First off, I have to admit; I’m not a true ‘Detroiter’. I grew up just north of Grand Rapids in the country. I moved to Royal Oak after college in 2006. But, as so many people do, I told all of my family and friends I was moving to Detroit. Their replies were all the same, “What the hell are you moving to Detroit for?” The reason was the only logical reason anyone would move from safe small town, Grand Rapids, to heat packing wild west Detroit, a woman. I should mention, it wasn’t just a woman, it was my wife. I didn’t tell many people truth about that, I told them I was going for the opportunities. I’d received my degree from WMU in advertising and told everyone that there was more opportunity over here, which is true. Thinking back I was naive, but very hungry, ready to work. Moving here was very intimidating for a kid from the country. The traffic, the culture, and all the people overwhelmed me. It took me two months of diligent phone calls to Campbell-Ewald before they finally hired me, I think so they didn’t have to listen to my phone calls and voicemails any longer. I lasted a year, got another gig for a smaller agency in Royal Oak, then started my own agency in 2008. I was 25 years old and didn’t have a clue about anything, about life, business, Detroit, nothing. I was just hungry and motivated and most of the time that is plenty. I remember making cold calls from my one bedroom apartment trying to drum up business, while the whole world was falling apart around me. I remember watching the news and feeling embarrassed, my friends from back home would call me after seeing Mr. Kilpatrick on the news and ask me what the hell was going on. I didn’t know, I just knew it wasn’t something I was proud of. Sex scandals, text messages, people dying, fires burning, housing market plummeting and the big 3 taking private jets to Washington to get money, I know, Ford went for support.
Somehow, I slowly became a part of it, and it felt good. I, as most business pros, have a certain level of self-torment we put ourselves through, never happy with the job we are doing, always feeling like we aren’t doing enough or doing it right. The misery going on in Detroit gave me something more to worry about, something to attach myself to, something I started to become apart of. Twisted, I suppose so, but I got a lot of satisfaction talking to my peers about the situations that were going on, and as you know, there was a lot to talk about.
As I read your book, I had to give myself breaks, so I read a few chapters and then picked up the Bible to reverse some of the effects. As I was reading, I remembered living through these events, there I was, 25, putting everything on the line to build a business and a life for my wife, and myself and the city of Detroit was making a mockery of it, a mockery of my work, my persistence and my new life here. When it was happening I told myself Detroiters did this to each other. My perception was that everyone was ripping each other off and now it was coming back around. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The pain, the damage and the corruption didn’t come from the people of the city of Detroit. The people Detroiters trusted to steer them in the right direction stabbed them in the back. That is one thing everyone in the country should grasp from this autopsy, it wasn’t on the people of the city. Detroiters have been stripped of everything, not just jobs and neighborhoods; I’m talking about pride, hope, love and community. These things are necessary to live. When people lose hope, people lose themselves. And when people lose themselves horrible things happen. These are the things we are working to restore today. This is why I’m still here. This is the Detroit of today, battered and broken hearted but hopeful thanks to the people of this city.