Detroit Regional Chamber > Mackinac Policy Conference > A Conversation With Dan Gilbert

A Conversation With Dan Gilbert

May 29, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • For the success of your business, always remain open to innovation and change.
  • Listening to the top needs of young professionals – regional transportation, entertainment, and affordable housing – should influence Michigan’s revitalization.


Gilbert’s Legacy in Detroit

From a business and philanthropic standpoint, Dan Gilbert and his business ventures have contributed to Detroit’s renaissance, which has spread from downtown to the city’s neighborhoods. Through his investment back into Detroit, he says, “there’s nothing more exciting than being able to deploy that wealth in the communities in which we live.”

One such contribution has led to an exciting development for the city – the new Henry Ford Health complex. Gilbert’s family connection with neurofibromatosis led to The Gilbert Family Foundation’s philanthropic commitment to supporting rehabilitation and research facilities, something that he said he does not “think there’s any question about” the positive impact that this investment will do on the surrounding area and beyond.

“I think that you’re never gonna have a city do greater than just the downtown doing great – and that the neighborhood is not doing great,” he said. “So maybe you look at a city, and you build it from the inside out like we’re doing.”

On Scaling Business

Later on in the conversation, Gilbert compared scaling a business by bringing in new talent similarly to a sports team drafting new players. The nostalgia of senior staff and their prior contributions is not to be disregarded but not to withhold progress. It’s imperative to continually strive for change and welcome new staff while being unafraid of change to lead progress instead of being afraid to change up leadership and goals.

“You really have to understand that so you can’t repeat the same thing,” he said, “and there’s different skill sets among different facets of people that you’ve got to bring in at certain points.”

Gilbert said this allows businesses to scale up seamlessly and be open to opportunities as they arise.

Retaining Talent Through Revitalization

Gilbert also noted the need for input from young professionals is vital to making decisions that revitalize urban city centers. He believes the top needs of this age group include regional transportation, entertainment, and affordable housing—particularly homeownership.

“It doesn’t matter where [young professionals] came from,” he said, “it doesn’t matter what socioeconomic class they came from, whether they’re white, black, or purple, or male or female, we need the young, smart 21-22-year-olds to stay in the state and having bars and restaurants … it’s one of their boxes they look to check when they to decide what city they end up in.”

This session was sponsored by Wayne State University.