lists to get into several buildings. That would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.
These downtown employers also have launched a collective effort to attract 13,000 summer interns for 2013. The goal is to turn these energetic young professionals into ambassadors for the city. In addition to employment opportunities, they will also take part in many fun activities downtown, showing that Detroit is a great place to work…and to play.
I can’t wait for summer downtown. The Tigers will be making a run for the World Series, restaurants and bars will be bustling and downtown businesses will be bursting at the seams with energetic employees making the city great. There’s still a lot of work to do in the D…but it is getting better all the time. And, the vibe downtown is the best I’ve seen in my lifetime.