Chamber Statement on State of the State Address

Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020 — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared a solution to fix the roads in her second State of the State address to Michiganders. Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah shared the following statement on her address: 

The Chamber still believes that the Legislature and Governor should come together for a long term sustainable funding plan for our roads and bridges. However, the Governor’s plan to capitalize on low interest rates to pull forward $2.6 billion in badly needed road repairs in our region right now is wise and will be to our economic benefit”

Detroit’s Next Decade of Commercial, Residential, and Retail Development

From fledgling neighborhood improvement efforts to booming downtown projects, the next decade in Detroit will be transformative. Century Partners’ David Alade, Woodborn Partners’ Clifford Brown, Bedrock Detroit’s Kumar Kintala, and Midtown Detroit Inc.’s Susan T. Mosey shed light on what lies ahead for development across the city in a panel moderated by WDIV-TV 4, NBC Host Rhonda Walker.

Kintala opened the conversation with an update on Bedrock Detroit’s much-awaited Hudson Site development, describing it as a “catalyst project,” the positive results of which are hoped to ripple through the metropolitan area over the next decade.

“[Detroit] is a city designed for growth,” Kintala said.

Expanding beyond downtown, Brown shared his unique perspective on the narrative around two Detroits. He claims that the real division is people versus infrastructure, as opposed to the more commonly made comparison of downtown versus neighborhoods.

“Those two things are not mutually exclusive…they each have unique needs, and we have to find a way to meet each of those unique needs while also being sensitive to each other,” Brown said. “We need more of a base to support the work we’re doing while at the same time we need to respect the culture and the people of the city who have been here.”

Alade addressed the improving perception of the city and strides being made in extending progress to neighborhoods.

“I’m most encouraged by what we’re starting to see in the neighborhoods…being able to deliver safe housing that’s affordable, that’s economically accessible for Detroiters,” Alade said.

Regarding development in neighborhoods, Alade advocated for inclusion, ensuring that members of the communities know development is not happening at them, but rather, with them.

Mosey explained the progress and challenges of retail development in the city, especially the New Center area where storefronts filled with women- and minority-owned retailers are taking center stage. She noted that despite the buzz, sustainable development takes time and there are still challenges to overcome.

“First you have to find attractive, patient capital,” Mosey said. “You have to be patient for the market. Downtown and Midtown are still emerging markets.”

Looking to the next decade, Brown cited building lives, communities, and wealth as the focus.

“If you can’t build wealth, it’s not sustainable,” Brown said. “It’s about our ability to go into a neighborhood and service those people as well as get something built that is amazing.”

Lassiter, Tellem Make a Business Play for a Healthier Community

Henry Ford Health System and the Detroit Pistons proved partnerships and investment can empower communities with the opening of the long-awaited Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center in Detroit. In a one-on-one conversation at the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference, Henry Ford Health System President Wright L. Lassiter III and Detroit Pistons Vice Chairman Arn Tellem discussed this partnership and how it represents more than a business deal 

When Tellem arrived in Detroit in 2015, questions were swirling about the Pistons’ move to Detroit.  

“The vision was that if we moved downtown, I wanted to create a place not just for our players to train,” Tellem said. “We wanted to create partnerships that had a positive impact on the community…and set ourselves apart for how we contributed to Detroit’s rebirth.” 

Tellem wanted a practice facility that broke the mold of the usual private, walled-off facilities of the league and to share its cutting-edge resources with the surrounding community. This is evident in the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center’s public access to healthy groceries, fitness activities and equipment, as well as entertainment space for gathering the community.  

Lassiter and the Henry Ford Health System team shared that same vision for their business, ensuring their work benefits their community beyond patient care.  

“This is a multi-layer partnership,” Lassiter said. “We don’t just focus on sports. We don’t just focus on winning and health care. We focus on trying to uplift the community as well.” 

These organizations’ investments in the city continue to foster ongoing improvements in the communities they inhabit through projects rooted in the longevity and sustainability of their results.  

A poignant symbol of this partnership and connectivity of sports, medicine, and community is the physical bridge that connects the two organizations’ buildings in Detroit. 

“Going back to the idea of how environment shapes culture…it’s been a real positive for both of us.” 

Thank you to TCF Bank for sponsoring this session. 

After learning about its development, see the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center firsthand at the Chamber’s Spring Membership Reception on Tuesday, April 21 from 6-8 p.m. Learn more, and register today.

Hill Harper: Invest in the People of Detroit

Hill Harper did not only bring his star power to the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference stage, but also shared insight from a career rooted in philanthropy and service to communities in need. Harper gave a keynote speech and spoke with Fox 2’s Huel Perkins on how he first got involved in Detroit, and why more people from around the country should too.

As an actor known for his starring role in the CBS hit drama “CSI: NY”, a New York Times best-selling author, and successful entrepreneur, Harper has always looked for places where he can do good. After meeting people from Detroit while attending Harvard Law School, Harper began to develop an affinity for the city.

“Harvard Law School was my first connected tissue to this city,” said Harper. “Some of the best people in the world are here, and that really resonated with me.”

Harper’s love for Detroit is apparent in the multiple large investments in the city, including the purchase and renovation of the Charles T. Fischer mansion in the Boston Edison district, which he plans to convert into an art museum and art incubation space, Harper explained. Harper also owns the downtown Detroit Roasting Plant shop which he bought in 2017.

“It’s a 360 impact in a positive way from the farm to the filter,” commented Harper. “I thought coffee was a great vehicle for social change.”

Harper’s work stems from his belief that the people of Detroit deserve to be invested in. In his time in Detroit, Harper has helped city residents restore credit to pursue homeownership and created a youth empowerment program in partnership with Wayne State University and local businesses.

“The people are Detroit’s greatest asset,” said Harper. “We have to push each other to dream as big as we can about this city.”

Five Local Change-Makers Deliver Dynamic Power Perspectives to Inspire the City

Throughout the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference, five local changemakers took the stage to deliver “TEDx-style” impact stories that highlighted industry-specific calls to action that can push the needle for Detroit over the next decade.

Power Perspectives were sponsored by Grand Valley State University.

Unlocking Detroit’s Entrepreneurial Potential: Monica Wheat, Executive Director, Venture Catalysts; Managing Director, Backstage Capital

Entrepreneurship is alive and well in Detroit, and Wheat wants to help the city rise as the capital for inclusivity. With proper funding and strategic partnerships in the Venture Capital space, Detroit has the potential to lead with a robust ecosystem of business leaders.

Cannabis Advantages for Wellness and Business: Anqunette Sarfoh, Board Member, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association

Detroit’s cannabis business is booming but for consumers and companies to thrive, more communities and businesses must opt-in with their support. Sarfoh is using her voice to champion the safe and appropriate use of cannabis, declaring if business is about opportunity and meeting demand, this is the decade to build a thriving cannabis industry, and we cannot be afraid to try.

Building Detroit’s 24-Hour Economy: Adrian Tonon, 24-Hour Economy Ambassador, City of Detroit

To build a thriving and sustainable 24-hour economy in Detroit, Tonon stresses that we need to maintain Detroit’s allure as a destination for arts and music, while also building a safer community where people can live, work, and play. But first and foremost, we need to take care of the 750 loyal Detroiters who never left – instead of displacing them – and recognize their vital role in moving the city forward.

Restoring Opportunity for Returning Citizens: Mario Bueno, McNair Scholar and Graduate Assistant, University of Michigan; Co-founder, LUCK Inc.

High-crime rates are a liability on Detroit’s balance sheet. To have a self-sustaining economic model, we must alter the path of at-risk populations away from crime and restore their opportunities in society. As a returning citizen, Bueno is committed to helping others and changing the narrative of “Detroit vs. Everybody” to “Detroit Restores Everybody”.

Elevating the City Through Theatre: Sam White, Founding Artistic and Executive Director, Shakespeare in Detroit

Every year, 30 percent of Detroiters attend Canada’s Stratford theatre festival and millions of dollars are raised by Michiganders to support the festival – imagine the impact if those dollars stayed in our communities. White is on a mission to help Detroiters understand the power of theatre and why Michigan needs a large-scale professional theatre. White also educates students on the career options in theatre; from the science of lighting to mathematics of set building, there is something for everyone.


Matt Cullen: Sparking the Revitalization of Detroit’s Tomorrow

Bedrock Detroit CEO and Chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy Matt Cullen gave a sneak preview to the company’s future projects in downtown Detroit at the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference in conversation with Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO Sandy K. Baruah. Cullen leads Bedrock Detroit’s efforts to spark development and revitalization in the city, which included Quicken Loans’ national headquarters move to Detroit in 2010. 

Cullen’s speech focused on the progress Detroit has made in the last decade, such as vibrant downtown landmarks like Campus Martius and the riverfront, and what developments it can look forward to in the decade to come like the Hudson site, which Cullen noted will be off the ground this year. 

When talking about the progress made in the past decade, Cullen played a video from his 2013 Detroit Policy Conference speech, in which he explains that sparking activity downtown depended on the retailers – but retailers were dependent on people coming downtown. This chicken-and-egg scenario could only be solved by a “big-bang”, Cullen had explained, which happened when Bedrock Detroit went all in on reimagining downtown. 

“We wanted to be a part of influencing what could happen in the city of Detroit,” said Cullen. 

Today, downtown Detroit is unrecognizable compared to a decade ago. Bedrock Detroit’s offices are currently around 95% full, noted Cullen. With 17,000 people and 120 retailers, downtown Detroit has seen a transformation with the investment of Bedrock Detroit. 

Along with the success of downtown, Bedrock Detroit is shifting its focus to bring resources to Detroit’s neighborhoods. Rock Ventures Family of Companies has put in 130,000 hours of volunteer work into the city, said Cullen. He’s now focused on creating affordable housing for people of various incomes. 

“I’m making sure opportunities are available for the people that live in the city of Detroit,” said Cullen. “If the neighborhoods don’t do well, the city isn’t going to do well.” 

Read more about this session on Crain’s Detroit Business.

NeighborHUB Renewed for Third Year During the Next Decade of Neighborhood Revitalization

Since 2018, the NeighborHUB Grant Program has awarded $30,000 grants to 13 community-based nonprofits in Detroit. The program’s success has helped organizations engage Detroiters to drive change and demonstrate that funding neighborhood projects does not always require large investments.

At the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference, panelists including George Adams of 360 Detroit Inc., Shamyle Dobbs of Michigan Community Resources, Karen Knox of Eden Gardens Community Association, and Terry Rhadigan of General Motors Co. joined moderator Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer of the Detroit Regional Chamber in exploring the program’s impact on communities and the framework the Chamber and General Motors Co. set with NeighborHUB that can be replicated by businesses of all sizes in their communities. 

Terry Rhadigan, who is executive director of Corporate Giving for General Motors, shared that the idea for NeighborHUB was born out of a brainstorming session between Carnrike and her team to come up with ideas for ways to give back to Detroit communities. 

“What’s lesser known is [GM’s] commitment to neighborhoods,” said Rhadigan. “We wanted to do more, and we wanted to do something tangible.” 

For Karen Knox, executive director of Eden Gardens Community Association, the NeighborHUB grant was what her Eastside Detroit nonprofit needed to build an outdoor space for both elders and young people alike in her community to come together.  

“When elders interact with younger people, it helps them not get dementia,” explained Knox. “Now Neighbors are starting to know each other, and elders are starting to not be fearful of the youth.” 

CEO of Michigan Community Resources Shamyle Dobbs explained why grants like NeighborHUB are vital to the grassroots organizations making a difference in Detroit neighborhoods. 

“Many of these organizations are doing these things after their nine to five jobs,” said Dobbs. “These are women, these are individuals of color on the front lines doing the work.” 

Founder and President of 360 Detroit Inc. George Adams shared that his nonprofit plans to use its grant money to finance the creation of an art house, based on feedback from his community. By partnering with Henry Ford Health Center, the nonprofit will offer nutritional cooking classes, as well as literacy. 

Rhadigan closed out the session with the announcement that there will be a third cohort of NeighborHUB grant awardees in 2020, for which applications will open up in the spring.  

Thank you to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for sponsoring this session. 

Mayor Duggan: Detroit Depends on 2020 Census and Growth of Neighborhoods

Mayor Mike Duggan stopped by the 2020 Detroit Policy Conference for a conversation with Conference Chair and CEO of Ignition Media Group Dennis W. Archer Jr. before heading to Lansing to watch Gov. Gretchen Whitmer give her second annual State of the State address. Duggan talked General Motor Co.’s recent announcement, Detroit’s neighborhoods, and the 2020 census during his interview with Archer. 

The pair discussed the change in direction for General Motors with the reveal of its $2.2 billion investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck plant, to create 2,200 jobs, a turnaround from its plant closings that took place last year. Duggan shared that he spoke to General Motors CEO Mary Barra on the phone during news of the closings and told her that he thought the company needed to make an investment somewhere, even with the risk involved. 

“You are going to have to make a big bet on the cars in future automated vehicles that come in,” Duggan reiterated from his phone conversation with Barra. “It’s going to be a scary, risky time for General Motors. Why wouldn’t you want it in the city of Detroit where you’ve been headquarters a hundred years?” 

Duggan said he was pleased when General Motors changed course and made the investment in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, its first all-electric devoted plant set to build the autonomous Cruise Origin shuttle and an all-electric pickup. These technologies guarantee reduced gas emissions and accidents on the road, Duggan noted.  

Along with the influence of corporate investment in the city, Duggan also emphasized the importance of entrepreneurship in its neighborhoods, and how Detroit can better foster businesses just starting out. 

“We’ve got FCA, we’ve got Ford, we’ve got GM with billion-dollar investments in thousands of jobs, but what about the entrepreneur?” asked Duggan. “Particularly the African American entrepreneur from the city of Detroit.” 

There was once a time where the city’s neighborhoods had shopping districts that people could walk or bike to, Duggan recalled, adding that he wants to continue building vibrant commercial districts. 

“In the last 12 months 13 new businesses have opened – every one of them black owned.” 

While Detroit’s success is dependent on the health of its neighborhoods, it is also reliant on Detroiters themselves. With estimates that Detroit was undercounted in the 2010 census by around 30,000 people, ensuring an accurate count for 2020 is a top priority. Undercounting Detroit means losing money for school lunches, Medicaid, development programs, and more. 

“The minority undercount is very real, which means that our community has to have that much more effort,” Duggan added. “You need trust across the city.” 

Thank you to MotorCity Casino Hotel for sponsoring this session.

Read more about this session on Fox 2 Detroit and The Detroit News.


Trump To Visit Michigan Auto Workers After Signing USMCA

January 29, 2020


Malachi Barrett

President Donald Trump will visit Michigan workers to celebrate Wednesday’s signing of a revised North American Free Trade Agreement replacing what he called “the worst trade deal ever made.”

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement replaces a 1994 deal widely criticized for allowing companies to move their manufacturing facilities across the southern U.S. border to take advantage of cheaper labor. The White House says the new deal will create a more balanced, reciprocal trade environment that supports high-paying jobs for Americans and Michiganders in particular.

“After NAFTA’s adoption more than 25 years ago, the United States lost nearly one-fourth of all of its manufacturing jobs, including more than one in five vehicle manufacturing jobs,” Trump said. “Entire communities were devastated from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Michigan to Maine.”

The deal is expected to create 176,000 new jobs and add $68.2 billion to the economy, according to the White House. Trump touted its benefits for Michigan’s car production and agriculture industries and will visit a Warren auto parts supplier to celebrate the key policy victory on Thursday.

“Two decades of politicians ran for office vowing to replace the NAFTA — and this was a catastrophe: the NAFTA catastrophe,” Trump said Wednesday. “Yet once elected, they never even tried. They never even gave it a shot. They sold out. But I’m not like those other politicians, I guess, in many ways. I keep my promises, and I’m fighting for the American worker.”

The president campaigned heavily on scrapping NAFTA during the 2016 election. Trump called NAFTA and the now-dead Trans-Pacific Partnership a disaster for Michigan and other manufacturing-heavy Midwest states he would go on to win.

Trump’s Thursday visit will bring him to Macomb County, one of the key swing areas that helped him win Michigan in 2016. Voters in Macomb County had supported former Democratic President Barack Obama in the two previous elections, but the area flipped for Trump by a large margin.

The largest employers in the county are Michigan’s Big Three automakers — General Motors Co., Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Ford Motor Co.

Legislation implementing the USMCA received bipartisan support in Congress, and Michigan’s representatives on both sides of the aisle applauded the deal in statements released Wednesday. However, businesses were kept waiting for most of 2019 while negotiations between Democratic lawmakers and the Trump administration unfolded.

Trump had threatened to leave NAFTA before the new deal was in place, creating some uncertainty in the business community. Detroit Chamber of Commerce CEO Sandy Baruah said businesses delayed plans for expansion and chilled future investments after the president announced he would scrap NAFTA.

Baruah said Michigan businesses are breathing a sigh of relief now that the long-awaited replacement deal is finalized.

“Regardless of who you are in the business community, or what you may think of Donald Trump, the business community is somewhere between relieved and excited that USMC has finally turned the corner,” Baruah said. “It really provides the certainty that businesses, especially the auto community, need to plan and invest going forward.”

Canada and Mexico purchase more exports from Michigan than the rest of the world combined, The two countries bought nearly $35 billion in Michigan goods in 2018, according to the Michigan Manufacturing Association.

USMCA is expected to create up to 76,000 new auto jobs, spur $34 billion in new investment in the auto industry, and add $23 billion in auto parts purchases annually, according to the White House.

Automobiles must have 75% of their components manufactured in North America, increasing the 62.5% standard under NAFTA.

American agricultural exports are expected to increase by $2.2 billion, and Canada has agreed to expand market access for American dairy, egg, and poultry producers.

Baruah said the new deal is essentially a modernized version of the previous agreement, a “NAFTA 2.0” as some have called it. It also includes new protections for intellectual property and technical improvements to address e-commerce issues.

A group of House Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, said Trump isn’t the sole architect of the trade agreement. Democratic lawmakers said the deal wouldn’t have passed without tweaks made during a lengthy negotiation process last year.

Dingell said replacing NAFTA is long overdue. Manufacturing facilities in her district west of Detroit still sit empty after good-paying jobs were moved across the border to Mexico, she said.

Dingell said the USMCA has “significant improvements” over the previous trade agreement and begins to level the playing field with workers in Mexico by raising wages.

The USMCA requires 40 to 45 percent of automobile parts to be built by workers who earn at least $16 an hour and includes provisions to hold Mexico accountable for labor standards. Mexico also committed to expanding access to unions for its workers.

However, Dingell said the deal “won’t undo the deep damage that’s been done to American workers since NAFTA was passed.”

“It’s not just going to uproot factories from overseas and bring them back home,” Dingell said Wednesday. “We have to keep investing in workers.”

Baruah said the cost of labor isn’t the only reason businesses move their facilities. One of the reasons many companies decide to manufacture vehicles in Mexico is due to the country’s free trade agreements with other countries, he said.

“You don’t see many Silverados driving around the streets of Tokyo or London, those vehicles are still made in the United States because they’re domestically consumed,” Baruah said. “When you look at cars that are sold globally, a great example would have been the Chevy Cruze, which they no longer sell the United States but they still sell globally. They make a lot of those Mexico just because they’re easy to export to other parts of the world.”

Trump also celebrated recent investments announced by automakers in Michigan during the USMCA signing Wednesday.

General Motors announced plans to invest $2.2 billion transform its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, which had been set to idle this year, into a new state-of-the-art electric vehicle factory. Ford Motor Co. plans to invest $1.5 billion in its Wayne and Dearborn assembly plants.

‘I expect to see the president and Vice President Pence and all their surrogates in the state a lot,” Baruah said. “Michigan is going to be a battleground. I think we’re going to be a popular stop over the next several months by all the candidates, so get ready.”

View the original article here

Detroit: A Global Startup Destination for ‘Unicorn’ Companies

Expert voice in the cybersecurity industry Dug Song, co-founder and general manager of Duo Security at Cisco, led his startup to a $2.35 billion acquisition, the largest exit ever for a Michigan-based software company. Through building his company, Song gained a unique perspective on what it takes to create and participate in a thriving startup ecosystem.  

In his discussion with Detroit Public Television host Christy McDonald, Song explained how the region’s startup culture contributed to Duo Security’s success, aligning with the company’s values.  

“Here in the Midwest, we have this unique advantage of being fairly grounded,” Song said. “There’s a lot about that that I deeply appreciate – the strong work ethic, it’s very egalitarian. When you’re trying to build a team to accomplish something great together, you need that.” 

Song explained the importance of the entrepreneurial ecosystem’s grassroots development. He noted that entrepreneurs and businesses need to lead and uplift the startup community. While mentorship and corporate support play a role in nurturing startups, what’s essential is sponsorship – providing access and opportunities.  

While these factors are pillars to the region’s entrepreneurial success, there is still room to grow. Song emphasized improved connectivity, infrastructure, and education as essential elements to bolster Detroit as a global entrepreneurial ecosystem.  

“If we don’t connect this region – the people, opportunity, and dollars – through infrastructure and transit, what are we really doing?” Song said. “We have to help foster the next generation of what happens here.” 

Similarly, he identified a “missing middle”, the disconnect between corporations and the lived experience of entrepreneurs on the ground, as another challenge to sustainability in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Giving entrepreneurs from more diverse industries and expertise the chance to get started will change the game for the region. Economic diversity is strength, he said. 

“We need more turns at bat. We need to learn by doing. We need to create the opportunities for more folks to try and do so safely,” Song said.  

Finally, on the legacy of Duo Security’s historic acquisition, Song focused on paying the success forward. 

“Being first means we have a responsibility to lead; we have a responsibility to reach back and help others follow.”  

Thank you to Delta Air Lines for sponsoring the session.