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Can Boomerangs Turn Detroit into the Next Great Tech Hub?

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According to a recent article on the tech site Re/code, Detroit’s burgeoning reputation as a hub for technological start-ups has one phenomenon to thank: boomeranging.

Though the term “boomerang” has mostly been associated with employment-challenged millennials moving back in with their parents, the boomerangs of Detroit are mostly young people who were inspired to return out of a sense of loyalty for the city where they grew up.

The city of Detroit currently holds less than half the population it did only 65 years ago, leaving the area at risk to fall into urban blight. For many young people with family in the area, the crisis signified a chance to move back and make a difference.

Boomerangs that move back to the area are moving back to build businesses, attract investors and rejuvenate the city where they grew up. Many of the young innovators are moving to neighborhoods like Midtown and Downtown.

A new incubator space in Midtown called TechTown has sprung up to accommodate them, and they’ll soon be able to move between the neighborhoods using the M1 light rail project, which was paid for mostly using private funds.

A small group of recent college grads have also made Detroit their home as part of the Venture for America program, which is essentially the tech equivalent of Teach for America. The students purchased an $8,000 house and are creating their own start-ups on the run-down property.

Some boomerangs who’ve made their fortunes with tech start-ups elsewhere are buying up and renovating older buildings to rent out to other businesses and start-ups. Others have moved their business operations there to support the community.

“Anything you’re doing here makes a statement,” Ben Bator, founder of the profitable humor website Texts From Last Night, told Re/Code. “The conscious decision to move to Detroit and to make it your home says something.”

The cost also has an appeal. There’s plenty of available space in Detroit and it comes at a fairly cheap price. The downside is that much of the older architecture requires expensive renovations.

Though the strides that have already been made are promising, several Detroit natives are choosing to wait a little longer before moving back. Many believe that the city’s comeback needs to be a bit more evident before they return.

Some just aren’t convinced that tech has the staying power to revitalize a city, even though a tech solution like content marketing generates three times the leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less. But for the boomerangs who are investing in the city, seeing their hometown restored to its former glory is worth the risk.

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