Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Baruah Will Lead Detroit Regional Chamber for 5 More Years

Baruah Will Lead Detroit Regional Chamber for 5 More Years

September 23, 2022

Crain’s Detroit Business
David Eggert
Sept. 23, 2022

Sandy Baruah, who has led the Detroit Regional Chamber for a dozen years, has signed a new five-year contract as president and CEO of the country’s third-largest chamber of commerce.

Baruah, 57, and the organization finalized the agreement in June. It was announced Thursday to the board of directors following a meeting of its executive committee.

Sandy Baruah

Baruah also announced the promotion of Megan Spanitz, vice president of resource development and marketing, to chief strategy officer.

Baruah told Crain’s that he and then-board Chair Wright Lassister III were in discussions about Baruah’s future for a year before the deal was reached.

“The chamber was very forward-leaning and said that if I wanted to stay that they were very interested in having me stay for a while longer and potentially kind of finishing out my CEO career at the chamber,” he said Friday. “I was happy to commit to at least another five years.”

Baruah, who had a kidney transplant in 2019, was administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and assistant commerce secretary under President George W. Bush. He previously was a corporate mergers and acquisitions consultant.

Baruah said he and his wife, Lisa, have made Detroit and Michigan their home after years of moving back and forth between Washington, D.C., and Portland, Ore.

“We’ve been in the house that we’re currently in for eight years. We’ve never owned a house for eight years. For us, that is just extraordinary,” he said. “We’ve come to get really comfortable and delighted to be here.”

Baruah, who heads a staff of roughly 80 employees, said he loves the job because it is at the intersection of politics, policy and business.

A top objective now, he said, is focusing at the state level to “really get our economic development strategy in better shape.” He cited progress with the establishment of a 9-month-old incentives account, the Strategic Outreach and Attraction Reserve Fund, and the 2021 hiring of Michigan Economic Development Corp. CEO Quentin Messer Jr., whom he praised for developing a strong bipartisan relationship with lawmakers.

“We need a much more consistent approach. We need a much more aggressive approach, especially when it comes to next-generation mobility,” Baruah said. “If we lose that edge for next-generation mobility, Michigan is going to be in a world of hurt.”

State funding is an important factor, he said, but so is having a consistent strategy over time. The chamber also is prioritizing education and talent to ensure employers have a trained workforce.

Baruah, who said he may be open to staying beyond 2027, said he is focused on succession planning, too.

Spanitz, who has worked at the chamber for 23 years, will transition to a new C-suite role over the next six to nine months. Baruah said both he and Chief Operating Officer Tammy Carnrike will eventually retire. Spanitz has done “outstanding work over the years across all aspects of chamber operations,” he said.

“We’ve worked hard to make sure that there is an internal candidate for all of our executive positions,” he said. “I just want to make sure that there is an internal candidate that our board can consider when and if the time is appropriate to take either my chair or Tammy’s chair.”

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