Residents: Bankruptcy Put Motor City Back on Track
DETROIT, Mich. -- In December 2014, Detroit, Michigan, exited from the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.
Now, city leaders say they hope Motor City can make an economic comeback while admitting they are not out of the woods yet.
In its glory years, Detroit made its name producing fast cars and that great Motown sound. But when the city fell on tough times, the music stopped.
Once home to 1.8 million people, the city's population dropped by 60 percent, leaving nearly 80,000 buildings sitting empty.
Collapsing under an $18 billion debt, in 2013, the city filed for bankruptcy.
In less than two years, that tune has changed and some, like Lawrence Williamson with Midtown Detroit, feel that Motown is on the rebound.
"I've seen progress," Williamson told CBN News. "I've seen street lights come back on. I've seen new development happening. I see property values going up, there are more occupied structures."
Williamson said Detroit's economic downfall was a good thing for the city.
"Right after we sort of hit rock bottom and was declared bankrupt that's when we started to get a lot of calls from outside investors, outside interest groups, saying, 'I'm interested in investing in Detroit,'" he explained.
That interest even extends to Midtown Detroit, which was once one of the city's roughest neighborhoods.
"Over the last two years, 2013, 2014, 100 new businesses have located in midtown, 100 new businesses," Williamson said.
Quicken Loans Founder and Detroit-native Dan Gilbert has spent more than $1.6 billion fixing up his hometown.
He has been buying up vacant buildings and luring tech companies to set up shop. He not only updates properties, but Gilbert has also moved his employees into many of them.
Williamson told CBN News he brought in not just his business but all of his employees who, in turn, needed housing, which, in turn, "need consumer spending which is restaurants, bars, grocery stores."
Not There Yet
While there are signs of better days ahead for Detroit, many say a lot more work needs to be done, especially when it comes to jobs and the city's poor.
Chad Audi of Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries said losing the bankruptcy label is just the beginning of the city's economic turnaround.
"We still have a high number of homeless people who are on the streets of Detroit," Audi said. "We still have a lot of blight and we don't hide that but we're going in the right direction and the city."
Thousand Police Officers Lost
At the height of its economic struggles, city officials made deep cuts in city services, including fire and police departments.
Officer John Bennett has been a Detroit cop for 16 years.
"We've lost in the police department a thousand officers that haven't been replaced in the last five to six years," he told CBN News in a 2013 interview.
Today, he said he is cautiously optimistic that things are getting better for his city.
"Downtown and the midtown areas, like any major metropolis, those areas are probably going to strive," Bennett explained.
"They're going to be fine but we have to find a way to move that energy to the neighborhoods and get that growth in the neighborhoods and bring jobs to the people who are in the neighborhoods and make those people safe," he argued.
While it's good news that the worst financial crisis in Detroit's history is in the rear view mirror, Audi said it will make more than money to move things forward.
He told CBN News how his organization is helping to make things to prosper the city.
"We are playing a role because we work with people and without people you cannot revitalize anything," he explained. "We restore people's lives."