Toronto transplant and Integral CEO Ashok Sivanand shares why Detroit became home for him and his business

Michigan’s population is at a crossroads. Ranked 49th out of 50 states in terms of population growth, Michigan has been struggling to attract new people and retain its residents, and the implications for the state’s economy and prosperity could be dire. According to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 43,000 people moved out of Michigan between 2020-2022. 

At the 2024 Detroit Policy Conference, business leaders and policymakers convened to tackle Michigan’s shrinking population and discuss potential solutions. Former Ambassador John Rakolta Jr. and Shirley Stancato, Wayne State University Board of Governors Member, served as chairs of the conference, which hosted conversations around the future workforce, education, creating vibrant communities, and the city of Detroit’s efforts to attract new residents.  

Ashok Sivanand moved to Detroit from Toronto in 2016 to start the digital transformation business, Integral, after visiting the city while working on a project with Ford to build an innovation lab, FordLabs. “When I came here, I realized that what we hear about Detroit and what I got to experience here are completely different,” said Sivanand. Though he’d heard recommendations about which suburbs to live in, he ultimately found himself drawn to living in the city. 

One Detroit contributor and Michigan Public Political Director, Zoe Clark, sat down with the Integral CEO to talk about what drew him to not only work in the city but also make Detroit his home. Sivanand talks with Clark about the sense of community he found in Detroit and the opportunities to grow as a member of the community.  

“I think if there are folks who really get those dopamine hits from going out and volunteering or serving, and you’re not sure how to do it in the big cities you live…this is a great place to do it, where there’s a lot of history, and we can be part of a lot of (the) future, too,” Sivanand said.  

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