Jay Leno's cracks about Detroit in his Monday monologue got Dan Gilbert, Matt Cullen and other Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures honchos riled up Tuesday.
"Jay Leno jumped on Detroit's police unions for passing out literature saying the city's not safe," said Gilbert, Quicken's chairman and driving force in promoting downtown Detroit into an entrepreneurial hub. "What can we do about people destroying the reputation of our city, locally and nationally?"
Gilbert's comments came as he led a panel discussion about Detroit's downtown revival efforts, during a three-day "family reunion" of 215 leaders from Quicken and 62 of its affiliated companies, ranging from Detroit Venture Partners to the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team.
Matt Cullen, president of the Rock Ventures group that oversees Detroit redevelopment projects, Ohio casinos and other Quicken-family ventures, joined Gilbert on the panel and talked about it being "both the best of times and worst of times for Detroit."
Disparaging quotes from Leno and others about Detroit are inevitable in the wake of scandals that forced police chief Ralph Godbee's resignation this week and led to the ongoing trial of ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Cullen said.
"Just as General Motors during the last five years could not outrun the legacy costs that were sinking it, the same is true now for the city," said Cullen, a former GM executive before joining Gilbert's group in 2008. It's time, Cullen said, for Detroit's business and civic leadership to "call the question. It's time to take on the structural issues. Let's start doing the hard stuff. We can't make an omelet without broken eggs. It's going to be messy."
Cullen said ongoing efforts to create what Gilbert has called a big bang of explosive growth and movement of young talent into Detroit "is going to be one of the most looked-at experiences in the U.S. The scale of what's being done here is unprecedented."
But meanwhile, the city will take its lumps as scandals, crime and economic distress continue to plague Detroit.
"We need to get Jay Leno here," Gilbert said, presumably to show the comedian the positive momentum of Midtown and new business activity.
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