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Detroit Chamber chief: Region needs to outdo them all

From the Detroit Free Press

By John Gallagher

Dec. 9, 2015

It’s not enough for Detroit’s regional economy to grow apace with the rest of America. For Detroit to truly recover, it needs to outperform other U.S. metro regions by a significant degree for years to come.

That’s the message that Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said he plans to deliver this evening at the Chamber’s annual State of the Region event at the Westin Book Cadillac.

“Yes, we have some really good reasons to celebrate, and we’ve made tremendous progress. But the major work that lies ahead of us is really quite impressive and daunting,” Baruah said in an interview Tuesday.

The southeast Michigan region needs to develop regional strategies that address education, infrastructure, and other pressing needs, he said.

“We need to find strategies as a state and as a region that really catapults ourselves over a sustained period of time because it’s just not enough to keep up with the Joneses,” he said.

The bulk of the State of the Region report is a bevy of statistics charting the 11-county southeast Michigan region’s recovery from the depths of the Great Recession. Metro Detroit has had a lot of good economic news in recent years — five-year overall economic growth of 18% from 2009-14 far outpaces the national growth rate of 10.3% during that period.

Detroit ranked second only to Dallas for overall economic output growth against peer metro areas during that span.

But a number of challenges remain that could tamp down metro Detroit’s growth. The continuing failure to boost student test scores in urban districts and to make headway repairing roads, highways  and bridges show the state and metro region have much work to do to reach a streamlined policy consensus.

“Educational achievement is a leading and secure predictor of per capita income,” Baruah said.

Baruah said the Chamber’s annual State of the Region report is needed in a state that too often breaks down into separate silos of interest.

“All our county friends and city friends focus on their little piece of the pie, which is wonderful, but we keep stressing the numbers for the region as a whole,” he said.