Let's Detroit home page
Ben Falik
By Ben Falik

I like to name things. Especially things I like that I think might like me back. But it’s not about me. To the contrary. Power? Privilege? Posterity? No doubt. Yet a good name has a stickiness and usefulness (glutility?) whose coinage outlasts its coiner. Don’t think Adam wandering fancy figleaf free in the Garden of Eden naming all that he sees (ex. McRib).

Instead, introducing a neologism (I didn’t make up that word) is more like Don Draper or Scuttle giving big Kodak executives and little mermaids the tools to efficiently and elegantly make sense of this crazy, mixed-up world.

So it was with Let’s Detroit. Sarah Craft, a dynamic Detroit community organizer, found herself at the helm of a promising Unnamed Project for the Detroit Regional Chamber, and I found myself generating every bad idea I could conjure. Ultimately, it was like naming Noah’s Arcade in Wayne’s World — “I just opened my mouth and out it came.” And ultimately, the name Let’s Detroit may be the least creative and compelling thing about it.

So, what is Let’s Detroit? Let’s start with what it isn’t: I’m a Believer, the $100,000 bankruptcy-era, Monkees/Shrek-inspired, billboard-intensive ad campaign — featuring such matinee idols as Elmore Leonard, Dick Purtan and Huel Perkins, along with a font called Crackhouse — whose penultimate Facebook post extols the 2012 opening of the country’s largest Buffalo Wild Wings Downtown and whose website now features high heels priced to sell in Swedish krona. So not that, though you haven’t heard the last from Sweden here.

Let’s Detroit website launched last week to do some strategic and savvy stuff — with something for everyone — as part of the Detroit Drives Degrees initiative “to increase the region’s postsecondary attainment rate to 60 percent and to reduce the equity gap by half by 2030.”

Here’s their take and mine:

Let's Detroit home page

Let’s Detroit is a regional initiative.

“Southeast Michigan is full of silos, and one goal is to improve regional unity, collaboration and equity to help people live their best lives here in Detroit and the region.”

Regionalism is the promised land. Even as Detroit’s Greater Downtown has gotten ever greater, we will keep wandering in the community and economic development desert until citizens and civic leaders alike embrace the interdependence of the metropolitan area. Just ask the 39 Macomb County voters who gave August’s SMART millage its .025 percent margin of victory how many potholes they dodged on their way to the polls.

I consider myself a regionalist and cannot claim to have ever availed myself of the amenities at the current corners Let’s Detroit’s “Find Your Place” map: Owosso (Steam Railroading Institute), Port Huron (Blue Water Riverwalk) or Monroe (River Raisin National Battlefield Park).

Find Your Place begins “New to Southeast Michigan and not sure where to settle in?” But those of us who have lived here practically our whole lives — creatures of habit or habitually creative — have just as much to gain from letting ourselves “Explore & Enjoy.”

To boot, anyone who still doesn’t understand why this is all “Detroit” can keep worshipping the false idols of sprawl, stratification and segregation — and join us in the 21st century if/when they’re ready.

Let's Detroit technology breakdown

Let’s Detroit is a connector.

“We want to make it easier for people to connect to each other, careers, things to do and ways to make an impact across our community. There are amazing people, organizations and initiatives that already exist, so we try to point people in the direction of those resources to make living in the region easier and even more fulfilling.

“But it’s not us telling people what to do; it’s you. Our goal is to create a platform that allows people who love where they live and what they do to connect to others — to help others find their fit.”

In Detroit, experience is expertise. The city’s and region’s experts are not Chamber of Commerce employees, journalists, bloggers or vloggers. They are the sloggers — local surfers who have learned, with time, how to ride the rustbelt waves through high tide and rip tide, to avoid flotsam and jetsam and to hear the sweet sounds of the city in a castoff conch.

Inspired by the 2016 Call A Swede campaign — “You will soon be connected to a random Swede somewhere in Sweden” — you can now text a Detroiter. A real human (one of whom is me) will text you back.

Even as robots have gotten increasingly proficient at parallel parking, matchmaking and Jeopardy, there’s no substitute for an actual person to point you in the right direction for finding a place to live, landing a dream job, volunteering and giving back, and learning about things to do.

“Let’s” (let us) has always struck me as a funny contraction — almost a contradiction in the way it is both an imperative and invitation (also iceberg), all for something you already have permission to do. Seems fitting for a place that has no shortage of fresh ideas and faces (also water), if we can just manage to get out of our own way.

So grab your Dinglehopper, Don, and let’s Detroit.

Let's Detroit work page