Randal Charlton

Randal Charlton has led many lives: journalist, agricultural innovator, public relations, founder of a biotech company and now, executive director of TechTown. He moved to Michigan from Great Britain in 2000 for the most capitalist of reasons: the numbers made sense. “I was coming off several years of entrepreneurial failure, and I came to Detroit because I had a venture capital company agree to back me with a very small amount of money and I knew, that if I was going to be successful, I had to husband that money carefully,” he says. “I had to find the lowest cost place I could find to eke out those dollars.” His first look didn’t go so well. “When i first came to Detroit, I was driving in a car with my wife and we didn’t come down Woodward, we came down a different road, and it looked pretty damn desperate,” he says. “But my training as a journalist sort of made me feel guilty that I hadn’t had a proper look, so I went back.” This time, he was toured around and he saw things in a different light. “(Wayne State University) gave me a glimpse of a side of Detroit that i didn’t see the first time ,” he says. “There were wonderful buildings, inspiring facilities and an amazing amount of research slap in the middle of the city.” Charlton thinks Detroit needs an internal image adjustment to maximize its potential as a place ripe with potential for immigrants and investors alike. “One of the things I think very strongly about this city is that it’s lost a lot of its confidence,” he says. “It doesn’t have a tourists bureau place(where you can) turn up and get a map of the city, find out where sports events are whatever — I think you have to discover Detroit, but I suspect that if i hadn’t had a background of traveling all over world, including Third World countries, I might not have given it second chance.”

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