DETROIT – The signs of Dan Gilbert’s stroke last May were still visibly Friday as he took the stage to lay out some big plans for the city of Detroit.
Gilbert owns much of the Detroit skyline -- or used to, in the case of the Greektown Casino. But after a long convalescence, in one of the most anticipated speeches Detroit’s had in a long time, Gilbert gave thanks and made promises to continue his Detroit revitalization.
He rode to the stage in a wheelchair. An attendant not only worked to help him stand, but stayed at Gilbert’s side during the entire speech, which was supposed to last seven minutes but actually went about a half hour.
“A leader’s job is not to create more followers,” Gilbert said. “A leader’s job is to create more leaders, and I think we’ve had the honor of doing that in our family of companies, which is why they can continue for my absence, which I am hoping isn’t going to be too long.”
Gilbert’s trademark humor came mixed with heartfelt appreciation and introspection. He said Detroit had lost its desire to take risks, but that’s changing. He said a mix of old and new economies is taking hold.
Gilbert looked back at old speeches during the difficult days and praised Detroit for how far it has come.
“Detroit is a much tighter city when it comes to relationships, and I’ve noticed, and that’s the kind of environment that great things will happen,” Gilbert said. “Whatever happened in the last 10 years, we’re expecting to double down in the next 10 years, so hang on.”
The crowd was clearly behind Gilbert and happy to see him back. There was a collective sigh of relief to see the fuel and cash behind Detroit’s renaissance back on the stage.
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he believes Gilbert’s mind is all the way back. He expects Gilbert’s body will follow with time.