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.

Election 2020/Better Made Potato Chips

December 5, 2019

One Detroit

One Detroit kicks off Detroit Public Television’s Election 2020 coverage with a special report from our first community conversation in the city of Warren. Christy gives viewers highlights of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s just released State of the Region report. Plus, One Detroit takes a look at the history of Better Made potato chips.

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

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