Flashpoint 2/16/20: Sandy Baruah On Rethinking the electoral college

February 16, 2020

Click on Detroit  | Local 4 | WDIV


Detroit Regional Chamber President and CEO, Sandy Baruah made an appearance on Local 4 News’s round-table discussion, Flashpoint, for a lively discussion on the electoral college.

Editorial page editor of The Detroit News, Nolan Finley; Stephen Henderson, host of WDET’s show Detroit Today; Vince Keenan, special projects manager for Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s Department of Neighborhoods; Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Read the full article here

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 Chamber: Southeast Michigan Doing Well, But Lags On Regional Transit

December 6, 2019


Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

The debate continues over the need for a robust and fully funded Regional Transit Authority connecting all Southeast Michigan.

Wayne, Oakland, and Washtenaw counties are all moving forward on that issue together. But Macomb County, which narrowly defeated the last attempt to find regional transit, will sit this round out.

What does that mean for regional cooperation moving forward?

On Thursday, the Detroit Regional Chamber released its annual “State of the Region” report. It shows the region is doing well in many areas. But there is still a lot of work to do, and transit is one of those areas where the region lags far behind other major metropolitan areas in the U.S.

We have a lot of wins to celebrate,” says Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah. “I think if we go back in time ten years ago and if any one of us had predicted that Detroit, the city, the region, and, frankly, the state would be in the position where we are now. I think we would have all said to each other that, ‘No, you’re crazy. We’re not going to make that much progress.’ But we have.”

However, he says, that progress has slowed a bit.

We are not progressing as fast, we’re not making as much progress, in the last two years than we were in the previous three-to-four… (there’s) a little bit of a slow-down,” he says. “We’re still growing, make no mistake. This is still a positive picture. But we’re not growing as fast as our peers in some of the national numbers.”

But he says that transit is an area that must improve to help people and businesses alike.

Our current access to public transit for the citizens of this region is completely inadequate and we need to do better,” says Baruah, who notes that Metro Detroit ranks worst among major metropolitan areas across the country. “We care about this because the best way to make companies that are based in our region, large and small, and the people in our region prosperous is to allow people mobility.”

Baruah notes that it’s harder to build out transit now that federal funding for those projects isn’t as available as it used to be.

Our regional would have been so much better now had we done this in the 1960s and 70s,” he says.

Listen to the discussion here.

A New Report About Metro Detroit Is Out. Here Are 3 Takeaways

December 5, 2019

Detroit Free Press

John Gallagher 

The Detroit Regional Chamber released its latest annual State of the Region report Thursday, and I have three takeaways from it.

A rich compendium of facts and figures about the 11-county southeast Michigan region, the full report can be found at the website detroitchamber.com.

Useful as a guide and mirror of where metro Detroit finds itself, the packed report defies easy summary. But back to my top three points:

Economy taking a breather

First, the booming growth enjoyed in southeast Michigan and the state as a whole since the Great Recession has finally cooled a bit. Not dramatically so, nor are we in a new recession. It’s just that the above average growth of recent years cannot be sustained forever.

Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Chamber, acknowledged as much as he briefed the media Wednesday on the new report and emphasized the positive.

“Our regional economy continues to grow,” Baruah told reporters. “Jobs continue to grow. Per capita income’s on the rise. Median home values are strong and getting stronger. … Population is up slightly and that is a better direction than in past years. Labor force participation rate, poverty rates, all those have slightly improved in the new data.”

But he continued, “Over the last two years now we have seen some leveling off and in this year in particular we have noticed decreases for some key metrics, including exports, housing permits, foreign direct investment. And our unemployment has actually ticked up just slightly.”

Other data sources have made the same point. Economists generally agree Michigan’s economy will continue to expand for at least another couple of years. But there’s enough hints in the data of a little softening to start putting away a little extra for a rainy day.

Education woes remain a ‘flashing red light’

Second, the State of the Region makes clear that our biggest challenge, or what Baruah calls our “flashing red light,” is the failure of our education system.

Data in the report show that over the past five years, graduation rates in the region have been trending upward, slightly lagging behind the national average. But for city of Detroit students, graduation rates within four years have fallen 1% since 2014.

Then, too, fewer than 10% of city of Detroit high school students are considered college-ready, based on SAT scores above 1,060 or ACT of 21 or higher.

And southeast Michigan high school grads who reach for some post-high school education or train too often drop out. The Chamber report shows that 47% of regional high school grads and 73% of city of Detroit grads have not earned a degree or certificate within six years of enrollment.

And while there are some improvements in a few areas, Baruah added, “It is a very mixed picture. We lag our peers. We lag the nation.”

Given the stakes involved, for our young people and for a region that desperately needs a trained and educated workforce, we have got to put more thought and resources into training our kids for the future.

The region really needs to act like a region

And, third, the Chamber’s report makes me wonder whether this region acts often enough as, well, a region. That is, the disparate communities in the Chamber’s 11-county report too often remain riven by city-suburban rivalries or conflicts between the rural exurbs and the more densely populated communities closer to the center.

True, as Baruah told me, we’ve gotten better at cooperating. That’s especially true now that Democrat Dave Coulter has succeeded the late L. Brooks Patterson as Oakland County executive, smoothing the way for a more cooperative relationship with Democrats Warren Evans in Wayne County and Mike Duggan in Detroit.

“I have never seen the kind the high-level collaboration between the mayor and the three key county executives than I have just in these recent months,” Baruah said in response to my question. “I think that’s a hugely positive sign that we have leaders that are not just willing but are already showing demonstrable evidence that they’re working together.”

That will especially be true as these leaders shape a new referendum on regional transit for the 2020 ballot. They’ll need help from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to get there.

“I think the big thing we’re going to be asking the state for now is support from the governor’s office for updated RTA (regional transit) legislation that will allow our regional leaders to put together a more flexible plan, and we’ve got that support from the governor’s office,” Baruah said.

My conclusion: I hope Sandy Baruah’s right about things looking better on regional transit and a host of other issues. For unless we start thinking of metro Detroit as our unified home, and less like a cluster of fractious competing communities, we’ll never achieve our full potential.

Read the article here

Study: Detroit Regional Economic Growth Slowing, Lagging Behind Nation/Peers

December 5, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business

Dustin Walsh

Despite progress in recent years, Southeast Michigan continues to lag behind the nation in its economy, education, employment, population and other key indicators, according to the annual State of the Region report released Thursday by the Detroit Regional Chamber.

“Our regional economy continues to grow … but in many areas we lag our peers, we lag the nation,” Sandy Baruah, the chamber’s president and CEO, said in a call with reporters.

Key findings include:

  • The labor force participation rate of the Detroit MSA improved 0.3 percent in 2018, compared to 0.1 percent growth in the U.S. But Detroit remains the lowest among major metropolitans at 62.6 percent and below the national average of 63.3 percent.
  • Private sector job growth continues to lag, with the Detroit region growing 1.4 percent in 2018, below the national average of 1.9 percent. Between 2014-2018, private sector job growth in the region was 7.7 percent, but still below the national growth rate of 8.2 percent.
  • Per capita income growth for the region slowed last year at only 2.5 percent, versus the national average of 4.4 percent. However, the region outperformed the national growth rate of 17.1 percent between 2014-2018 with a growth rate of 18.2 percent.
  • Residential construction permits plummeted in 2018 by 29 percent in the Detroit region, compared to 3.6 percent growth nationally. Median home values continued to grow last year at 5.1 percent, but below the national average of 5.6 percent. Since 2014, however, the region outpaced the national average and peer cities including Cleveland, Chicago and Boston.
  • Population growth also slowed, down to 0.1 percent in 2018 compared to 0.6 percent nationally. However, millennial generation population growth exceeded the nation last year at 2.5 percent versus 0.8 percent.
  • The region continues to lag behind peer cities in educational attainment, with an annual increase in those with undergraduate and graduate degrees by 1.9 percent in 2018 versus 2.7 percent nationally. Only 40.7 percent of Michigan adults hold a college degree, below the national average of 41.2 percent and below cities like Cleveland, Chicago, St. Louis and Atlanta.
  • Despite increasing focus education and employment in science, technology, engineering and math, the Detroit region’s job growth in STEM is behind the nation at 1.4 percent in 2018 compared to 2.1 percent nationally. However, it’s outpaced the nation since 2014 with a growth rate of 10.6 versus 9.9 percent.

The state and region is also being negatively impacted by national issues, such as the White House’s various trade disputes, Baruah said.

Read article here

Detroit Chamber: Metro Students Must Finish Degrees to Find Good Jobs

December 4, 2019

Bridge Michigan

Alexandra Schmidt

Many Detroit-area students are not prepared to work where they live.

According to the Detroit Regional Chamber’s first-ever State of Education Report, released Thursday, students are dropping out of the region’s education system at every stage, resulting in a talent pool without the accreditations local employers want.

It’s a “flashing light” on the region’s dashboard, said Sandy Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, at a Wednesday conference call about the report. “Our leaky education pipeline is a huge challenge for our region today and going forward.”

It’s a vexing issue that played out nationally in 2018 when Amazon bypassed billions of dollars in tax incentives to locate HQ2 in Detroit. The company cited concerns with the lack of skilled workers in the region, compounded by a fear the region’s lack of mass transit would hobble its ability to attract outside talent.

“In order for our businesses to succeed, for our economy to succeed, for our communities to succeed, we need people to fill those jobs,” Baruah said.

Completion rates lag behind enrollment

“One of the most impactful metrics we found” was the number of Detroit-area residents that don’t earn a postsecondary degree within six years, said Tammy Carnrike, chief operating officer at the Detroit Regional Chamber. That can be a major impediment in a job market that is increasingly demanding a credential beyond high school.

It’s not that students aren’t enrolling in postsecondary programs — it’s that they aren’t finishing them.

Across metro Detroit, students actually enroll in two- and four-year program at a slightly higher clip than across the nation. But across the region, nearly half of students who start a postsecondary degree have not completed it six years later.

Enrollment and completion rates are even lower for students from the city of Detroit specifically. Fifty-seven percent of city residents enroll in a postsecondary program after high school, compared to the national enrollment rate of 67 percent. Six years later, nearly three out of four students still haven’t completed their degree.

A web of factors contributes to these noncompletion rates.

Sometimes high school graduates are not ready for the increased rigor of college courses. Less than 10 percent of city of Detroit high schoolers are considered college-ready based on their ACT and SAT scores. This is lower than the regional average (36 percent), the statewide average (35 percent), and the national average (51 percent).

It’s an issue the chamber ran into with students participating in the chamber’s Detroit Promise program, which helps cover the cost of tuition and fees of postsecondary programs for Detroit graduates from the class of 2017 who meet certain residential and educational requirements.

“A lot of our two-year students who take advantage of free tuition take a lot of their credits in those two years taking remedial courses. And that’s an indicator they are not leaving high school with a level of postsecondary readiness,” said Baruah.

Some research shows that taking remedial courses actually makes students less likely to complete a postsecondary program, given that the courses demand time and financial resources that do not directly contribute college credits toward the completion of the degree.

Other times, life itself gets in the way.

Car repairs that sap tuition savings, food insecurity, unreliable childcare — all of life’s standard hurdles can get in the way of students completing their degrees. Recently, schools across the state have tried to help vulnerable college students overcome these bumps, from “life needs” scholarships to additional academic advising and community support, with some success.

The high number of residents not completing post-high school degrees has resulted in nearly 700,000 residents across the region who have some postsecondary credits, but no credentials to show for it.

Uncompleted degrees: hurdle or potential powerhouse?

The State of Education report highlights the high cost of lower educational attainment, both for students and the region.

Residents without a degree are less likely to get a job, and they make less money if they are employed. Eight-one percent of the region’s jobs went to candidates with some type of postsecondary credential since 2010, while sixty-nine percent of working-age Detroiters without a high school diploma are either unemployed or not in the workforce.

On top of this, many of the fastest growing parts of Detroit’s economy, such as engineering and business, require a two- or four-year degree that residents struggle to attain. This trend is expected to continue, and would widen the gap between the credentials that the region’s residents have and what local employers want from prospective workers.

The personal financial stress correlated with lower educational achievement is exacerbated for students who took out student loans for programs they didn’t finish. They may have the loan debt associated with a postsecondary degree, but not the wage boost associated with actually earning a degree.

It’s a situation faced by millions of Americans across the country, who are three times more likely to default on student loans than those who finish their degree.

On the flip side, said Carnrike, the nearly 700,000 adults across metro Detroit with an incomplete degree are closer to earning a certification than residents who have never started a program.

“It’s not just students coming out of school, but adults returning to school as well,” Carnrike said.

She says employers can play a major role in providing employees with the support necessary to return to school. Employers will have to start asking themselves, “What can I do to make it easier for my employees who haven’t earned their degrees?”

Metro Detroit has a lot to gain if employers start thinking that way, Carnrike said.

A 1 percent increase in the number of people earning a bachelor’s degree would increase the per-capita income in the region by $1,250, according to the chamber’s report. It also estimates that if the metro Detroit reaches a point where 60 percent of residents have a postsecondary credential by 2030, “the region will see an estimated return on investment of $42 billion.”

Chamber launches new compact

“As a business leader I am hearing a lot about” the lack of qualified home-grown talent, said Richard Hampson, Michigan president of Citizens Bank, at a conference call Wednesday to discuss the report.

“I think numbers like the $42 billion dollar [return on investment] … will get the attention of business leaders,” Hampson said.

While he says many businesses are already impacted by the issue and want to be a part of the solution, Hampson said “more visibility of the data” presented in the chamber’s report “will lead to more business leaders wanting to be a part of it.”

That is exactly what the chamber said it is hoping for.

“One of the first and foremost actions,” the chamber plans to take following the release of the report “will be putting together a compact” through their Detroit Drives Degrees Program, says Carnrike.

The chamber’s new Detroit Drives Degrees Talent Compact aims to be a collaborative effort among regional educational institutions, businesses and nonprofits to break down barriers to postsecondary educational attainment.

“All this information that we’re presenting is years and years built up. And we’re not going to be able to turn it around immediately,” Carnrike said, but “we have to do a better job” of “getting students into college and keeping them there.”

Read article here

Chambers: New Expungement Package Will Help Thousands Find Work

October 9, 2019

Crain’s Detroit Business

Sandy Baruah and Rick Baker

We talk to businesses every day and they tell us the same thing: there are simply not enough qualified, skilled workers to meet the demands of the marketplace.

When thinking about workforce development policies to address this crisis, we must consider expungement reform legislation. Unfortunately, the current laws, and lack of awareness of the expungement process, are keeping hundreds of thousands of Michigan residents unemployed.

State lawmakers recently introduced a six-bill legislative package addressed at expunging an individual’s criminal record. These bills have the opportunity to open up the expungement process to many Michigan residents who struggle to find a job because of their past criminal records as well as open up eligibility for a number of low-level offenses such as traffic offenses that are ineligible under the current expungement law.

Research shows that expanding expungement means massive economic benefits. Annually, the underemployment of formerly incarcerated people costs the nation between $78 billion and $87 billion in gross domestic product. Within two years of receiving an expungement, a person’s likelihood of being employed increases significantly and their personal income increases by 25 percent. With a stable career, returning citizens are able to support themselves and their families while being productive members of society.

Additionally, clearance of public criminal records reduces recidivism rates and fights crime, making communities safer. Employing someone who is formerly incarcerated is the best available recidivism-reduction tool. If a person stays out of trouble for five years or more, they are no more likely to commit another crime than any member of the general public. Past convictions do not predict future criminal conduct and should not be the basis for employment decisions.

Michigan businesses are primed and ready to support individuals who want to take advantage of the benefits of expungement and address the labor shortage. In fact, many employers already overlook criminal records to fill their talent shortages, giving workers a chance to prove themselves for their past mistakes — Bank of America has partnered with the Detroit Justice Center to provide a place to get records clear, among many other services for formerly incarcerated Detroiters; Cascade Engineering helps give returning citizens a second chance for successful re-entry and provides opportunities to former inmates they may not otherwise receive; and DTE Energy partnered with the Michigan Department of Corrections last month to train inmates for careers after prison.

What they have found is that an individual with a record typically performs no differently than other employees who do not have records. Employers report that these employees are actually often more productive, sticklers for attendance and timeliness, and have lower turnover rates.

The expungement legislative package will help residents of all age groups and across multiple demographics to take that first step to a new beginning. Finding employment should be an easy process for people who are not a threat to public safety.

The time is now to modernize this legislation and change the lives of so many Michiganders.

Sandy Baruah is the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber and Rick Baker the president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. 

Read the original article here

Whitmer, Duggan unveil campaign to boost interest in skilled trades

July 8, 2019

The Detroit News

Christine Ferretti

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer joined Monday with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan to announce a new campaign aimed at helping Michigan employers fill an estimated 545,000 skilled-labor jobs opening up through 2026.

The public-private partnership, Going PRO in Michigan, is spearheaded by the Talent and Economic Development Department of Michigan, an office focused on professional skilled trade occupations and industries, officials said.

The effort, unveiled at a news conference at the Wayne County Community College’s northwest campus, will seek to dispel stigma surrounding the trades and highlight career options including welders, millwrights and electrical line workers, anesthesia and surgical technologists, web developers and industrial mechanics.

The Detroit chamber is among eight regional chambers of commerce — along with Lansing, Traverse City, Flint, Saginaw County, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, Southwest Michigan and Grand Rapids — that support Going PRO.

The campaign is also supported by organized labor groups, including the Operating Engineers Local 324, IBEW Local 58 and the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, among others.

“While fields like healthcare and information technology weren’t historically considered a part of the professional trades, that’s no longer the case,” SEIU Heathcare Michigan President Andrea Acevedo said. “These are well-respected careers.”

Research from the state’s talent department, officials said, showed interest in professional trades varies by region, with 8% of individuals in southeast Michigan expressing interest in pursuing a training certificate.

Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah said without sufficient workers with the skills employers need, businesses and regions like Detroit can’t stay competitive.

“Going PRO is a key element that we need to fix that gap,” he said.

View the full article here