Big Opportunity for an “Enterprise Town” in Detroit, Says E-mail Pioneer Nathaniel Borenstein

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urban areas to the suburbs was worse in Detroit than almost anywhere else; the climate around the 1967 Detroit riots had a lot to do with this. But he thinks a contributing factor is that auto companies “routinely gave out to low-level managers a company car,” further enticing them to move their families to the suburbs—and leaving behind what would become an urban wasteland.

“Cars built Detroit and then helped destroy it,” he says.

What about unemployed auto workers and the overall decline of manufacturing jobs—is there a way to harness that underutilized talent? “Nobody wants to see Michigan reborn with everybody working at minimum wage,” he says. “The solution for the younger ones is education.”

In the meantime, there are plenty of successful tech companies, especially in southeastern Michigan, and Borenstein sounds optimistic about the region’s prospects.

“I have founded multiple companies that set up shop in Michigan, and I’ve been blown away by the ease of recruiting,” he says. “People shouldn’t give up. With cloud computing, it’s never been less expensive to start a company. Prospects for doing it in Michigan are better than ever.”

And although he lives in remote northern Michigan and wouldn’t mind seeing a “virtual” tech cluster emerge there, his heart remains in Detroit. “The half of the city that still exists has a lot going for it,” he says, including the baseball stadium, cultural attractions, entertainment venues, and concerts. “Detroit is the once and future great city.”

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