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Detroit Regional Chamber, Connection Point Travel to the White House

On Friday, Feb. 10, the Detroit Regional Chamber and its Connection Point program traveled to the White House for a special meeting to strategize about job creation and economic growth in the Motor City. The event, This invitation-only meeting capped a two-day visit to Washington D.C. by the Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Economic Development Benjamin Erulkar and Connection Point Program Director Trevor Pawl. At the White House, the two shared their insight with senior officials from the Obama administration including Gene Sperling, the Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. The Departments of Commerce and Transportation, Small Business Administration, Federal Transit Administration, White House Office of Public Engagement, United States Patent and Trademark Office and the White House Joining Forces Initiative were also represented.

Chamber, Detroit Business Community Provide Feedback to Washington

Erulkar and Pawl joined more than 50 business leaders from the Detroit community at the event, which was the seventh in a series of business leader briefings that are taking place at the White House throughout the year.

“The Detroit Regional Chamber and Connection Point are working with innovative Michigan companies every day to help rejuvenate the Detroit region and we were proud to share our insight and experience with the White House,” said Erulkar.

Participants provided feedback to the administration on ways to work together to support economic competitiveness, job creation and innovation. The business leaders had the chance to ask questions, express ideas, and brief administration officials on manufacturing issues, access to capital, workforce development, health care reform, and infrastructure development.

Patent Office in Detroit Will Continue to Drive Innovation

One of the main topics of discussion was the proposed opening of a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office branch at 300 River Place in Detroit, formally the old Parke-Davis building and Stroh Co. headquarters. The branch, the first one ever to be located outside of Washington D.C., is expected to provide a boost to the region’s economy and create more than 100 high-paying, highly skilled jobs.

“There’s never been a patent office outside the Washington D.C. area – this is a big deal,” Erulkar said. “Patents remain one of the most important measures of innovation, something at which Detroit already excels at. Anchoring this facility in the Motor City is a great opportunity to increase the flow of talented people into our region and further position the city to lead the country in innovation.”

Connection Point in the Spotlight

Connection Point drew major interest among Detroit business leaders attending the event. Pawl addressed the group, highlighting the successes of the Connection Point program in helping Michigan suppliers expand their business by connecting with purchasers and pursuing new opportunities across diverse industries.

“Michigan is still the global epicenter of the auto industry with first-rate engineering and research and development resources that drive innovation in so many industries,” Pawl said. “Connection Point can help companies across the global supply chain unlock that potential and grow their business.”

This past year, for instance, Connection Point enabled Michigan suppliers to access $113.7 million in pre-qualified sourcing opportunities with the U.S. subsidiary of Deutz A.G. – the world’s largest independent diesel engine manufacturer. Connection Point also hosted a forum with NASA in December to help build research and development partnerships with Michigan companies.

While in Washington, Erulkar and Pawl also met with private sector companies that might serve as prospective purchasers for Michigan businesses. They also met with the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Energy as well as NASA to explore greater partnership opportunities with the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Detroit Well Represented During Event

In addition to the Erulkar and Pawl, participants represented a wide range of industries that comprise make up Detroit’s economy. Executives from Ameriprise Financial, TechTown, Original Equipment Suppliers Association, R&B Development, Avis Ford Incorporated, Detroit Casino Partnership, Detroit Aircraft, LLC., Dunamis Clean Energy Partners, LLC., Powerlink Facilities Management Services, and Utility Services of America will participated along with entrepreneurs and V.C.’s from the Greater Detroit area.

“Business leaders are a critical voice in the policymaking process,” said Bert Kaufman, Vice President of Business Forward in a press release. “White House officials were more than a little eager to hear directly from Detroit leaders on issues important to the area’s economy and ideas for spurring job growth.”

Access to Senior Obama Administration Officials

Senior Administration officials who took part in the briefing included, Dr. Rebecca Blank, Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Commerce; Marie Johns, Deputy Administrator, Small Business Administration; Peter Rogoff, Administrator, Federal Transit Administration, Department of Transportation; David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce; Greg Nelson, Deputy Director, White House Office of Public Engagement; Brad Cooper, Executive Director, White House Joining Forces Initiative; and Gene Sperling, Director of the National Economic Council and Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, White House.