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DETROIT (AP) — Convincing top executives that Detroit is a comeback city where they should hold company meetings and conventions could only be characterized as the most monumental of pitches or the slickest of con jobs.
But Bill Bohde, senior vice president for sales and marketing at the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, is plowing ahead with a $1.6 million marketing campaign even as the city is trying to become the largest in the U.S. to enter bankruptcy.
"People were inquiring: How can you talk about a great comeback city when you just filed for bankruptcy?" said Bohde, referring to the campaign's kickoff during a trade show in Atlanta this summer.
He had to convince savvy business leaders that Detroit's July 18 bankruptcy "filing has nothing to do with the city and the development going on right now."
"To the general public, it is confusing," he said.
There are no smoke and mirrors when it comes to Detroit, the one-time manufacturing marvel of the world that over the past half-century has lost more than 1 million people, tens of thousands of jobs and now straddles the final ladder rung above insolvency. Far too many neighborhoods are crumbling and violent crime continues to rank among the worst in the nation.
There is some glitter to the rusty-knuckled town, but it's primarily downtown where three casinos, two professional sports stadiums and a strong restaurant district welcome residents and visitors.
The downtown Marriott hotel is spending $30 million on renovations. Cobo convention center, home of the prestigious North American International Auto Show, is completing a $300 million renovation.
A $600,000 campaign funded by businesses and touting a brighter future for Detroit has appeared in full-page ads in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.