Study: Business leaders ‘bullish on Detroit’

The Detroit News

By Keith Laing 

April 27, 2016

Seventy-one percent of business leaders think Detroit is a good place to invest in, but only 16 percent of them are aware the city is no longer in bankruptcy, according to a new study from the Kresge Foundation.

The findings were included in a report called the Detroit Reinvestment Index that attempts to measure the city’s progress since emerging from bankruptcy in 2014 that was released on Tuesday.

Rip Rapson, president of the Troy-based Kresge Foundation, said the findings illustrate the challenges and opportunities that are facing Detroit as it attempts to nourish its embryonic comeback.

“I think it’s fair to say that business is very bullish on Detroit,” he said, nothing that the top characteristic business leaders that were polled used to describe Detroit is “a city in economic recovery.”

Rapson said the poll contained warnings that Detroit leaders still have work to do to improve the city’s image among business leaders after its bankruptcy made national headlines, however.

“Only 16 percent of business leaders outside of Detroit were aware that Detroit has actually emerged from bankruptcy,” he said. “News flash to America: We have.”

He noted that 80 percent of business leaders surveyed believed a city needs to have a low crime rate to attract investment, while only 52 percent of the poll’s believed Detroit’s handling of crime is “excellent or good.”

Rapson added that “there remains a significant gap between the importance business leaders place on the role of an effective local government and the creation of a sound municipal budget and what they perceive to be Detroit’s performance for each.”

“Obviously these are sobering findings, but they are not unexpected,” he said. “The city has made considerable progress on multiple measures of safety and is once again in the hands of responsive and competent municipal government, yet we continue to work in the shadow of a long period of political dysfunction and corroded municipal services.”

Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the Kresge Foundation’s findings show why it was important for Detroit to get bankruptcy behind it so the city could begin moving forward.

“If you’re in bankruptcy, it’s not exactly a great marketing opportunity for you,” he said.

Baruah said the economic problems that were being experienced by Detroit were so great that the benefits of entering bankruptcy outweighed the potential hit to the city’s national image, however.

“We had this ethos that there was really no more national news to be made with another negative story about Detroit,” Baruah said. “All the negative stories about Detroit had been told and retold and we kind of felt that we as a nation was suffering from what we called Detroit fatigue, so we said the way to solve Detroit’s PR problem was to actually start fundamentally solving Detroit’s problems.”

Baruah said bankruptcy was “part of a broader set of tools that were employed to kind of reformat and put the city on a trajectory to success.

“We’re not there yet,” he said. “There’s a lot of great interest in Detroit. If you talk to the mayor, talk to organizations like ours, you’ll hear stories of people kind of knocking on the door, wanting to come visit….We’re a little hesitant in some cases to tell the story, because in some cases one we’re not quite sure how it came together.

“Certainly it was very purposeful,” he continued. “But people ask me ‘what what your secret sauce? What was your magic strategy to get that done?’ Listen, if I knew that or if I had that answer, they would paying me a lot more money.”

View the original article here:

Legislative Update: U.S. Senate Paves Way for Electric Infrastructure Reform

Read about the latest legislative issues, including the U.S. Senate’s recent passage of comprehensive energy reform. The Energy Policy Modernization Act addresses the need to improve the nation’s electric infrastructure, adopt energy-efficient technology and fund workforce development programs.

Senate Passes Bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act

Last week, the U.S. Senate approved the bipartisan Energy Policy Modernization Act. If enacted into law, the legislation will increase the adoption of energy-efficient technologies in homes, schools, commercial buildings and federal buildings. Major provisions include much-needed improvements to the U.S. electric infrastructure, including transmission, distribution, and energy storage systems, as well as funding for energy workforce development programs. The legislation now heads back to the U.S. House of Representatives for consideration. Late last year, the House passed its version of the legislation—the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act (H.R. 8).

The Chamber, along with the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, continues to advocate for a national policy that supports clean, reliable and affordable energy for residents, businesses and manufacturers.

Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act

Following the successful extension of the Michigan Legislature’s Commercial Rehabilitation Act, which was set to expire in 2015, the Chamber, along with economic developers across the state, is advocating for the continuation the Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act (Senate Bill 673). The Act is set to expire at the end of the year. A local tax abatement program authorized by the Legislature and administered by municipal governments, this program has successfully incentivized the rehabilitation of blighted property throughout the region and state. Senate Bill 673 passed the Michigan Senate and is awaiting a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives’ Tax Policy Committee. Read more about SB 673.

2016 Election Candidates and Issues

The candidate filing deadline for the November election in Michigan has passed and the Chamber is hard at work analyzing races across the state in order to support bipartisan, pro-business candidates for elected office. Major races include two seats on the Michigan Supreme Court, and the entire Michigan House of Representatives. Look for more information, including Chamber endorsements, in upcoming editions of the eDetroiter. In addition, many local municipalities and school districts have items on the May 3 election ballot. View the list of school districts and municipalities here.

Health Care Leaders: Employee Engagement Key in Age of Consumer-Driven Care

In an age of consumer-driven health care, finding innovative ways to get employees to adopt healthier behaviors at an early stage is critical to controlling cost for businesses and providers. That was a key message at Forward Thinking: The Evolution of Employee Health Engagement, hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber. The event, held last week at AIAG in Southfield, attracted over 40 health care experts, providers, and businesses representatives across the region.

Keynote speakers included Scott Foster, CEO of Wellco Corp., who outlined an action plan for employers. The American Medical Association’s Shannon Haffey stressed the importance of engaging at-risk employees before they are diagnosed with high-cost health conditions while University of Michigan Professor Jeff Kullgren provided an overview of a study of consumer decision-making for patients who have high-deductible health plans. The Chamber also announced a new project in collaboration with ROC Group to engage millennials in health care. For more information, or to participate in the project, contact Jonathan So at

More H-1B visas, please: Pennsylvania and other Great Lakes states need more high-skilled immigrants

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 

By Sandy K. Baruah and Joseph D. Roman and Dennis Yablonsky

April 28, 2016

Earlier this month, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the U.S. had reached the congressionally mandated H-1B visa cap for the 2017 fiscal year. The H-1B visa program allows U.S. employers to hire international workers, on a temporary basis, in jobs that require specialized skill sets often in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).

For the fourth consecutive year, the H-1B visa cap was reached in just five days. This means there will again be thousands of high-skilled workers turned away from our shores. Imagine how many of these individuals will start competing businesses in their home countries. Our nation’s leaders need to fix our broken immigration system, including lifting the cap on H-1B visas.

The immigration debate is often focused exclusively on the regions where recent migration has accelerated and where higher concentrations of undocumented immigrants live. While these issues are important to the overall immigration debate, the Great Lakes region has an acute need for highly skilled domestic and international talent to continue the economic renaissance occurring across our states. This is one of the reasons that the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, a group of nearly 40 chambers of commerce covering 12 states in the Great Lakes region, considers reform of immigration for highly skilled workers a key policy goal. Our chambers, and the employers we represent, believe high-skilled immigration is a critical part of the solution to closing the skilled- worker gap.

We know the battle for talent is global. Encouraging legal, high-skilled immigration is vital for growth and prosperity. Shifting demographics are depleting talent pools and jeopardizing economic competitiveness in many Great Lakes metro areas. The result: serious shortages in the replacement of advanced-manufacturing workers in the Great Lakes. Add to that, in 2015, Midwest states saw STEM job postings total more than 2.4 million, an increase of more than 50 percent from 2014. This growth is happening at a time when many of the Midwest states’ populations are stagnant and our K-12 educational systems are struggling to address STEM preparation. If the rebirth of manufacturing is to help restore the American middle class, an influx of talented, highly skilled professionals is needed. Raising the H-1B visa cap is a critical part of the solution.

The detractors of high-skilled immigration have been pushing false claims that immigrants are taking jobs from Americans. However, the data and analyses by many economists do not support this allegation.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, for every H-1B visa approved, 1.83 jobs are created for American workers. This number jumps to 2.62 jobs when looking at H-1B visa applicants with STEM degrees. Moreover, contrary to common beliefs, wages for American workers are not negatively impacted. In fact, as the Government Accountability Office has stated, STEM employment wages are growing much faster than the national average. And virtually all STEM fields have lower unemployment rates than the national average; many are at full employment or lower.

While political spin is always out there, it’s the facts that matter. And the facts show that immigration, high-skilled immigration in particular, is a positive for American economic prosperity. In the Great Lakes region, our business leaders get this. While we must continue to push for reforms to better educate and train our citizens, we must also welcome immigrants, especially those who help us close the skilled-worker gap.

Our elected officials should think about how many future American entrepreneurs earlier this month were told they are not welcome in America. Who knows if the founder of the next Google or Apple or Uber was turned away? We would rather have these highly skilled workers develop their skills here in America and in the Great Lakes region, where STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow. After the simmer of this election season has passed, our leaders need to move an immigration bill that deals with our broken system. The Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition stands ready to join with leaders looking to address this important issue.

Sandy K. Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Joseph D. Roman is president and CEO of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. Dennis Yablonsky is CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its affiliate, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce.

View the original article here:

Credit Union Changes It’s Name, Expands Field of Membership

Effective April 4, Central Macomb Community Credit Union will change to FreeStar Financial Credit Union to better align with its new field of membership, which now encompasses 10 counties in Southeast Michigan and all military members throughout Michigan.
“Over the past year we have interviewed our membership and the community, and researched the markets we serve to ensure the chosen name was a good fit for all,” said Drema Isaac, President and CEO since 2002. “We sought to find a strong name that was non-geographically based; one that would carry us through many years to come. After a lot of deliberations, FreeStar Financial was born, with our symbol being an iconic and meaningful star. The star is a symbol of navigation and speaks to the financial guidance we provide. The star is also a salute to our military roots and for the freedom and bravery of our military members. We want our members to reach for the stars and allow us to “Take Your Dreams Higher.”
The credit union established its roots in 1957 as a small, one branch credit union, located on Selfridge ANGB serving military members. Throughout the 59 years in operation, the credit union has grown and with each milestone, a need to change our name to better fit those we serve arose. Our last major milestone was in 1999 when we opened our field of membership to additional cities in Macomb County and the name was changed to Central Macomb Community Credit Union. “We have been successfully serving Macomb County for the past 17 years and have become known as Macomb’s premier military credit union,” added Isaac, who participates on the Macomb County Military Affairs Committee member.
The credit union’s new field of membership includes all those who live, work, worship or are educated in Genesee, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, St. Clair, Washtenaw, and Wayne counties, and military throughout Michigan.
FreeStar Financial Credit Union has four branches currently in Macomb County and will look for expansion opportunities over the next few years. The credit union was founded in 1957 and has assets of $180 million.
“We welcome visitors to stop in our branches during April and take advantage of special pricing on loans and Certificates of Deposit,” added Isaac.
For more information, contact Paula Rose at 586-466-7800 x123 or at

Dealing with the problem employee is focus of Nemeth Law’s Raising the Bar series on May 18

Raising the Bar, an educational series raising employer awareness of current issues in employment and labor law and offered by Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C., returns May 18 with the focus on Dealing with the Problem Employee.

“Problem employees are relatively few in number but they consume disproportionate amounts of time, energy and resources,” Terry Bonnette, a partner at Nemeth Law, P.C., said.
“Statistically, these employees are most likely to create situations that will result in litigation.”

Using case studies to identify and illustrate strategies for dealing with problem employees, Nemeth Law attorneys will review the following topics:
• Seven common management mistakes that can result in litigation;
• High conflict individuals – strategies for de-escalation;
• Performance improvement plans – the good, the bad and the ugly;
• The difficult discussion – how to communicate negative information effectively;
• Bullying, harassment or discrimination – can you force employees to be civil in the workplace?

Raising the Bar will be held on Wednesday, May 18 at the Management Education Center, 811 West Square Lake Road, Troy, 48098. Continental breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m. The program begins at 9:00 a.m. and ends at 11:45 a.m. The cost of the event is $75 per person and pre-registration is required. To register, e-mail Pamela Perkowski at or call 313.567.5921.

About Nemeth Law, P.C.
Nemeth Law specializes in arbitration, mediation, workplace investigations, employment litigation, traditional labor law and management consultation/training for private and public sector employers. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.

Mackinac Policy Conference: Detroit Regional Chamber Head Details What to Expect


By Stephen Henderson

April 27, 2016

This morning, Sandy Baruah, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, talks about what Michiganders can expect from this year’s annual Mackinac Policy Conference.

This year, Baruah says, the conference is focusing on being more accessible to Michigan residents, “We want to lift the veil off the conference…everything is streamed live, we have media row, hundreds of working media…both local and national.”  The conference is a place, “where Michigan can come together, have conversations about what is happening in our state today, but more importantly where our state is going.”

Listen to the whole interview here:

Employers as Agents of Change to Make America Healthier

By Shannon Haffey, Director of Value-Based Benefit and Reimbursement, American Medical Association

For many Americans, adopting a healthy lifestyle can be a challenge, especially when results are not immediate. Unfortunately, the cumulative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle can often result in a chronic disease, which can be hard to reverse.

One of the best ways to combat chronic disease is to prevent it. Many chronic conditions show early warning signs that if caught, can be reversed.

Take type 2 diabetes as an example. Today, 29 million Americans are affected by type 2 diabetes[1]. It can be controlled but it is often a difficult road. Another 86 million American adults have prediabetes[2], indicating their risk. Research has shown that lifestyle change incorporating moderate exercise and nutrition under the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP) has been shown to reduce the progression to type 2 diabetes by 58 percent[3].

In Michigan, approximately 1.3 million metro Detroiters walk around with prediabetes. That is one in three of your employees, only 8.2 percent are aware of their risk[4].

The American Medical Association (AMA) is working with physicians and care teams to refer to the National Diabetes Prevention. Our goal is to reach more than 30 percent of the primary care physicians in Michigan in 2016.

We know that employers are key stakeholders and invest in the health of their workforces.

What Employers Can Do  

We need your help to spread evidence-based prevention. After several Detroit Regional Chamber meetings, we know many local employers are committed to the health of their workforce. Employers can be a great resource for employees:

  • Ask leadership to take the risk test
  • Raise awareness by including prediabetes in annual screenings
  • Encourage employees to visit their doctor to map out a prevention plan, which could include the National DPP

An employer has the ability to link health assessments and screenings (that you likely already provide) to an evidence-based program that can actually both improve health and demonstrate medical cost savings by avoiding downstream chronic condition management and adverse events.

Benefits of Taking Action

Providing the National DPP can:

Because of the evidence and potential cost savings, several employers are now offering the National DPP. A growing number of commercial health plans are including it as a medical benefit and Medicare is pursuing coverage. We see evidence that individuals are more likely to enroll when their physician recommends the program. We want to encourage employers to collaborate with health systems to support the program.

By ensuring that employees know their risk and the steps they can take to achieve wellbeing, employers can be agents of change regarding the health of their workforce.

Visit for tools and more information.

[1] American Diabetes Association.  “Statistics about diabetes”.  May 2015.

[2] American Diabetes Association.  “Statistics about diabetes”.  May 2015.

[3] Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. The New England Journal of Medicine (2002); 346.6:393

[4] Michigan Department of Community Health, 2016 and


Butzel Long attorney Rebecca S. Davies named a Most Valuable Professional by Corp! Magazine

Butzel Long attorney and shareholder Rebecca S. Davies has been named a Most Valuable Professional by Corp! Magazine. She is one of several southeast Michigan business leaders who will be recognized during a breakfast banquet on April 27, 2016 at Schoolcraft College.

The Award honors business leaders who are serving their communities and making a difference in Michigan. Davies also will be profiled in an upcoming edition of Corp! Magazine.

Davies concentrates her practice primarily in the areas of employment law and commercial litigation. She represents employers in federal and state court litigation and before state and federal administrative agencies. She regularly counsels employers regarding compliance under federal and state employment laws (including FLSA, FMLA, ADA and Title VII), drafts policies and procedures, and advises on preventative strategies.

She is a frequent author and lecturer, not only for client in-house trainings and publications, but also outside organizations including the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Automation Alley and American Society of Employers. Davies also is an adjunct faculty member at Walsh College where she teaches HR certification as well as general business law courses.

Moreover, Davies is active in national and local legal associations and regularly volunteers in her community. She is the current Chairman for the North American Transportation Employee Relations Association (NATERA) and served as the Chair for the Labor and Employment Section for the Oakland County Bar Association. She was a Girl Scout leader for six years. Currently, Davies is an assistant coach for the high school softball team and is an active school volunteer.

Davies earned an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan at Dearborn and a juris doctorate, magna cum laude, from the Detroit College of Law in 1995. She completed her master’s degree in 2010 from Wayne State University Law School by obtaining her L.L.M. with a GPA of 3.79 in Labor and Employment Law.

About Butzel Long

Butzel Long is one of the leading law firms in Michigan and the United States. It was founded in Detroit in 1854 and has provided trusted client service for more than 160 years. Butzel’s full-service law offices are located in Detroit, Bloomfield Hills, Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York, NY; and, Washington, D.C., as well as alliance offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Mexico City and Monterrey. It is an active member of Lex Mundi, a global association of 160 independent law firms.

Learn more by visiting or follow Butzel Long on Twitter:

Automotive Leaders: Apprenticeships, Shifting Perceptions Key to Filling Talent Pipeline

Attracting the next generation of talented workers for the automotive industry requires changing perceptions among parents and school counselors and creating awareness and excitement for manufacturing among younger students, industry leaders said during an “Industry and Education” roundtable at the Detroit Regional Chamber hosted by MICHauto and University Research Corridor.

“There is a challenge with parents that say, ‘I don’t want my kids going into auto,” said Mark Brucki, executive director of corporate community partnerships at Lawrence Technological University.

High school counselors, Brucki said, are also increasingly underutilized and overworked. As a result, career opportunities in the automotive industry or the skilled trades are sometimes not discussed as viable options for students.

“It’s the elephant in the room,” he said. “Our challenge as an industry is to figure out how to make manufacturing ‘sexy.’”

Kevin Kerrigan, senior vice president of automotive at the Michigan Economic Development Corp., said one way to stop talent from leaving is to offer more apprenticeship opportunities. He also acknowledged that more work is needed to refine the state’s Michigan Advanced Technician Training (MAT2) program in order to encourage participation from companies. MAT2 targets graduating high school students and students currently enrolled in community colleges or universities with practical work experience while they attend school. Through the three-year program, colleges and businesses partner to train students in electrical, mechanical and electronic competencies.

Roundtable participants agreed that investing in internships and apprenticeships can entice some students. As demand increases for skilled workers however, the ROI is often lost to companies that can attract talent with large salaries and lucrative benefits.

The discussion also focused on efforts to improve college curriculum and certification programs to better align with the industry’s needs, as well as collaboration to educate students on where to go to get the proper training employers often look for when hiring.

“I don’t see a connected vehicle major,” said Dawn Thompson of P3 North America.

“Students with an interest in the industry do not know where to go for training and they shouldn’t have to work that hard to find out,” Thompson said, adding that today’s vehicles require expertise in several disciplines.

The roundtable featured representatives from over 15 Southeast Michigan suppliers, the Michigan Economic Development Corp., University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College and Wayne State University.