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Unfiltered: Mike Han on Transforming Detroit

Recently, I've been following the adventures of Mike Han, a Detroiter whose words and actions support the city in every way.

He is co-publisher of I Am Young Detroit, a blog/movement that celebrates the young people who are actively changing this city's environment. He also is the brains behind Street Culture Mash, a brand of sorts that encompasses everything from clothing to accessories to art. He encourages other “doers” to become more thoughtful about the things they are creating. He's inspired and an inspiration.

Last week, Han attended “Transformation Detroit,” the three-day event sponsored by the Detroit Regional News Hub and others to inform local and national reporters about the state of the city. I asked if he would write up his impressions of the event…and he took some time out to give us a great, great read. Han is the kind of person is WILL CHANGE Detroit. Please, check it out.

By Mike Han

Transformation Detroit was a two day joyride that began inside the Taubman Center with an address by Mayor Bing. He sat on a panel with business and foundation leaders to discuss our ‘situation.' The talks were appropriate but in general they played it safe...I was hoping for a little more substance.

For me, the most profound experience was had in the field as Detroiters in their element shared their passions with us. Jeanette Pierce of Inside Detroit loaded us onto a bus and I felt like I was 15 again...field trip! I bounced in my seat overwhelmed with excitement as the scenic motor city cascaded through the windows. For those that don't know, Jeanette's enthusiasm and passion is more than contagious. She somehow managed to make me feel even more excited about a city that I already thought was amazing! She rattled off facts--little nuggets of information at every turn that made me feel like I was in a real life VH1 pop up video.

Tech Town is where smart people make things. It's the world's largest incubator I'm told, and it's filled with local science and technology leaders. Bigger doesn't always mean better (sorry Texas), but their growth is necessary, both figuratively and literally, as they currently maintain an extensive waiting list. Since their inception, they estimate that they've created over 3000 jobs! Awesome.

Words of entrepreneurial wisdom were shared by Cynthia Pasky, she's the president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions. She believes that young people and entrepreneurship are the keys to success of our city. This really hit close to home for me because this is exactly the sentiment we're trying impress with I Am Young Detroit. With our January launch, we're really hoping to show the rest of the world what young creatives, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders (whom we like to call DOERS) are doing to redesign our city.

Detroit must be a city of ideas that work, and Cynthia's advice to budding entrepreneurs was simple yet powerful: “make it too difficult for them to say no.” For entrepreneurs looking to start their business, she encourages them to start with the New Economy Initiative as their mission is to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurship in the Southeastern Region.

Michael Score, president of Hantz Farms, entertained the audience with his charisma, southern drawl, and fancy boots. He spoke of Hantz becoming a global agricultural innovation center, they plan on training and educating the community on the subjects of agriculture and growing a tremendous food system in an urban environment. I suppose with a surplus of fresh fruits and vegetables we might just be able to ween ourselves off of those tasty raccoons!

The opportunity in Detroit is real. From Tech Town to Next Wave, Bizdom U to the Green Garage, business incubators are giving support to a new creator-based economy. There are grassroots efforts that have established deep roots like Heidelberg and Earthworks which have inspired others to breathe life into their own projects.

Detroiters are problem-solving and building businesses that address the community's needs. They are creating, adding value and contributing to the community in a more passionate and powerful way.

Two such examples that were tour stops were Avalon Bakery and Goodwell's Natural Foods Market. Both have been wildly successful and have become staples in the community.

I love that we're a city of substance and not just speculation. The Detroit doers hustle harder and we are growing in numbers as momentum is building. Each doer is helping Detroit paint a collective picture of resurgence, renaissance, and a vibrant creative economy. I'm so excited for our city! We are witnesses and change-makers in one of the most innovative and hard working cities in the world. I hope Transformation Detroit opens some eyes and encourages others to join us in redesigning the future.

With Detroit Spirit & Sincerity,

Mike Han
Co-Publisher of I Am Young Detroit
Founder of Street Culture Mash

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