Techonomy Detroit touts technology as key to city’s revival

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Detroit – — Love your city and want to show it off?

That was the question behind the #LoveMyCity contest, the winner of which was showcased Tuesday at Techonomy Detroit — a conference about how technology can spawn economic growth, job creation and urban revival.

Sponsored by Ford Motor Co. and the video editing app Magisto, the contest brought in hundreds of submissions from 50 cities around the world. But it demonstrated the power of technology and how Detroit can tap into it and be on par with cities around the globe.

“It shows how ... technology can be used by everyday people to share information,” said Reid Genauer, Magisto’s chief marketing officer. “It put Detroit on the same playing field as other cities, and repositions how the world views Detroit.”

Now in its third year, Techonomy Detroit featured conversations with leaders in business, technology, government and academia about how to move the city into a technologized future.

Organizers have long eyed the city to host the event since the themes of the conference are national competitiveness, jobs, urban revival and education.

“Detroit was the tech epicenter,” said Joshua Kampel, president of Techonomy. “It was the Silicon Valley before Silicon Valley. This was where innovation was happening.”

The conference attracted numerous technology titans, including Jack Dorsey, co-founder and co-creator of Twitter. He said building a city requires giving local stakeholders data from technology that allows them to make more insightful decisions.

“The more we surface what is actually happening in the city in real time and we build technologies to get insight from those, we can make better decisions about what a city needs and we can build a stronger economy ultimately and a stronger civic society,” he said.

Danae Ringelmann, founder of the crowd-funding platform Indiegogo, spoke of the importance of building an inclusive tech industry. “When everyone knows they have an equal shot in a conversation, they are much more engaged in that conversation,” she said.

Zach Sims — CEO and co-founder of Codecademy, which aims to close the technological skills gap — talked about how to create a workforce that matches labor needs.

“With what Detroit is trying to do in terms of urban revival, in terms of creating a workforce that will make it again a great American city, I’m here to talk about the education needed to make that happen,” Sims said.

The night before, Sims heard Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert talk about how there are thousands of jobs throughout his company and across the state in other companies that cannot be filled because people lack the needed skills. “We think we can be on the forefront in the training to help fill those jobs, and help Detroit rise back to prominence,” Sims said.

Erin Henigin of Ypsilanti won the #LoveMyCity video contest. Henigin, a business analyst at Title Source, an arm of Quicken Loans, made the video from footage she shot with her smartphone and imported into Magisto.

“Detroit is fun, it’s exciting, there is so much to do,” said Henigin, who shot the photos in her video during her lunch hour. “I like to bring people down here because so much has changed in the last two years. Detroit’s coming back.”