Conversation on Innovation: Turning the Lights Back On in Detroit

We all know the headlines that Detroit, its leaders, and citizens lived through: In 2013, the largest municipal bankruptcy filing in U.S. history by debt. The largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy. The debt numbers, staggering: $18-20 billion.

We also know what the decades leading up to bankruptcy were like in Detroit: Businesses closed; infrastructure crumbled; crime rose – homicides at their highest rate in 40 years; about half the population left the city limits.

But perhaps no image stood more starkly as a symbol of Detroit’s decline more than the city’s lights. Some 40% of them didn’t work. Literally as well as figuratively, Detroit was going dark.

So how do you flip that switch back on? How do you let there be light in a place where it seemed no one wanted to invest? And why would one of the world’s largest banks find value in helping a bankrupt Midwestern city turn the lights back on?

Our two guests today can explain. Odis Jones is CEO of the Public Lighting Authority of Detroit. Tom Green heads the U.S. Public Finance Infrastructure Group at Citi and led the deal that brought light back to the Motor City.

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