Detroit’s expats say city has ‘phenomenal ideas’

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Expats visiting the Motor City for the Detroit Homecoming had their eyes opened this week, many said, heaping praise on the city’s accomplishments and considering their own role in its resurgence.

“Detroit doesn’t need ideas. It has phenomenal ideas. It needs doers,” said expat Rachel Jacobs who now resides in New York. “My challenge to expats is who will raise their hand and be a doer in Detroit?”

Jacobs, who started the local networking group Detroit Nation in 2009 that has 10,000 members on its mailing list, was among 150 expats who returned to Detroit this week for the Detroit Homecoming.

The event was created by city business leaders and philanthropist to offer former Detroiters the chance to reconnect and reinvest as the city moves through bankruptcy and embraces dozens of initiatives aimed at revitalization.

Speakers include philanthropist Eli Broad and Bloomberg President Dan Doctoroff, Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert and investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett.

The Homecoming was held over three days with a packed agenda that included immersion tours throughout the city in areas of innovation, manufacturing, real estate and culture. There was also a concert at Chene Park, dinners at the David Whitney Building, batting practice at Comerica Park and driverless vehicles on Belle Isle.

Expat Sloan Eddleston, a Bloomfield Hills native, now works in New York for the New Republic. He was impressed with the event’s attendees and speakers, but what really caught his attention was how in sync local and state government leaders are with the business and philanthropic community.

“They are all working together really well and there is a central vision,” Eddleston said. “People like me who’ve been out of the game for a while, I’ve been hearing a lot of interesting things. With the event I could comprehensively see everything.”

Expat Sara Jane Boyers said she wasn’t sure she was coming back to Detroit but she planned on creating a photographic book exhibition on Detroit in the next year. Born in Detoit, Boyers and her family left when she was 1 year old. She now lives in California where she writes a blog on Detroit.

“There are 20 million books on Detroit, but I think there is room for a lot more because it’s a city in change,” Boyers said. “The Homecoming is effective for everyone. Many haven’t been back for 30 years. People are thinking. There are people who are willing to start businesses and invest. There are things to do here.”