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Civic Leaders: Economic Opportunity, Inclusion Requires ‘All Hands on Deck’

For Detroit to have sustainable economic growth, inclusion and collaboration among business, community, philanthropic, and government sectors must remain a top priority. Communities that are inclusive don’t waste assets and don’t bare the high cost of poverty. That was a main takeaway from a panel discussion titled “Keys to Creating Places of Opportunity” featuring Detroit Regional Chamber President Sandy Baruah, The Skillman Foundation’s Tonya Allen, and Detroit Medical Center’s Conrad Mallett during the NeighborWorks Training Institute Symposium: Creating Places of Opportunity on Aug. 10 in Detroit.

Moderated by Bob Weissbourd, president of RW Ventures, panelists explored how new relationships between equity and growth create opportunity to align goals in a disruptive economy. That is where philanthropic, anchor and growth institutions are finding a way to work together to create a more competitive and inclusive Detroit.

The prospect of helping hundreds of residents and retaining jobs in the region has been a longstanding goal of the Detroit Medical Center, Mallett said, pointing to the fact that DMC consciously chose to work with diverse businesses and contractors on recent projects.

“Decisions have to be made that inclusion is, in fact, going to occur,” Mallet said. “The discussion should not take long; it should be a commitment to be better. Building that (mindset) needs to be managed in a way that inclusion is a requirement of the end product.”

Discussing how to create thriving economies, neighborhoods and communities, Baruah stated: “In a global 21st century economy we need all hands on deck. We cannot afford as a society, a dynamic global economy, to have communities of people who are not fully participating in pursuit of the American dream and what that means.”

Participation in the panel reflects a 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List item to continue to support an economically inclusive Detroit by promoting education access, options, and attainment as well as to continue to promote financial literacy.