Education Advocates: Reform, More Training Opportunities Needed to Sustain Detroit’s Momentum

Research shows that education is a driving force to foster a vibrant and strong economy. Detroit is no exception. That was a key message education advocates and leaders expressed during a panel discussion moderated by Greg Handel, vice president of education and talent at the Detroit Regional Chamber during the Investor Briefing: Attracting and Retaining Talent in Southeast Michigan in February.

“For the first time in forever, Detroit has a global macro trend working in its favor,” said Ned Staebler, vice president of economic development at Wayne State University and president and CEO of TechTown.

“Studies show people are moving to the urban centers across the world faster than ever before,” Staebler added.

With that trend showing no signs of slowing, one area of concern echoed by the panelists is the lack of accessible quality education, specifically among K-12 schools in Southeast Michigan.

“We have a lot going for us now in Detroit but it won’t mean anything if we don’t do something about our regional education system,” said Richard Rassel, Detroit Drives Degrees Leadership Council co-chair and Butzel Long chairman. “Our standards (for education) have slipped and we really need to get back to where we were.”

Education reform has been a longtime priority for the Chamber. Through its top-rated advocacy work at the local and state level to its management and collaboration on the Detroit Promise, the Chamber is committed to providing quality education to all students, regardless of income level.

Addressing diversification beyond traditional college tracks for students, attendees voiced the need for alternative options such as more vocational training and career programs.

“We have had to re-engage with community colleges to build partnerships to create a pipeline,” said Mikel Slater, vice president of human resources for Comcast. “Eighty percent of our workforce is technical and the other portion is mostly sales, so everyone is not university bound.”

Comcast is not alone in its effort to promote technical and skill-based employment opportunities.

Detroit Sewn, Magna International, Shinola and UAW-Ford National Programs Center, among others, currently employ participants of Henry Ford College’s (HFC) Industrial Sewing, Multi-Skilled Manufacturing and Mechatronic dual enrollment programs. HFC’s programs train individuals for entry-level jobs within industrial sewing, mechanical and robot maintenance.

Rassel encouraged more businesses and colleges to work collaboratively to help address the region’s talent gap.

“The business community has a big piece in fixing education and we must be prepared to shoulder the burden,” he said.

Stay tuned to the Chamber’s website for information on the next Investor Briefing date and time.

For more information on Forward Detroit, contact Marnita Hamilton at or 313.596.0310. To view a full list of investors and past Investor Exclusive content, visit our Investor Resources page.

Comcast Cable, Heartland Region and Airfoil Win Best of Show at IABC Detroit Renaissance Awards

Southfield, Mich., June 30, 2015 — Airfoil, a marketing communications and public relations agency for technology and innovative brands, was honored alongside its client Comcast Cable, Heartland Region with the Best of Show distinction at the International Association of Business Communicators Detroit Renaissance Awards ceremony.

Comcast and Airfoil received three awards in the competition. Their combined entry, “Comcast Hyper-Targeted Social Media Advertising” was honored with the Award of Excellence in the Advertising Campaigns category, which qualified it to be considered for Best of Show, where the Comcast and Airfoil campaign was selected as Best of Show over seven other Award of Excellence winners.

The Comcast Hyper-Targeted Social Media Advertising campaign targeted University of Michigan and Michigan State University students via social media as they returned to campus for the school year. As a result of the campaign, sales of the Comcast video product experienced a 107 percent increase year-over-year and the high speed internet product experienced a 104 percent increase year-over-year. The campaign reached more than 400,000 viewers through Facebook and Twitter, resulting in more than 15,000 engagements with Comcast Michigan social media properties.
“For a social media advertising campaign to achieve more than 100 percent year-over-year sales growth is a feat,” said Lisa Vallee-Smith, Airfoil CEO. “It showcases the business value driven by strategic audience insights and smart creative execution.”

In addition, Comcast and Airfoil were honored with an Award of Merit in the Special Events – External category for the XFINITY® Viewing Parties program, which generated more than 1,400 total mentions across social channels and 4.7 million total estimated impressions across five events.

“We are thrilled to be recognized by IABC for our work in the social media space” said Michelle Gilbert, vice president of public relations and social media for the Comcast Heartland Region. “It’s a great honor to receive such a reputable award. Airfoil’s creativity and execution supported Comcast’s efforts beautifully, and together we produced a campaign of which we are both proud that drove business results.”

IABC Detroit’s Renaissance Awards have been recognizing the region’s best business communications programs for the past 34 years.

About Airfoil
Airfoil is an independent integrated marketing communications and public relations firm serving technology companies and innovation-centric brands. With offices in Detroit, Sunnyvale, Calif., and New York City, as well as global partnerships in Asia, Europe and South America, Airfoil drives campaigns for a growing client roster across automotive, consumer, enterprise, healthcare and other business sectors. The agency provides services to measure, inform and accelerate marketing communications, digital, social media and brand strategy programs for clients. For more information about Airfoil, please go to or connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter at @airfoilgroup.