Destination Detroit Collaborating on Major Business Attraction Effort for Amazon’s HQ2

The Detroit Regional Chamber is a key part of a broad and inclusive leadership group working under the chairmanship of Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert to prepare a world-class proposal for Amazon’s second headquarters.

Amazon’s search for a second headquarters has sent economic developers across North America into overdrive vying for this coveted project.

The Chamber will bring its expertise in economic development, business attraction, regional transit, talent and next-generation mobility as well as research capabilities to the coalition.

The coalition is off to a fast and strong start. Detroit has significant assets to be very competitive in this project and a first-rate team assembled. Read some of the regional coverage here.

Alibaba’s Gateway ’17 Opens New Doors to Chinese Market for Detroit Businesses

By Daniel Lai & Daniel A. Washington 

Alibaba Group Ltd.’s Gateway ’17 export conference held on June 20-21 at Cobo Center was the company’s first-ever event of its magnitude, attracting more than 3,000 businesses, entrepreneurs and media from 48 states, and many from the Detroit region.

“I cannot imagine a more fitting or welcoming place for our first Gateway event,” said Michael Evans, president of Alibaba Group, about the importance of Detroit during his opening remarks.

As a global leader in facilitating transactions and exchanges of goods and services for small businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers in China, Alibaba is looking to open new doors for businesses across the Midwest.

“Today I want to tell the people: If you miss the opportunity of selling products to China, you will miss the opportunity, you will miss the future,” said Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, in a conversation with PBS anchor Charlie Rose.

The opening ceremony included a surprise visit and remarks from local businessman Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures. Gilbert spoke briefly during a fireside chat with Lisa Ling, executive producer and host of “This is Life” on CNN.

“The truth is you can’t be afraid of failure in business,” Gilbert said. “You have to embrace it and all the opportunities afforded you to be successful – if you don’t you will never gain wealth.”

The conference included several keynotes and remarks from local and national figures, including:  Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Camping World and Good Sam Enterprises CEO Marcus Lemonis, UPS CEO David Abney,and many more.

View highlights from the Conference here.

Alibaba Founder Jack Ma: The Future Belongs to Small Businesses

The future belongs to small businesses that are flexible enough to embrace e-commerce, Jack Ma, founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, predicted during a poignant keynote address at the Gateway ’17 export forum in Detroit.

Ma told the standing room-only crowd that the dominance of giant companies is declining as more small companies can cheaply and easily market their services on the internet.

“The internet is the opportunity of a lifetime for small businesses,” Ma said.

Customers that were once out of reach for startups that lacked the capital or know-how to expand is no longer an obstacle for those who have the will to learn how to move beyond their local market.

“If you believe it, you can make it happen,” he said, adding that customers are more interested in products and companies that cater specifically to their needs versus standardization.

And China is a willing market.

Rattling off statistic after statistic, Ma said 200 million Chinese customers a day purchase goods on their phones and Alibaba currently ships more than 60 million packages a day. He expects that number to increase to 1 billion packages in less than 10 years.

“Imagine the possibilities for American businesses and jobs,” he said. “Don’t ignore China as we shift from an export country to an import country. In the next decade, China’s middle class will increase to 500-600 million and with that, the demand for quality American products will be huge.”

So how does one tap into the Chinese market?

That is where companies like Alibaba and other e-commerce platforms come into play, Ma said.

The website currently has more than 7,000 U.S. companies selling products to China. Ma said he would like to increase that number to 1 million in the next five years. Doing so requires rapid adoption of new technology and a willingness to loosen restrictions in border-to-border trade.

“Think of us as a virtual mall with nearly half a billion shoppers buying from sellers that operate their own online storefronts. We are already a gateway for thousands of global brands, retailers and companies to sell to Chinese consumers,” Ma said.

Ma has traveled the world meeting with top government leaders to drive home his message that small businesses should lead globalization while also encouraging the creation of free trade zones specifically for those businesses.

Turning his attention to the business owners in the room, Ma also acknowledged that the road ahead for entrepreneurs is not without its own challenges. He himself experienced the heartache of rejection from venture capitalists, nearly leading his company to bankruptcy before finding success. Even at a young age, Ma said his applications to work for companies like KFC and to attend college at Harvard University were rejected. Still, he persisted.

Drawing on those lessons, Ma offered his advice for business success:

  • Believe in the future
  • Love your customer
  • Have a vision and hire smart individuals who believe in that vision
  • Focus on good products and customer service
  • Stay focused

He also offered a warning to those companies who have not caught up to the digital race:

“We are in the midst of the next technological revolution. Pay attention to the next 30 years. The companies that make the best use of the internet will win,” he said.

For more information on tapping into the Chinese market, visit www.alizila.com.

Daniel Lai is a communications specialist and copywriter at the Detroit Regional Chamber. 

Daniel A. Washington is an integrated marketing specialist at the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Dan Gilbert Taking Detroit to Overdrive

By Tom Walsh

If it feels like Dan Gilbert has taken Detroit’s development surge and thrust it into hyperdrive, get ready to buckle up and brace for more.

ISMs Day, July 2015., Dan Gilbert speaking to team members about the Quicken Loans and FOC culture and ISMs.

Borrowing a Winston Churchill quote, after a pivotal World War II battle turned the tide for Britain, Gilbert said, “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is,perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Translation: Detroit’s revival, with QLine streetcars to debut this spring and plans underway for a dazzling 52-story skyscraper on the old Hudson’s site – on the heels of news that a Shinola Hotel is coming, Microsoft moving downtown and a major neighborhood development in Brush Park breaking ground – is still at an early stage.

“We’ve got a lot more to go. I don’t think you’re ever really done as a city. You’re either growing or dying, nothing in between,” said Gilbert, Quicken Loans founder and chairman, whose family of companies has acquired more than 95 properties and grown to 17,000 employees in the city since Gilbert moved Quicken headquarters with 1,500 employees downtown in 2010.

Gilbert’s Quicken and Rock Ventures teams have led development of the QLine project and Detroit’s blight removal task force, are investing $20 million in community projects this year, and and are planning to renovate the David Stott building, Book Tower and the old Detroit Free Press building downtown.

But Gilbert is also reaching out to CEOs from Silicon Valley, Wall Street and elsewhere to peddle a much bigger vision for his hometown.

“Detroit is going to be the center of the world in the next 10 or 15 years, with technology changing the whole world economy. Detroit has a real chance to be THE city where it’s all centered. It’s right there for us,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert recently sat down with the Detroiter to discuss his impact on Detroit’s revitalization and plans for the future.

You have talked about the need to “go vertical” as the next stage of Detroit’s growth in the city core. Why? Where? How soon? And how high?

If we don’t grow vertically, we can’t grow anymore because we’re full (downtown). There are companies that want big chunks of space, 50,000 square feet, and we have nowhere to put them. So we have to build, and that’s the focus of the next few years for sure. Hudson’s will be the tallest building in Detroit, 52 stories, 734 feet high. The tower will be residential. There will be retail on the street and the first floor will be like a showcase — there will be a gap on Woodward, so cars can come in and drive out to do a reveal or something. We plan to showcase the best in technology in a civic space. We’ll also be building on the Monroe blocks and Brush Park.

The QLine streetcar is getting ready to roll. What do you expect the impact to be?

I think it’s going to have more of an effect than anybody believes. The fact that most of QLine is curbside – which I really fought for, big time – will make it easy, logical to use. I don’t know if there’s a street in the world like Woodward Avenue, from Grand Boulevard to the river. It has a beautiful river and a riverwalk and then QLINE-Streetcaryou come up through parks and retail developments, new construction, and this huge entertainment district that’s got four stadiums … and then you have all the museums. It’s got everything. I think the QLine already has an effect on the real estate market. There are numerous real estate developers who have jockeyed and bought along the route. One of the most impressive things about the Ilitches’ development of The District Detroit is, look at where they put that stadium: right up to Woodward. I was so excited when I saw that. I don’t think that happens without the QLine.

Tell us about your fellow NBA team owner Tom Gores and his decision to move the Detroit Pistons downtown. He is partnering with you on a bid for a pro soccer team, which you would like to build on the unfinished jail site downtown. What will his impact be?

Once the Sacramento Kings opened their new arena downtown last year, the Pistons had the only one of 29 NBA arenas not located in the city – not only not in the city, but 35 miles away. When LeBron James went to Miami for four years and our (Cleveland Cavaliers) team wasn’t doing well, we were at about the same record as the Pistons. I don’t think we’re any better marketers than them; I don’t think there’s any greater appetite for basketball in Cleveland than in Detroit – but we were getting 18,000 fans and Pistons were announcing 9,000 but getting 5,000 in the seats. Why is that? We have the same kind of team, both rebuilding. But you know you’re going to go downtown, have dinner, go to a casino and walk around (in Cleveland).

In Detroit, am I going to drive 35 miles, park 300 yards away on asphalt and freeze my tail off to watch a team that’s not competitive, and then walk out and have nowhere to go to dinner? In the city, you have more chance of drawing fans when the team is not so great, right? I also think that (Tom Gores) genuinely wants to participate in Detroit’s turnaround.

The big private investors in Detroit’s resurgence have been native Detroiters who built successful businesses: the Ilitch family, yourself, Peter Karmanos. What about big money from other states and countries? Are we on the cusp of a major investment influx from outsiders?

I think if you go to Midtown, a significant portion of the developers are out-of-state people. Now, the big investors, there’s no doubt in my mind they want to do something. But they don’t want to do little deals, they want do something big.

Next year, the Urban Land Institute (ULI) is bringing its national 2018 Spring Meeting, about 4,000 people from all over the world, top real estate developers and experts to Detroit. It’s going to be huge. The REITs (real estate investment trusts) are very interested in Detroit. That’s why this ULI convention is a big one, because almost every big real estate developer or owner participates in it.

What is the solution to the oft-cited “two cities” dilemma of a thriving Detroit downtown surrounded by struggling neighborhoods? How will people across the city benefit from Detroit’s resurgence?

When we moved downtown, we had 75 people that lived in the city of Detroit. Now we have 3,500 and we would have 2,000 more if there was product for them to move into. They live in nearly every neighborhood
in the city. You absolutely have to have commercial neighborhood services and jobs. But most of the jobs are going to be in downtown and Midtown for the people in the neighborhoods. That’s just a fact. And the best thing you can do for the neighborhoods is to have jobs, period. We opened up a company named Rock Connections, a call center, just a few years ago. Of the 850 people there, most are Detroit residents. Our CEO, Victor You, wants to hire 2,000 more. We have nowhere to put them; we have no space. In my opinion you need these sort of entry point-type jobs. They get $12 to $15 an hour, plus incentives based on sales sometimes, but full benefits, and the the good ones move onto other businesses. I’m so high on the call center. I’m trying to get everybody that outsources that service – whether it’s to India or the Dakotas or Nebraska – let’s get your call centers in Detroit.

Where does the rapid evolution of self driving cars and other technologies fit into the Detroit development story?

I have to tell you, this is not something I could have predicted, that car technology – what they’re calling autonomous vehicles – was going to take off so fast. I went to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas the last two years and it’s like THE car technology show. It’s all they talk about. The technology guys want (mobility and self-driving cars) here and the car companies want it here. There’s a case to turn one urban core into the premier place. In Michigan, the governor and legislature already passed the best law in the country for sure, allowing autonomous vehicle testing. And now, the next phase in my view, is turning Detroit into the city where you go to see how this works. You get ahead of the curve.

Tom Walsh is a former columnist for the Detroit Free Press.

Read more from this issue below: 

Under Construction: Michigan’s Build-To-Suit Market

The Ilitch Touch: Transforming Detroit’s Downtown

Detroit: A City on the Rise

Dan Gilbert on Detroit Talent at NAIAS: ‘No Place Else Compares’

Speaking at the kickoff of the 2017 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) on Sunday, Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert said no place on the planet has more talent and drive than Detroit – a key selling point for tech and automotive companies looking to become players in the next-generation mobility space.

“The energy, cooperation and collaboration is here,” Gilbert told an audience of national and international journalists at the opening of the new Automobili-D exhibit. “You can have a great product and service but you have to have the talent … Detroit is that magnet.”

In addressing questions from Bloomberg reporter Betty Liu on what sets Detroit apart from other cities in the United States, Gilbert said he believes giving millennials the opportunity to feel like they are part of something greater than themselves is a major selling point.

Gilbert, a 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference keynote speaker, also reiterated his message of being willing to take big risks and said he is amazed at the number of businesses moving back to the city. Noting that existing real estate in the downtown area is nearing capacity, Gilbert predicted that 10 to 15 high-rise buildings will begin construction in Detroit over the next five years. View the interview here.

Other announcements throughout the day included:

  • Disney’s Pixar Animation Studio offered a sneak peak of its upcoming “Cars 3” film. Flanked by a life-size model of “Lightening McQueen,” the star of the film series, John Lasseter, Pixar’s chief creative officer, discussed Detroit and the auto show’s impact on the studio’s blockbuster movie. Research and development for the first film began after Lasseter visited the auto show in 2001.
  • Chris Thomas, founder and partner of Fontinalis Partners LLC, discussed Detroit’s role in the future of mobility and encouraged public and private collaboration to keep Michigan at the forefront of transportation as a service. “Detroit has an opportunity to be a global hub for mobility but we have to act now, or it will pass us by,” he said.
  • John Krafcik, CEO of Waymo, introduced the Chrysler Pacifica self-driving minivan, which will be on the roads in California and Arizona later this month. He also said Michigan built 100 Pacifica minivans that will be the first vehicles to receive Waymo’s self-driving technology. “We’re not seeking to build a better car,” Krafcik said. “We’re seeking to build a better driver.”
  • Ken Washington of Ford Motor Co., Danny Shapiro of NVIDIA, and David Strickland of the Self-Driving Coalition, participated in a State of Autonomy panel discussion for the last event of the day. The panelists discussed the latest technology, current legislation, major consumer concerns and what needs to happen to take autonomous vehicles from prototypes to mainstream. The panel was moderated by Tim Stevens of CNET’s “Roadshow.”

Harvard Business School Club of Michigan Selects Dan Gilbert at Business Leader of the Year

Proceeds from the October 10 dinner event will support Michigan’s leading non-profit executives

Bloomfield Hills, MI —September 13, 2013 — The Harvard Business School Club of Michigan announces that Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Detroit-based Quicken Loans, Inc., has been selected as the Club’s annual Business Leader of the Year. A dinner to honor Mr. Gilbert will take place on Thursday, Oct. 10, at Qzine at the Chase Building in Detroit. The announcement was made by Harvard Business School Club of Michigan board chair, Richard Shapack.

“The Harvard Business School Club of Michigan supports the Harvard Business School mission to train business leaders to make a difference in their communities. Dan Gilbert is the standout recipient for this year’s award. His business success is internationally recognized as is his unwavering commitment to support Detroit in its comeback efforts,” said Shapack. “Mr. Gilbert is harnessing the energy and potential of Detroit and the region, particularly among young adults, and reflects the benefits of private/public partnerships and the good that can be accomplished in business and the community when outstanding leaders are in charge.”

The honorary chair of the Business Leader of the Year event is Matt Cullen, president & CEO of Rock Ventures, LLC. Proceeds from the event will be used to fund scholarships for Michigan non-profit leaders to attend the 2014 Strategic Perspectives for Non-Profit Management (SPNM) program, an intensive six-day course presented each July at the Harvard Business School in Boston. SPNM scholarships are offered through a nomination/application process for candidates who exemplify dedication, commitment and pursuit of excellence within the non-profit sector. The 2013 recipients of the SPNM scholarship were Sharlonda Buckman, CEO of the Detroit Parent Network; Cheryl Johnson, CEO of the Coalition on Temporary Shelter; Perry Ohren, CEO of Jewish Family Services of Metropolitan Detroit; and Alice Thompson, CEO of Black Family Development, Inc. Including the 2013 class, 35 Michigan non-profit leaders have participated in SPNM since scholarships were first presented by the Club in 1999.

“Members of the Harvard Business School Club of Michigan have a passion for helping those in our community and so do Sharlonda Buckman, Cheryl Johnson, Perry Ohren and Alice Thompson,” said Shapack.

“Our Club is proud of these exceptional, dedicated individuals and our opportunity to support their efforts with this important training. The Strategic Perspectives for Non-Profit Management program provides significant opportunities for these outstanding and committed non-profit community leaders to join with their national and international peers and further expand their skills for the benefit of the thousands of Michigan citizens they collectively serve.”

In addition to SPNM participation, scholarship recipients meet together, and with Harvard Business School Club of Michigan members, on a regular basis to collaborate, to be a resource for each other and to continue their exposure to various management and social enterprise concepts, such as performance measurement and the balanced scorecard. SPNM alumni and Harvard Business School Club of Michigan members also serve together as liaisons with the State of Michigan to collaborate in the application of private sector and non-profit management solutions to state agency issues.

For a complete list of all scholarship awardees, please visit http://www.hbsmi.org/article.html?aid=109.

Harvard Business School Club of Michigan Business Leader of the Year

What: Harvard Business School Club of Michigan’s annual Business Leader of the Year event honoring Dan Gilbert; strolling dinner with Michigan-themed food, beer and wine

When: Thursday, October 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Where: Qzine at the Chase Building – 611 Woodward Avenue, 8th floor, Detroit

Registration: Tickets begin at $125 and can be purchased online at http://www.hbsmi.org/article.html?aid=231; for questions, please contact Amanda Schubeck at schubec4@gmail.com or 248.930.4614
Sponsorship opportunities, including Crimson sponsorships, for the Business Leader of the Year event are available and inquiries should be directed to Doug Allen at dallen@gbngroup.net or 734.213.5318.

About the Harvard Business School Club of Michigan (HBSMI)
With a 70+ year history, the Harvard Business School Club of Michigan (HBSMI) offers diverse business, educational and social activities, including opportunities to network and collaborate with local and national business and civic leaders. Learn more at www.hbsmi.org.

Gilbert seeks ideas for developing Hudson’s site in Detroit

From the Detroit Free Press

February 28, 2013

By JC Reindl, 

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert is planning an international design competition to solicit ideas for redeveloping the site of the former Hudson’s department store in downtown Detroit.

Matt Cullen, president of Rock Ventures, the real estate arm of Gilbert’s business interests, revealed the plan this morning during a presentation on current and future “Live, Work, and Play” vision for the city at the Detroit Policy Conference in the MotorCity Casino-Hotel.

More details will come in several weeks when the contest is formally announced, Cullen said.

A new building with ground floor retail and residential units on higher floors is one possibility, Cullen said, noting the nearly 100% occupancy rate for recent residential developments in downtown.

The 25-story Hudson’s building at 1206 Woodward took up an entire city block and was once the second-largest department store in the world. “It is an iconic site,” Cullen said.

The store closed in 1983 and, on Oct. 24, 1998, the building was explosively imploded before a gathering of about 50,000 spectators.

There is currently a parking structure underneath the site. The property is controlled by the city of Detroit, and Gilbert’s Rock Ventures received a time extension on Wednesday from the state’s Michigan Strategic Fund to come up with development plans for a renaissance zone there with multiple tax breaks.

Gilbert is willing to spend up to $75 million.

“We’re reaching the point where new construction will make a lot of sense for residential because there is such demand,” Cullen said.

Cullen also said that Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures expects to hire 2,000 workers during the next 12 to 18 months and hopes to bring 1,000 young interns to Detroit this summer.

Urban theorist Richard Florida, author of the influential “Rise of the Creative Class,” gave a conference presentation on the economic benefits to harnessing the potential of the many knowledge workers living in the metro Detroit.

WDET: Chamber CEO Discusses Purchase of One Woodward Building

Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah discusses Dan Gilbert’s purchase of the One Woodward building and the importance of strong urban core and suburban economies on WDET.

Listen to the full interview here.