Brad Williams Testifies on Regional Transit Bill to House Committee

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Brad Williams and I am the Vice President of Government Relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. The Chamber has been the voice of the business community for our region since 1903 and sometimes it seems like we have been clamoring for a regional transit system in the region that long too. In fact, if you look back at some of the earliest issues of the Detroiter magazine put out by the Chamber, you will see discussion of investing in Detroit’s once robust streetcar system. While the methods and demands for transit have changed since 1903, we sit here today as the largest municipal area in that nation without a coordinated regional transit system. In fact, when you look at major metropolitan areas, Detroit is at the bottom of per capita spending on public transit, just below us is San Juan and just above us is Cincinnati.

Regions that we compete with like Seattle, Atlanta and Nashville have passed new funding and invested in their system since the Republican Legislature passed, and Governor Snyder signed legislation creating the Regional Transit Authority in 2012. Still, Detroit remains stuck in neutral. Our region continues to lead the world in developing the next generation of mobility that is changing the world, however our efforts to safely and efficiently move people and goods have come up short. For years, business leaders have been arguing that our lack of regional transit is holding our region back economically, we now have tangible proof with Amazon’s decision not to advance Detroit to its list of HQ2 finalists and citing our lack of transit as a primary concern. Our shortcomings in this area should not be construed as a criticism of our current transit providers, the lack of resources and structural deficiencies, including the ability of communities to opt-out of SMART has added to the complexity of the challenge.

A seamless system is important for employment. A quick scan of Pure Michigan Talent Connect shows that in the last week there have been 315 jobs posted in Novi, 421 jobs in Livonia, 276 in Rochester and 174 jobs in Waterford. None of these jobs are currently inaccessible by any regional transit. That does not account for the 360 jobs in Dearborn, the 471 jobs in Southfield or 759 in Troy that are inaccessible by transit to residents of opt-out communities. This legislature put a lot of effort into lowering the cost of car insurance last year. For many Michiganders, that will bring welcome relief. Still for some, the cost of car insurance will still be prohibitive and when faced with the choice of driving without insurance or not getting to work, many will choose to continue to drive uninsured meaning the promise of insurance reform remains unrealized.

House Bill 5550 gives our region a path forward on regional transit. Instead of spending another year trying to thread the needle in search of the elusive perfect deal that always seems to fall apart at the end, House Bill 5550 allows for an opportunity to build a system around the counties who are ready to proceed, and using the Regional Transit Authority that was painstakingly negotiated by regional leaders including Brooks Patterson to protect the interests of those who choose to participate. To be clear, House Bill 5550 takes a Regional Transit Authority that was negotiated by conservatives and makes it even more conservative by allowing counties to remove themselves from a plan and capping the number of mills the RTA may request.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the largest employers in the Detroit region, your leadership on this issue is appreciated. We look forward to continued progress on regional transit and looking forward to the day when we can gather together and talk about how glad we are that we finally passed Cincinnati.

CEO Talent Council Webinar: Education and Talent Strategy

This webinar provides a comprehensive look into the Chamber’s education and talent strategy, and how employers can get involved.

George Corona (00:01):

Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s webinar on the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Education and Talent Strategy. My name is George Corona and I’m the Chair of the CEO Talent Council at the Detroit Regional Chamber. It’s a council that demonstrates the Chamber’s deep commitment to providing for the improvement of the education and talent base in Southeast Michigan. And it’s something that everybody at the Chamber feels very strongly about. That if as we progress as a region, the most important thing and most important asset that we will have is the educated workforce that we have.

It is my pleasure today to introduce to you, Sandy Baruah, who is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber to take us through the beginnings of the day.

Sandy K. Baruah (01:35):

Thank you, George. Very much. And thank you all for joining us. Either on livestream or those of you who are downloading this later. So thank you all very, very much. First of all, I want to thank the team at Kelly Services for hosting us today. There’s a lot of staff here at Kelly, the technology staff in particular, that are making all of this happen. But in particular, I want to thank George Corona, the recently retired CEO of Kelly Services, for not only allowing us to do this at Kelly Services today, but more importantly for his chairmanship of our CEO council and getting us started. We figured there was no better chair for a Talent Council than someone who is the CEO of Kelly Services. So, thank you.

One of the things that we want to do today is really set the framework for the discussion that is going to focus on the individual programs that the Detroit Regional Chamber has created to focus on the talent challenges that this region and this state have.

Because I think one of the things that we all recognize is that if this region and this state, does not have the talent pool that is necessary to compete and win in the 21st century, our companies will suffer, our economy will suffer and that is not a cycle that we want to be in.

When we look at what economic development is today and how talent fits into it, this is the slide from our friends at the Brookings Institution. So, we’re stealing a very liberally from our friends at Brookings and they, Brookings has a very clear view on really what is effective economic development.

Today, not so long ago, a lot of people viewed economic development simply as the act of recruiting a business from one place to another. And that is still an important element of economic development. The pejorative term is smokestack chasing. And that still needs to happen. But Brookings has really made it very clear that today’s economic development is really much more than simple business attraction. It’s really ensuring prosperity, inclusion, and ensuring that the that we have the talent that is necessary. And as we talk about talent. It is multiple elements of talent.

  • One, it’s making your community or your region and attractive place that talent wants to come to.
  • It is about building talent, your homegrown talent, ensuring that we have a pool of talent that is going through our educational system and succeeding through our educational system.
  • It’s about taking people who are marginally in the workforce and getting them the skills that they need to be productive citizens and taxpayers in our community. And it’s also about retaining that talent in our, in our community.

So that’s kind of the framework that we have taken from Brookings as we kind of go through our talent agenda, many of you have seen slides very similar to this and this basically shows the very high correlation between per capita income and high-skilled degree attainment.

And as you can see, the two Michigan cities, Detroit and Grand Rapids are at the lower left, lower per capita income and lower educational attainment. And you can see this line, you know, goes smartly up into the right ending up in places like Washington, D.C., and San Francisco.

Now one of the comments that I often get when I show this slide is that well those are higher cost of living cities. That is partially true when you look at cities. However, like Hartford, Baltimore, and Minneapolis, those cities are much higher on this continuum than a Detroit and Grand Rapids. But they are not a key cost of living cities. And when you look at the cost of living of a city, you know, one of the things we need to remember is that the supply and demand model that works for a product also works for a city. The more demand there is to be in a city, the higher the cost is the supply and demand issue. So, we need to look at that as well.

Just very quickly, I think most people know this intuitively since the great recession a majority of the job growth has been with people with a four-year degree or higher between 2010 and 2016, 8.4 million jobs were created. Just for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Those with an associate degree or roughly an associate degree gained 3.1 million jobs. For those with a high school degree or less, they gained only 80,000 jobs. So, we know where the jobs are going and what kind of skill level people are getting jobs.

Our goal at the Detroit Regional Chamber is to get our region to achieve 60% of our adults with some sort of postsecondary credential and you’re going to hear that term a lot, and postsecondary credential means a four-year degree or higher, a two-year associates degree or a highly skilled certificate like a nursing certificate or a welding certificate or a professional certificate.

Right now, our region is just below 45% and we need to get to 60% if we want to ensure that this region is going to be competitive. Just to give you some numbers around that, if we get to 60% that will be a boost of $42 billion in regional GDP. And for every percentage gain we have in adult educational attainment results in a per capita income increase of $1,200 per capita. That’s pretty impressive. So in order to get to 60%, we have a bogey number and that bogey number is 540,000. And we need to get 540,000 additional adults through the pipeline into a highly skilled certificate, two-year or four-year program. That’s 540,000 more than what our current trajectory is. We need to bend that that curve up and add an additional 540,000. Now, the 60% goal that we have set at the region fortunately now has been mirrored by the state.

We’re very pleased that Governor Gretchen Whitmer has adopted the 60% goal for the state of Michigan. Michigan is one of the last states to have a target, a goal for their adult education attainment. And we were one of the last ones. So we’re very pleased that we are here. And for those of you who serve with George on the CEO Talent Council have seen this slide or some version of it. And Greg Handel is going to walk through the details of this slide, but this is the framing slide of all of the programs that the Detroit Regional Chamber is either leading or heavily involved in. And you can see we’ve categorized our education and talent programs into three buckets.

First is increasing access. How do we get more people in a position that they can access their educational opportunity?

And there’s multiple programs there, and Greg’s going to talk about several of them, but getting access to say a two-year degree or a four-year degree is only part of the story.

We need to ensure success through that program. And we have programs that are targeted on ensuring that that student, either young person or adult can get through that two-year or four-year or skill certificate program.

And then we want to obviously grow our talent and we want to grow our talent by retaining our talent, attracting our talent and finding alternate ways to ensure that our highly skilled young people stay here and improve their skills as time goes on. And with that, I’m pleased to turn it over to my friend and colleague, Greg Handel of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Greg Handel (09:54):

Thank you, Sandy. Sandy has done a great job kind of outlining the framework for why talent is important, the impact that it has on our region and on our economy. And so now what I want to do is just delve into the initiatives that we are either operating at the Chamber as programs or the partnerships that we’ve convened to help us reach that 60% goal.

So, the first is the Detroit Promise. So our impact is regional. The number that seemed to give about 540,000 in additional credentials. It is for actually our 11 County region. Almost all of our initiatives operate at the County, at the regional level. The Detroit Promise is specific to the city of Detroit and was established in 2013. Over that time, since the program launched, over 4,300 students have been enrolled into some form of higher education through the Detroit Promise.

We started with a community college commitment. So we are a last dollar scholarship, meaning that students, and we help facilitate the process of them applying for need based financial aid. Then we fill in whatever the difference is between the cost of going to a community college and whatever they get from need based financial aid. So our impact typically in a given year, 450 to 500 new students enrolling and we started with five partner community colleges. We’re now actually up to six. It’s the five in the region, Henry Ford, Schoolcraft, Macomb, Wayne County Community College, Oakland. And over the last couple of years we’ve actually added Jackson College because a number of our students have indicated or they’re not going to a four-year school. They’re interested in that, that experience of moving away and living in a dorm. Jackson offers that and they also offer a terrific supports to students to help them succeed.

So we added Jackson and there’s a growing number of students entering there. We have our staff who go out and promote the program. We have two soon to be three, we started our focus with high school seniors because as we got the program going and kind of raised funds as we went, we really wanted to make sure we didn’t over promise. We focused on those students who were in it who were seniors and help facilitate their entry into college with a tuition-free pathway. In 2016 we added a four-year component to the program. So that part of the program is covered primarily by our university partners. We are now up to 20 university partners, virtually all of the publics and a number of privates in Michigan support the program. What they do is they take that need based financial aid, typically a Pell grant, which would be up to $6,000 a year for student.

And we provide as a base funding of about $500 per year per student. And then our university partners make up the rest. The difference between that aid package, our commitment and whatever full tuition and fees are for that student. So it’s full tuition and mandatory fees. We don’t cover room, board, books, other expenses like that. Our movement is in the area of getting deeper into high school. So there are 53 high schools in the city of Detroit. So our staff have two soon to be three can only cover so much ground. We’re fortunate that with Dr. Vitti’s leadership at Detroit Public Schools community district, he’s made a huge commitment to supporting college going, creating a college, going culture and tracking their students into postsecondary. So all the last couple of years they’ve hired, first it was 12, and now they’re up to 20 college transition advisors.

These are people whose only job is to work with students to get them enrolled in some kind of postsecondary education. Prior to that, students really only had access to counselors who had ratios of students 500, 600 to one, and who had to deal with all kinds of things other than getting students into the college. So now we have partners in the schools that we haven’t had in the past. So we are in the process of working with our partners now in the high schools to ensure that they’re doing a lot more of the lifting and administrative work of getting students registered so that our staff can be more effective when they come into schools and talk about the program and have meaningful conversations about how to choose the right college. You know, where to get the best aid package. What’s the right fit for you, what do you need to know to be prepared to go to college rather than just focusing on the administrative tasks at hand.

Lastly, our funding model. We are supported by the Michigan education excellence foundation. Our budget is about $3 million a year and that’s for everything we do. Our staff, the student supports, I’m going to talk about our tuition payments. So, we are entirely privately funded right now by the Michigan Education Excellence Foundation. There are two really unique aspects of the Detroit Promise that sets us apart from many other Promise programs around the country. First is while we are funded now privately, there is there is a mechanism to move us to self-sustainability through something known as Promise Zone Tax Capture. So, the city of Detroit has a Promise Zone Authority that will capture the increased property tax taxes as property values go up. We’re expecting our first payment actually this year. It would represent about 15, 20% of our budget, but there are projections as a projected pathway that gets us a sustainability through crop Promise zone funding in the next six to seven years. So that’s at this depart, most Promise zones around most Promise programs around the country are entirely reliant on continued philanthropic support into perpetuity. So we have unique advantage over other communities.

The other thing that makes us unique is as we started to facilitate students’ enrollment in the community college program, we knew that the results, looking at the data, we’re going to be challenging that often students who enroll in community college, particularly low income first generation and minority students graduate at very low rates. We worked with our community colleges to gather the information on what they were going to do to support those students ensured that the supports were in place, but then found to our disappointment that despite the fact that they had supports in place, it really didn’t seem to impact our students. Our retention rates year to year were very low. Our graduation rates period to be very low. And so we started to look for additional interventions that we could, we could use to support our students. We tried a few that didn’t seem to make an impact, but in 2016 we partnered with an organization and outside organization, the MDRC, which helped us adapt a national best practice that had doubled community college graduation rates in New York been replicated in Ohio.

We adapt it. We didn’t replicate the program exactly because those programs grew up in individual institutions. We’re sending students to five now, six community colleges. So they helped us take the most cost effective, most adaptable pieces of that program and make it available to students who are going to community college. And they’ve done a test. So they assigned two thirds of our students to this new intrusive advising model that we’ll call it we call it the Detroit Promise Path and they assigned the other third of the students to our traditional tuition support so that they could compare outcomes. Just that our, our model is really predicated on, we use the term very deliberately intrusive advising, a lot of traditional supports for college students depend on students to seek out a counselor or support when they’re having trouble.

Detroit Promise Path, our coaches are tasked with going out and initiating contact with students, whether a student ever signs up for the program or not. In fact, they don’t, they’re just assigned. So a student will be contacted by a coach, said, Hey, I am here to help you as you enroll in this community college. And for every month that the student meets with the coach twice, they can earn a $50 gift card. They do want a $50 gift card. So that helps them with some out of pocket costs, but also provides an incentive for them to meet with the coach. And while the incentive gets them in the door, what really keeps them is the relationship they’ve built with the coach. So are the MDRC, which helped us establish the model is doing an evaluation. So they, they surveyed the students and held focus groups. Over 90% of the students said that they placed great or very high value on their relationship with the coach and that it was a help to them.

So, a key metric for us is that they track the number of students who came back for a second year. And if you look at the students who were enrolled in community college and had a coach, 62% of those students return to that campus again for a second year. If you compare that to the group that didn’t have a coach, it was 48%. So in the data that they track, they’re telling us that’s a very meaningful differential. And so were there a year and a half into the, their data report. We’ll have another report this spring. And then one year from now we’ll get a final report on graduation rates. Ultimate transfer rates, things like that. But just another metric that we track are the number of sessions that our coaches have. All of the coaching is very data intensive in terms of what we track.

We track how many texts they send out to students, how many emails, how many coaching sessions are scheduled, how many are actually held. So in a given year we have over 7,100 individual coaching sessions. Couple of other directions that we’re moving in. One is to begin to connect students with opportunities with employers. So, if you’re an employer and you’re interested in supporting, connecting, actually taking advantage of the Promise. We have the largest pool of college students in the city of Detroit. So we are working actually with Quicken right now. They are recruiting both our graduates from community college, but they’re also interested in enrolling our four-year interns into their internship programs. So while we don’t have the staff capacity to do actual job matching and arrange interviews, what we can do is share opportunities with our students. We are connected via text to all of our students.

So we had an opportunity that the mayor’s office, we’re interested in hiring students to do a petition drive. They wanted to hire our students. We texted out the opportunity to our students on a Friday afternoon with an hour and a half. They called us and said, you can stop. Because they had already had an overwhelming response from students who were interested in that opportunity. So if you’re an employer and you’re interested in community college students for your university students, college graduates, you can get in touch with us. We can make those opportunities available to students and help them connect to you. So that’s it for the Promise. Now when we can’t operate a Detroit Promise type program across the entire region, what we can do is look at one of the primary barriers that that holds students back from enrolling in college. And that is finances. And while the cost of education, higher education continues to go up, a lot of students aren’t aware of even the basic need based financial resources that are available to them.

So there are federal Pell grants for low income students, moderate income students, and some schools in our region do a really good job helping students connect to those opportunities. Fill out the FASFA form that’s required to, to access the Pell grant. But in others the resources aren’t there. The knowledge isn’t there about what students can do and sometimes they’re just not the commitment. So, what we did starting four-years ago was we actually created a competition, a campaign across the region trying to increase the number of students who completed the FASFA. When we started, I think we’re at about a 54% completion rate. So what we’ve done is launched this this competition. There are about 170 some high schools in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties. So this year we had 102 sign up to be part of the program. We go out and we do presentations to all of the counselors in group meetings in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb counties.

We’ll actually go to individual high schools where people need a bit more assistance. And we’ve really targeted those schools where we know there’s a high percentage of, of low income students who would be eligible, but where we see low completion rates, we can actually track the completion rate every two weeks across the region. So we can look at our group of schools every two weeks and see which ones are kind of behind and which ones are doing a good job. We’re really trying to recognize those schools that are doing a good job and give them credit for doing that. But we’re also really trying to provide those schools where they might need more help. In fact, over the last month or two, we’ve actually hired a couple of, of technical advisors to go in and work one-on-one with schools and even one-on-one with students to help them fill out the FASFA form.

The governor has joined our campaign. Actually, this year, launched her own statewide campaign. We are at the end of December. We’re at 35% completion rate across the region. That’s not great. We’re ahead of the statewide average at 30% at that time. But we are pushing hard with the governor’s statewide initiative, trying to increase those numbers. And the hope is there’s a correlation if we can increase faster completion numbers a bit, we can increase enrollment numbers, a couple of percentage points. And when we get a little bit further into the presentation, we’ll show you how all of that is linked.

So in order to get to that 60% goal of 60% attainment, we have to look at our population that’s unique to Southeast Michigan. And where we differ from other parts of the country is we have a very large percentage of the population who are adults who have some kind of postsecondary education, but they don’t have a credential. So while that 540,000 additional credentials over 10 years is, that is a big number. Southeast Michigan is actually home to six and 91,000 people who started some kind of postsecondary but never got a credential. So there’s a big target group right there that we can start to work with. We’re, that’s about 20, 21% of the population in Southeast Michigan. That’s compared to a national average of about 15%. So we’re overrepresented there. So we started this work with a group, with a grant from the Lumina Foundation with two institutions of higher education, Wayne State and Macomb to start to explore strategies that they could pursue to increase enrollment for adults, especially those weren’t exclusively looking at just folks with some college, no degree, but to kind of target them.

But, you know, we’re also open to folks who may have completed high school and never enrolled. Out of that initial work came a notion. Wayne State pioneered a debt forgiveness policy, the Warrior Way Back about a year and a half ago. They saw a pretty enthusiastic uptake for their offering. I think 150 students in their first year. We brought together other institutions in Southeast Michigan. We ended up with four that wanted to, to offer debt forgiveness. We launched this, this national collaborative, this regional collaborative, one of the first in the country. As far as we’re aware and what we’ve seen as well, Wayne state, there was a big, there was a large uptake with students who actually had debt that needed to be forgiven. Henry Ford and Oakland University actually had a lot of students that came back to them and said, I don’t have debt, but I’ve always wanted to come back.

And since you’ve reached out to me, let’s talk about how I can re-enroll. And so Oakland university is actually seen a large uptick in enrollment but for the most part not connected to the debt relief, but they made the initial outreach as or as a result of being part of this debt relief. Collaborative. we’re required to track as a part of our Lumina grant, the increase number of degrees earned by people over the age of 25, 25 by our partners. So we started with two institutions. We’re now up to four. Henry Ford and Oakland University joined the collaborative, and this is beyond the debt forgiveness, but in our first kind of year to year assessment, they did increase their number of degrees awarded to folks over the age of 25 by 844 people. So able to start to see a return on that investment.

We got a generous grant from the Ralph Wilson Foundation this year, $760,000 to expand our work in this area. There’s in three places where we find this population. So the first is a lot of them are connected to the higher ed in some way. So that debt forgiveness, that re-enrollment strategy, we have strategies, they are working with higher EDS to reach back to former students to encourage them to enroll. The second area where we can find these students is the vast majority of them are working somewhere. And so there are a lot of employers that have these people in their workforces and as they have needs to upskill their employees, we are launching strategies to reach out to them, work with their, their employees and help them re-enroll in school, but also help employers understand the return on investment by creating higher education friendly practices in their organizations. And so we are reaching out to those higher ed partners. We’re actually about to launch a survey February 19th, it’ll be open for six weeks, but we’re really benchmarking the practices that exist already and then start to identify a cohort of employers that want to work with us to help us reach out, help them reach to the employees, but also help them design practices that will facilitate re enrollment, but also provide a return on investment to them for engaging in these strategies.

So, the next piece of this work is kind of beyond programmatic. And this is how we get to the 60% and how do we do this in a really strategic way? And how do we go from 60% attainment is you know, an aspiration to an actual goal with strategies behind that. And so this is sort of the model, the funnel that kind of helps explain how we get there. So we start on the far right there with our goal of 540,000 more credentials and then we have to work backwards from there to, to, to impact people to get them all the way through the system. So if we need 540,000 more credentials, we need a number higher than that to actually enroll because we know that we don’t have a hundred percent graduation rates from our institutions. In fact, the majority of our, our four-year universities are in the 40% range.

So if we can work with our education partners to increase graduation rates, we don’t need to take more people in necessarily. We just need to get more through. So, we’ve already kind of pioneered that with the work we’re doing with the Detroit Promise, with our Detroit Promise path at the community college level. But you know, we are also looking at our four-year institutions to see what they can do to impact graduation rates. So we recognized a Wayne state university for example, at our state of the education event two months ago, they raised their graduation rates from the high 20% to the mid-forties in just a seven year span. So you can imagine the impact that, that, that kind of momentum would have. If we could scale that across the rest of the region. If we could improve graduation rates by that much that equals a lot more, that acquaints to a lot more degree attainment.

So that’s one set of, of strategies that we need to explore. The next is what can we do to get more people prepared for postsecondary? So the work we’re doing with adults to kind of help them and help inform them about what they can do, what their options are to go back to school, but also advising in the in the high school level. So we’ll get back to each of our partners at the far end here is going to have a unique role to play. So for the K-12 systems for example, to get students as a in the possible pool and then prepare for postsecondary. We met with a group of partners in K-12. We met with the superintendent of the Wayne Regional Education Agency, the intermediate school district. They’ve piloted a program to send additional counselors into high schools all over the County to try and identify students who don’t seem to be on a path for anything after high school and work to ensure that every student in a high school actually has a plan to go into postsecondary education.

At the business level, we have businesses that have helped us with our FASFA completion by providing prizes for high schools that, that excel in our competition and improve their fast for completion rates. So instead of just having kind of a funnel here, we actually have strategies behind each of that and they’re really built about around two things. Our compact, which are signed commitments that each of our partners are willing to sign and have agreed, have indicated a willingness to work on, but also a work plan. Well they will, they will commit to specific strategies. So we have community organizations that are committing to strategies around working on our adult program and reaching out to the community to ensure that they’re contributing more people to this pipeline. We’re working with community colleges to ensure that maybe they look at their remedial programs and how can they improve the output of the number of students who go into a remedial program and ensure that more of them actually remain enrolled and actually complete a degree.

So at the end of this process, we expect to have a signing ceremony. In May at the Mackinac Policy Conference, we hope to have up to 40 partners that would represent our key stakeholders here. K-12 technical training programs, community colleges, four-year universities, business community groups and, and government organizations all committing to a signed agreement that says we are going to commit to these goals, increased graduation rates and enrollments in our institution and here’s our work plan to get there. And so we’re actually meeting with those partners between now and then on getting those commitments, identifying the goals for individual institutions and then building work plans to get them to those goals.

And then the last piece of this, this this talent funnel is what happens to people once they graduate. So everybody in Detroit has stories. I was listening to someone just before we started as a child who moved away to Chicago. Everybody in Detroit has stories about people who have moved elsewhere. And if you go back to the slide that Sandy started with in the beginning about those communities with a high number of people with degrees and that conversely, those communities have high levels of income. Most of that attainment is the result of people moving into those regions. Not necessarily that they’ve done a better job with their own talent. So Detroit as a region that doesn’t necessarily bring a lot of people into the region, needs to keep the talent we have and do a better job developing the people that can be in the timeline, in the pipeline, those folks that that, that haven’t necessarily been well served in the past.

So a year and a half ago we launched let’s Detroit, which is a technology solution to help connect people to things to do in the region that will help connect our talent, who might otherwise be tempted to leave for Chicago Boston or Singapore. You want to connect them to things of interest to them in our region. And so we’ve built a web platform, but it’s not meant to. The website in and of itself isn’t meant to just sell the region. It’s meant to help connect them to things and people and opportunities in the region. So I’ll give you an example for how this is ideally works. About a year ago, I was in a at a conference, a woman found out I was from Detroit, started telling me about her son who had moved from Detroit, the Detroit area to Boston, but was in the process of wanting to move back.

He had a PhD and his wife was coming with him as a trailing spouse. She had been a librarian in Boston, needed to find an opportunity in Detroit. So, I told her all about Let’s Detroit. I showed her the website on my phone and encouraged her to use a feature of the website called Text a Detroiter that that lets her connect and ask questions of people, a group of ambassadors that we’ve recruited in the region. We have 275 ambassadors who will answer questions or share information about their industry, their passion their career pipelines so that they can find something to do. So this woman texted that she was interested in coming back to Detroit, was a librarian, was looking for library and opportunities in Detroit. And then the next morning this woman sought me out. She said, I had my son and daughter in law go on the platform last night.

They texted the question this morning. They called me back and said they were contacted by some, one of your ambassadors who is a librarian who offered to connect them to a young professional network. So we have partners who are young, professional organizations, we have community partners. And what we are doing is facilitating that connection. So we have grown our usage substantially over the last six months, over a 300% increase. We have a goal of 40,000 unique visitors a year and we have just their past over the last month, a 4,600 visitors per month. So we have really ramped up recently as, as our ambassador recruitment 65 new ambassadors since the fall. But our next phase of operation is to really go onto college campuses and ensure that we have a different kind of ambassador paid influencer to encourage our college students to go onto the platform and use it and to host university events so that we can go get students connected to the platform while they’re still in school. I’ll turn it over to Sandy to talk about a couple of other initiatives and then we’ll come back to wrap it up.

Great. Thank you Greg. Great, great detail and great information. So I’m going to speed through the rest of these. As many of you know the Detroit Regional Chamber runs the statewide next generation mobility and automotive cluster association is called MICHauto. But a big part of MICHauto’s agenda is really preparing the talent pipeline to ensure our next generation mobility companies have the talent that they need to succeed. As we know that the world of automotive and mobility is changing dramatically and is changing dramatically right in front of our very eyes. And we want to position Michigan to be the, at the forefront of this revolution that is taking place. And that’s not going to happen without, without the talent.

Sandy K. Baruah (36:27):

So just very briefly two of the things that the MICHauto team is doing in conjunction with our talent and education team is one. We’re doing a good deal of research and survey work amongst young people, both in Michigan and across the country. And they’re influencers, parents counselors, teachers, et cetera, about their opinion of Michigan, their opinion of the automotive industry and their opinion of various companies, Ford, GM, et cetera that they have. And we’ve been able to track the change over the years in our survey work about how Michigan is being perceived better. Detroit’s being perceived better and the industry is perceived better, but we have a good deal of work to do. The other thing that our MICHauto team is doing is working with companies to bring companies to schools either high schools or colleges or in some cases even middle schools, to really start getting students to be thinking about what their career could be in the automotive industry and what the automotive industry is today.

And it’s not bending metal and putting a nut on a bolt. Moving on. In addition, we have a whole bunch of leadership programs at the Detroit Regional Chamber. I didn’t want to get into a lot of detail. Many of you familiar with Leadership Detroit. That’s one of the oldest and longest running leadership programs for young professionals in the country. We’re very proud to be the home of that. We have a five-year relationship with Harvard’s Business School. We send 10 of our bright young rising stars from the region to HBS every year. And we have other programs as well. And then finally we have a very strong policy portfolio. We have a full-time team in Lansing that is committed to ensuring that we have the policy prescriptions necessary to ensure that all work that Greg talked about is being under grid undergirded by strong policy. And we’re pleased to work with our legislative friends and the governor to achieve these policy goals. And I’ll let Greg wrap it up.

Greg Handel (39:00)

The governor’s MI Opportunity Scholarship, which would essentially be a statewide community college Promise and the Michigan Reconnect, which would be a statewide community college promise for people over 25 to help them come back and really focus on job related skills. So those are our primary focuses in, in education policy. So just to, to wrap up in terms of next steps for those who are interested in participating, supporting one is to participate in our talent gaps survey that will be launched on February 19th. We are hoping to get to an in 5,300 responses. So, we are expecting to send this out to, I think we need to get as close to 900 surveys out as soon as we can. So look for that. There’ll be about a six week window to return it. It’s about a 15-minute commitment to finish it. And we, we’d love to hear back from as many of you as possible and then work with those who fill it out in indicate an interest in taking next steps.

We want to help employers use Let’s Detroit as a recruitment tool. So we are happy to walk you through the website where we’ll sit with one on one with you and talk about how it works. So if you want to go onto a college campus or recruit someone from another region and show off the best of Detroit, it’s a tool to do that. They’re also sponsorship opportunities. Kelly Services is a very generous sponsor and provides financial support to the, to the program. So there’s opportunities to do that too. As Sandy indicated, you can nominate participants to the Leadership Detroit program. We also have another initiative that trains people to who are interested in serving on the boards of charter schools as well. And then lastly, we are reaching out to members of our CEO Education Talent Council. But we’re happy to sit down with other businesses one-on-one and walk through not so much all the detail that we provided on all these programs right here, but where employers can intersect with them and take advantage of talent, talent pipeline or get more involved if it’s something that an employer really wants to get connected to in terms of, of just wanting to be involved.

So with that, we’re going to open up to questions. I have a couple that Christie has already passed up.

You want to become my Let’s Detroit ambassador is the first one. So we have 275 ambassadors that we’ve recruited. We are always open to more ambassadors. We know that the Chamber of Commerce is not in as great a position to tell the story of Detroit and why Detroit is a great place to live, work, play, and serve as people that young college grads are going to view as their peers. So that’s why we’ve recruited the volunteers as 275 of them there. They do this on a volunteer basis. But we are always open to more. You can go onto our website, there’s a place there where you can apply to become an ambassador. And a Katherine Brown who is actually in the room with us here will reach out and help you connect and do what you need to do to do that. And our ambassadors have monthly meetups to where they get together and network as well.

Sandy K. Baruah: (42:11)

Greg, maybe the question really focuses on what the criteria is. Is there an age criteria? Is there an employment criterion?

Greg Handel: (42:20)

Sure. So there’s, there’s not a strict criteria. We are for the most part looking for people that, that we think that are kind of our focuses on soon to be or recent college graduates. So we’re looking for people that, that, that group will look at as their peers. Now that doesn’t mean someone who’s older wouldn’t necessarily have information. You know, that wouldn’t be of interest. But we are primarily looking for a young professionals, but we’re looking for people who might want to share what their interest is in terms of arts or recreation. Or we have a whole category of employment ambassadors. So, people who can tell their story about how they got started in a company and are developing their career, you know, and we have people spotlighted in, I believe we’re in eight different industry clusters right now, Katherine. So they can talk about their early career development and then connect to young professionals. So, we do have older ambassadors on the network and I’ve seen some of them provide really good responses to texted in questions. So we’re open to anyone. I wouldn’t discourage anybody, but our focus, if you’re an employer on the webinar right now and you’re thinking about people in your organization, we’re really looking for young professionals is our target. But we’re open to conversations with anybody.

So another question, what can employers do to support or plug into the talent compact? So what I would encourage you to do there is actually reach out and set up a meeting with us. We are happy to come out and meet, have a one-on-one, sit down with you and walk you through. We are developing a template and we can provide examples of things that we already have employers doing with us. So and in one instance, I think I alluded to it when we talked about the FASFA competition. Imagine entertainment provides prizes to high schools that have one different categories of our competition. So the high school that has shown the greatest percentage increase in completion, they provide a movie preview to, we have an overall PR guess PR over an overall grand prize. They get an overnight party at imagine entertainment.

So that’s an example of an employer who supporting our efforts and fast for completion with a prize. We have other employers who I think Quicken companies is a great example. They have an effort, they bring in every sixth grader in the city of Detroit on a tour of their offices. So students who might grow up in a neighborhood where they don’t see a lot of you know, professional businesses and don’t have a great sense for what is the, the, the typical office environment look like. They can go on a tour of Quicken Loans and get a sense for and see people that they can identify with and say, that’s a career that I could prepare myself for. That’s something I could do. They also bring a smaller group of those students back in seventh and eighth grade. I think that’s seven or 800 students doing a STEM camp. Other employers are really engaged in internship programs. It meets their needs for future talent, but it also exposes young people to careers. So we are willing to sit down with any company that is interested in getting engaged. And, and, and helping them kind of craft something can help them with best practices and ideas, but we all can also sit down with them and work on ideas that they may have and might want to bring to the table for other employers to, to copy as well.

So Christie would actually be the best kind of, that’s actually her role. Christie’s relatively new to the Chamber, but her role is engaging employer, creating employer partnerships in support of the compact. So there are many avenues to, to plug in and we’re interested in input from employers and how to do that as well. But we can also bring resources to the table and especially in terms of what we can do to support their efforts to help their existing workforce up-skill, connect them with education providers that can help provide solutions for that. We can help their employees navigate how to go back to school. So there’s a lot of services that we can provide at no cost to employers as well.

There’s a question here about comparing our Chambers approach to education and talent development to other regions. And I would just say that we have a saying in the Chamber world, if you’ve seen one Chamber, you’ve seen one Chamber. Chambers tend to kind of fill unique niches in their community. I would say our approach has evolved quite a bit in the last several years. 10 years ago we were much more focused on K-12 I’d say policy, but also partnerships and programs. You know, the needle hasn’t moved a lot in K-12 education in Michigan in the last 10 years. And a lot more stakeholders in philanthropy have come to the table to try and solve those issues. And as they’ve moved in and taken a lead, we’ve stepped back and seen, you know, there’s kind of this vacuum, we know that there’s this high correlation between regional income, regional prosperity and postsecondary attainment.

But there weren’t a lot of people working in that space to connect and ensure that our pipeline was sending people into higher ed and in that they were succeeding once they got there. So it was kind of a niche that was to us. Other States have typically they have state offices of higher education that coordinate these activities. Michigan is pretty unique and having a very decentralized system. And so, there was an opportunity for us to play this convener role and we’ve played it, but you can go to other places where you don’t see Chambers. They can be very engaged in education and talent, but not this kind of work. So, I’d say different Chambers do different things. The Austin Chamber who we’ve learned a lot from is very interested and very focused on getting that high school connection into college. They haven’t focused as much on success once they’ve got there, but they’ve really focused on that transition and getting more kids into higher ed of some sort. So, there’s no two Chambers that are alike, but we do, we are part of a network through the American Chamber of commerce executives association that brings together professionals from our divisions that kind of compare best practices. They’ve actually come to Detroit a couple of times in the last two years to learn about what we’re doing. And we’ve had the opportunity to put some of our staff through their program to learn about what’s working in other places.

So one of the questions is what support is given to adults that go back to school? Is it financial support and what supports can employers provide for our own workers going back? So one of the things that we’re encouraging and we’ve brought in kind of a national best practice discover financial. So as a company that has 80% of their employees are working call centers and for the most part don’t have postsecondary any kind of postsecondary degree. And so they not only offered flexible scheduling and tuition reimbursement, people tend to think about tuition reimbursement. And if you look at those programs, oftentimes they’re under subscribed. Employers offer them because it’s kind of, they checked the box, but they don’t really think through how do I want to ensure that people take advantage of it? And second, am I getting a return on this investment?

And so what we can do is work with employers and talk about, here’s a national example of someone who’s done it and how they’ve done it. So discover financial, for example, they paid the tuition up front and they said, look, having a tuition reimbursement program for a low wage, relatively low wage worker, and they have to come up with $4,000 – $5,000 to enroll, that can be a huge, a huge burden. And so if we’re interested in doing that, why not just pay the tuition upfront? And the decrease turnover that that’s resulted in is we took this, resulted in a return on investment that they calculated it like a $1.40 for every dollar that they’ve invested. So, for the most part, what we’re looking for are, are there employers that are interested in supporting their employees and going back and helping with that financial obligation. But also seeing if we can work on, on deals with employers. Many employers will contract with a single Institute and say, look, if we send a hundred people, will you give us some kind of discount on tuition? So we’re interested in seeing if we can play a role in that space and work, see if we can’t broker relationships, we know of those that already existed and we’re looking to see, it’s an opportunity for us to expand.

So I don’t know if any other questions, if you’ve got any more there. Let me go through and see if there’s a topic I haven’t hit on yet.

Here’s one related to Let’s Detroit that I hadn’t covered before and this is, so are there opportunities if a company has young professionals that really want to engage in the community and in nonprofits is, is, can, Let’s Detroit be an avenue for that. So, one section of, of Let’s Detroit, there are kind of four main categories on the site. There’s, there’s places to live, there’s careers, there’s opportunities to serve as is another big area. And then there’s kind of recreation and things to do in the LA in the opportunities to serve. We have a number of nonprofits that kind of post profiles and host opportunities for young people to get involved. And we find lots of stories about how young people have done that. So, if you’re a company that is looking for opportunities to engage your young professionals, they can go through Let’s Detroit to find opportunities for those folks to serve as groups or individually. So any other,

So what is MICHauto doing to change the impressions of the automotive industry? So I think Sandy alluded the fact that we have done some surveys and surveys have been done at two different times. And the first one we did was I think shortly coming out of the recession and found that not surprisingly, a lot of young people had a fairly negative impression of the, of, of automotive and mobility. Actually probably didn’t know mobility, just think of traditional automotive. We did that survey again and found that the results had improved. But MICHauto specifically as the number of programs where they take young professionals work in the automotive industry, trickling research and design and engineering and go to college campuses and talk to students about what the opportunities are and try and break some of those myths. One of the things they discovered was going to college campuses.

They’re talking to a lot of students who are already in a career track that might preclude them from going into automotive engineering. They may be thinking about other kinds of engineering. And so the thought was we really need to intervene at an earlier stage. So MICHauto has started to partner and our organization are part of the Chamber partners with MICHauto to connect them to high schools. And they are now arranging high school tours with automotive companies, auto suppliers to take high school students on tours and learn what is the industry really like versus kind of the, the dirty, dangerous thing that a lot of people have in terms of image and really talk about the high tech environmental friendly things that, that young people really kind of gravitate toward.

Sandy K. Baruah (53:26):

So, let me just add really quickly to the MICHauto thing. You know, obviously MICHauto is a statewide organization and we’re looking at both national and Michigan data. So we’re not trying to tackle the national challenge. We’re trying to tackle the challenge or right here in Michigan. And it’s interesting what the research has enabled us to do is to target an upcoming social media campaign and target the program’s that Greg just talked about around the real issues. So, a lot of people think that the reason young people don’t go into the mobility industry is because you know, they, they don’t feel it’s secure or they don’t feel it’s high tech. That’s not the case at all. Both people nationally and locally give the automotive industry incredibly high marks for being very high tech. But what we found is that the trust in the automotive and mobility industry for ethics and was the automobility industry solving the problems of society over the, creating the problems of society. So, what we were able to find is that, listen, we need to get the message out better that, you know, the automotive mobility industry is solving programs like global gridlock solving problems like environmental stewardship. And so, making sure that we’re targeting the right message to the right audience has been important.

Greg Handel (54:43):

Sure. So, last question here, I think that we have time for, involves what are the academic requirements for the Detroit Promise? So there are two tracks. So, any student who graduates any kind of high school, I think it’s important to emphasize the Promise is open to students from Detroit Public School, community district high schools, charter public high schools, parochial and private high schools in Detroit. Student just has to be a resident of the city and graduate from my high school in Detroit. So any of those students are eligible for the community college part of the program. They can all go to one of the participating community colleges. For the four-year there’s a requirement that they have a 3.0 GPA and a and a minimum 1060 on the SAT. So there are, there’s one of those two tracks.

What we are working on right now though is ensuring that students who are successful in community college then have an opportunity if they want you to go on to come to complete a four-year degree. So, we’re actually working with a number of four-year institutions. I was actually on the phone with one this morning and we’ll be able to announce it. Actually, Walsh College already announced that they would take community college transfers from the Detroit Promise and provide tuition free access for them to finish a degree if they complete an associate’s degree or 60 credits at a community college with a 3.0 GPA. We’re not talking to a number of public universities that we think are really ready to make that commitment. So, the idea is we’ll be able to actually go back to any kid in high school and say, look, you still have a path to a four-year degree, no matter where you are in terms of your graduation. You can go to community college and then transfer to a four-year school. If you gain a 3.0 GPA and you’re going to have the support of our coach and the financial incentives, you can earn by being engaged that coach. But there’s also the direct path into a four-year degree if you meet the 1060 SAT requirement and the 3.0 grade point.

Sandy K. Baruah (56:32):

But just, just, just to clarify, just so everyone’s clear for the two-year community college, there really is no requirement as long as you graduate. It doesn’t matter what your GPA is, it doesn’t matter what you know, if you take an SAT or an ACT, you are guaranteed a two-year tuition free path at any one of the five community colleges in the region.

Greg Handel (56:54):

That’s correct. As long as you gain admission to the institute and those are all open admission institutions, then the Promise applies. So with that, George, I don’t know if you’re going to close us out here.

George Corona (57:14):
Thank you, Greg and thank you everyone who’s on the phone with us to the webinar today. I think what you should take away from the day is you see that the Detroit Regional Chamber has a lot of passion around the competition that we’re in across the country for the very best talent. And they have a passion for developing that talent from the people that we have here in the region and helping to better their lives. And we’re all in this together. The only way we succeed is if this is a collaborative effort between education institutions, between business, between government, and it’s places like the Chamber. And I think Sandy and Greg for their work that have the passion to put the oversight across all of this. So, once again, thank you so much for joining us today. And if you again, have any questions, that would be Thank you.

Murray joins Plunkett Cooney’s Insurance Coverage Group

Attorney Tanya M. Murray recently joined the Insurance Law Practice Group of Plunkett Cooney, one of the Midwest’s oldest full-service law firms.

A member of Plunkett Cooney’s Bloomfield Hills office, Murray represents and counsels leading property and casualty insurance companies throughout the Midwest. She provides coverage opinions and drafts corresponding coverage position letters regarding claims under commercial general liability, homeowners, umbrella and professional liability insurance policies. She also litigates coverage disputes that involve claims of bodily injury, personal and advertising injury, construction defects and environmental contamination.

Murray is an associate member of the Oakland County Bar Association’s Inns of Court, and she is a member of the State Bar of Michigan and the DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar. She is also the recipient of the 2019 Member of the Year award by the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Oakland Region.

Murray is a 2017 magna cum laude graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. While there, she received several academic accolades, including book awards and the Frank Sengstock Award for Excellence in Legal Writing, and she served as Associate Editor of Mercy’s Law Review. Murray received her undergraduate degree from the University of Western Ontario in 2012.

Plunkett Cooney is recognized as one of the nation’s leading law firms for insurance coverage litigation. Several members of the firm’s Insurance Law Practice Group have been awarded the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU) designation. In addition to their litigation expertise, Plunkett Cooney attorneys work with their clients to develop new insurance products and to address emergent theories of legal liability.

Established in 1913, Plunkett Cooney is a leading provider of business and litigation services to clients in the private and public sectors. The firm employs approximately 140 attorneys in seven
Michigan cities, Chicago, Illinois; Columbus, Ohio; and Indianapolis, Indiana. Plunkett Cooney has achieved the highest rating (AV) awarded by Martindale-Hubbell, a leading, international directory of law firms. The firm was also selected by Crain’s Detroit Business as its inaugural Law Firm of the Year.

For more information about Tanya Murray joining the firm, contact the firm’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, John Cornwell, at (248) 901-4008;

Should the police be called? Nemeth Law partner says Harvey Weinstein verdict should have employers looking at their sexual harassment policies and practices

Detroit—February 27, 2020—Deborah Brouwer, a partner with Detroit-based management side labor and employment law firm Nemeth Law, P.C., says this week’s Harvey Weinstein guilty verdicts on charges of third degree rape and criminal sex acts will impact employers dealing with sexual harassment cases.

“Employers tend to focus on sexual harassment as a violation of policy and conduct investigations accordingly,” Brouwer said. “With the Harvey Weinstein guilty verdict, employers -and employment lawyers, too – will need to be even more sensitive to situations where the alleged harassment may also constitute a sexual assault or criminal battery, and where there is the potential for criminal charges to be filed against an employee.”
Brouwer added that while Weinstein wasn’t an employer in the situations where he was found guilty, he wielded tremendous power over the victim’s careers.

“Harassment policies also provide protection to employees from outside vendors and agents doing business with the company,” Brouwer said. “The Weinstein case affirms the need for that protection, and for employers to take all claims of workplace harassment seriously, regardless of the role or influence of the alleged perpetrator.”
Brouwer states that whenever an employee claims he or she is being sexually or verbally harassed at work, the employer must take such claims seriously, and conduct a thorough and impartial investigation. For complaints involving physical threats or physical contact, employers need to be aware that such claims may rise to the level of a criminal assault/battery and determine the appropriate course of action. In serious cases – a rape occurring at the workplace, for example – the employer may need to involve emergency medical services as well as police.

Employers do need to know that, if the police become involved, the employer still has an obligation to conduct its own impartial investigation. When and how that happens will require employers to communicate and cooperate with the police. Employers also need to communicate with the involved employee and reassure him/her that the company does not retaliate against employees who raise concerns about harassment or involve the police where such action is taken in good faith.

In the event of civil litigation, employers must be mindful of any ongoing criminal proceedings that will likely conclude prior to any civil lawsuit. But that may not always be the case. Where there are two legal procedures simultaneously progressing through the legal system, each needs to be monitored as to its effect on the other.

About Nemeth Law, P.C.
Nemeth Law specializes in employment litigation, traditional labor law, workplace investigations, and management consultation and training for private and public sector employers. The firm also provides arbitration and mediation services. It is the largest woman-owned law firm in Michigan to exclusively represent management in the prevention, resolution and litigation of labor and employment disputes.


Member of the Month February 2020: Wayne County Community College District

The Detroit Regional Chamber recognizes Wayne County Community College (WCCCD) as its February Member of the Month. WCCCD expanded its footprint and presence as a remarkable pathway to higher education in downtown Detroit with the creation of its new $25 million state-of-the-art facility, the WCCCD Curtis L. Ivery Health and Wellness Education Center (HWEC).

WCCCD broke ground on the 80,0000-square-foot building, situated on Fort and Fifth streets, two years ago. The HWEC is a part of WCCCD’s Central Educational Complex which includes the Downtown Campus and District Office – all named after WCCCD Chancellor Curtis L. Ivery in recognition of his transformational leadership at the community college.

“Dr. Ivery has been recognized nationally with multiple awards, honors, and publications for his longstanding advocacy and work in expanding access to higher education,” said Unbreen Amir, WCCCD assistant to the chancellor for administrative communication. “He has assembled academic, community, business, and government leaders at the table across a series of roundtables and conferences to develop strategies to expand educational equity and economic mobility in our region, and throughout the nation,” said Amir.

Funding on the new health and wellness education center was accomplished entirely from WCCCD’s budget and five-year strategic capital investment plan, said Amir.

“The Curtis L. Ivery Health and Wellness Education Center, for example, was the last project cited in the capital investment plan and was completed on time and under budget,” Amir added. “The District has become a national model for its responsible stewardship of its funds.”

The HEWC, which also houses a 1,200-seating capacity arena, will offer a wide range of career and academic programs centered around nutrition, practical training, wellness consulting, physical therapy, various fitness programs, and sports activities.

“It’s the District’s premier hybrid facility, open for all WCCCD students and the community.”


WCCCD serves more than 60,000 credit and non-credit students across six campus locations. The center is expected to open spring 2020.

Brad Williams Testifies on Regional Transit Bill to House Committee

Thank you Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, my name is Brad Williams and I am the Vice President of Government Relations for the Detroit Regional Chamber. The Chamber has been the voice of the business community for our region since 1903 and sometimes it seems like we have been clamoring for a regional transit system in the region that long too. In fact, if you look back at some of the earliest issues of the Detroiter magazine put out by the Chamber, you will see discussion of investing in Detroit’s once robust streetcar system. While the methods and demands for transit have changed since 1903, we sit here today as the largest municipal area in that nation without a coordinated regional transit system. In fact, when you look at major metropolitan areas, Detroit is at the bottom of per capita spending on public transit, just below us is San Juan and just above us is Cincinnati.

Regions that we compete with like Seattle, Atlanta and Nashville have passed new funding and invested in their system since the Republican Legislature passed, and Governor Snyder signed legislation creating the Regional Transit Authority in 2012. Still, Detroit remains stuck in neutral. Our region continues to lead the world in developing the next generation of mobility that is changing the world, however our efforts to safely and efficiently move people and goods have come up short. For years, business leaders have been arguing that our lack of regional transit is holding our region back economically, we now have tangible proof with Amazon’s decision not to advance Detroit to its list of HQ2 finalists and citing our lack of transit as a primary concern. Our shortcomings in this area should not be construed as a criticism of our current transit providers, the lack of resources and structural deficiencies, including the ability of communities to opt-out of SMART has added to the complexity of the challenge.

A seamless system is important for employment. A quick scan of Pure Michigan Talent Connect shows that in the last week there have been 315 jobs posted in Novi, 421 jobs in Livonia, 276 in Rochester and 174 jobs in Waterford. None of these jobs are currently inaccessible by any regional transit. That does not account for the 360 jobs in Dearborn, the 471 jobs in Southfield or 759 in Troy that are inaccessible by transit to residents of opt-out communities. This legislature put a lot of effort into lowering the cost of car insurance last year. For many Michiganders, that will bring welcome relief. Still for some, the cost of car insurance will still be prohibitive and when faced with the choice of driving without insurance or not getting to work, many will choose to continue to drive uninsured meaning the promise of insurance reform remains unrealized.

House Bill 5550 gives our region a path forward on regional transit. Instead of spending another year trying to thread the needle in search of the elusive perfect deal that always seems to fall apart at the end, House Bill 5550 allows for an opportunity to build a system around the counties who are ready to proceed, and using the Regional Transit Authority that was painstakingly negotiated by regional leaders including Brooks Patterson to protect the interests of those who choose to participate. To be clear, House Bill 5550 takes a Regional Transit Authority that was negotiated by conservatives and makes it even more conservative by allowing counties to remove themselves from a plan and capping the number of mills the RTA may request.

Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the largest employers in the Detroit region, your leadership on this issue is appreciated. We look forward to continued progress on regional transit and looking forward to the day when we can gather together and talk about how glad we are that we finally passed Cincinnati.

Brown & Brown of Detroit Adds Traverse City Presence

Brown & Brown of Detroit is pleased to announce the addition of Josh Hart to the team. Josh will bring his insurance expertise to the role of Commercial Insurance Advisor.

In his new role, Mr. Hart will expand our office’s Michigan presence to the Traverse City area, where he is based. In addition to Traverse City’s wealth of tourism and recreation, industry is also booming.

Todd Piersol, Executive Vice President, stated, “We are thrilled to add Josh to our team of professionals. He possesses the character and acumen that fits our culture and makes him the right person to lead our investments in northern Michigan. We welcome Josh and his wife Ashley to our family and look forward to many years of prosperity together.”

Josh earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Olivet College, where he majored in insurance and risk management. Prior to joining Brown & Brown of Detroit, he gained extensive insurance experience in retail, wholesale, and carrier spaces.

Brown & Brown of Detroit is a wholly owned subsidiary of Brown & Brown, Inc. (NYSE: BRO), a leading insurance brokerage firm, providing risk management solutions to individuals and businesses. Located in Sterling Heights, Brown & Brown of Detroit is the largest insurance brokerage in Macomb County. For more information, please visit

Walsh Bachelor’s Program Receives Top 5 Ranking in U.S.

TROY, Mich., Feb. 26, 2020 — Walsh’s Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) in Management was ranked No. 5 in the United States on the list of the Best Online Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Business Administration, an annual publication by Online Schools Report. Walsh’s Master of Business Administration (MBA) also ranked at No. 6 on the Best Online Master’s in Business Administration list and earned the program its fourth top ranking in 14 months. Walsh graduate degree programs consistently earn national and international rankings, but this marks the school’s first ranking for an undergraduate degree program.

Online Schools Report evaluates a school based on student satisfaction, admission rate and online presence. Individual degree programs are evaluated based on popularity at the school, department size and average debt for program graduates. The final lists include the top 50 online degree programs across the country.

The Walsh BBA program is available entirely online and offers majors in finance, general business, human resource management, management and marketing. Walsh’s online programs provide the same curriculum as on-ground programs and are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs and the Higher Learning Commission.

Walsh was an early adopter of online education, offering its first online course in 1998. Other recent recognition for excellence in online education includes a Tier One Global Online MBA, one of the Best Online MBA Programs in the U.S., and one of the Best Online Master’s in Network Security.

View the complete lists by Online Schools Report:

Bachelor’s degree programs:

Master’s degree programs:

For more information about Walsh, visit

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Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate, graduate and doctoral business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of Southeast Michigan’s largest graduate business schools, offering classes in several locations and online. Our internationally and nationally-ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, human resources, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (

Katheryne L. Zelenock Named a “2020 Leader in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly

TROY, Mich., February 26, 2020 – Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that Katheryne L. Zelenock, Member and Chair of the firm’s Real Estate Finance Practice Group, has been named a “2020 Leader in the Law” by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Each year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly selects 30 lawyers to honor as “Leaders in the Law”. “Leaders in the Law” are lawyers who exemplify the noble tradition of the legal profession, are passionate and active on behalf of clients and the community, have a record of success in the legal profession, and have a record of achievements that display a strength of character and ability to be a leader in the Michigan legal community. The “2020 Leaders in the Law” will be honored at an annual luncheon and awards ceremony on April 9, 2020 at the Troy Marriott.

In her practice, Ms. Zelenock leads a team that closes commercial and multifamily mortgage loans across the country on behalf of leading national lenders as well as smaller regional and local banks, including multifamily and manufactured housing community loans originated for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as commercial mortgage-backed securitization (CMBS) lenders. She is also experienced in matters related to troubled properties and owners, and the modification, restructuring and workout of financing arrangements, including related litigation and due diligence. Ms. Zelenock also leads Dickinson Wright’s Women’s Network, and is a Co-Chair of the firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Ms. Zelenock is a member of the American Bar Association, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association of America, Commercial Real Estate Finance Council, International Council of Shopping Centers, and the Oakland County Bar Association. She is a Fellow of the American College of Mortgage Attorneys. She is recognized as a leader in her field by Best Lawyers in America, Chambers USA, Legal 500, Michigan Super Lawyers, and DBusiness magazine. She was recently named to the “Commercial Real Estate Hall of Fame” by Midwest Real Estate News, was named a “Woman Worth Watching” by Profiles in Diversity and named a “Notable Woman in Real Estate” by Crain’s Detroit Business. Ms. Zelenock received her B.A. from the University of Michigan and her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School.

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 475 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. Headquartered in Detroit and founded in 1878, the firm has 18 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 11 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management controls and security processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

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