Print Friendly and PDF

Detroit Chamber CEO: Grand Rapids supportive of Detroit’s turnaround

From the
September 10, 2012
By: David Muller

DETROIT, MI – As it prepares a delegation of business leaders to head to the West Michigan Policy Forum’s 2012 Conference in downtown Grand Rapids this week, the Detroit Regional Chamber goes with the understanding that is merely heading from one side of its state to the other, rather than to a completely different city.

That’s because Detroit has been feeling plenty of support from Grand Rapids’ business community, from issues ranging from the proposed New International Trade Crossing to the city’s recovery in general, Detroit Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah told MLive today.

“The level of collaboration between east and west I don’t think has ever been higher,” Baruah said.

Baruah said West Michigan companies have been supportive of the $2.1 billion New International Trade Crossing, a proposed bridge between Windsor, Onatrio and Detroit that Canada said it would fund as it seeks a way to ease traffic in downtown Windsor. The project has met some opposition.

But the Chamber is clearly in support of the idea, and appreciates that others in the state are too.

“Companies like Herman Miller, Meijer, Amway and Steelcase have been very vocal in support for the Windsor trade crossing,” Baruah said.

Support for Detroit’s turnaround was one of five things Baruah mentioned when asked what the Motor City could import from the Furniture City. Baurah said there are abstract imports like Grand Rapids’ sense of unity and collaboration, but also said Detroit is interested in some of the city’s concrete innovations like the GRid 70 concept.

Launched in 2010, GRid70 involves creative professionals from Amway, Meijer, Steelcase and Wolverine Worldwide collaborating at a design hub in downtown Grand Rapids. It was borne from a committee of about 30 West Michigan CEOs who were looking for ways to spur innovation and bolster the economy, while utilizing Grand Rapids’ design experience. While it is modeled after other design hubs, GRid70 has been heralded as unique for bringing together talent from major, already-established companies.

“That GRid70 model is something we’re very interested in recreating here in Detroit,” Baruah said.

Overall, Baruah said that the unity apparent to him in Grand Rapids’ business community is now spreading statewide, and cited what Gov. Rick Snyder has been calling “One Michigan.”

Asked about the inherent cultural differences between the two cities, Baruah said,

“There are cultural differences between any given city. At the end of the day, we’re all Michiganders.”