Skip to main content

A Conversation with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan A Comeback for All


JPMorgan Chase’s Karen Persichilli Keogh talked with Mayor Duggan about how to create inclusive economic growth in Detroit so that both longtime residents and newcomers can thrive.

Mike Duggan
Karen Persichilli Keogh

Karen Persichilli Keogh: How is Detroit helping ensure that its recovery translates into economic opportunities for all Detroiters?

Mayor Mike Duggan: We are building a city where everyone who lives and works in Detroit is included in the comeback. Everything we do — from creating a trained workforce to revitalizing neighborhoods to developing housing — is focused on a strategy of inclusive growth that strengthens the economy while protecting existing residents. This is the only way that we’ll achieve long-term success. Through the hard work of our team, the help of our partners and the willingness of our residents, we are making great strides in creating more opportunity for more people.

KPK: I know you have made small business growth a priority. How does that tie into the larger inclusive growth strategy?

MD: We have a number of programs to deliver longtime Detroiters and people of color access to funds to make sure they can participate in the growth. This includes Motor City Match, which gives entrepreneurs $50,000 to start a business, as well as the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, which provides capital for minority businesses. These and other programs have been huge drivers for inclusive small business growth. We now have a culture in this city where new business owners know there is a whole range of resources available to them.

KPK: What is the key to more economic opportunity for Detroit’s youth?

MD: I’m a great believer that talent is distributed evenly across this country, but what isn’t distributed equally is opportunity. Our young people aren’t getting enough opportunity in schools and not enough opportunity in jobs. But if we don’t give our youth a good education and the skills to work, we won’t fundamentally change the trajectory of the city. There is no shortcut. We need to keep on creating paths of opportunity to make sure this recovery benefits everybody.

KPK: How are you creating these paths?

MD: We’ve kicked off Detroit Promise, where every student in Detroit public schools has two years of community college guaranteed. And we are very close to our goal of placing 8,000 Detroit youths into summer employment through our youth program, Grow Detroit’s Young Talent. Many of these kids have never had a paycheck or don’t know how to dress for work. But by the end of the summer, they’ll have a bank account and a good sense of what a particular job requires.

When it comes to our workforce, we are focusing on job training for people who are willing to work hard and get training for jobs that we actually need in this city. We are making progress: There are more people in Detroit working today than a year ago.

KPK: I know you are a metrics-driven leader. How are you using data to support the city’s recovery?

MD: Everything we do is data driven. On the blight side, the technology that we have is pretty remarkable. There are about 350,000 parcels of land in the city of Detroit, and we know the condition of every one of them — whether it’s an occupied house, a vacant house or a vacant lot. With this knowledge, we can move systematically with our demolition program. Another example is workforce: Through data, we know that there is a shortage of certain jobs such as coders, MRI and CT techs and the skilled trades. We have actually catalogued the jobs that someone with a high school degree and with additional training can be hired for and paid a good wage.

KPK: You ran on the campaign “Every Neighborhood Has a Future.” How are you implementing that vision?

MD: We have a vision of inclusive growth in Detroit’s neighborhoods based on building out from zones of density. We’ve taken the most densely populated neighborhoods and demolished burned-out homes and sold lots to people who are renovating them, planting gardens and putting in swing sets. We are creating “20-minute neighborhoods” that focus on filling in vacant apartment buildings, creating retail spaces in main corridors and building greenways to create communities where people can walk or bike to everything they need. We can’t compete with the suburbs, and we don’t want to. A huge segment of millennials want to be in urban environments where they are closely connected with other people.

KPK: What is the role of the private sector in helping address issues facing communities like Detroit?

MD: We can’t rebuild Detroit with city government alone. In an age of constricted municipal budgets, public-private partnerships are essential in addressing our most pressing needs. We have been extremely lucky with a number of corporate partners helping out with Detroit’s recovery in critical areas such as housing and technology. And we welcome private companies that open businesses, create jobs and become engaged in civic affairs. The catalytic effect of investment in this city cannot be overstated. JPMorgan Chase has set an example that investing in communities like Detroit brings strong social and capital returns.

KPK: How will you know when you have succeeded in achieving your vision for Detroit?

MD: Things are getting better and people believe in the future, but we still have a long way to go. The population of Detroit has dropped every year for 60 years. When you are heading in the wrong direction, residents and businesses move out. When you are doing the right thing, people move here and stay. I will know we have succeeded when we reverse population decline in the city.

“Everything we do — from creating a trained workforce to revitalizing neighborhoods, to developing housing — is focused on a strategy of inclusive growth that strengthens the economy while protecting existing residents.”

This conversation took place in December 2016.