Talking Ag Tech, Bridging the Ann Arbor-Detroit Gap at U-M Unconference

2/8/13Follow @XconomyDET

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and plans to run a 5K in Hamtramck this weekend where participants are given a paczki and a beer instead of the traditional t-shirt or water bottle.

Raudwerdink told two stories that he thought represented the old way of thinking about Detroit and the new way. The old way: He went with a friend some years ago to look at a house for sale in the Boston Edison neighborhood, one of the finest in the city. The realtor showed up but refused to take the prospective buyer inside until a police escort showed up. The cop came, checked the house for squatters, and, after the all-clear was given, they proceeded with the tour. Needless to say, with a process that frightening, Raudwerdink’s friend didn’t buy the house.

More recently, Raudwerdink took a well-known Ann Arbor family—”so well known that if I said their name, you’d all recognize it”—out for a dinner meeting in the Greektown section of downtown Detroit. The wife was charmed by the hustle and bustle of that part of the city, which is also close to where the Detroit Lions and Tigers play. “We should come back for a baseball game,” the wife urged the husband. It then came out in conversation that this family, who had lived 45 miles up the road from Detroit for 20 years, had never once been to a Tigers game. I unfortunately hear stories like this more often than I should.

It’s a hard, deeply entrenched stereotype to break, this idea that Detroit doesn’t have anything to offer Ann Arbor, and it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Dug Song and I recently talked at length about Detroit and how much he loves the city. Maybe it’s time for places like Tech Brewery to lead a field trip to Detroit, and then maybe DVP could host one to check out the soon-to-open skate park Song’s spent the last few years building. Now, especially with the Madison Building churning out startups at a steady pace, Detroit’s entrepreneurs have a lot in common with Ann Arbor’s.

Actually, Detroit does have a lot to offer Ann Arbor—a soul, a drive, and a gritty sense of DIY innovation that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else. Sure, Ann Arbor may have more organic grocery stores than Detroit does, but I bet it doesn’t have 5Ks that involve thousand-calorie pastries and beer. Detroit can likewise benefit from the incredible depth of knowledge, entrepreneurial success, and investment capital in Ann Arbor. Content will go up early next week on the Entrepreneurs Engage website that will enable further discussion. There’s no excuse—let’s get started bridging the gap to bring these two entrepreneurial ecosystems closer.

Sarah Schmid is the editor of Xconomy Detroit. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @XconomyDET

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  • http://twitter.com/dugsong Dug Song

    Actually, Ann Arbor does have an annual 5k Twinkie run https://www.facebook.com/pages/April-Fools-Twinkie-Run/415084645173893 and a local Hash House Harriers chapter. But who’s counting? ;-)

    It’s true, there is a cultural and infrastructural gap separating the People’s Republic of Ann Arbor from the D. One day, I hope to see the hard line at 275 erased by something like http://fwrail.org

  • http://www.xconomy.com/detroit Sarah Schmid

    How could I forget Hash Bash?! That freshwater rail idea is awesome. Might make a good Xconomy story, in fact. Thanks for the tip, Dug!