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Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah: Business leaders ‘ready to accept’ EFM

From the Detroit Free Press

February 20, 2013

By John Gallagher

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said that most business leaders are ready to accept an emergency financial manager as the fastest way to improve city government.

“At the end of the day, whatever solves our problems the most efficiently and effectively is the right solution,” he said. “The status quo is not solving the problems fast enough.”

Baruah spoke shortly after the state’s emergency review team concluded in its report to Gov. Rick Snyder that City of Detroit officials would not be able to dig the city out of its deep financial hole on their own — setting up an expected appointment by Snyder of an emergency financial manager in coming weeks.

Baruah added that business leaders can distinguish between the fiscal challenges facing city government and the broader economic trends in Detroit, which he said are positive. Among those trends: significant investments in downtown and Midtown by Quicken Loans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and a broader resurgence of the Detroit-based auto companies in the past three years.

“Clearly, the private sector is betting on Detroit, and you’re seeing that activity,” Baruah said. “The last impediment is the government obstacle. Let’s not equate the two. You can invest in this city because the talent is here.”

Meanwhile, business leaders assured clients and visitors that Detroit remained open for business and was moving forward despite the fiscal crisis gripping city government.

Larry Alexander, president and CEO of the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, said in a statement that his team would reach out to meeting planners around the country to assure them that Cobo Center was run independently of city government and would continue to operate smoothly.

“Business, quality of life and investment in the downtown core is very strong,” Alexander said in the statement. “People are investing more in Detroit every day. While this process is painful, we are still on the path to becoming a dynamic, vibrant city.”

In 2012, the convention bureau booked future meetings that would bring in about $200 million in direct spending in coming years. And that new business was booked when Detroit’s fiscal problems were well publicized.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or gallagher99@freepress.com