Chamber CEO Joins Roundtable Discussion on WDIV-4’s Flashpoint to Talk All Things Amazon

On Sunday, Sept. 25, WDIV-4’s Flashpoint centered its entire show on “The Amazon Chase.” Detroit Regional Chamber CEO and President Sandy Baruah joined Rock Ventures Principal Matt Cullen, Regional Transit Authority Interim CEO Tiffany Gunter, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Flashpoint host Devin Scillian to discuss how and why the Detroit region is a strong contender to be home to Amazon’s second headquarters.

The panel highlighted all the tremendous positives that the region has going in its favor – space, quality of life and the energy of a vibrant urban core, to name a few – all of which will be key factors for Amazon. “Detroit is an exciting place. It’s the comeback city. It’s the place of opportunity,” said Cullen.

Regional transportation and the need to attract and retain talent in the state was also discussed. In terms of the failed RTA ballot initiative, Gunter acknowledged that the ball has moved down the field in terms of progress around regional transportation. She added that plans are already underway on how RTA would tweak the next campaign. “Our region is ready for a change,” she said.

The roundtable panelists all agreed that under the leadership of Quicken Loans’ Dan Gilbert, the region would prepare and present a world-class proposal. “This is a great exercise in how much progress this region has made working collaboratively,” said Baruah. “I feel really good about where we are and how we’re doing this.”

The second segment of the program focused on how the proposal should look and featured Ignition Media Group Founder and CEO Dennis Archer Jr., Crain’s Detroit Business reporter Kirk Pinho and Detroit Creative Corridor Center Executive Director Olga Stella.

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Mobility, Collaboration Among Topics Discussed at Governor’s Building the 21st Century Economy Commission Meeting

The Building the 21st Century Economy Commission held its most recent meeting in Detroit at the Chamber on Feb. 22. The Commission, created by Gov. Rick Snyder, has traveled across the state to gain public input from the business community on what needs to be done long-term to grow Michigan’s economy.

The discussion was led by Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah, who chairs the Commission. Chamber Board members Matt Cullen and Sandra Pierce also make up the 15-member Commission.

The day-long event included presentations from featured guests including: Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel; Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System; Eric Larson, CEO of Downtown Detroit Partnership; John McElroy, host of “Autoline Daily”; and Mark Wallace, president and CEO of Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

Hackel discussed the possibilities of efficiencies by local government operational consolidations; Lassiter discussed the transformations taking place in health care due to technology; Larson and Wallace discussed the keys to success for urban areas; and McElroy focused on next-generation mobility with his view that Detroit has already prevailed over Silicon Valley in the race to build the autonomous car.

A panel of millennial Ford Motor Co. engineers discussed and shared their thoughts on how young talent want to live, work and play in Michigan.

Several Chamber staff members were on hand for the meeting, including Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent; Roy Lamphier, vice president of health care and business solutions; and Glenn Stevens, executive director of MICHauto and vice president of automotive and mobility initiatives.

The Commission plans on presenting its recommendations at the 2017 Mackinac Policy Conference.

Special Edition: 2013 Detroit Policy Conference Engages Business Community in Timely City Discussion

For full news coverage of the 2013 Detroit Policy Conference, click here. You can also view videos and photos from the event here.

2013 Detroit Policy Conference Inspires Engagement, Sparks Timely Discussion

Nearly 600 of Detroit’s government, business and community leaders gathered today to take part in a day dedicated to Detroit’s success during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2013 Detroit Policy Conference. The Conference discussion continued online, with tweets streaming live throughout the day on MLIVE Buzz Boards located throughout the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah also explained to Conference attendees Charter One’s unique Growing Communities program, which provides microgrants to vendors and farmers at Eastern Market who then use the funds to grow their businesses. The Growing Communities Market Refreshment Breaks between Conference sessions highlighted this program and followed the Conference theme of responsible corporate citizenship for shared growth. To watch the video of Baruah’s speech, click here.

Rock Ventures’ Matt Cullen Talks Opportunity in DetroitBeginning the morning keynote sessions, Rock Ventures President and CEO Matt Cullen took the stage to highlight the array of projects taking place throughout the city through the Rock Ventures portfolio and others with the goal of providing citizens a dynamic place to live, work and play. He outlined in detail the progress made in bringing business back into the city through talent attraction, greater quality of life opportunities and increased redevelopment efforts. He also talked about the Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans community campaign, “Opportunity Detroit.” The campaign focuses on promoting business opportunities in Detroit and was showcased on a commercial featuring Kid Rock, which aired nationally during World Series Game 4 and during the Thanksgiving Day Lions game. To view the video of Cullen’s keynote speech, click here.

Dr. Richard Florida Focuses on Importance of Creativity to Economic Success

Best-selling author and renowned “urbanist” Dr. Richard Florida took the Detroit Policy Conference stage this morning to quantify Detroit’s continued comeback. Florida, who recently completed a five-part video series titled “Detroit Rising,” stressed the importance of tackling urban development with an entrepreneurial spirit. During one of the high points of his remarks, Florida said that if you had asked him if Detroit could recover the way it has 10 years ago, he would’ve said no. He noted that he would’ve given the city credit for having plenty to build on, but that this amount of progress is impressive.

He said that this is an economic time driven not by knowledge or technology or corporations, but that of a creative class. He said the key to nurturing and growing this type of developing economy, especially in a city like Detroit, is a defined transit strategy like the M-1 Rail and the development and incubation of the service industry. This session was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. To watch the full speech, click here.

Morning Panelists Re-Imagine Detroit’s Greatest Institutional Assets

Following the morning keynote sessions, the Conference split into concurrent breakout sessions with topics ranging from the food and creative industries in Detroit to the city’s greatest assets. One of these sessions, “Re-Imagining Detroit’s Assets: Leadership, Policy and a Strong Urban Core,” featured panelists including Larry Alexander, chairman, Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority; Graham Beal, president, Detroit Institute of Arts; Thomas Naughton, CEO, Wayne County Airport Authority; and Faye Nelson, president and CEO, Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for DTE Energy Paul Hillegonds moderated the session.

Panelists discussed the policies being put forth that will help ensure the vibrancy and reinvention of Detroit’s largest institutions continue to flourish. The panel collectively presented the keys to revitalizing Detroit’s most valued institutions as being dependent on collaborative community efforts and forward-thinking strategies. The speakers agreed that public-private partnerships are crucial elements in driving progress. This session was sponsored by Chase.

IT Panel Analyzes Emerging Technology Sector in Detroit Region

The final group of breakout sessions highlighted topics including small business, urban development and the IT industry. The “Outpacing Silicon Valley: How Detroit is Revolutionizing the IT Industry” session included the following panelists: Jim Anderson, founder, president and CEO, Urban Science; Henry Balanon, co-founder, Detroit Labs; Jen Todd Gray, vice president of marketing and creative services, ePrize; and Joey Grover, software engineer and mobile technology lead, Livio; Zafar Razzacki, account executive, Google Inc. Matt Roush, technology editor for WWJ Newsradio 950, moderated the session.

Session panelists focused their discussion on the Detroit region’s growing IT sector, highlighting the opportunities helping technology businesses leverage talent in and to the region. They each shared successful company practices and benefits that have helped to bring on young talent from surrounding collegiate networks as well as the weight of Detroit’s growing reputation as a vibrant, innovative city. This session was sponsored by Comcast Business Class.

Business Process Maps Unveiled, Mayor Bing Discusses State of City

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah took the stage after lunch today in order to present the Walsh College and Business Services Network process maps. These maps are a direct result of the 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List. The maps are simple graphic representations of commonly used city processes that to help guide businesses navigate city requirements. This set of maps focuses on permit processes including obtaining a business license, special events, signage, outdoor patio space, new construction and renovation construction.

Following Baruah’s presentation of the process maps, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing took the stage to discuss the state of business in Detroit. Mayor Bing discussed his hopes for the city now and moving into the future. He also highlighted his successful relationship with the federal government and his plans to continue to advocate for Detroit at the White House. To watch the video of Mayor Bing’s speech, click here. This session was sponsored by KPMG.

Top Media Minds Examine 2013 Election Landscape, State of the City

At a critical time in Detroit’s history and redevelopment, some of the area’s top media voices gathered to discuss the 2013 election landscape and the transition to a council by district system in Detroit. Panelists included Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for The Detroit News; Mildred Gaddis, host of WCHB’s “Inside Detroit;” Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press; and moderator Vince Keenan, founder and president of Publius.org.

The panelists engaged in a lively discussion over the impending possibility of an emergency manager appointment and that person’s perceived role and possible impact on the city’s redevelopment. They then moved into dissecting the changing role of council members under the new council by districts system. The group also discussed the upcoming mayoral race and the impact an emergency manger will have on the candidates.


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.