Sandy Baruah Discusses Talent Attraction at Troy Chamber Event

“When we talk about talent, the name of the game is retention,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, during a panel discussion on talent attraction in Michigan.

Retaining talent in Southeast Michigan is a key initiative of the Chamber that is supported through the work of the Chamber’s suite of education programs – including Detroit Promise, Detroit Drives Degrees and Let’s Detroit – and its automotive cluster association, MICHauto.

The panel discussion on Feb. 12 was part of the Troy Chamber of Commerce’s Power of the Future: 2019 Economic Forecast. Baruah was featured alongside Dan Gilmartin, president and CEO of the Michigan Municipal League; and Jennifer Llewellyn, manager of the Workforce Development for Oakland County and director of the Michigan Works! Agency. WDIV Local 4 News Reporter Rod Meloni moderated the discussion.

“When you look at the lateral region, Troy is incredibly important. It’s basically Troy and Detroit that are the two central business districts in our region,” said Baruah. “It’s great to have two choices between a true downtown environment that Detroit is rapidly becoming and a suburban business base that Troy truly is.”

At one point, Meloni asked Baruah, specifically, to share his thoughts on the current push to increase higher educational attainment levels in Michigan.

Baruah replied with data, “We have about 41 percent of adults that either have a four-year, two-year degree, or highly-skilled certificate. By 2030, roughly 60 percent of all jobs will require one of the three.” He added, “If 60 percent will be our needs and we’re at 41percent –that’s bad math.”

Baruah insisted that talent retainment can become a steady growth measure by answering to the needs of people already present in Michigan.

“Keeping people here – that’s placemaking, jobs, transit and investments in the infrastructure. And if we don’t do that, it’s game over,” said Baruah.

Build Your Talent Pipeline With Let’s Detroit

Nearly 60,000 students graduate from Southeast Michigan colleges and universities each year. Let’s Detroit aims to keep these graduates in Michigan by connecting them with things to do, places to live, jobs and each other. Businesses can leverage Let’s Detroit to reach young talent in an authentic way. Increase visibility for your brand, industry and career potential for young talent at your company through this online and offline platform.

The Detroit Regional Chamber is taking an innovative approach to its talent retention and attraction efforts
with the launch of Let’s Detroit. The strategy focuses on connecting young professionals to each other, employment, things to do, places to live and opportunities to make a positive impact via an online and offline platform. National economic data suggests that a region’s per capita income is largely
driven by the percentage of highly skilled, educated adults it retains. While the region’s employers consistently list access to talent as a top concern, until now, there has not been an organized strategy around retaining talent, said Greg Handel, the Chamber’s vice president of education and talent.
Thirty-six percent of graduates from Michigan colleges and universities leave the state within a year of graduating, Handel said. The Chamber wants to increase the number of college graduates who remain in the state by 1 percent each year and also attract talent from outside the state. About 100 partners from government, nonprofit, young professional groups, higher education and businesses across the region began working on the initiative over a year ago. They analyzed survey results, held focus group discussions,
and studied best practices for talent retention and attraction from cities like New Orleans, Philadelphia and Calgary. Handel said survey feedback revealed that young people are generally not aware of career opportunities in Southeast Michigan.

Text a Detroiter

Let’s Detroit engages young professionals who enjoy talking about their neighborhood, favorite things to do, career or ways to make an impact on the community. Through a unique “Text a Detroiter” platform, regional ambassadors answer questions from anyone, anywhere in the world and serve as a one-stop resource for all that the Detroit region has to offer. The technology is like that used by Uber and Lyft.

How Does It Work? lets users choose features, such as where to find a lively nightlife or outdoor recreation, and highlights cities on a map where opportunities exist. Regional ambassadors can also recommend events
or places to check out. Another section of the website focuses on careers, since the Chamber recognizes
that talent will only stay or move to Detroit if they have a job, said Sarah Craft, manager for the Chamber’s Detroit Drives Degrees initiative. Graduates can reach out to young professionals in 10 different industries who can connect them to professional or industry-specific groups. “A lot of people are here because they want to make a difference in the community and it’s surprisingly hard to get engaged,” Craft said. The platform will include resources on ways young professionals can volunteer, learn and lead in their communities. One of the most impressive features is called “Text a Detroiter” which allows anyone, anywhere in the world to reach out to a young professional living here who is invested in the region’s success and ask questions. While the perception of Detroit and the region has improved, there’s still work to do, Craft said. She hopes that having locals — not just the Chamber — share their love for Detroit and the region will change that narrative.

Melissa Anders is a metro Detroit native and freelance writer.

What Can I Find?

Find Your Place

Is your talent new to Southeast Michigan and not sure where to settle in? Connect them with
resources to find their perfect community. Talent can learn what the region has to offer from a local resident to get the insider perspective.

Land Your Dream Job 

Finding a job you love is harder than it sounds. Let’s Detroit strengthens professional networks and
connects talent to the field they care about.

Explore And Enjoy

There are so many things to do in Southeast Michigan but it’s sometimes hard to know
what’s going on. Let’s Detroit helps young talent find their community, whether that’s in a jazz club, on a hiking trail or over brunch.

Meet The Let’s Detroit Ambassadors

Clarence Anthony Jr

Coordinator, Graduate Student Career Advancement, University of Michigan

Industry: Education

Why I Love Detroit: It has a lot of cultural pride and history in multiple fields of innovation. I also find that the culture of Detroit is one that embodies grit and determination — not only in continuously driving forward to grow as a city, but also in preserving its past.

Zain Ismail

Senior Consultant, Strategic Support Services Henry Ford Health System

Industry: Health Care

Why I Love Detroit: One of my favorite things about Detroit is its proximity to Windsor, Ontario. It’s only in this region that you can take advantage of the best of what two countries have to offer.

Michael Waling

Finance Manager, FCA US LLC

Industry: Automotive

Why I Love Detroit: I love the spirit of Detroit. There is a sense of shared pride and community in our city. There is also a “tough, no nonsense” vibe to the city, which I have really come to admire.

Nicole Watkins

QA Engineer, Detroit Labs

Industry: Technology

Why I Love Detroit: We have a diverse community of IT professionals who are highly engaged in sharing knowledge and opportunities. I work for a great company that helped me build my career in software development and testing, and I’ve gained valuable experience on mobile and web apps with global reach.

How Do I Get Engaged?

As a business organization who cares about attracting the right talent, Let’s Detroit offers myriad ways to engage with young professionals around the world. Here are a few ways you can leverage the website to augment your talent attraction and retention strategy.

Become a Partner Let’s Detroit partnership opportunities offer 12 months of engagement and exposure through the website, a texting function, engagement opportunities and social media engagement. It also exists offline to enhance and create programs aimed at driving regional collaboration, social mobility, equity and economic prosperity.
Showcase the Region

Need a way to show talent all that the region has to offer? is the perfect tool. Businesses can leverage the website in their recruitment strategy and onboarding toolkit. The site helps companies show off places to live, events, and how to plug into community projects and young professional groups.

Engage Your Talent

Businesses can engage young professionals in their organization to serve as texting or employment ambassadors. These individuals help promote the region and share resources, recommendations and events related to their field of work to help connect talent and grow their network.

Start retaining Michigan’s top talent for the future of your business at

Detroit Regional Chamber Launches “Let’s Detroit” Talent Attraction and Retention Tool engages talent by connecting them to their peers through a website, one-of-a-kind texting function, social media and events.

DETROIT, Sept. 20, 2018 – With 36 percent of Michigan college graduates leaving the state within a year of graduation, the Detroit Regional Chamber and its partners created Let’s Detroit to attract and retain the talent to Southeast Michigan. Using a website, “Text a Detroiter” function, and social media engagement, the platform aims to achieve three main objectives: improve the narrative around Detroit and Southeast Michigan, increase the number of graduates retained, and cultivate an innovative, engaged and culture-focused business community to drive economic prosperity.

“Regional businesses have continued to indicate the No. 1 issue they have is attracting and retaining talent,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. “Let’s Detroit will increase retention of talented professionals fleeing to cities like New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles by helping them connect to the Detroit region, in a way they will respond to.”

Let’s Detroit showcases local ambassadors in several focus areas and creates a platform for others to connect and find their community. There are texting and employment ambassadors that are the voices representing the Detroit region to their peers. These individuals are the young professionals and others who are immersed in their communities and want to help others get connected.

  • Employment ambassadors are people currently engaged with a Southeast Michigan professional industry group willing to connect with users about their field of work via LinkedIn, Twitter, email, or potentially text. Users will reach out to ask questions, get advice, and how to expand their network.
  • “Text a Detroiter” ambassadors are people who love to text and want to share knowledge about their communities with others. Texting ambassadors select topics they want to talk about (i.e. networking events, nightlife, places to eat, etc.) and users connect through a protected, third party number to ask questions, get recommendations and learn.

The Chamber conducted global and local research on what successful regions are doing to retain and attract talent and it revealed key findings that led to Let’s Detroit:

  • Human resource professionals need help attracting talent to the region.
  • Young professionals don’t want to be marketed to; they want to make a difference in their communities; and they need an “in” to help navigate career, social and other aspects of the region.
  • Talent in Southeast Michigan cares most about their career path, as well as other quality of life aspects like regional transit, placemaking and recreation.

To ensure the process was collaborative, the Chamber brought together a talent retention working group of nearly 100 public, private, nonprofit and grassroots organizations across Southeast Michigan to provide insight and feedback throughout the process.

The launch of Let’s Detroit was generously supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). In addition, The Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED) is an active partner in the development of Let’s Detroit in coordination with their statewide “Choose Michigan” initiative. Through this effort, Let’s Detroit can serve as a wireframe for other regions in the state if they want to implement a similar talent strategy. To continue to be successful, the Chamber is seeking additional support for the Let’s Detroit platform. Please visit to explore and learn more.

 About Let’s Detroit

Let’s Detroit was created by the Detroit Regional Chamber to retain the young talent leaving the state. Using a website, texting communication, and social media engagement, the program aims to achieve three main objectives: improve the narrative around Detroit and Southeast Michigan, increase graduates in Southeast Michigan, and cultivate an innovative, engaged and culture-focused business community to drive economic prosperity. Let’s Detroit was launched to help achieve the Chamber’s goal of increasing postsecondary education attainment in the region to 60 percent by 2030. Explore at

About the Detroit Regional Chamber

Serving the business community for more than 100 years, the Detroit Regional Chamber is one of the oldest, largest and most respected chambers of commerce in the country. As the voice for business in the 11-county Southeast Michigan region, the Chamber’s mission is carried out through creating a business-friendly climate and value for members, leading a robust economic development strategy, and convening Michigan’s most influential audience at the nationally unique Mackinac Policy Conference.

Media contact: Kelly Weatherwax,, 313.596.0360