Dominic Pangborn is continuing to grow his world-renowned clothing and graphic design business in Detroit, now expanding into a long-abandoned factory along the Detroit River. Pangborn is one of the principal investors in the $4.5 million Asian Village development: 18,000 square feet of restaurants, shopping and entertainment along the riverfront adjacent to the Renaissance Center, slated to open this summer.
 

Pangborn — Korean-born and adopted by a Jackson, Michigan family at the age of 10 — isn’t sticking with Detroit because of some misty, misplaced sense of nostalgia. Like many savvy entrepreneurs, Pangborn sees vast opportunities in Motown:

Pangborn acknowledges that given the current economy, recent automotive plant closures and layoffs, now might not be the best time to invest in Detroit.

“But if it was a good time, would I have that opportunity to do it?” he asked. “It doesn’t look good right now, but in the long run, it’s going to be a good move.”

Thinking back on his early days as a designer, Pangborn recalls:

“People saw my design work and would say, ‘You belong in New York or Los Angeles,'” Pangborn said. “I asked and found out there were no designers here [in Detroit]. I see that as an opportunity. There was no competition.”

Increasingly, this is part of the reasoning of business leaders. WIRED readers might have caught a little interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb (page 92 of the April issue — which, incidentally, also carries an ad attempting to entice tech jobs to Michigan; see page 174) According to Taleb history is dominated by pivotal, entirely unpredictable events that we then 1) rationalize in hindsight as being “inevitable” and 2) try to then use that rationalization as a rule for predicting future events and action. He calls the events Black Swans and planning based on that 20-20-hindsight post-rationalization worthless.

Folks like Pangborn — those investing in Detroit because the opportunity is there and the stakes low — are setting themselves up to be on the winning side of a Black Swan, and that’s a damn smart place to be. And if we should benefit from their business acumen, all the better.

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