C is for Cars, Cobo – and Competence

I attended the auto show, Charity Preview, last week. I’m embarrassed to say it was my first time at the North American International Auto Show. If you’ve never been, the Charity Preview is a pretty good way to get introduced.

The black-tie gala, Michigan’s largest fundraiser, is a nice reminder that Detroiters really clean up good. The crowd was beautifully dressed and the energy at the show, the first since Cobo Center completed its $279 million renovation, was festive and bright. We’ve been told for a while now that Detroit is back; that night, it really felt like it.

That is, in no small part, a credit to Cobo itself. Cobo, for as long as I can remember, was akin to the Death Star, a hulking, clunky mass glowering at passersby. Inside, the gloomy vibe just kept going. A walk from one end to the other was certain to be accompanied by several weary sighs.

No more. Seeing the center at the gala, beautifully lit, fresh from top to bottom, with a welcoming new entrance and that beautiful atrium overlooking the river, it was easy to believe that our city really can pull itself together.

That’s because the new Cobo, above all, is the result of thoughtful vision and competent execution. It took years of planning and work, and in the end, the project finished on time and on budget. The five-member authority that managed the process, led by Larry Alexander, CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau, was refreshingly boring in its lack of drama and unwillingness to engage in infighting. The authority had a very important job to do, and it did it. Combine that with the city emerging from bankruptcy and a new mayor who, though not perfect, is clearly skilled and committed, and we’ve got some things to celebrate.

So let’s hear it for competence. Maybe soon, if we’re lucky, it won’t even capture our attention.

Chemical Bank buys rights to downtown Detroit's Cobo Center nameplate.


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