Connie Chang

Managing Director, Fast Forward Medical Innovation

Connie Chang is the managing director of Fast Forward Medical Innovation (FFMI). She helped form and launch the FFMI team, a unit of the University of Michigan Medical School’s Office of Research. FFMI helps biomedical faculty and clinician researchers, trainees and students across the university and statewide, providing innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurial support via industry partnerships, education, mentoring and funding services.

Chang has more than 15 years’ experience in business, including 12 years in the pharmaceuticals industry. Previously Chang worked at Sepracor as senior director and brand team leader for the prescription pharmaceutical products Lunesta and Xopenex. Prior to Sepracor, she worked with Pfizer on brands such as Zyrtec, Lipitor and Zoloft, as well as serving as director of regional marketing for the New England region.

Katila Howard Named 2017 “Five Under Ten” Recipient for UMBA

Foster Swift attorney Katila Howard is one of the five recipients for the “Five Under Ten” Young Alumni Recognition Award for the 2017 Black Alumni Association of the University of Michigan (UMBA) awards gala. The award is given annually to five recent University of Michigan graduates who are recognized by their peers for achievements in their respective professional fields and contributions in the community. To be eligible, the alums must have received an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan within the last ten years. The 41st Annual Reunion of Black Graduates will take place on Friday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Katila is a member of Foster Swift’s Business & Corporate practice group, where she focuses on matters of employee benefit and Internal Revenue Code compliance. She also works with nonprofit & tax exempt organizations, assisting in matters such as exempt status attainment and drafting/negotiating contracts among other challenges.

In addition to her practices, Katila is a zealous advocate for diversifying the legal profession and mentors minority law students and helps prepare them for their interviews and the Bar Exam. She also speaks to elementary and middle school students from disadvantaged communities regarding the importance of education and perseverance.

Furthermore, Katila is dedicated to increasing access to quality legal and business resources to organizations that may not otherwise have access. In this capacity, she serves on the board of two nonprofits where she volunteers and assists with compliance, fundraising and planning.

Katila has acted as a volunteer for former Michigan House of Representatives member, Rashida Tlaib to help raise voter awareness in the Detroit community. Katila earned both her bachelors and masters degrees from the University of Michigan and prior to attending law school, Katila started as an elementary school teacher with Teach for America in Detroit.

Foster Swift Collins & Smith, PC is a full service law firm founded in 1902.  The firm employs 100-plus attorneys and over 100 support staff in six locations; Lansing, Detroit, Southfield, Grand Rapids, Holland and St. Joseph.  For more information about the firm, its attorneys and to access recent publications, visit

Industry Experts: Latest Proposed Changes to NAFTA Are Red Flag for Automotive Supply Chain

As the fourth round of negotiations between Canada, the United States and Mexico surrounding the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) conclude, the Detroit Regional Chamber, along with MICHauto and the Consulate General of Canada, hosted members of the Original Equipment Suppliers Association for an informative discussion on NAFTA’s potential impact on trade and economic growth for the U.S. and Canadian economies.

Anne Cascadden, trade commissioner for the Consulate General of Canada, said two of the biggest sticking points that are hindering negotiation efforts between the three countries revolve around the United States’ proposal that requires:

  • Any new agreement would sunset after five years and must be renegotiated
  • Rules of origin for automobiles would include 85 percent NAFTA-country product, up from 62.5 percent now, and 50 percent U.S.-made product in order to be exempt from tariffs

Cascadden said the U.S. proposal would greatly impact NAFTA supply chains. Specifically, steel, aluminum, copper, plastics, electronics, and other parts currently exempt would be required to come from North America for vehicles to qualify under rules of origin.

Other discussion participants included Ann Wilson, senior vice president of government affairs for the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association; Xavier Mosquet, senior partner for The Boston Consulting Group; and Christopher Sands, senior research professor and director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

In welcoming remarks, Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah said that Canada and Mexico are more in-tune with the economic ramifications of the United States’ potential withdrawal from the trade agreement, adding that any new agreement must first “do no harm” to the countries’ existing trade relationship. While not perfect, Baruah said NAFTA has been a major factor in North America’s competitiveness with the European Union.

Baruah has been a key voice regarding the NAFTA renegotiation and remains highly sought after for his expertise and insight at discussions in Michigan and Canada based on his current role at the Chamber and his past work in Washington, D.C.

Clayton & McKervey receives recognition from Transfer Pricing Week for its transfer pricing practice

Clayton & McKervey, an international certified public accounting and business advisory firm located in metro Detroit, announces the firm has been recognized for its transfer pricing practice by the trade publication Transfer Pricing Week (TP Week).

TP Week’s World Transfer Pricing directory is a listing of the world’s leading transfer pricing practices and rates transfer pricing service providers in more than 50 jurisdictions globally to give tax executives a comprehensive analysis of the tax advice market. This is the fifth year TP Week has published the directory and the second year that Clayton & McKervey has been included.

The transfer pricing practice at Clayton & McKervey is led by Alex Martin, a frequent author and speaker on transfer pricing issues. In addition to serving the transfer pricing needs of Clayton & McKervey clients in the manufacturing, transport, automotive and technology sectors, the firm is regularly engaged by accounting and consulting firms to act as their outside transfer pricing specialist.

This year, Clayton & McKervey assisted a client that had mistakenly generated a large foreign exchange gain on its U.S. financial statements. Martin and his team worked with the client to correct its transfer pricing to mitigate the risk of a foreign tax audit. To read more about the firm’s highlighted successes, visit the World Transfer Pricing website.

About Transfer Pricing (TP) Week
For more than a decade, TP Week, a sister publication of International Tax Review, has been providing market leading news, analysis and commentary on the biggest transfer pricing issues worldwide. Learn more here.

About Clayton & McKervey
Clayton & McKervey is a full-service CPA firm helping middle-market entrepreneurial companies compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world. To learn more, visit


The Kresge Foundation Grants $450,000 to Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation to Improve College Readiness, Access and Success

The Kresge Foundation and the Detroit Regional Chamber Foundation today announce new funding to launch a comprehensive plan and campaign to increase postsecondary education attainment in Southeast Michigan. The $450,000 grant from Kresge will urgently address a crisis, as part of the Chamber’s Forward Detroit regional economic development and competitiveness strategy.

Under the Chamber’s direction, the Detroit Drives Degrees Education Compact represents a collective commitment by leaders in education, business, philanthropy, government and the nonprofit community to address an ongoing barrier to economic development – the lack of residents without higher education credentials or college degrees compared to peer regions across the country. Increasing the number of students who remain enrolled and graduate from a college or university is a key focus of Detroit Drives Degrees, a program started by the Chamber in 2015 to increase college attendance and, ultimately, graduation.

According to Michigan’s Center for Educational Performance and Information, 73 percent of the region’s high school graduates enroll in college within 12 months of graduating but only 35 percent of those graduates earn a degree or credential within six years. The majority of high schools in the city of Detroit have graduating classes with less than 10 percent of students going on to earn a four-year credential, impacting the entire region.

“The Kresge Foundation’s grant allows the Chamber to both develop and implement a strategic blueprint to bolster postsecondary attainment throughout the region. Philanthropic partners like Kresge play a key role in helping us reach our goal of increasing individuals with postsecondary degrees from 43 to 60 percent by 2025,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber.

“We want to help Detroit fulfill its workforce needs using its own homegrown talent,” said Rip Rapson, president and CEO of The Kresge Foundation. “Detroiters are hungry for the opportunity to get to work, and this initiative will help ensure they’re equipped with the skills, education and credentials required to do just that. We know a postsecondary education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity to move into the economic mainstream, and we’re proud to partner with the Chamber to help more Detroiters and people from across the region get that education.”

The Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council, led by Co-chairs Daniel Little, chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, and Richard Rassel, chairman of Butzel Long, represent 35 cross-sectional leaders from the business, government and academic sectors throughout the region and will serve as signatories for the Compact.

During the next three years, the Chamber will work with the Leadership Council to designate regionwide improvement goals on key attainment metrics and will regularly track and publicize progress on these goals. The Detroit Drives Degrees Compact will address each stage of the talent development pipeline: college readiness, college access, college success and transition to the workforce.

The following will serve as key milestones in the development of the plan:

  • Publish an inaugural “State of Education” report to assess the Detroit region’s education ecosystem.
  • Develop and ratify benchmarks, which will form the basis of the Detroit Drives Degrees Compact. 
  • Cultivate public awareness and continued accountability for achieving the annual benchmarks through media, events and grassroots outreach.
  • Identify and implement key strategies to promote student success through the guidance of regional higher education institutions and other partner organizations.

Kresge’s support comes from its national Education Program and its Detroit Program.

Howard & Howard Expands Intellectual Property Practice

Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC is pleased to announce that Elizabeth V. Johnson has joined the firm. She will practice out of the firm’s Royal Oak office.

Ms. Johnson concentrates her practice in patent and trade secret matters. She has broad based skill in negotiating technology agreements and litigating complex patent cases through trial. With a strong background in electrical engineering, she is well-versed in matters related to a variety of technologies including cell phones, semiconductors, computer and graphics processors, and software. Ms. Johnson has represented clients in all phases of complex multi-defendant, multi-patent matters through multiple trials before the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), district courts across the country, and the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). She has experience recommending patents for assertion in offensive litigation and developing validity and infringement strategies in offensive and defensive litigation.

Ms. Johnson received her B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan in 2006 and her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Michigan Law School in 2009. She is licensed to practice in the State of Michigan and the District of Columbia, as well as before the United States Patent and Trademark Office and several other district courts throughout the country.

Founded in 1869, Howard & Howard is a full-service law firm with a national and international practice that provides legal services to businesses and business owners.  The firm has offices in Michigan (Ann Arbor and Royal Oak); Illinois (Chicago and Peoria); Las Vegas, Nevada; and Los Angeles, California.  Howard & Howard’s major areas of practice include: bankruptcy and creditors’ rights; business and corporate; commercial litigation; employee benefits; environmental; estate planning; franchising; intellectual property; labor, employment and immigration; mergers and acquisitions; real estate; securities; and tax.  Our distinguished backgrounds provide us with a solid understanding of the industries we serve, including, automotive and industrial; cannabis; commodity futures; construction; energy and utilities; financial services; gaming; healthcare; and hospitality. For more information, please visit the firm’s website at

Dickinson Wright Attorney Dan Ujczo to Speak on U.S.-Canada Trade Relations Panel

Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that Attorney Dan Ujczo will be speaking on the U.S.-Canada Trade Relations Panel, hosted by the Society of Automotive Analysts, on Tuesday, October 17, 2017 in Southfield, Mich.

Canada and the United States enjoy the longest, deepest, most peaceful and mutually beneficial relationship of any two countries in the world. The U.S.-Canada trade relationship is the second largest in the world after China, with U.S. goods and services trade with Canada totaling an estimated $627.8 billion in 2016, according to the U.S. Office of Trade Representative.

The U.S.-Canada Trade Relations Panel will discuss the state of NAFTA and the renegotiations along with examining the Canada-U.S. trade relationship and impact on the automotive industry. Panelists include Dickinson Wright Attorney Dan Ujczo; Scott Paradise, Executive Vice President of Global Marketing and New Business Development for Magna International; Douglas George, Consul General, Consulate General of Canada; Dr. Christopher Sands, Director of the Center for Canadian Studies, John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies; and David Andrea, Executive Vice President of Research for the Center for Automotive Research.

U.S.-Canada Trade Relations Panel

Date: Tuesday, October 17, 2017
Time: 7:30 am (Registration)
8:15 – 11:00 am (Presentations)
Location: 26200 Lahser Road, Suite 200, Southfield, MI 48033

To learn more or to register, please click here.

Dickinson Wright’s U.S.-Canada team consists of more than 200 highly-trained, dedicated lawyers who are at the forefront of working with businesses and governments to navigate legal issues surrounding the largest two-way trading relationship in the world. Dickinson Wright’s cross-border expertise in corporate structuring, financing, and taxation – coupled with the firm’s unrivalled regulatory, real estate, immigration, intellectual property, and distribution expertise – makes Dickinson Wright a leading provider of cross-border legal services.

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 450 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. Headquartered in Detroit and founded in 1878, the firm has 18 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 11 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville and Music Row, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management controls and security processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

The Mobility State: Bold Steps Needed to Maintain Michigan’s Leadership in CAV Development

By Kelly Weatherwax

Positioning Michigan as the global epicenter of automotive and mobility technology is essential for the state’s future. That was the key message expressed during Forward Detroit and MICHauto’s Investor Briefing: Why Michigan Needs to Own Leadership in Mobility in September.

“This is the biggest opportunity of this generation, if not the next two and Detroit is not moving fast enough,” explained Chris Thomas, founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners LLC, during his keynote presentation. “We have the resources to make sure we are creating the next billion-dollar companies here in our backyard and if we are only testing we will not be groundbreaking.”

Additional speakers included: David Palmer, director of business partnerships for the Workforce Intelligence Network, who shared the recently released “Regional Plan for Connected and Automated Transportation Systems Assets and Initiatives”; and Trevor Pawl, group vice president of PlanetM, Pure Michigan Business Connect, and International Trade for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The briefing was moderated by Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives for the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“What happened to the music industry with the iPod is poised to happen to the automotive industry with mobility if we do not capitalize on this moment in time,” urged Pawl.
Additional key takeaways from the briefing included:

  • Mobility is broader than we think about; autonomous vehicles are only one part of a larger picture that includes all modes of transportation: air, land and sea.
  • Cybersecurity for autonomous vehicles is a must have and cannot be an afterthought in the conversation.
  • The number of adults with postsecondary degrees in Detroit is lagging considerably and more work is needed to improve education outcomes.
  • The Detroit region needs more highly-skilled workers to fill open positions in the automotive industry, otherwise, companies will look elsewhere.
  • There are currently more patents coming out of Silicon Valley in automotive-related technologies than in Detroit. This is concerning since the core automotive industry is in Michigan.
  • From progressive legislation to the nation’s first connected construction zone, Michigan is leading, but to win the race in connected technology more needs to be done.

Kelly Weatherwax is the integrated marketing manager at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Part 2: When Talent Returns to Detroit

By Sarah Craft

I introduced my friend Bryan Lewis in my last post. He’s from Southfield, left the region for school and came back just a few years ago.

When he graduated from Carnegie Melon University with a Master of Science degree in energy science, technology and policy in 2014, he was set on moving to Washington, DC or New York and had no plans to return to Detroit.

But things happened differently.

Bryan was finishing a fellowship with his university and was hunting for long-term employment within his field. Out of the blue, an old friend from home contacted him to say he was starting a sustainable clothing company in Detroit and he wanted his help. Bryan brushed it off and kept looking for jobs in Washington, DC and New York.

A few days later, his best friend from college with no attachment to Detroit contacted him and said he was considering a position in the city. With two calls in a week, he realized that something was clearly happening back at home.

Wanting to show his friend all that Detroit had to offer, Bryan coordinated a visit. Over the short trip, the two went to community events, met with other professionals, and had a blast enjoying the city’s nightlife and cultural activities.

“I had never seen Detroit in such a light,” Bryan said. “Everything was building and people had optimism. It was a vibe I personally hadn’t seen or felt from the city in my entire time living here. My friend and I left feeling excited about the opportunity. We felt welcome in the city.”

His friend decided to take the job and move from New York City to Detroit. And two weeks after the trip, Bryan found out about the position with Youth Energy Squad.

“The rest is really history,” he said. “One week after my job term at Carnegie Mellon ended in August of 2015, I signed the dotted line and became director of the Youth Energy Squad, my literal dream job.”

Like Bryan, many survey respondents said they came back for a short list of reasons: family, an interest in Detroit, and an opportunity to make an impact.

“California is too far from family and I was missing out on too many births, birthdays,” etc.

“I’ve always wanted to return and try and bring back my experience in other cities to try and progress Detroit.”

 “I was working in education reform and school turnaround while living Chicago. I wanted to invest in the efforts around education reform in Detroit.”

Even with a desire to return home, the transition back isn’t always easy.

Of the survey respondents, 30 percent said it was difficult (selected one or two on a five-point scale) to find housing, 38 percent said it was difficult to find a job, and 24 percent said it was difficult to make connections to new friends or professionals.

“It took two years and several bids to get a home in our dream neighborhood, North Rosedale Park, but when we found the match, we received assistance from the city. It was difficult to come from a metropolitan with major stores everywhere, to home where everything is in the suburbs. It was also difficult because we wanted a family and knew there were no consistently successful, diverse schools in the city.”

“I did not return to Michigan with a job in 2011 and it took many months to identify employment (resulted in creating my own job / starting a nonprofit).”

“Returned for an internship then turned down a job to do Challenge Detroit. I loved moving to Detroit and living here, but professionally it was unfulfilling and difficult to find like-minded people and organizations in public health.”

When Bryan came home, he returned to a place that was very different from the place he had left. He needed a new network of friends and professionals to help with his career and his social life. Like others expressed in the survey, finding one “in” was all it took to get reconnected.

“The crowd is the crowd and once you get in with one, you get in with others,” he said. “I found somebody I trusted, and who trusted me back, who was well plugged in. She helped me really accelerate my professional contact development.”

Transit is one of the biggest adjustments to many returning home.

“Car insurance was one of the biggest shocks I had coming back,” Bryan said. “It nearly doubled. I investigated ways of getting around without a car and none were really available that met my needs. I sucked it up, but I recognize that many others might not have that privilege.”

Because many left for opportunities in larger metropolitan areas with more sophisticated regional transit, they got used to the lifestyle. Coming home to our system was not a pleasant surprise:

“A lack of regional transit makes it difficult for my partner and I. We both work in cities other than the one in which we live. Light rail would greatly ease this burden but it failed.”

I got used to using public transit and not having it here has been a serious adjustment.”

 “Returning from another city to the car-centric Detroit area was expected but still somewhat jarring.”

Detroit has a lot to learn from these experiences.

Not only is transit a high priority for talent, but improving diversity in housing options, walkability, equity and  K-12 schools were all cited over and over again as ways the region needs to improve.

If we want to keep people like Bryan, we’ll have to do better as a region. And although he loves so much about his life at home, it’s not a guarantee he’ll stay long-term – his girlfriend still lives in New York so, of course, that’s a move he sometimes thinks about.

The Detroit Drives Degrees talent working group and its partners are brainstorming ways we can use this talent platform to improve state and regionwide strategies in these areas and others. If we can lift talent voices around initiatives like these, we may be able to improve regional cooperation and statewide policy so everyone’s quality of life improves.

Despite the struggles, many of the “boomerang” respondents are passionate about the region: They’re often happy to be home and they want to see their cities improve. They also want to see others have positive experiences  if they decide to make the move. For those considering coming home, here is some advice from the experts:

“Be patient – it takes time to build a community.”

“Follow people in the region or from the region via social media and start to read up on current events and news in the area.”

“Know what you are passionate about and connect with like-minded people/groups. Keep an open mind and be persistent.”

“Get plugged into a network as soon as possible.”

“Be open minded and ready to make an effort to fit in. It doesn’t happen on accident.”

“Have a car.”

Bryan shared his advice the most eloquently:

“Detroit is filled with amazing and talented leaders who have been doing it together for decades. My role is but a small one and it is part of a much bigger picture – a picture that should better highlight the incredible work that black and latinx community organizers and developers have been painting since before my time. My advice is to, when you’re ready, come back and work hard – but work to stand on the shoulders of the giants we have already and build further.”

More to come next week. Don’t hesitate to reach out to share your story or your ideas:

Sarah Craft is a program associate for Detroit Drives Degrees.

The Deshler Group Immerses Detroit Public School Community District High Schoolers in the Future of American Manufacturing

Local students experience high-tech manufacturing careers during the two-hour hands-on educational tours of the Tier-1 auto supplier’s Michigan facilities

More than 50 Detroit Public School Community District (DPSCD) high school students engaged with modern manufacturing during the interactive tours held Friday, October 6, at two facilities owned and operated by the Deshler Group.

Deshler Group is a Michigan-based comprehensive solutions provider, made up of seven sister brands that offer a range of services including manufacturing, assembly, distribution, warehousing and transport.

The two-hour experiential programming, created by Deshler Group employees, walked students through their state-of-the-art facilities to bring modern-day manufacturing processes to life. The event was created to inspire DPSCD high schoolers – from Davis Aerospace Technical High School at Golightly and from SER Metro-Detroit – through hands-on activities and presentations.

As part of the Deshler Group’s long-standing commitment to youth mentoring and STEM education, the global family of companies hosted and sponsored this event as part of the nationwide observance of Manufacturing Day 2017, in collaboration with the Wayne County Economic Development Corporation (WCEDC) and the Workforce Intelligence Network of Southeastern Michigan(WIN).

Students took part in interactive programming at two of Deshler Group’s facilities in Livonia: Amanda Manufacturing Michigan, which specializes in automotive-focused metal-stamping applications; and Deshler Group’s primary facility, which houses operations for sister companies GS3 Global (supply chain management, assembly, engineering,) Feblo International (warehousing,) Global Transportation Management (logistics) and Amanda Products (aftermarket automotive products.)

WCEDC’s and WIN’s program began in 2015 and has steadily grown to include over 30 Wayne County-based companies and more than 2,000 area students to promote the many in-demand skills and manufacturing careers in Metro Detroit. WCEDC and WIN are focused on providing avenues for students to explore and understand what kinds of careers they can realize in the future, specifically in the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing Day is a national, annual celebration of modern manufacturing, to inspire and educate students, businesses, media, educators, and politicians about career opportunities in manufacturing. The day provides students a positive understanding of the manufacturing industry, with the long-term goal of addressing the skilled labor shortages American manufacturers face.


The Deshler Group, based in Livonia, Michigan, is a global family of companies that, while successful in their individual capabilities, also recognize that unity is the ultimate asset.  In seamless partnership, Deshler creates solutions for its customers’ toughest challenges, while relentlessly driving forward their own efficient processes and product innovations. Manufacturing, assembly, packaging, logistics and information technology: Deshler does it all, with efficiency and innovation.

For more information on Deshler Group, visit