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Regional leader says bankruptcy might help Detroit’s international image


By Smita Kalokhe

July 19, 2013

DETROIT (WXYZ) – Detroit’s bankruptcy filing was on the front page of just about every major newspaper around the world. But what some say is a black eye for the city, others say might actually be an opportunity for growth.

Newspapers published reports that included dire images of the city’s worst eyesores. “No question about it, it really hurts,” said Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau President, Larry Alexander. “Every time you see the word ‘bankruptcy,’ they show blighted buildings, burned out buildings.”

For regional leaders, Detroit’s lackluster reputation has been a problem for years. “We get questions all the time for the last few years, ‘What’s going to happen with the city?” admitted Brian Holdwick, Detroit Economic Growth Council executive vice president. “Quite frankly, I think (bankruptcy) brings some certainty.”

Many here at the Detroit Regional chamber agree, saying Detroit’s image couldn’t get much worse. “Let’s put it this way, when folks woke up in Cleveland or Tuscan, Arizona this morning and read that Detroit went bankrupt, how many of them were really surprised?” asked Sandy Baruah, the chamber’s president and CEO.

Baruah and others hope bankruptcy will actually be a selling point. They see it as a potential turnaround that puts the government, city services and financial environment back on track. In fact,  the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau is preparing to launch a new advertising campaign, billing Motown as “America’s Great Comeback City.”

in the last 5 years, the CVB says Detroit has seen $12-billion dollars in private investment and added 12,000 new jobs since 2010. But the question remains, will outside investors, say from Chicago or Shanghai, really buy into the image?

“Short term, we’re going to be in a difficult situation,” said Baruah, “It’s going to be hard to sell the region while bankruptcy is taking place. But bankruptcy only last for a short period of time.”

“About every 100 years, Detroit is reinventing itself. You can go through and track what those reinventions were. We’re at the 100 year mark again,” Alexander said.

Critics have said those 100 years seem to come too quickly to Detroit, but many in the city hope this transformation will be the one that lasts.