THE BLOG

How the Innovation Economy Will Revitalize the Motor City's Future

02/21/2014 09:27 am ET | Updated Apr 23, 2014
  • Gary Shapiro President and CEO, the Consumer Technology Association

In a way, it's fitting that Detroit plans to unveil its bankruptcy plan during "Detroit Week," a celebration of the entrepreneurs and innovators who are bringing hope and promise to the struggling city. While national news focuses on Detroit's bankruptcy, the events of Detroit Week, Feb. 17-23, highlight how the city's entrepreneurs are building a bright economic future and thriving cultural scene in the Motor City.

Entrepreneurship and innovation will bring Detroit back to life. Entrepreneurs are uniquely positioned to recognize the promise of Detroit, because they understand the value of failure better than anyone else. And innovators understand how a city can learn from mistakes and move forward. As a resident of Birmingham, I see first-hand the progress being made in southeastern Michigan; artist studios now fill abandoned buildings, new shops and restaurants are opening and a host of tech incubators and business-friendly resources are cropping up around the region.

The city's bankruptcy is certainly lamentable, but it is also a necessary step on the road to full economic health. As many of the city's entrepreneurs recognize, the only place to go from here is up. Detroit's city government must cut costs and control spending, but this back-against-the-wall position presents an opportunity for small businesses and others in the private sector to step up and re-envision the city's future.

As see every year at the International CES, bringing together industry and thought leaders with rising talent drives innovation. Throughout Detroit Week, the city's entrepreneurs have opportunities to discuss ideas, collaborate and meet potential investors, partners and employees. Many local businesses have gotten in on the action, offering promotions like discounts on Great Lakes coffee and free rides to events through Uber Detroit. From workshops and networking events to fun opportunities like Detroit's Largest Selfie, Detroit Week has brought people together to create a real community of innovation.

More, the events are aimed at giving aspiring entrepreneurs the inspiration and tools they need to launch their own businesses. An ongoing series called Fifty Founders gathers entrepreneurs together to share their experiences, rewarding the best startup business pitch. Workshops on practical topics like branding and JavaScript give startups expert tips to take their business to the next level. Seasoned business vets give advice and encouragement to those just starting out.

Detroit Week shines a spotlight on the entrepreneurs who trying to revitalize the city's future. Now that years of financial struggles and failed government-led efforts to spur regeneration are ending in bankruptcy, Detroit offers a blank slate and entrepreneurs are leaping at the opportunity to write the city's next chapter. More, bankruptcy will actually reduce future costs, which will leave breathing room for growth. Young people who want to launch a business see that Detroit offers opportunity, low cost of living and a cool urban environment, as well as an increasingly inviting climate for innovation.

Detroit's bankruptcy blueprint is a sobering reminder that the city still faces some challenging times. But Detroit Week offers a refreshing glimpse into the innovation that's already turning things around for the Motor City. Detroit isn't going to just survive -- as it continues to develop its entrepreneurial culture, it's going to thrive. I'm excited to see what the future holds for this great city. And if Detroit Week is any indication, that future will be filled with possibilities.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own. Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.