Special Edition: 2013 Detroit Policy Conference Engages Business Community in Timely City Discussion

For full news coverage of the 2013 Detroit Policy Conference, click here. You can also view videos and photos from the event here.

2013 Detroit Policy Conference Inspires Engagement, Sparks Timely Discussion

Nearly 600 of Detroit’s government, business and community leaders gathered today to take part in a day dedicated to Detroit’s success during the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2013 Detroit Policy Conference. The Conference discussion continued online, with tweets streaming live throughout the day on MLIVE Buzz Boards located throughout the MotorCity Casino Hotel.

Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah also explained to Conference attendees Charter One’s unique Growing Communities program, which provides microgrants to vendors and farmers at Eastern Market who then use the funds to grow their businesses. The Growing Communities Market Refreshment Breaks between Conference sessions highlighted this program and followed the Conference theme of responsible corporate citizenship for shared growth. To watch the video of Baruah’s speech, click here.

Rock Ventures’ Matt Cullen Talks Opportunity in DetroitBeginning the morning keynote sessions, Rock Ventures President and CEO Matt Cullen took the stage to highlight the array of projects taking place throughout the city through the Rock Ventures portfolio and others with the goal of providing citizens a dynamic place to live, work and play. He outlined in detail the progress made in bringing business back into the city through talent attraction, greater quality of life opportunities and increased redevelopment efforts. He also talked about the Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans community campaign, “Opportunity Detroit.” The campaign focuses on promoting business opportunities in Detroit and was showcased on a commercial featuring Kid Rock, which aired nationally during World Series Game 4 and during the Thanksgiving Day Lions game. To view the video of Cullen’s keynote speech, click here.

Dr. Richard Florida Focuses on Importance of Creativity to Economic Success

Best-selling author and renowned “urbanist” Dr. Richard Florida took the Detroit Policy Conference stage this morning to quantify Detroit’s continued comeback. Florida, who recently completed a five-part video series titled “Detroit Rising,” stressed the importance of tackling urban development with an entrepreneurial spirit. During one of the high points of his remarks, Florida said that if you had asked him if Detroit could recover the way it has 10 years ago, he would’ve said no. He noted that he would’ve given the city credit for having plenty to build on, but that this amount of progress is impressive.

He said that this is an economic time driven not by knowledge or technology or corporations, but that of a creative class. He said the key to nurturing and growing this type of developing economy, especially in a city like Detroit, is a defined transit strategy like the M-1 Rail and the development and incubation of the service industry. This session was sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. To watch the full speech, click here.

Morning Panelists Re-Imagine Detroit’s Greatest Institutional Assets

Following the morning keynote sessions, the Conference split into concurrent breakout sessions with topics ranging from the food and creative industries in Detroit to the city’s greatest assets. One of these sessions, “Re-Imagining Detroit’s Assets: Leadership, Policy and a Strong Urban Core,” featured panelists including Larry Alexander, chairman, Detroit Regional Convention Facility Authority; Graham Beal, president, Detroit Institute of Arts; Thomas Naughton, CEO, Wayne County Airport Authority; and Faye Nelson, president and CEO, Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs for DTE Energy Paul Hillegonds moderated the session.

Panelists discussed the policies being put forth that will help ensure the vibrancy and reinvention of Detroit’s largest institutions continue to flourish. The panel collectively presented the keys to revitalizing Detroit’s most valued institutions as being dependent on collaborative community efforts and forward-thinking strategies. The speakers agreed that public-private partnerships are crucial elements in driving progress. This session was sponsored by Chase.

IT Panel Analyzes Emerging Technology Sector in Detroit Region

The final group of breakout sessions highlighted topics including small business, urban development and the IT industry. The “Outpacing Silicon Valley: How Detroit is Revolutionizing the IT Industry” session included the following panelists: Jim Anderson, founder, president and CEO, Urban Science; Henry Balanon, co-founder, Detroit Labs; Jen Todd Gray, vice president of marketing and creative services, ePrize; and Joey Grover, software engineer and mobile technology lead, Livio; Zafar Razzacki, account executive, Google Inc. Matt Roush, technology editor for WWJ Newsradio 950, moderated the session.

Session panelists focused their discussion on the Detroit region’s growing IT sector, highlighting the opportunities helping technology businesses leverage talent in and to the region. They each shared successful company practices and benefits that have helped to bring on young talent from surrounding collegiate networks as well as the weight of Detroit’s growing reputation as a vibrant, innovative city. This session was sponsored by Comcast Business Class.

Business Process Maps Unveiled, Mayor Bing Discusses State of City

Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah took the stage after lunch today in order to present the Walsh College and Business Services Network process maps. These maps are a direct result of the 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference To-Do List. The maps are simple graphic representations of commonly used city processes that to help guide businesses navigate city requirements. This set of maps focuses on permit processes including obtaining a business license, special events, signage, outdoor patio space, new construction and renovation construction.

Following Baruah’s presentation of the process maps, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing took the stage to discuss the state of business in Detroit. Mayor Bing discussed his hopes for the city now and moving into the future. He also highlighted his successful relationship with the federal government and his plans to continue to advocate for Detroit at the White House. To watch the video of Mayor Bing’s speech, click here. This session was sponsored by KPMG.

Top Media Minds Examine 2013 Election Landscape, State of the City

At a critical time in Detroit’s history and redevelopment, some of the area’s top media voices gathered to discuss the 2013 election landscape and the transition to a council by district system in Detroit. Panelists included Nolan Finley, editorial page editor for The Detroit News; Mildred Gaddis, host of WCHB’s “Inside Detroit;” Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor for the Detroit Free Press; and moderator Vince Keenan, founder and president of Publius.org.

The panelists engaged in a lively discussion over the impending possibility of an emergency manager appointment and that person’s perceived role and possible impact on the city’s redevelopment. They then moved into dissecting the changing role of council members under the new council by districts system. The group also discussed the upcoming mayoral race and the impact an emergency manger will have on the candidates.