A Short Case for Pontiac


I talk to people everyday from all around the country who are struggling in the new post-recession economy that is emerging.

“I have thousands of dollars in college debt…”

“I have a college degree, but can only find grocery-store jobs.”

“I can’t afford to live anywhere but my parents house.”

“I feel like what I am doing isn’t making a difference.”

“I want to start a business but can’t afford it.”

These are common mantras I hear from people my age everywhere.  But, it has not been my experience here in Pontiac.  I’ll tell you why.


The Economics of Homeownership

I left college with a degree that I loved, but which was functionally useless to the world.  I was paralized by the amount of debt I took on to accomplish this and wasn’t willing to take on even more for a master’s degree.  That being the case, my poor employment prospects and negative net-worth really discouraged me when it came to the possibility of owning a home.

When I began looking for a house in Pontiac, I was shocked to find that my preconceptions weren’t accurate at all.  With high vacancy and a crumbled  housing market, the city is ripe for young people to buy houses at low cost, move friends in, and really revitalize neighborhoods.


To illustrate my point, the house that we purchased was a six bedroom, two bath, with two functioning kitchens for $11,000.  We purchased it outright and never had a mortgage to take out.  However, this was in a neighborhood with a lower income than other parts of the city, but our house in the wealthiest part of town will still only run about $40,000– a far cry from the $110,000 it would cost you in any neighboring suburbs.


The Economics of Starting a Business

Starting a business is always tricky, no matter where you go. But, if you’re going to start one, Pontiac is a great place to do it.  The city has already proven it can handle and support businesses in the food-service industry whether those be inexpensive Coney Islands or middle level more swakny restaraunts like Downtown Grille.

Or, perhaps you aren’t looking to start anything in the service sector, but just need office space.  Ottowa Towers, located just downtown, has many openings, is affordable, and easily accessible from the loop.

The basic fact and economics of it is that in business you have to keep revenues ahead of your expenses and with high vacancies and a needful market, renting or purchasing a place is much more affordable in Pontiac than it is in other cities.


But isn’t crime a problem?

The concern for anyone coming to Pontiac seems to always be crime.  But I am going to drop some facts on you.  They are sad, but I think are effective in relieving some fears.

  1. Most of the crime in Pontiac is black-on-black and drug related.  Just as with any city hit hard by economic downturns, drugs are a problem in a few of our neighborhoods which leads to gang activity and its related crime.
  2. Since switching to Oakland County Police, crime in the downtown area of the city is down 35%, city wide it is down 30%, response time now is five-minutes and Pontiac has more cops per capita than the national recommendation.

These two facts: crime is largely drug related and the city is becoming safer, means that  if you’re an upstanding citizen starting a business in downtown, you will probably never be touched by crime in the city.


You Will Never Be More Appreciated Anywhere Else

Businesses come and go in places like Troy, Rochester, Waterford, Orion.  They live and they die without much notice sometimes.  That is not the case here. Any business that comes in, any positive action is seen by the city as part of their comeback.

For so long all people here have heard is that no one wants to be here, no one comes here, no one thinks this city is worth anything.  But starting a business here and/or moving into the neighborhoods is recognized as over-throwing those stereotypes and changing those attitudes.

Even if people aren’t able to patron your store, they will still drop in and say “hello” and “thank you.” While that doesn’t keep a business afloat, good will is important for anyone.  You’ll get it here.


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About coleyoakum

My name is Coleman Yoakum. I am formerly a student at Harding University. Today you can find me in Detroit Michigan doing what I can to expand the Kingdom of God and preparing to start an intentional community in Pontiac. I enjoy reading, writing, photography, music and politics. I am sure that all of these things will find their way to this blog from time to time. Twitter: coleyoakum Facebook: Coleman Yoakum Email: coleyoakum@gmail.com Flickr: flickr.com/photos/coleyoakum/

One response to “A Short Case for Pontiac”

  1. Larry Allen says :

    Having been in a volunteer staus around Pontiac for the past 7 years, I can attest that the law enforcement presence is far more evident than two years ago. I agree that most crime involves people who know each other or are “transacting business”, no matter the ethnic background.
    The city has come a long way, and yes it has a way to go. But I see it as a city with far more hope than Detroit to return to being a viable place to have a business and to live without fear.

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