Gilbert takes his talents and company to Detroit

CBS

DETROIT - There's a revival sprouting in the Motor City, which almost no one in Detroit expected.

Dan Gilbert, majority owner of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers and founder of Quicken Loans the nation's largest online mortgage lender, is leading a migration to downtown Detroit, where one in four workers is jobless. CBS News correspondent Dean Reynolds reports by last count, 48 office buildings downtown were empty.

Gilbert's taking a bet on Detroit. "It's a good city to bet on, because although the city's been down, it's rarely been out."

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He loves Detroit. He grew up here and heard tales from his father and grandfather about the city's heyday as the arsenal of democracy and carmaker to the world. "Certainly it would be a very cool thing, I guess, for myself and others who have heard that from our fathers and grandfathers to be part of a generation that helped bring it back to where it was and maybe even to a place it never was."

So a year ago, Gilbert moved himself and 1,700 Quicken Loans employees from the affluent suburbs to the city to gleaming high tech offices. It's an oasis of activity in a city where nearly one-third of all office space was vacant last year. This month he moved 2,000 more workers to a mostly vacant building across the street that he bought and renovated.

Detroit could certainly use some new people. In the last 10 years the city has lost about a quarter of a million residents - enough to fill Comerica Park about six times.

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Gilbert and his partners, including Ervin "Magic" Johnson, have invested heavily in other high tech companies and poured $100 million into purchase and renovations in the city's core.

"These are skyscrapers in a major American city and need a little bit of love here and a little bit of activity and action, and some young energy in it," Gilbert said. "And once you do that, these things come to life."

The strategy is paying dividends for Gilbert too. He bought the 55,000 square foot madison theater for one million dollars. And he guessed correctly that high-tech start-ups would follow.

Gilbert surely has the money to make things happen. But he's creating more than wealth for himself here.

"We're hoping if we hit a grand slam here that Detroit is looked at as one of the miracle cities in the United States."

As he sees it, there's no conflict between doing well and doing good.

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.