It takes a keen understanding of the word "opportunity" to follow state intervention into Detroit's bleak financial affairs with a play for Silicon Valley hotshots.
But that's what Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans Inc. and his family of companies are doing with their unambiguous effort Monday to woo to Detroit some of the 2,000 soon-to-be-former employees of Yahoo Inc., the flailing Internet company laying off employees in a desperate search to find its way.
Is Gilbert crazy or smart?
The latter, without question. Because as much as the city's widely chronicled financial collapse into a consent agreement with Gov. Rick Snyder and the state Treasury Department is a cautionary tale about Detroit's deep dysfunction, it's also evidence that a long-impenetrable wall of denial is beginning to crumble under the weight of financial reality.
And that's more good than bad — as much as the city's heads-in-the-sand crowd and suburbia's they'll-never-fix-it cynics may refuse to acknowledge it. Detroit is poised to unwind decades of bad management, unnecessary costs, uncompetitive functions and redundant departments, and key leaders are betting they'll get more right than wrong in the months and years ahead.
Gilbert is not alone. Along the spine of downtown, a growing cadre of for-profit and nonprofit leaders — and outsiders, more importantly — is seeing opportunity in Detroit and showing it by doubling down on a place many of its own people have abandoned and given up for dead.
Maybe the homers resigned to the alleged inevitability of collapse don't know opportunity, at least one of the business kind, when it's right in front of them. Automakers led by outsiders with no previous connections to the city or the companies they head are adding shifts, consolidating staff in the city where appropriate and targeting charitable giving, and Chrysler Group LLC is poised to open its own downtown office.
Gilbert's effort to assemble a high-tech hub in his expanding real estate empire along Woodward Avenue is unspooling steadily despite the city's fiscal troubles, the latest coup being a Detroit office for the microblogging site Twitter. GalaxE Solutions Inc., a New Jersey-based information technology services firm, is spearheading an "Outsource to Detroit" initiative.