Business Leaders: Education Reform and Job Creation Will Help Michigan ‘Live Long and Prosper’

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah and Education Attainment Manager Melanie D’Evelyn spoke at the Michigan Solutions Summit on Thursday, March 22 to share insight on the Chamber’s ongoing efforts towards education reform, job creation, and talent retention in metro Detroit. The event was hosted by Business Leaders for Michigan and Bridge magazine.

The More You Learn the More You Earn
D’Evelyn outlined Detroit Drives Degrees’ plan to increase the percentage of postsecondary degrees in the metro Detroit region to 60 percent by 2030. Currently, about 40 percent of Detroiters hold a postsecondary degree.

“Detroit Drives Degrees’ goal is to create an education compact and collaborate with different sectors (nonprofits, higher education, philanthropy) toward reaching a common goal,” D’Evelyn said.. “We want the public to hold us accountable.”

The compact’s work has already begun. Wayne State University (WSU) Provost Keith Whitfield announced at the summit that the university is creating a program that allows adults who left college to re-enroll without paying back the full amount of educational debt they accumulated. The idea is that the university will absorb some of that debt to encourage adults to focus on completing their degrees.

Whitfield also announced that WSU is investing in academic advisors to help current students succeed and building partnerships to offer more paid internships to students. Both Whitfield and D’Evelyn are hoping that other universities will see the benefits of these innovations and create similar programs.

Regional Collaboration Will Drive Job Creation
After D’Evelyn’s discussion on educational reform, Baruah, along with Dave Egner, President and CEO of the Ralph Wilson Foundation, and Kim Trent, Wayne State University Board of Directors sat on a panel to discuss how job creation and talent retention fit into the regional improvement puzzle.

Baruah addressed several roadblocks that currently hinder business growth and investment in the region that would, in turn, produce prosperous jobs to retain educated Michiganders. One such roadblock is a lack of connected, reliable regional transit.

“What is preventing regional transit? Essentially, two things: one, change is an issue of culture. People in Michigan love cars and grew up in the auto culture, and they don’t want that to change,” Baruah said. “And the second big issue is a lingering sense of distrust between Detroiters and suburbanites. People don’t want to pay higher taxes for a system they don’t think they’ll use.”

Aside from transit, the lack of qualified talent was another issue Baruah cited as preventing Detroit from attracting new business. He emphasized the region’s need to invest in talent, encourage people to go into the skilled trades, and repurpose money used to incarcerate non-violent criminals to reintroduce these individuals into Michigan’s workforce.

Both D’Evelyn and Baruah emphasized that collaboration between the public and private sectors is what will drive education reform, job creation and talent retention for the state and region. By working together, Detroiters can create a region where everyone can prosper.

Great Lakes Metro Chambers Push for Action on Infrastructure, Immigration and Trade

The Detroit Regional Chamber and the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition met with members of Congress and their staff during a two-day fly-in to Washington, D.C. last week to discuss several recently proposed policies that will affect business in the Great Lakes region.

During the visit, the Coalition met with Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN 6), and Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), among others. This visit primarily centered around advancing three of the Coalition’s top policy priorities: the development of a robust, nationwide infrastructure plan; increasing high-skilled immigration; and supporting the preservation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Coalition members spent much of their time discussing President Trump’s recently proposed infrastructure, immigration and trade policies. The infrastructure policy allocates $1.5 trillion in investment that was proposed in February. The Coalition supports developing comprehensive infrastructure legislation and increased federal funding for key projects, including an upgrade to the Soo Locks.

Regarding immigration, the Coalition continues to support high-skilled immigration. Data shows that immigrants bring the talent, labor, and spending power needed to help grow the Great Lakes’ economy. According to a New American Economy report, in the Great Lakes region alone, immigrants account for half of the population growth over the last 15 years and drove almost two-thirds of the region’s working-age population growth in the same amount of time.

Finally, the Coalition met with representatives to discuss the preservation of NAFTA. Modernization is necessary to improve trade between the United States and its allies, but pulling the United States from NAFTA would be catastrophic for businesses across the Great Lakes region that rely on restrictive-free trade with Canada and Mexico.

The Coalition will continue to engage the administration on improving infrastructure, immigration and trade regulations to help grow the region’s economy.

For more information on the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, visit

Press Release: MCAN College Access Impact Awards Recognize Three Metro Detroit Organizations and Individuals

Detroit Regional Chamber, Hazel Park adviser and Chandler Park adviser awarded for contributions to increasing postsecondary attainment

LANSING, MICH. – The Michigan College Access Network (MCAN) held its eighth annual conference in Lansing and recognized numerous outstanding college advocates from across the state on Monday at the annual College Access Impact Awards dinner, including Britteny Mitchell, a Michigan College Advising Corps adviser at Chandler Park High School, Moussa Traore, a Michigan State University College Advising Corps adviser at Hazel Park High School, and the Detroit Regional Chamber. Seven award categories recognized the hard work and dedication of 12 individuals and organizations that have gone above and beyond to improve postsecondary educational attainment in Michigan.

Mitchell and Traore are both recipients of the Ombudsman award, for their service at Chandler Park Academy and Hazel Park High School, respectively. The Ombudsman Award recognizes individuals whose passion for college access helps them persevere over challenges while engaged in their year of service as an AmeriCorps member through one of the college advising programs within the state.

The Detroit Regional Chamber earned MCAN’s Beacon Award because of their strong leadership in the college access and degree completion space, their innovative FAFSA Challenge, their long-­‐term and ongoing support for the Detroit College Access Network and Detroit Drives Degrees, as well as their support of the Detroit Promise. The Beacon Award recognizes those that work to unite programs, activities and/or operations in support of postsecondary attainment through partnerships.

“Our annual conference celebrates the individuals and organizations who work tirelessly to improve postsecondary attainment in Michigan,” said Brandy Johnson, executive director of MCAN. “Congratulations to Britteny, Moussa, the Detroit Regional Chamber and all of our outstanding award winners. Their commitment to creating a college-­‐going culture in Michigan is making a difference in the lives of countless high school students.”

In addition to the award ceremony, the Michigan College Access Network hosted hundreds of college access professionals and education leaders during the two-­‐day conference. The conference theme, “Cultivating Tomorrow’s Talent,” emphasized the important role  talent development plays in improving   the future  of  Michigan.  MCAN  supports  initiatives  to  help  students  as  they  pursue  postsecondary education  in Michigan.

The Annual Conference included numerous breakout sessions and three keynote speakers: Michele Siqueiros, president, of The Campaign for College Opportunity, Laura Owen, director of the Center for Postsecondary Readiness and Success at American University, and John Fox, head of Mopar sales and operations at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.



About Michigan College Access Network

As the leader in the state’s college access movement, MCAN’s mission is to increase Michigan’s college readiness, participation and completion rates, particularly among low-­‐income students, first-­‐generation college going students, and students of color. For the seventh year in a row, Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate has increased — from 35.7 percent of 25-­‐to-­‐64-­‐year-­‐olds possessing at least an associate degree in 2008, to 39.4 percent in 2016. Additionally, it is estimated another 4 percent of Michiganders have a high-­‐quality certificate, bringing Michigan’s official attainment rate to 43.7 percent. It is MCAN’s goal to increase Michigan’s postsecondary educational attainment rate to 60 percent by  the year 2025. For more information, visit

Consumers Energy CEO: Tap Into Your Employee Melting Pot To Tackle Business Solutions

As one of the region’s most successful leaders, Consumers Energy CEO Patti Poppe says collaboration is the fuel that can drive the growth of a business. She also says that giving employees a voice at the table offers them a sense of ownership and pride in a company’s long-term vision. Poppe, a Detroit Regional Chamber Board member, sat down with the eDetroiter to share her secrets for business success. Read the Q&A below.

Hear more from Poppe at the upcoming Inside the CEO Mind event April 19 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.

You were named in Crain’s “100 Most Influential Women.” To what do you attribute your success and what is the biggest lesson you can share with aspiring organizational leaders?

I attribute my success to having the ability to harness the power of others and being able to get a team of people committed to an outcome instead of pushing an individual agenda, alone. It is better to be effective than right. I have learned that there are times when I may be right but if I force my authority or power, I will not be effective.

In your opinion, what should be the next steps for the Detroit region to foster business growth?

For the economy to grow in any region there must be a supportive business community. Encouraging local businesses to work together when contracting for supplies and services is a must; that’s why we helped establish Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) and continue to encourage our Michigan-based suppliers and contractors to pay it forward. When Detroit businesses work together, the community will succeed.

How does Consumers tackle the issue of attracting and retaining talent? What can others learn from your success and/or challenges in that capacity?

We attract talent with our strong employment brand, commitment to customers and inclusive culture. We retain talent by offering fulfilling careers where a person can bring his or her full self to work and succeed. Our employees tell us that their work offers them a deep sense of pride and purpose. Everyone comes to the table with a unique perspective, and it is important to recognize that a melting pot of ideas propels a company to succeed.

If you were to give your 20-year-old self some business advice, what would it be?

You can have it all! Surround yourself with people who encourage and enable you to do what you were uniquely born to do so that you can make your mark on the world.

What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values? Why?

At Consumers Energy we make promises every day to be Michigan’s trusted energy provider, delivering affordable, reliable energy and valuable services to enable our customers’ quality of life. It is important work because our customers are family, friends and neighbors.

What are the most-important strategic priorities for Consumers in the coming year? How will you gauge success?

To create a culture of continuous improvement through the Consumers Energy way of doing business: working safely, completing work right the first time, at the lowest cost and on schedule. Focusing on safety, quality, cost and delivery provides us with a strategic advantage so that we can continue to deliver on the promises we make to Michigan each day.

Hear more from Poppe at the upcoming Inside the CEO Mind event April 19 at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.


Three Upcoming Chamber Events You Do Not Want to Miss

In March and April, the Detroit Regional Chamber has approximately 15 events. For Chamber members, it can be difficult to know which events are the most important to attend. Non-members often have the same issue, especially considering the numerous obligations and events around the region that can quickly fill calendars.

To help you slim down your choices, check out three key events for businesses the Chamber is hosting over the next two months:

  1. State of the State: Now and in the Future. During a conversation over lunch on Tuesday, March 27, Gov. Rick Snyder will discuss how the state has grown over the past eight years while also looking at the long-term impact of those accomplishments. Following his remarks, the Governor will participate in a moderated discussion with business leaders from three key industries to forecast how Michigan will continue to grow in the coming years. This Chamber members-only event is $65. Please note that prices will increase on March 20. Register here.
  2. Inside the CEO Mind: Patti Poppe. Hear from Consumers Energy President and CEO Patti Poppe on Thursday, April 19 as she shares her journey in the energy and automotive industries that have led to her current position and how her commitment to customer-first management allows her to be a successful leader. Following her presentation, audience members are invited to participate in a question-and-answer session. This event is $30 for Chamber members and $50 for non-members. Please note that prices will increase on April 12. Register here.
  3. Networking Reception: Meet the Candidates. Attendees will meet the candidates who are running for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan’s 9th, 11th and 13th districts while mingling with fellow Chamber members in attendance. This event offers early access and the first opportunity to meet the declared candidates. This Chamber members-only event is $15 and takes place on Tuesday, April 24. Please note, pricing will increase to $25 on April 10. Register here.

For a full list of upcoming Chamber events, visit the events page.


Five Tips to Strengthen Your Leadership Detroit Application

Leadership Detroit is entering its 40th year and is currently seeking high-potential leaders in the Detroit region to join the upcoming class. Please consider nominating a leader from your organization, or if you have been nominated and want to learn more about the program, consider attending an informational breakfast.

Leadership Detroit is a transformational program, led by the Detroit Regional Chamber, for existing and emerging leaders in the Detroit region. For the past 40 years, this program has provided the foundation for a lifelong commitment to leadership by creating awareness of key issues that affect the Detroit region. Approximately 70 individuals are selected for the class every year, representing a cross section of the community, including business, organized labor, government, education, health services and community organizations. The program takes place over a 10-month period, with a graduation ceremony in June.

If you are considering applying to Leadership Detroit, or have a colleague in mind you would like to nominate, read the five tips below to strengthen your application:

  1. Work with your employer, not against him or her. To give yourself the best chance of success, it is smart to work with your employer on the nomination and application process, rather than informing him or her after the process is complete. There are many reasons for this: you and your employer can decide how your participation in Leadership Detroit best serves the organization; your employer can write a recommendation letter to strengthen your application; and your employer can approve the dates you will need to miss work for sessions ahead of time.
  2. Accept the time commitment. Before filling out the application, it is crucial that you look at the schedule of classes. Leadership Detroit class members are required to attend a certain number of the classes. Failure to fulfill this requirement could prevent members from graduating. Once you have been nominated, be sure to review the class schedule and approve these dates with your employer.
  3. When filling out your application, be authentic. The Leadership Detroit application is all about authenticity. Be transparent about who you are and exactly why you want to be in the class. What do you hope to gain from the experience?
  4. Attend an informational breakfast. If you have been nominated for Leadership Detroit, it is highly recommended that you attend an informational breakfast to learn more about the program and the application process. There are three informational breakfasts in 2018: March 13 at Plante Moran PLLC in Southfield, March 21 at the PNC Building in Troy, and April 17 at Detroit PAL in Detroit.
  5. Do not be discouraged if you do not get in on the first try. Many Leadership Detroit applicants do not get accepted to the program on their first try, and many apply to the program multiple times. Do not be discouraged if you are not selected, and try again next year.

To learn more, visit the Leadership Detroit page on the Detroit Regional Chamber website.

ArcelorMittal Sees its Future in an Old Detroit Plant

By: Paul Eisenstein

Driving through the old neighborhood on Detroit’s east side there’s a good chance you’d barely  notice the 92-year-old brick building, just one of many ancient factories left over from another era when Detroit was the indisputable center of the automotive universe. Slow down a bit and you might realize something dramatic is happening there – and at several other old plant sites nearby.

Originally opened in 1926 by the R.C. Mahon Co., a specialty steel producer, the 313,000 square-foot factory has come back to life to serve much the same purpose, albeit today producing state-of-the-art tailored blanks and other products for ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel manufacturer.

“In five years, you won’t know the area.It’s changing, and changing for the better,” says Mike Clark, the director of purchasing for the ArcelorMittal subsidiary, as he points to all the redevelopment efforts going on nearby, even the old party store across the street undergoing a renovation.

ArcelorMittal operates a similar factory in Ohio, but having experienced 30 percent growth for its specialty unit in the past two years, it recognized the need to add another plant. It looked at an assortment of sites in the Great Lakes region before settling on the Mt. Elliott factory.

Some of the advantages were obvious, including Detroit’s available and well-trained workforce, and “this is where our customers are,” ArcelorMittal supplying specialty metal products to all of the Detroit Big Three, as well as a Who’s-Who of imports.  Meanwhile, the Luxembourg-based steelmaker also had to deal with a compressed timetable, just 13 months to get a new factory into production.

Clark is quick to give much of the credit for making that possible to the Detroit Regional Chamber. “They aligned us with the right people to make it more favorable than any other location, among other things helping line up city and state incentives, including funding to improve the stretch of road between the plant and I-94.”

“They gave us the green-light,” he says, adding that the steelmaker was happy with what the Chamber pulled together.

In an era when many manufacturers prefer to move to the suburbs and build from the ground up, Clark said that it made much more sense for ArcelorMittal to move into the old factory. True, it took extensive renovation effort, but even after pumping in $40 million – the owner of the property kicking in another $10 million – the numbers made sense, especially with the short deadline for meeting new production contracts.

“Investments like ArcelorMittal’s in the Detroit region are what our organization strives for every day,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “We are actively out recruiting companies with the best technology that can help drive our core industries forward. The Chamber’s business attraction efforts seek to communicate to companies the advantages of locating to our region and then we connect them with the real estate, incentives, services and partners they will need to bring their project to fruition in our community, ultimately putting more of our residents to work.”

Economic development is a team sport and this project relied on tremendous additional support from DTE Energy, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and the City of Detroit to get it across the finish line.

ArcelorMittal is still ramping up operations at the Detroit plant – which includes not only the manufacturing shop, a metrology and metal research lab, and a variety of sales and executive management offices. The first-year target is to create 84 jobs – but that could be exceeded, Clark notes. Sales for the specialty unit hit $158 million in 2017 and the forecast is that they will reach $258 million by 2019.

The company is already looking to the future, its three-to-five-year North American plan calling for additional expansion. Though it did sign a 15-year lease, the company hasn’t locked down longer-term plans. That said, Clark said he is upbeat that, by working with the Chamber, the stars may again fall into alignment favoring further expansion in the city of Detroit.

Taiwanese Delegation Gets Up-Close Look at Detroit Region’s Innovation During NAIAS

Continuing to share the message of the automotive industry resurgence and a growing tech boom in the Detroit region, the Detroit Regional Chamber, along with the Michigan-China Innovation Center, hosted a delegation of 21 Taiwanese experts in the field of semiconductors and electronics as part of outreach efforts during the 2018 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

Delegates heard an overview of the region’s assets from Justin Robinson, vice president of Business Attraction for the Chamber, as well as an overview of Michigan’s strategic leadership in automotive from Courtney Henderson, business development manager of the Michigan-China Innovation Center. Mark Heusel of Dickinson Wright offered insight on common legal questions regarding doing business in the United States. During a Q&A, delegates expressed interest in expanding into the Detroit and Michigan as a key market for growth among the Taiwanese semiconductor industry.

Destination Detroit, a key initiative of the Chamber’s Forward Detroit economic development strategy, is focused on attracting businesses from around the world to the Detroit region. The delegation visit is one of several events the Chamber participates in throughout the auto show to promote Detroit and Michigan’s story to a global audience.

New ‘Driven’ Online Publication Offers One-Stop Shop to Tell Region’s Mobility Story

This week, the Detroit Regional Chamber and its regional economic development partners launched a new online publication, Driven, which is devoted to telling the story of the Detroit region’s mobility assets and leadership.

“Realizing the next-generation mobility story and our leadership in the industry was not one that was actively being told in a singular place, we came together collectively to highlight our strengths as a region,” said Justin Robinson, vice president of business attraction for the Chamber. “We are working together to engage our local partners and the region’s mobility leaders to advance the narrative through the lens of how metro Detroit is leading the global race towards next-generation mobility.”

Publication partners include: Ann Arbor SPARK, city of Detroit, Destination Detroit, Detroit Regional Chamber, MICHauto, Macomb and Oakland counties, and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s PlanetM initiative. Read and learn more about Driven at:

GEM Energy Appoints New Michigan Business Development Manager

Michael B. Thomas, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, has accepted the position of Business Development Manager-Michigan with GEM Energy of the Rudolph Libbe Group.

Thomas, who joined the Rudolph Libbe Group’s Michigan business development team in 2015, will now specialize in HVAC preventive maintenance and facility management for Michigan customers. He has over 25 years of industrial sales, management and marketing experience with a focus on facility equipment and upgrades.

He holds a BS in Business Administration from Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan.

Thomas is a member of the Construction Association of Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Ann Arbor Spark and the International Facility Managers Association.

GEM Energy

GEM Energy provides comprehensive services and technologies to improve customer business performance and reduce facility operation costs. GEM Energy’s expertise encompasses engineering, procurement, construction, operations and maintenance. Services include combined heat and power (CHP) systems, HVAC and plumbing, facility management, utility procurement, solar development, building automation controls and energy efficiency solutions. Facilities served are commercial, industrial, institutional and mission critical.

GEM Energy is part of the Rudolph Libbe Group (RLG), a one-stop provider of construction services that range from site selection and financing to ongoing facility management. The full-service contractor, comprised of Rudolph Libbe Inc., GEM Inc., GEM Energy, Lehman Daman and Rudolph Libbe Properties, operates as one team. RLG is headquartered in Toledo with offices in Cleveland, Columbus and Lima, Ohio; Ithaca, New York and Plymouth, Michigan. For additional information, visit and @RLGbuilds.