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Unfiltered: Why We Call Detroit Home

Hey, world: A Metro Detroit company is hiring.

Shocking, I know. Businesses are growing here. Despite the recession. Despite the state's hardships. Despite everything.

Meet one smart cookie named Jason Teshuba. He and three friends started Farmington Hills-based Mango Languages in August 2007. Mango Languages is a free online language learning system available through your local library via remote internet access. Today, Mango's language software is in one in five U.S. libraries, including some of the nation's largest systems like New York and Seattle.

And the company needs talent. They say they will add as many as 50 new employees into 2010. They want folks in the areas of software development, linguistics, interface design and management.

Oh, and Teshuba is 33 years old. Young, powerful and a Michigan resident. Boo-ya!


Why We Call Detroit Home

By Jason Teshuba, Chief Executive Officer, Mango Languages

As many Michiganders understand all too well, the ongoing recession has presented a number of challenges to residents and businesses in The Great Lakes State. The media narrative – that Detroit and Southeast Michigan have been hit particularly hard – only tells one part of the story, however. Because while the Motor City has been running a little rough in recent years, and area residents recognize more than anyone that this iconic American city is in need of an economic tune up, the fierce loyalty and passion for the place remains largely undiminished. The businesses and individuals who call Southeast Michigan home know what is behind the headlines: that Detroit and its surrounding communities remain a vibrant and engaging place to live and work; a region where the business environment, the lifestyle, the culture and the community represent something unique and irreplaceable – something worth preserving.

At Mango Languages, we are committed to remaining here in Michigan, and we are excited by the prospects of continuing to grow as Detroit and Southeast Michigan take the first steps on the road back to lasting economic prosperity. From our headquarters in Farmington Hills, just outside of Detroit, we see a one-of-a-kind region and an extraordinary city that is a little down on its luck, but still has a lot to offer area businesses. It is not entirely accurate to say that Mango Languages made a decision to stay in Southeast Michigan. Ultimately, there was no decision – this is home to all of us and the spirit and culture of the City of Detroit and the State of Michigan is an integral part of our collective personal and professional identity. But taking a step back and reflecting on what Michigan means to Mango, and what makes Detroit such a unique environment to build and operate a business – both the good and the bad – might provide some insight into why Mango Languages calls Southeast Michigan home.

As a firm whose immersion in the rapidly evolving world of language learning involves daily exposure to and interaction with a diverse group of people, places and ideas, we understand that geography is identity; culture is character. To a large extent, where you are is inextricably linked to who you are. And while the media portrayal of Detroit's economic hardships has focused heavily on a troubled automotive industry and a city that is beset by the twin burdens of an outdated economic model and a national recession, our perspective from here on the ground reveals a much more nuanced and appealing portrait of a resilient and complex urban center. For a language learning company like Mango, the diversity and international influence in the Detroit area is a phenomenal asset. Detroit's location – positioned at a key intersection between two countries – grants the city status as an urban gateway on one of the busiest international borders in the world. The result is more than just national and international diversity; on a practical level, companies with an international focus like Mango Languages are able to take advantage of a deep and diverse talent pool. Mango works closely with course developers, linguists, editors and other international language experts, and the resources and expertise available to an ambitious and energetic business is second to none. The cost of living in Southeast Michigan is low, and there is an abundance of quality universities in the region. One of those university towns, Ann Arbor, is home to a large number of innovative and industry-leading software companies. And with software and hi-tech businesses an increasingly prominent feature on the regional economic landscape, tech-focused companies like ours are able to enjoy the luxury of drawing from an expanding talent base of highly educated and inspired young professionals.

For Mango, another appealing aspect of Southeast Michigan is the way in which the region's residents and businesses have responded to challenging times with gritty resilience and dogged optimism. There is a feeling of solidarity and community among Michigan businesses; a feeling that we are all in it together. There is no doubt that the automotive industry has had a defining impact on the mindset and professional culture of the region, contributing to the gritty, hard-working mentality that is a recognizable Detroit character trait. In fact, several of Mango's current employees have come to us from the automotive industry. For all of its international flavor, Detroit is, at its core, a uniquely American City; a Midwestern community built on a framework of traditional notions of hard work and innovation; a formula for success that is equal parts inspiration and perspiration. The notion of family for those of us who have grown up here is not taken lightly, and our collective hopes for a prosperous future center on our ability to come together to continue to build on a strong cultural and economic foundation. Area residents and businesses are looking for optimism and inspiration in the examples of other blue-collar cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland that have overcome tough times to experience an urban renaissance.

This is not to sugarcoat the very real economic issues – some of them structural and pervasive – that face the region. Michigan as a whole, and Southeast Michigan and Detroit in particular, are in a period of transition. But for businesses like Mango Languages, integrating the best of the unique and defining commercial, community and cultural assets that this area has to offer has been anything but a burden. In fact, it has been a rich and rewarding experience. The bottom line is that for those of us that live and work in and around Detroit, the reasons to stay here outweigh the reasons to leave. Ultimately, everything we need is here. More importantly, everything we love is here. Both for Mango Languages' employees personally and for our company as a whole, “Michiganese” is a language that we all speak fluently, and our shared Detroit vocabulary of perseverance, hard work, innovation and optimism is a dialect that needs no translation.

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  • 1

    Fantastic Story!

    I'm glad to hear that there are wonderful people and companies in Detroit making things happen.

    I wish them the best of luck and I'm going to be sure to check Mango Languages out my next trip to the library!

  • 2

    That is amazing! I am so proud of Mango for sticking it out in Detroit and contributing to it's rennesiance. Keep up the good work Mango men and women!

  • 3

    Excellent article and SE Michigan is lucky to have Mango Languages. The author tells a poignant story of what makes this region unique and why his business gains a competitive advantage by being here.

    My question is why Mango Languages chose to locate in Farmington Hills rather than downtown? Would Mr. Teshuba ever consider moving his business downtown and if so, what factors would be relevant in that decision making process? Does he notice any difference between younger vs older workers in terms of a desire to work in a downtown location?

  • 4

    So cool.. and timely for me.
    I was speaking with a friend last night who had just taken a position at Mango and is enamored with it.

    The company has a process for teaching foreign languages that differs from the "tried and true" method of teaching people verbs and their conjugative forms.

    Ready for it? It's breakthrough... better sit down first.... here we go... they teach you to *speak* the language.

    I know, mind blowing. But no one's done it till now... if you want to speak another language you want to learn phrases and sentences... Mango teaches that.

  • 5

    [...] and tough times. We wanted to share our view of this wonderful city and Time let us. Click here to read our version of the Detroit [...]

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