All of a sudden, the eyes of the nation have been on Detroit. The city is the ultimate example of a post-industrial basket case, but there’s something else about the beleaguered city that is captivating peoples’ interest. It isn’t just the muscular Chrysler “Imported from Detroit” or “Halftime in America” commercials, but there’s a sense that underneath the abandoned neighborhoods, something is stirring.
Now, Inc.’s Tim Donnelly has published details of what is stirring — the rise of an entrepreneurial class, mainly planting roots along Detroit’s Woodward Avenue, which some call “Webward Avenue” for its concentration of tech businesses and incubators.
The avenue got its start when Compuware, a major IT systems management vendor, moved here in 2002. The company also has supported new ventures.
SmartPlanet colleague Tyler Falk recently described the efforts of Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert to build Detroit 2.0, which included converting a formerly vacant Madison Theater in downtown Detroit into an “entrepreneurial hub for tech-based start-up companies.” It’s now called the M@dison, and is home to a number of startups, including Detroit Labs, as well as Skidmore Studios, a 53-year-old company that returned from the suburbs.
Last year, Dice cited Detroit as the fastest-growing metro area for tech jobs. The entrepreneurial energy emerging in this part of the city is also attracting restaurants and other retailers. As Inc.’s Donnelly points out, “Detroit is in its early stages of its revival as a tech center and start-up hub, and entrepreneurs know they’ve got a long way to go.” He quotes startup organizer Brandon Chesnutt: ‘We are setting the foundation for what will hopefully be a very strong and busting tech hub. We’re kind of at that point where we’re going to generate a few strong companies that will lead the way. It’s that sort of rally-around- the-flag effect.”