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Detroit As the Center of Success: Dan Gilbert and Dennis W. Archer Jr. on the City’s Future

In one of the most highly anticipated sessions of the 2019 Detroit Policy Conference, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert joined Conference Chair Dennis W. Archer Jr. for a conversation on Detroit’s future. The two talked talent attraction and retention, the historic Hudson’s site, education, philanthropy, and more. They engaged in discussion about inclusion and diversity, and what it means to draw talent from all walks of life, including the city itself.

“There can’t be demarcation between downtown Detroit and surrounding neighborhoods. Downtown will topple eventually…that’s doesn’t work,” said Gilbert.

A bright Detroit 2030 requires talent. Retaining and attracting young talent means great infrastructure, including transportation, affordable living, and more. Citing 52 million residents in Detroit’s five-hour radius, Gilbert said the city is the epicenter of activity and potential. Like other central cities across the country, Detroit draws savvy talent who are not afraid to fail, who take risks, and are invested in the future.

“We’re in a great location, literally and physically,” said Gilbert. “We’re all going together in the same direction…when people believe the mission, you’re going to get people from everywhere.”

When Archer asked Gilbert about his efforts to attract local and diverse talent to downtown Detroit, Gilbert pointed to the inclusive makeup of the Quicken Loans Family of Company and his support for minority-owned business owners, like Detroit-native Regina Gaines, president and managing partner of the House of Pure Vin.

“Companies are hurting themselves if they’re not being diverse,” said Gilbert. “You want to open it up and get the best people from different upbringings.”

The new Hudson’s site, once a premier retail area, is expected to celebrate Detroit as a leader in innovation.  Sites like this one, and Monroe Blocks, will be transformational, Gilbert said. With over one million sq. ft. of residential, commercial, office, and commercial space, the Hudson’s site will draw thousands of people.

“It will give Detroit the confidence to create new, to build and develop,” he said.

With growing improvements to key focus areas like blight, safety, and jobs, Gilbert said education is the next frontier. He stressed the need to invest in the latter because of its lasting impact. This looks like mentorship programs and inviting Detroit students to downtown, to learn and explore their own community.

“When you can take what you worked for your whole live and give it away, that’s better than making money,” Gilbert said.

The Quicken Loans Investment Fund and the Gilbert Foundation are two of Gilbert’s philanthropic endeavors, along with the city of Detroit itself. In order to look forward, we must look back, said Gilbert. In the midst of rapid improvement, there’s still work to be done in Detroit.

“I can’t say what it’s going to look like, but it’s going to get better,” he said.  “Detroit 2030 will exceed everyone’s wildest expectations.”