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Flint Session Focuses on Immediate Recovery, Economic Growth

Pipes and jobs – these are the two main objective Flint leaders are focusing on both in the short and long-term to address the water crisis and help the city rise. Gathering on Michigan’s Center Stage, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver and Charles Stewart (C.S.) Mott Foundation President Ridgway White were joined by Lt. Gov. Brian Calley. The session discussed the ways in which they are partnering together to build trust and a better future for Flint’s residents.

The panel, Government and Philanthropy Working Together to Help Flint Recover and Rise, occurred the exact same week Flint released the request for proposal (RFP) for their “Fast Start” program, marking the launch of the effort to replace led-coated water lines in the city. Weaver stated that the RFP was designed specifically to allow small and local businesses to be able to competitively bid on the project.

For Weaver, opening the bid process to a more diverse range of firms represents a piece of her larger goal as mayor: Not to just solve the immediate water crisis, but to also build a foundation of economic development in Flint.

“We wanted to level the playing field so some of the smaller businesses could take part in this. Because economic development is going to be crucial to us sustaining ourselves and seeing this recovery that we want to have happen in Flint…Economic development – that’s what we’re ready to talk about,” said Weaver.

As municipalities across the country now look at their own looming infrastructure issues, Calley, who spends 3 to 4 days a week in Flint, stated that the city could become a national model for water pipe replacement.

“We have an opportunity here to not just deal with water crisis itself, but to show what it really looks like to have a community’s infrastructure needs met at an optimal level,” said Calley. “It’s a tough goal, but let’s go ahead and reach for it.”

Both Weaver and Calley also referenced the immense value of their partnership with the C.S. Mott Foundation, an institution that has served as an anchor in Flint for nearly a century. Discussing the role the Foundation has played in the city’s recovery, Wright says that the organization has absolutely no plans to step away from the community.

“We’ve been in Flint for over 90 years…We can’t just stand back….I think if you come to Flint, you’ll find a group of people that are willing to listen, willing to help, willing to work with you and provide success. We are a strong community. We’ve had our challenges, but we’re like the little engine that could.”

The panel was moderated by Detroit Public Television “MiWeek” Anchor Christy McDonald.