It's a city in crisis but with potential for a big comeback. Despite an ailing auto industry and the highest jobless rate in the nation, Detroiters are determined to make their hometown thrive once again. For the next year, CNNMoney will focus on that challenge.

6 of 7
Building smart robots
Building smart robots
Mike van Lent, CEO of Soar Technology

Soar Technology Inc.
Ann Arbor

Hires: Research scientists, roboticists, technology directors and software engineers

Soar Technology, a company that does artificial-intelligence research and development for military applications, has worked with nearly "every organization in the Defense Department that has the word 'research' in their name," says CEO Mike van Lent.

Having offices in Washington, D.C., would put Soar Technology closer to its core customers. But staying in metro Detroit is a quality-of-life choice for the small tech company.

"This is the atmosphere we'd rather live in," says van Lent, whose company has 25 employees in Ann Arbor and a small satellite office in Orlando. "We have deep roots in the area."

Soar Technology spun off from the University of Michigan's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1998. The company creates software that simulates human behavior, such as a system that allows military commanders to interact with and command military robots with the same terminology they would use to instruct human teams.

"Our approach is to build the software systems so they think the way that people think," van Lent says.

Customers include the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Research Laboratory and TARDEC, a division of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command located in Warren, Mich. The company currently is working on two non-military applications for its software.

The University of Michigan has continued to be a source of talent for Soar, and the Detroit airport provides Soar with easy access to its customers in Washington and Orlando. But negative news about the city of Detroit has caused Soar trouble with some of its attempts to hire staff from out of state.

"There's a sense of hesitancy to move to an area that's economically depressed," van Lent says.

NEXT: Powering the health care overhaul

Last updated November 11 2009: 2:21 PM ET
Email | Print | Share  |  RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
Raising a family in Detroit
For the Reids, the city of Detroit remains a good place to raise a family, despite being one of the cities hardest hit by the recession.
© 2009 Cable News Network. A Time Warner Company. All rights Reserved. Terms under which this service is provided to you. Privacy Policy