Chamber CEO Outlines Work to Support Region Through COVID-19 with Michigan Business Network

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Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah was the featured speaker of Michigan Business Network’s Speaker Series hosted by Chris Holman. During the virtual conversation, Baruah discussed the extensive work the Chamber has done – and continues to do – to support the Detroit region through the COVID-19 crisis.

Setting the scene for where the state stands now in the face of COVID-19, Baruah cited some of the most prominent business challenges. For instance, the automotive industry is facing a mismatch of supply talent, making it hard to keep teams staffed as the industry recovers. Despite such challenges, recovery is on the horizon. Every economic recession the country and state have faced was followed by the acceleration of automation and technology – a trend that will be even more significant this time around considering that the problems that need to be solved involve preventing the spread of a virus.

“We’re really walking into an environment that is going to be essentially a K-shaped recovery,” said Baruah.

This recovery path is evident in how roughly 87% of Michigan’s economy is back open but several prominent sectors like small business, tourism, and entertainment are still struggling to stay afloat.

As far as the Chamber’s work in particular, there are many adjustments and actions implemented to better serve members and the region. Though the Mackinac Policy Conference, typically hosted on Mackinac Island at Grand Hotel, was canceled this year, the Chamber knew there were critical conversations that needed to be had and ideas shared. To that end, the Chamber pivoted to a virtual platform for MPC20 Conversations: Respond and Rebuild, a 13-week series of discussions local and national leaders in business, government, and community. In this format, Baruah explained, the Chamber is able to stretch out a conference’s worth of content into two sessions per week. These conversations will continue through the November election.

Another program the Chamber is leading to support the community is the NeighborHUB Grant Program, a partnership with General Motors Co. This initiative offers microgrants to small businesses, nonprofits, and grassroots organizations serving their immediate communities – support more essential than ever as many organizations struggle to stay afloat.

Baruah also highlighted work done in collaboration with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to support Detroit students. As part of the Detroit Promise program, the Chamber and the City purchased devices to ensure students were equipped to participate in virtual learning and complete their coursework. The Chamber’s partners at Comcast also collaborated to provide reliable Wi-Fi connections for these students.

Though the Chamber primarily serves an 11-country region of Southeast Michigan, Baruah emphasized the importance of statewide collaboration. It works with chambers all over the state, supporting each other to move policy forward for Michigan’s collective business community.

“If policy doesn’t work for the entire state, it just doesn’t work period,” said Baruah.

Baruah’s remarks were preceded by a host of speakers from automotive, education, and economic development in a community round table, which can be viewed in the full video.


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