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Over the weekend, a nonprofit called Detroit Future City released a report titled “139 Square Miles,” detailing changes in Detroit’s population, jobs, economy, neighborhoods, and housing market. While Detroit’s economy shows promising signs of revival, much of it is clustered in the areas where tech companies are setting up shop. There are also worrying signs that not every Detroit resident is seeing the same benefits.
Detroit’s recovery has been buoyed by tech billionaire Dan Gilbert, the founder and chairman of Quicken Loans. Gilbert decided to move Quicken Loans’ headquarters to downtown Detroit in 2010, to prove to outsiders that downtown Detroit was “open for business.” As of May 2016, Gilbert and his partners owned or controlled more than 80 buildings and retail sites in downtown Detroit.
Many of the statistics in the Detroit Future City report indicate that the Motor City’s economy continues to move in a positive direction. The number of venture-backed companies in Detroit has grown by nearly 50 percent over the past three years. Detroit has added 30,000 private-sector jobs since the first quarter of 2010, at a rate 1 percent higher than the rest of the country. Additionally, Detroit has seen the largest increase in jobs among those that pay more than $40,000 a year.
However, most of those high-paying jobs are clustered in the downtown and midtown neighborhoods of Detroit — where Quicken Loans headquarters are, and where tech companies like Twitter and Microsoft have or will soon have outposts. Additionally, the city of Detroit has a higher percentage of high-paying jobs (51 percent) than the Detroit metro region (44 percent). The authors of the Detroit Future City report write that this could mean that there’s a shortage of entry-level and part-time positions in Detroit, and that those who live in Detroit may have to travel further to secure entry-level or part-time work.
Detroit has also seen improvement among entrepreneurship rates in recent years, particularly among minority groups. The city has the 11th highest number of African-American-owned firms per 1,000 residents, at 160 per 1,000 African-American residents. However, African-American and Hispanic entrepreneurs in Detroit still struggle to reach a key milestone of entrepreneurial success.
“Compared with peers across the U.S., Detroit’s African-American and Hispanic entrepreneurs are only about half as likely to have made the transition from self-employment to hiring workers,” the authors of the Detroit Future City report write.
The report indicates that Detroit, like many cities, will continue to face questions about whether its economic renewal efforts are doing enough to benefit all residents. In a recent New York Times profile of Diane Hendricks, the cofounder of home improvement chain ABC Supply Company, and her quest to remake Beloit, Wisconsin into a haven for tech startups, one resident told the Times that he’s waiting to see how successful Beloit’s economic renewal is “once we get through the next recession.”
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