Free Enterprise Staff  | July 17, 2015

Detroit Post-Bankruptcy: Many Changes, With More to Come

July 18th marks the anniversary of Detroit’s bankruptcy. So, how’s the city faring two years after it declared insolvency?

Following a 17-month restructuring period, Detroit emerged from financial ruins—it was the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history—in December of 2014. Starting from scratch is no easy task, but the city has thus far been able to successfully dig itself out of the economic hole exacerbated by years of mismanagement and industry decline.

Detroit post bankruptcy is focusing on repairing its fragile startup and business economies. Much like the assembly lines that long characterized the city’s formerly unchallenged auto manufacturing sector, Detroit is taking a methodical approach toward rebuilding what was once one of the most populous and prosperous U.S. cities.

Business and government are working together to accomplish this goal, with Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert leading the way. Over the past five years, Gilbert has invested more than $1.6 billion in the city’s downtown area, moving thousands of his employees into the city. That’s helped lure startups and entrepreneurs to a city that has consistently lost population for the better part of the past half-century.

As part of the bankruptcy deal brokered by officials, Detroit has also set aside $1.7 billion to reorganize and upgrade the city’s long-flagging services. While these kinds of initiatives take time before their effects are felt, they are already helping boost confidence and enthusiasm in the city. The chorus of negativity that once surrounded the city is lifting, replaced by a mounting sense of optimism.

That’s having a positive effect on Detroit’s quality of life. After hitting record levels in the lead-up to bankruptcy, homicides are down, according to The New York Times. The city’s notoriously long response time—nearly an hour just five years ago—has fallen to 18 minutes, and crews are also beginning work to replace long-broken streetlights.

With blight removal projects similarly underway—the city had tens of thousands of abandoned buildings dotting its streets—more and more people are starting to view Detroit as a city on the rise. It’s these sorts of factors that are helping propel the city forward, earning it recognition in the recently released Innovation That Matters report. Though challenges undoubtedly remain, Detroit is blazing a path forward that, if successful, could serve as a model for hard-on-their-luck cities, both in the U.S. and abroad.