LIVE STREAM: The State of Michigan Business: A Conversation Over Lunch with Governor Snyder

Watch LIVE beginning at noon on Friday, February 7 as Governor Snyder addresses the Michigan business community at MGM Grand Detroit.

Special thanks to Detroit Public Television for the live stream of the event. Tune in to the Chamber’s Twitter feed, @detroitchamber, for video highlights following the luncheon.

Jeb Bush Talks Education, Immigration Reform During Opening Conference Keynote

In addressing an issue that often trascends traditional partisan divides, Governor Jeb Bush suggested the American education system is the biggest challenge the country and its workforce face. Bush, president of Jeb Bush and Associates and former Governor of Florida (1999-2007), also highlighted some of the lessons to be learned from Detroit’s revitalization during the first keynote address of the 2013 Conference following and introduction by Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah.

Gov. Bush talked about the American dream, the opportunities for success and what he calls “the right to rise.” He went on to say that those opportunities and that ability to rise is dependent on access to a quality education, and said the U.S. is not rising to the challenge. He said America is failing to confront one of the greatest social issues of our time.

“We can’t accept failure for a wide swath of kids under the guise of compassion,” Gov. Bush said. “…Education done right is the only government program I’m aware of that is a cure for poverty.”

Gov. Bush stressed the importance of educational standards, teacher compensation and the disservice of advancing students based on social rather than academic motivations. He said one of the country’s greatest mistakes is its underestimation of the capacity of its children to learn and by doing so, rob them of their right to rise.

Gov. Bush also discussed the importance of narrowing family-based immigration law and highlighted the vital role immigrants play in the U.S. economy. He went on to say that much of Michigan’s success is due to quality leadership and indicated that Detroit will succeed as Michigan has by applying the same strategies the Governor has put in place.

Following his remarks, Bush was joined on stage by Daniel Howes, business columnist and associate business editor for The Detroit News, for a question-and-answer session. This session was sponsored by Meijer.

Governor Snyder Opens 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference

“Credit doesn’t matter. Solving the problem is what matters,” said Governor Rick Snyder as he kicked off the 2013 Mackinac Policy Conference this afternoon. Gov. Snyder took the stage to address Michigan’s path forward in relation to the Conference pillars of education, cultural change and the 21st century global market following an introduction by Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah and 2013 Conference Chair and the Chairman, President and CEO of ITC Holdings Corp., Joseph Welch.

Snyder opened the Conference discussion by focusing on his strategy to follow through on each of the Conference pillars and their impact on all Michiganders, beginning with Michigan’s role in the 21st century global market. He stressed the fact that Michigan should take a step back, look at what made it great and focus on the importance of engaging in business outside of state borders and globally. He also pointed to innovative ideas as a crucial global commodity.

In looking at education and its role in Michigan’s future, Gov. Snyder pointed to the advantage of having speakers like Gov. Jeb Bush participating in the Conference. He stressed his focus on lifelong and early childhood education as well as the need to move away from the silos of education levels. And to close his remarks, Gov. Snyder discussed cultural change as one of the toughest issues he faced when running for office. He said Michigan has become too divisive and focused on the old ways of doing business. He reiterated his mantra of relentless positive action by pointing out the need for a positive, forward-looking and inclusive cultural environment.

“Let’s have a great discussion, but then let’s spread the word,” said Gov. Snyder. “It’s about all of us being ambassadors to succeed.”

He is also scheduled to give a keynote address to attendees on Friday at 11 a.m.

Tom Walsh: New bridge is an opportunity region can’t waste

By Tom Walsh

From the Detroit Free Press

April 14, 2013

Now that President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department have officially chosen to accept Canada’s gift of a free bridge at the Detroit-Windsor border crossing by issuing a permit for the project, Michigan’s obligation is to put it to good use.

That’s not a given in a state that has squandered or underutilized assets in the past. More on that later.

First, we can celebrate the green light given to the New International Trade Crossing (NITC) for what it is — a symbol of a region looking forward, investing in growth.

“For those of us who are in the economic development business, it gives us something to sell. We now will have a visible symbol and an actual tool to make it a lot easier to attract companies that are involved in international trade,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

David Egner, head of the New Economy Initiative for Southeastern Michigan, said research has shown that Michigan could create a series of logistics hubs that would yield 66,000 new jobs — partly by capturing business that now flows through congested Chicago — but only if a new border crossing provides capacity to handle more traffic.

“It could change the game, including for the west side of the state,” Egner said. “This is a perfect east-west partnership, because today if manufacturers on the west side ship through Chicago, it sits for three days before it moves.”

While border crossing data show that Ambassador Bridge traffic has not fully recovered from the slump after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NITC project suggests a brighter future, a region on the move.

“The past trajectory of the bridge traffic has mirrored the trajectory of the Big Three automakers,” Baruah said. “As we see their sales start to spike, their challenge is that if the capacity of the bridge between the U.S. and Canada is constrained, then where are they going to add future capacity to build their cars, now that their trajectory is higher?”

The near-term stimulus of construction jobs is important, too. “This bridge is going to take years to build and will probably have, at various times, tens of thousands of people working on it,” Baruah said. “Even though those are short-term jobs, they feed a narrative of good things happening in Michigan.”

When I asked Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday whether Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun might now be ready to drop efforts to block the NITC project, Snyder said he hasn’t seen any such signals yet, but he is open to discussion on how the public and private bridges could coexist.

“You hope at some point that people recognize this project’s going to move forward because it’s for the benefit of Michiganders,” Snyder said. “I’m always open, and I hope the Canadians are open to sitting down to talk. This is one of those milestones that hopefully reinforces the fact that this project should happen and will happen.”

Whatever tack Moroun takes with the existing bridge, it’s crucial that Michigan’s business and civic leaders hunker down seriously to maximize the benefits of the NITC by laying the groundwork for new industries and for expanding existing businesses.

A classic example of failing to capitalize on a major asset has been the region’s lackluster effort to take advantage of the outstanding McNamara Terminal and other upgrades at Detroit Metro Airport.

It has been 11 years now since the 122-gate, $1.2-billion McNamara Terminal opened, winning raves from travelers and the news media alike. But once visitors leave Metro Airport’s baggage claim area, they are peeved to discover they must fork over $70 for a ride to a downtown Detroit business hotel, or nearly $90 to get to Birmingham.

How can a region that’s serious about business and growth put up with the lack of even a mediocre system of shuttles to get people from the airport to major lodging and conference spots in the region? Thankfully, the Metro Detroit Convention & Visitors Bureau is working on a proposal to improve airport transit. Let’s hope they come up with something workable — and soon.

Meanwhile, we should look at the new bridge the same way we look at the airport: It’s a tremendous potential asset, but it must leveraged.

Just as there’s been much talk about the growth potential of an Aerotropolis development area between Metro and Willow Run airports, there has also been much talk of maximizing the busy border crossing to attract more logistics and freight business.

“There are bunches of plans on paper, but nothing that’s been done in an aggregated manner that makes sense and that the state has embraced,” Egner said.

By the time shovels are in the ground for NITC construction, let’s hope there’s movement on how best to take advantage of it.

Contact Tom Walsh: 313-223-4430 or twalsh@freepress.com

Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah on NBC’s Education Nation

NBC Education Nation kicked off its national tour in Detroit on March 22. Chamber CEO and President Sandy Baruah appeared on a panel called “Job One,” a conversation about Michigan’s workforce, the skills gap, and the future of our economy. Baurah joined Mary Barra, SVP for Global Product Development at GM; Tim Bryan, CEO of GalaxE Solutions; and James Jacobs, President of Macomb Community College, Moderator Chelsea Clinton lead the discussion on Michigan’s transition from a factory-based to a knowledge-based economy and the effects of this transition on workers, employers, and the competitiveness of the region.

This session touched on the relative roles of education institutions, employers, and the business community in preparing workers to compete in the new economy, and will explore innovative partnerships designed to align industry and education to close the skills gap. Immediately following the session, NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis interviewed Governor Snyder about education in Michigan.

For additional video coverage, visit the Education Nation Detroit Summit website.

Sandy Baruah on NBC’s Education Nation from Detroit Regional Chamber on Vimeo.

WDIV EducationNation Overview from Detroit Regional Chamber on Vimeo.

Sandy Baruah Talks About Detroit – WWJ AM 950

From WWJ News Radio 950 AM

Detroit Regional Chamber president and CEO Sandy Baruah spoke with WWJ 950 about the city of Detroit. Original air date: Thursday, March 14, 2013

Beyond Detroit, City Takeover May Benefit Michigan Governor

By Nick Carey

Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:20pm EDT

From Reuters.com

(Reuters) – Rick Snyder’s decision to put Detroit in the hands of an emergency financial manager on Thursday may not go down well in the heavily Democratic Motor City, but the Republican governor has the chance to go down in Michigan history as the man who saved Detroit.

The biggest state takeover of an American city in over two decades comes the year before many expect the businessman-turned-governor to seek re-election in 2014. In any political calculating, Snyder probably didn’t count on Detroiters getting him to a second term.

“The people of Detroit are not going to vote for Rick Snyder anyway,” said Bill Ballenger, a longtime pundit and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “I think there is a fairly strong majority of people outside Detroit who feel an emergency manager should be appointed.”

For fixing the finances of the majority black city, Snyder tapped Kevyn Orr, an African-American lawyer and life-long Democrat who studied in Michigan and specializes in corporate bankruptcy. At his presentation to the Detroit media on Thursday, Orr acknowledged the political pressures on Snyder, including from those who asked why he was spending so much time on Detroit.

He said the governor told him, “It is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.”

In his first political office, Snyder, the former chief executive of venture capital firm Ardesta, has earned the reputation in the governor’s mansion as a businessman who gets things done, with little regard for the political fall-out. His campaign to rescue Detroit has the tone of an impatient CEO, employing the slogan “Detroit Can’t Wait.”

Orr’s appointment will likely usher in a new period of painful cutbacks for a city long in decline, but he said he wants to avoid sending Detroit to bankruptcy court. Such a filing, if allowed by the state, would be the biggest Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

‘NO DOWNSIDE FOR GOVERNOR’

Formerly home to 1.8 million people, Detroit once had significant electoral muscle in Michigan. But Detroit’s population has fallen to around 700,000 people, or less than 8 percent of the state’s population, and the city has less support in the state capital, Lansing, than it did during its heyday.

The former automotive powerhouse’s decline has long been compounded by financial troubles that are almost as well known as the music that made Motown famous.

“Make no mistake, Detroit is bankrupt,” said Jim McTevia, a specialist in restructuring and managing member of management and financial consultant McTevia & Associates. “In this set of circumstances there is no downside for the governor.

“I think Snyder will be remembered as the politician who saved Detroit.”

Cuts by the administration of Detroit Mayor Dave Bing to stave off the appointment of an emergency manager were vigorously opposed by some members of the city’s council.

There have also been small protests in the city over the prospect of an unelected official taking over Detroit’s purse strings. Pastor D. Alexander, a local leader of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said Snyder would suffer for a takeover if he runs for a second term in 2014.

“Governor Snyder risks wakening a sleeping giant,” he said. “If Detroit comes alive, he will not be re-elected.”

On Thursday, flanking Snyder and Orr, Bing showed his support for the emergency manager, saying, “There is no doubt that we are going to work together.”

‘PRAGMATIC, NOT DOGMATIC’

McTevia, the consultant, said a crucial point for Snyder is that any emergency financial manager will need help from city officials to succeed.

“This will take team work to fix,” he said.

Michigan’s governor also has the support of much of the local business community, which has applauded his support for a new bridge to Canada, which many conservatives oppose, and for regional transit and lighting authorities in Detroit.

“The reason why we are so supportive of the governor is that here’s a Republican who has clearly chosen to support Detroit,” Sandy Baruah, chief executive of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Governor Snyder is very pragmatic, not dogmatic.

“He’s all about getting stuff done.”

Lyke Thompson, a political analyst at Wayne State University, said that while taking over Detroit’s finances “could be a win” for Snyder if the move is successful, the opposite would be true if the city ended up in bankruptcy as that “would happen on his watch.”

“Things could get worse before they get better,” he said.

Whether or not Snyder worries about what effect a state takeover would have on his re-election chances in 2014 is another matter. His office did not respond to a request for comment.

Since taking office in 2011, Snyder has frequently annoyed small-government conservatives, as he did last month with a plan to expand Medicaid and raise the gas tax for road repairs.

The governor also incensed liberals and the labor movement in December by signing “right-to-work” legislation that allows workers to opt out of union membership.

“I think the governor looks at issues through the eyes of a businessman and looks for solutions,” said Pat O’Keefe, CEO of turnaround consultant O’Keefe. “I don’t think Rick Snyder cares one way or another if he doesn’t get reelected.

“And if he is successful he will have essentially established the blueprint for restructuring a major city’s finances.”

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Leslie Adler)

Detroit Regional Chamber says it supports governor’s decision to appoint emergency financial manager

From MLive.com

March 4, 2013

By David Muller

DETROIT, MI – The Detroit Regional Chamber says it supports Gov. Rick Snyder’s decision to appoint an emergency financial manager for the city of Detroit, saying such an appointee would be able to make “quick and difficult decisions that have eluded city government.”

Snyder announced his decision to appoint an emergency financial manger for the city Friday at Wayne State University. He said he has a candidate in mind. His announcement began a 10-day period in which the city can appeal.

Last month, Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah told international business journal The Economist that an emergency financial manger would be “both expected and welcomed.” The statement released by the chamber in the wake of Gov. Snyder’s decision reiterated some his comments.

In the statement, the chamber says that while there are “tremendous revitalization efforts occurring in the private sector,” there is still a “final barrier” to Detroit’s rebirth: financial and government stability.

“While there has been important progress under Mayor Dave Bing, the Chamber echoes the Governor’s sentiments that the status quo is no longer acceptable and the city’s citizens, neighborhoods and businesses deserve more rapid change,” the chamber’s statement reads.

Detroit faces $14 billion in long-term debt and an annual deficit of $327 million. Many of its 700,000 residents, which is less than half of its peak population six decades ago, are having trouble paying their taxes amid widespread poverty.

“The Chamber encourages business leaders to continue to distinguish between the fiscal challenges facing city government and the positive business trends in Detroit, and to continue to work with public and private partners to revitalize Detroit,” the statement reads.