Support for Detroit

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As I’m sure you’ve heard, the City of Detroit, site of next year’s National Main Streets Conference, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in federal court last Thursday. As headlines across the nation point out, Detroit becomes the largest municipality to ever file for bankruptcy. This filing has major implications for the future of Detroit and numerous cities around the country facing similar situations.

No doubt you have also seen images on the news of the blight and other challenges facing the city. However, despite this news, we are still looking forward to Detroit hosting our conference next May 18-21. Why? Simply put, we see bankruptcy as a re-boot of the city’s economy—as an opportunity for growth and regeneration, not as a signal to cut and run. No one knows more about restarting communities than Main Street, with its 30+ year track record of re-energizing communities and a proven strategy for doing so.

We need look no farther than Michigan to see evidence of the Main Street Approach’s success. With three Great American Main Street Award winners in the last four years and a track record of stimulating more than $674 million in private investment and nearly 8,000 new jobs, Michigan offers abundant examples of civic leaders, citizens, and business owners overcoming the obstacles to downtown revitalization, capitalizing on their advantages, and preserving their heritage.

The National Main Streets Conference is a golden opportunity, much in the way our 2006 annual conference in post-Katrina New Orleans was, to bring the best Main Street has to bear on a city very much in transition. We will not only be coming with our toolbox of best practices and time-tested solutions, but with an open mind as well, eager to learn from Detroit as a laboratory for fresh ideas, including the use of art and culture to drive regeneration, urban farming on vacant land, pop-ups in empty buildings, and entrepreneurism of all kinds.

As Main Streeters, we see Detroit’s challenges as opportunities and are inspired by the many talented people working together to make Detroit and Michigan a better place. Come see their innovative work for yourself, and lend your expertise and support to the Motor City.

Warm Regards,

Patrice Frey,
President & CEO, National Main Street Center, Inc.