Virginia economic development guru to head new Southeast Michigan business attraction group

November 1, 2018

Crain’s Detroit

By: Annalise Frank

The still-nameless nonprofit formed by a group of CEOs that’s looking to attract business to Southeast Michigan named its leader, and he’s coming from Virginia.

The regional CEO group led by among others DTE Energy Co. and its top executive, Gerry Anderson, has been planning to launch an economic development organization. The group made news for its regional transit push in the spring and its assertions that Southeast Michigan is lagging behind other regions that have concerted, united attraction efforts in place.

To run the new organization, Barry Matherly comes from a job as president and CEO of the economic development organization for the Richmond, Va., region. The 53-year-old starts in January and leaves his current job Dec. 31.

“… We wanted to get someone with deep proven experience in a peer organization elsewhere in the country with a strong track record of success,” said Anderson, who is also chair of the new nonprofit’s board. “We wanted someone who understands deeply and believes in regionalism.”

The economic development professional with 24 years experience will lead an effort to create a single point of entry for those looking to invest in Southeast Michigan. The CEO group wants to be able to respond more efficiently and cohesively to requests for regional data.

“One of the big things is to … ramp up the marketing of this region and get a bigger pipeline of potential deals and companies coming in, said Matherly, who was born in Connecticut and grew up in Virginia.

Anderson declined to disclose Matherly’s salary.

A selection committee chose the CEO after a national search for someone who knows this model and can quickly implement it in Southeast Michigan. The region is catching up to those in other states that have been at it for a decade or more, Anderson said.

Among those on the committee were Anderson; Ray Telang, Detroit Regional Chamber board chair; Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah; and Matt Cullen, chair of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy.

In essence, the new nonprofit will spin off from the Detroit Regional Chamber, Baruah said. The five employees staffing the chamber’s business attraction unit, Destination Detroit, will move to work under Matherly. He expects to have a staff of 20-21 when at full strength.

The group is expected to need $5 million-$6 million per year once it is up and running, Anderson said. He declined to disclose specific donors or contributors.

The threads of the nonprofit are still coming together. It is waiting for official approval for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(6) nonprofit status.

It formed its board this summer, Baruah said, and within the last month added new members: Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Wayne County Executive Warren Evans and Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel. Phil Bertolini, Oakland County’s deputy executive and CIO, is signed on in an advisory role.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has been invited, Baruah said. Anderson said he’s confident Oakland County will be eager to contribute when it sees “good work being done.”

Patterson incensed many in the community in August when he said he’d “rather join the Klan” than pay dues to the new business attraction group. For him, the organization appears to represent a threat to county autonomy and its ability to lure companies. But economists argue a united regional strategy is more efficient, Crain’s has reported.

Patterson hasn’t said yes or no to joining the board, Bertolini told Crain’s. “Mr. Patterson is going to keep an eye on it … and see where it goes,” he said. “We want to see how the organization gets formed, where it goes, its mission and how it operates before he becomes part of the board.”

The county leadership was concerned about the group advocating for Detroit over other communities, Bertolini said. It is supportive of the group acting as “neutral broker for the region,” though, he said.

As a united front and marketer of the region’s potential, the entity needs a catchy name.

A “public partner council” made up of leaders of economic development organizations has started that process, Baruah said. Matherly will also weigh in.

Matherly earned a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree from Virginia Tech University, according to the Richmond-area development group, the Greater Richmond Partnership. He is also a graduate of the Economic Development Institute at the University of Oklahoma. Now teaches regional economic development there, is on the institute’s board and is head of its curriculum.

He was also chair of the International Economic Development Council, and aims to implement his global experience while traveling often for the new role.

View the original article