Detroit Could Be Your Best Opportunity
By Tom Kaiser
The popular conception of Detroit is about five years behind the curve, and the new reality is that America’s 14th largest metropolitan area is undergoing a resurgence that’s bringing a massive amount of investment to the city, particularly its fascinating, sometimes gritty and beautiful downtown district.
I came to Detroit this week—my second extended trip here—to meet with some franchise entrepreneurs who are making major investments, and were all eager to share the rationale behind spending their time and money in a city that many Americans only know for its “ruin porn” and its 2013 municipal bankruptcy.
My first interview was with Lorraine Platman, co-founder of Sweet Lorraine’s Mac N’ Brewz along with her husband Gary Sussman. This extremely engaging, smart couple has been in the full-service dining game here since 1982, but have turned their local goodwill, solid track record and creativity into a fast-casual concept that’s already expanding outside of the city and state.
After hanging around their new restaurant near Wayne State University for our interview, we moved downtown for a photo shoot against a backdrop of modern and classic skyscrapers. This city truly has some of the country’s best architecture, and there’s countless new developments completed and underway since my last visit two years ago.
My next interview was with a pair of Chicago-based entrepreneurs bringing the Windy City’s Giordano’s to Detroit and Lower Michigan. They shared extensive research that solidified their plan for a major investment in Detroit. I knew some of the rosy stats they shared, but others were shocking—Detroit’s renaissance is truly about to kick into high gear thanks to new sports facilities, a new light-rail line and, most of all, private sector investment to cash in on this major city’s strong suits.
Beyond dollars and cents, this is a fantastic city to visit. I’m typing this from my hotel room on the 61st floor of the Marriott located atop GM’s global headquarters—the famed Renaissance Center. The name still fits this massive office complex that’s a combination of brutalism and glassy modernity. Before rain clouds rolled in, I could see signs of street-level resurgence as freighters pass by on the Detroit River.
Beyond work commitments, I’ve taken time to ride the People Mover elevated train, enjoyed a fabulous seafood dinner at Joe Muer Seafood, breakfast at Tim Horton’s (after all, Canada is just across the way) and am about to pack my bags for a stop at the Detroit Institute of Arts, whose priceless collection was saved from bankruptcy’s hammer thanks to the generosity of private citizens and corporations that believe in Detroit’s past and future.
That’s a metaphor for what I’m seeing and hearing in this town. If your franchise’s national growth plan overlooks Detroit, you may be making a critical mistake and missing the chance to be a part of the greatest comeback in modern America.