Pure Michigan Panel invites Detroit professionals to share experiences, opportunities


Pure Michigan held a panel of guest speakers on Thursday, March 6 at Oakland University in the Fireside Lounge to discuss Detroit’s economic and job potential. The guest speakers were all professionals based in the Detroit area.

Pure Michigan at Oakland University is a student organization dedicated to connecting students with professionals and businesses in southeastern Michigan.

Included in the panel were Justin Jacobs, owner and founder of Come Play Detroit; Matthew Roling, Director of Business Development for Rock Ventures; Olga Stella, Vice President of Business Development at the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; and Cory Wright, founder and Principal of Mitten Crate. Pure Michigan President John McCarter provided questions for the panelists throughout the discussion.

The panel was held to illustrate for students how the Detroit area holds potential as a place to start a career. Each of the panelists told stories about being drawn to the city and eventually calling it home. They also brought attention to its areas of recent growth, such as organic farming, creative institutions and green technology.

One of the terms mentioned by Wright was “ruin porn,” which he described as the media’s constant labeling of Detroit as a totally broken, terrible place to live. He said that this is not necessarily fair.

“I think there’s a lot of really positive stuff going on in Detroit,” Wright said, citing the growing food and art scenes.

Wright compared his time in Detroit to his experience living and working in Brooklyn, New York, which he said was expensive and confining. He said he discovered a new liberty back here in Detroit.

Stella mentioned Atlanta, Denver and Portland as “high-functioning” cities, and then made a comparison: she said they were all the same size as Detroit but had fewer people. According to her, Detroit had the power to work toward these examples.

Stella also said she has felt relatively secure living in the city.

“I keep my wits about me, but I’ve never felt unsafe.” Stella said. “I’ve always felt like I could go wherever I wanted to go to have a great time, and to have a great life.”

“We’re at this really unique point in the city’s history where we can redefine it,” Roling said.

He described the amount of vacant land and the investment currently flowing into Detroit. He also listed the city’s growing centers of inhabitation, including Midtown, Corktown and Lafayette Park.

“We can really build this city to be whatever we want it to be,” Roling said.

McCarter said that he was “blown away” by the event’s outcome. He said he met some of the talk’s speakers at a conference put on by the Michigan Economic Developers Association last year – their stories inspired him to bring them to OU.

“I just thought it was a great opportunity to show what Michigan had to offer,” McCarter said.