Bankruptcy filing paves way for reinvention of Detroit

Today, Detroit’s Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr filed a volunteer petition for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder authorized the filing soon afterward. The city is currently faced with an insurmountable $18.5 billion debt which simply cannot be tackled under present conditions. A problem that has been several decades in the making finally reached the breaking point.

As a multi-generational Detroiter and someone who is passionate about rebuilding our beloved city, you might think this news would be devastating to me. In fact, I feel just the opposite.

Today’s announcement represents decisive action and a commitment to ensuring a bright future for our city. While the news is making headlines now, the problems were created long ago. The action today is not a setback, but an important and positive step forward in Detroit’s rebirth.

Today, Orr made the courageous decision to finally draw a line in the sand. For a half-century, government fat cats, reckless city politicians and power-hungry unions simply kicked the can down the road, resting on their laurels and saluting the flag of the past. That formula led to decay from within, one day at a time — for literally decades. While the media has thrust the spotlight on our city today, these long-standing issues – stifling bureaucracies, corruption, and scattered blame without solutions – didn’t swell overnight. So while we will experience pain in the near term , these challenges will be felt for a finite period of time. From there, we can move beyond this heavy moment with a truly fresh start, emerging with a spirit of reinvention.

I applaud both Kevyn Orr and Governor Snyder for their action; today, they made the right choice – even if it’s not the easy one to have made. In the governor’s video and accompanying statement, he explained, “By filing for bankruptcy, Detroit can get back on the right path.” For this, I stand strong with Snyder. Today, I’m drawing my own line in the sand – I’m not going anywhere, and I speak for the vibrant business community within the city’s limits, too. We’re in a time of thriving resiliency and couldn’t be more excited for what’s to come.

Our city has followed a specific legal course to reorganize, named Chapter 9 Bankruptcy. However, our city is not ‘bankrupt’, and we’re certainly not done fighting. Yes, today is difficult. It’s crucial that we don’t underestimate the gravity of this situation. Tomorrow will not be all sunshine and rainbows either. However, what’s at stake is the day after that – what rests just on the other side of this Chapter 9, in a proverbial “Chapter 10”? To what new beginnings can we look toward? To what new heights can we strive to reach?

I’m a firm believer that when I look back in decades, this five-year period will be the stint that I tell my grandkids about. That this period was the time during which Detroit got its mojo back – and today’s announcement sets the public sector on a course to do just that.

I’m choosing to view this moment as a chance to recalibrate, reinvent, and revitalize. Many of my partners in the private sector share the same confidence in our ability to move beyond this, and we ask you to join us, by keeping the days and weeks after tomorrow in our minds. We stand with the city during this difficult time, but today, as always, I’m proud to say Detroit is my hometown. It will still my town tomorrow, the day after, and in the years to come.

Ultimately, I believe that Detroit will be studied for decades to come as the greatest turnaround story in American history. Today marks an important step in that journey, as we Detroiters march confidently toward a brighter future.

Josh Linkner is a New York Times best-selling author and the chief executive officer of Detroit Venture Partners. He is an expert in business innovation and was a keynote speaker at the BizExpo in Milwaukee. For more insight on creativity and innovation, visit This column originally appeared at and is being republished by BizTimes with the author’s permission.

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