Special Edition: 2014 Detroit Policy Conference

Buzz Around City’s Next Chapter Palpable at 2014 Detroit Policy Conference

Approximately 800 attendees came together for the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2014 Detroit Policy Conference to focus on Detroit’s next chapter. Bringing nationally renowned keynotes and nearly 40 of the region’s most dynamic leaders to the forefront of Detroit revitalization discussions, the Conference sparked dynamic dialogue on the future of The Motor City’s business landscape. The day started with a video featuring Detroit leaders depicted in the September/October Detroiter magazine and concluded with a reception with the new City Council.

The Conference featured The Detroit Experience in the ballroom, where exhibitors highlighted the organizations and initiatives contributing to Detroit’s transformation as well as onsite broadcasts from WJR’s Frank Beckmann Show and Detroit Public Television’s MiWeek. The Chamber would like to thank platinum sponsors, MotorCity Casino Hotel and Opportunity Detroit. For a full list of sponsors, click here.

Urban Artist Candy Chang Illustrates the Effectiveness of Art to Solidify a Community

A city’s buildings and structures can serve a greater purpose than visual effects – they can enhance togetherness in a community and empower residents. That was the picture painted by Candy Chang, senior TED fellow and urban artist and designer.

Chang discussed the power of creativity in public spaces in the nourishment of peoples’ personal well-being. By introducing various projects from throughout her career, such as her “Before I die, I want to…” initiative, Chang illustrated to attendees the impact of simple, anonymous projects. Artwork has the ability to unite strangers and provide everyone with a voice to strengthen communities. To view video of Chang’s presentation, click here.

Chamber Announces Partnership with Startgrid, NEI Grant to Launch Entrepreneurial Program

The Chamber announced its partnership with Startgrid in launching a collaborative community for entrepreneurs to come together to test, share and grow ideas that will change the world. The launch came with the news of a $100,000 grant from the New Economy Initiative to support the effort.

To introduce Startgrid, Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah was joined on stage by Peter Gardner, CEO of Startgrid; Benjamin Erulkar, vice president of economic development – new development strategies at the Chamber; and Dave Egner, executive director of the NEI. Startgrid offers businesses a place to develop ideas among people who understand entrepreneurship, collaborate with trusted experts and friends to build ventures, and meet people who can help expand ideas. To learn more about the program, click here.

Shaping the Future: Despite Challenges, Detroit Has Resources to Write Strong Next Chapter

There isn’t a city in the country poised for growth and comeback like Detroit. That was the inspirational message gleaned from the Conference’s closing panel discussion, “Shaping the Future: Detroit’s Next Chapter.”

The panel emphasized the importance of placing an equal premium on business startups as well as existing companies, and the notion that, while politics is key, the “business as usual” approach should no longer be a part of the city’s governance. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, panelists agreed that Detroit has the resources to write an impressive next chapter over the course of five years and beyond. The panelists were Dave Egner, executive director of NEI; Don Graves, executive director of President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness; Dan Kinkead, director of projects of Detroit Future City; and Thomas Sugrue, David Boies professor of history and sociology. The discussion was moderated by Christy McDonald, anchor of DPTV’s MiWeek. To view clips from this session, click here.

Urban Expert Thomas Sugrue Challenges Traditional Rhetoric on Detroit Revitalization To come up with effective solutions for Detroit’s future, it is imperative that the city’s origins are understood. Thomas Sugrue, David Boies professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, made that point to the audience as he delved into the historical circumstances that eventually led to Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Sugrue provided general principles to illustrate common misconceptions about urban revitalization and offered solutions for Detroit’s continued transformation. He stressed the importance of a diverse labor market with well-paying and secure jobs, reduced barriers to education and densification of the city. Sugrue encouraged the community to nurture institutions and universities, embrace immigrants, and make exerted regional collaboration efforts as solutions to bolster Detroit’s economic growth. To view video of Sugrue’s presentation, click here.

Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson Touts Economic and Social Benefits of Higher Education

The social mobility made possible by a college education is the key to a strong middle class, and the gateway to the American Dream. That point was emphasized by Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson during his keynote address at the Conference. In addition to identifying career advancement and expansive networks as benefits of higher education, Wilson demonstrated the socioeconomic impact that university research can have on a community, including millions of dollars’ worth of economic impact and hundreds of thousands of dollars in state tax revenue.

Wilson spoke of Detroit’s residents and resources playing a role in the city’s transformation, including the impact made by public universities. He urged attendees to use education to change the city; to leverage university resources and unleash them to most effectively attract talent and investment to the region. To view video, click here.

Additional Conference Sessions

Chief Craig, Community Leaders Highlight Community and Re-Invention as Keys to Revitalization of Detroit’s Neighborhoods

Small Business Growth the Focus of “Breaking the Mold: The Entrepreneur’s Business Plan”

Detroit’s Transformation Highlighted in “The Detroit Investment: The Smart Bet”

Panelists: Moving Detroit Forward Requires Regional Collaboration

Local Entrepreneurs Discuss Resources Available to Detroit Small Businesses

Leaders Make Business Case for Detroit’s Diverse Industries

Temper optimism for Detroit with reality

From: The Detroit News

By: Daniel Howes

February 28, 2014

Leave it to the guy who wrote the book on Detroit’s implosion to lay a proverbial wet blanket on building enthusiasm for where the city is headed, bankruptcy or not.

But there was Thomas Sugrue, author of “Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Post-war Detroit,” warning that the city’s latest effort at revival “will not be easy.” Nor will overcoming divides cleaved by history; nor burying the record of racial polarization; nor building a different Detroit on the rubble of de-industrialization and dysfunctional public education.

“If Detroit is left to fend for itself, it will face troubles,” Sugrue, the David Boies professor of history and sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, told the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroit Policy Conference Thursday. “Region matters now more than ever. Detroit does not have the resources — it has the will — to go it alone.”

A downer? Sort of, notwithstanding a distinctly audible ring of truth. For all the promise rising from new leadership, a financial restructuring in Chapter 9 bankruptcy and billions in corporate investment in downtown and Midtown, the harsh reality is that Detroit’s comeback is likely to be a fraught series of steps forward and back.

How could it be otherwise for a city whose population crested around 1950 and has been declining ever since? It’s a cliche, but 60 years of decline, disinvestment, deindustrialization and the culture that made it all possible cannot easily morph into some Promised Land, whatever the hopes of boosters or the infantile demands of social media cynics lobbing potshots at the doers.

Bankruptcy is not the Next Big Thing guaranteed to deliver Detroit 2.0. Nor is Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr and his turbo-charged powers. Nor is Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert, his fat wallet and insatiable appetite for downtown real estate. Nor is Mayor Mike Duggan and a City Council that may be — gasp! — showing signs of actually working together.

No, Detroit today is each of those, and a whole lot more, helping to drive a process beginning to demonstrate change in the city. It’s business and the philanthropic community; it’s the fruit of restructuring and criminal investigations; it’s a rejuvenated cultural sector and burgeoning entertainment; it’s new municipal management and Chapter 9 bankruptcy; it’s Republicans in state government and Democrats in the federal government.

Dave Egner, CEO of the Hudson-Webber Foundation and executive director of the New Economy initiative, calls it “alignment,” a confluence of influential forces and new leaders combining with a very rare commodity now available on the streets of Detroit: market demand.

An influx of full-time employees downtown is making Class-A rental space almost impossible to find. Office space of appreciable size in the core business district is in short supply. Retail is poised to pop, new projects are moving ahead, and Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration is demonstrating a bias for business.

“There may not be a better time to come to Detroit than right now,” said Tom Wilson, CEO of Olympia Entertainment. “We’re alive, and we’re open for business.”

True enough, and it feels like it. Check the buzz inside Motor City Casino, site of the policy conference. Did you hear the mayor last night in State of the City, several asked. He didn’t sound like the usual vague platitudes; he sounded like a guy ready to make decisions, take action and show results.

This is a consequential time for Detroit. Bankruptcy likely will produce a smaller city government that does less with fewer people. Business investment and philanthropic support are creating hubs of activity and commerce that many, including Detroiters here and in the ’burbs, thought they would never see again.

All good. But it’s not sufficient for Detroit, anymore than it has proven to be in Cleveland and Philadelphia. Sugrue warns that “hipsterification” is a “false hope” because “such enclaves by and large don’t play a significant role in urban revitalization because they don’t scale up.”

The glitz of downtown newness and Midtown style can easily mask the scale of problems stretching across 139 square miles that include neighborhoods still untouched by revitalization and enthusiasm. Detroiters live there, too.

Optimism unhinged from reality is dreaming. The arc of Detroit’s downward spiral is more complicated and more discomfiting than oversimplified narratives shifting blame, one of this region’s favorite pastimes.

Shaping the Future: Despite Challenges, Detroit Has Resources to Write Strong Next Chapter

There isn’t a city in the country poised for the growth and comeback like in Detroit. That was the inspirational message gleaned from the Conference’s closing panel discussion, “Shaping the Future: Detroit’s Next Chapter.”

The panel emphasized the importance of placing an equal premium on business startups as well as existing companies, and the notion that, while politics is key, the “business as usual” approach should no longer be a part of the city’s governance. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, panelists agreed that Detroit has the resources to write an impressive next chapter over the course of five years and beyond. The panelists were (in order of appearance) Don Graves, executive director of President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness; Thomas Sugrue, David Boies professor of history and sociology; Dave Egner, executive director of New Economy Initiative; and  Dan Kinkead, director of projects of Detroit Future City. The discussion was moderated by Christy McDonald, anchor of DPTV’s MiWeek.

The City Speaks: Chief Craig and Panel Highlights Community as Key to Revitalization

Detroit residents must move past the negative perception of the city and work to re-invent and re-imagine what the inactive areas of the city can be. That was the message delivered by panelists in the morning breakout session, “The City Speaks: Revitalizing Detroit’s Neighborhoods.”

Panelists made the point that the psychological effect of reinvention, as it relates to Detroit’s neighborhoods, must be framed and supported through the mindset of the community. The panel included James Craig, Detroit chief of police; Maggie DeSantis, president of Warren/Conner Development Coalition; Benjamin Kennedy, deputy director of community development and Detroit program; and Bill Pulte, founder and chairman of Detroit Blight Authority. The session was moderated by Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press. This session was sponsored by JP Morgan Chase.​

Rethinking Regionalism: Regional Leaders Discuss Collaboration

The Detroit region must proactively collaborate on a greater visualization for the future to maximize the strength of the entire region, not just specific cities or counties. Panelists reinforced the notion that no suburb of any region can be successful without a prosperous urban core during the breakout sessions, “Rethinking Regionalism: Regional Leaders Discuss Collaboration.”

The panel included (in order of appearance): Shelia Cockrel, president and CEO of Crossroads Consulting Group and former councilwoman of city of Detroit; Kurt Metzger, mayor of the city of Pleasant Ridge; Paul Tait, executive director of the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments; Mark Hackel, county executive for Macomb County; and moderator Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Chamber.

Leaders Make Business Case for Detroit’s Diverse Industries

The opportunity that exists for individuals to make a direct impact on their city sets Detroit apart from nearly all other major cities and is an immense recruiting tool for attracting college graduates. During the afternoon concurrent session, “Open for Business: The Diversification of Detroit’s Industry,” panelists raved about Detroit’s existing logistical infrastructure and geographic location, as well as the unique camaraderie amongst downtown Detroit institutional anchors.

While the region is known as the epicenter of the automotive sector, the panel agreed that Detroit maintains the ability to compete internationally in a variety of industries, ranging from the growing food economy to high-tech IT. Panelists included: Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corporation; Linglong He, CIO of Quicken Loans; Lorron James, vice president of business affairs at James Group International; Tricia Keith, senior vice president, corporate secretary and services at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; and Frank Venegas Jr., chairman and CEO of Ideal Group. The session was moderated by Richard DeVore, regional vice president of Detroit and Southeast Michigan at PNC Bank.

Breaking the Mold: The Entrepreneur’s Business Plan

Two kinds of entrepreneurs – planners and doers – hold the most critical roles in Detroit’s growth and revitalization. During the morning concurrent session, “Breaking the Mold: The Entrepreneur’s Business Plan,” panelists agreed that passion is essential to getting startup projects off the ground in Detroit, but that a vibrant support system is pivotal to success by focusing those passions.

Members of the panel discussed the ways that passion is not only fueling entrepreneurship in the city, but that it is indispensable to its recovery.  The world is paying attention to Detroit right now and it is up to the entrepreneurship community to continue to drive success and build on failures. The planners and the doers are making that possible. Panelists included Dave Anderson, co-founder of Bamboo Detroit; Jeff Aronoff, executive director of D:hive; Phil Cooley, co-owner of Slows Bar BQ and Ponyride; Maria LaLonde, recruiting and development manager of Bizdom; and was moderated by Spencer Olinek, business development manager of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. This session was sponsored by EY.

The Detroit Investment: The Smart Bet

It is difficult to push back against negative perceptions of Detroit, but the city’s assets vastly outweigh the challenges.  In the concurrent session, “The Detroit Investment: The Smart Bet,” a panel of the region’s real estate and development leaders shared their optimism for the opportunities that exist in Detroit.

Panelists Tom Wilson, CEO of Olympia Entertainment; Sommer Woods, director of external relations for the M-1 light rail; George Jackson Jr., outgoing president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation; and Eric Larson, president and CEO of Larson Realty Group, spoke about the transformational nature of city projects, including the new arena district development and M-1 light rail. The session was moderated by Dennis Archer Jr., founding principal and president of Archer Corporate Services, and sponsored by Ilitch Holdings, Inc.

Partnering for Success: Small Business Resources in the D

The spirit of collaboration pervades Detroit’s small business community, with resources and support programs bolstering the successes of entrepreneurs. In the afternoon concurrent session, “Partnering for Success: Small Business Resources in the D,” entrepreneurs in Detroit highlighted the necessity of utilizing an existing network of resources that encourage the growth of small businesses.

In all industries, there are entities available to help businesses at any stage of growth. Detroit has a network of invested people, communities, and resources to help with scaling growth, finding capital, and navigating city logistics. The panel included: Elias Khalil, owner and general manager of La Feria; Saundra Little, founding partner of Centric Design Studio; Tammy Tedesco, president and CEO of Edibles Rex; Espy Thomas, owner of Sweet Potato Sensations; and moderator Evette Hollins, urban initiatives manager of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Power Perspective: Adam Hollier

Adam Hollier, vice president of Hantz Woodlands, says attendees are encouraged to take advantage of daily opportunities to make a difference by focusing their passion and legacy on Detroit