Virgin Atlantic is an airline business that exports quality every time it touches down in a country and its latest destination, Detroit, is ready for take-off.
Businesses shape cities not only literally with towering skylines but also figuratively by the individuals that make up their workforce. A city’s DNA is built on industry and Detroit’s labour force gave it skill in steel for the motor trade and music with rhythm and soul from the sound of Motown records.
Detroit had once been a great city, the tenth largest in the US but became officially bankrupt with a migration of jobs and people in the first decade of the new millennium. Downtown Detroit could not have got any further down. Its depression etched on the faces and fascia of its people and crumbling buildings. A place where Wurlitzers were once made and played the hits off the Motown music production line.
Normally this would consign a City to a place in history as a ‘has been’ but in fact Detroit is a city with a future. There is a city centre renaissance lead by a belief in the glory of manufacturing and beauty of creativity, where the collective voice of the citizens is stronger than any union and it is knocking the rust off the old wheels of industry. Detroit is a place where they have adopted a seize mentality and the hard things get done. Like its boxing hero Joe Louis, Detroit tried to fight back. Nobody hustles harder than Detroit.
It is no coincidence that Virgin Atlantic has chosen to extend its reach in to Detroit. There are so many obvious shared similarities between the two. But you don’t fly half way round the world just to hold a mirror up to yourself, not even in a brand new 787 plane with all the trimmings.
This is not a vanity project. What we have here is a connection based on industry that has entrepreneurship running through its soul like mustard and chopped onions in a Coney dog.
On board the inaugural flight from Heathrow was the Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, the High Priest of the Church of Entrepreneurs who built his brands by acting on impulse, taking risks but never taking ‘no’ for an answer.
Also on board were three budding up and coming entrepreneurs who had been hand-picked by Virgin StartUp – the division that is enabling and championing the spirit of entrepreneurship and bringing along the Virgin Group youth team. Already destined to be business stars of the future, Sam Morgan from Paria, Charley Cramer from Glow Away and George Edwards from Gas Safe were mentored on the trip by Julie Deane founder of The Cambridge Satchel Company and Tom Wood Trading Director at Rapha Racing as well as Branson. This precious UK cargo of driven success was to be joined by Rob Love, Chairman of Crowdfunder.co.uk already stationed in Detroit.
Like an elite squad of Internationals they embarked on meeting each other and the best that Detroit had to offer. Detroit has an edge, it has passion and commitment but is not a polished place because it is rising up from the recent past and learning to fly again. There is an air of confidence and independence in Detroit citizens which means that quality isn’t gossamer thin but runs deep. You look into the eyes of Detroit and see pride and integrity. They know their shit from their Shinola.
That is why it is a destination for Virgin.
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