Detroit Renaissance changes name, focus

September 12, 2009
| By Pete Daly |
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Detroit Renaissance has changed its name to Business Leaders for Michigan, with an expanded organization and a broader focus that now includes West Michigan CEOs and a plan for returning Michigan to a competitive state that attracts investments and jobs.

Doug Rothwell, president/CEO of the new Business Leaders for Michigan, said the reorganized group's executive committee now includes business leaders such as Jim Hackett of Steelcase Inc., Mark Murray of Meijer Inc., William Parfet of MPI Research in Mattawan, Jeff Fettig of Whirlpool, and Michael Jandernoa, former CEO of Perrigo Co. Also included on the 66-member board are West Michigan representatives Doug DeVos of Amway, Richard Haworth of Haworth Inc., John Kennedy of Autocam, Hank Meijer of Meijer Inc.

"We are uniting behind a comprehensive plan to turn around Michigan's economy — called the Michigan Turnaround Plan," said Rothwell. The organization is going to develop and promote "high-impact strategies that will in the long-term make Michigan a 'Top 10' state, and in the short-term, an above-average state for job and economic growth."

Dave Brandon, CEO of Domino's Pizza and chair of the  Business Leaders for Michigan board, said in a radio broadcast that Detroit Renaissance tried in the past to impact state policy "without a lot of success" because "in Lansing, (Detroit Renaissance was) viewed as more of a regional organization, from one area of the state."

The perception of regional clout — or lack of it — was one of the reasons the major Chambers of Commerce in western Michigan decided to organize the West Michigan Policy Conference last year. That event, which will take place again one year from now, produced a list of action steps that have been offered to lawmakers in Lansing; Policy Conference attendees believe those will help restore Michigan to a vibrant, business-friendly economy.

The Michigan Turnaround Plan has several main themes, including:

  • Changing the way the state manages finances, and reducing its spending. It would reduce state employee compensation to the U.S. average of state workers or the average of state private sector workers; reduce the size of the state work force, and increase state employee insurance premium contributions.

  • Structural reforms would result in shared services for local governments and school districts; reduced sentences so that there are fewer prisoners to be housed in state prisons; eliminating duplicate state programs; binding arbitration for police and firefighters; and reducing state contributions to teacher retirement benefits.

  • Reducing the MBT, providing a more predictable and stable tax environment for businesses; ensuring tax changes don't make the state's structural deficit worse; and a tax on consumer services.

  • Eliminate the personal property tax; require fiscal notes that identify compliance costs of new regulations; create a regulatory report card; ban state regulations that exceed federal standards; require regulations to demonstrate cost/benefit analysis and basis in science; and benchmark state costs.

  • Investments in improvement of  K-12 performance by consolidating administration of state school districts, retain demanding graduation standards, and allow an unlimited number of charter schools.

  • Reduce the number of state colleges and universities, with the remaining institutions given enough funding to achieve “Top 10” status nationally.

The Michigan Democratic Party promptly issued a statement by party chairman Mark Brewer condemning the announcement by Detroit Renaissance last week.

“This is a very sad day as Detroit Renaissance makes official what they began doing years ago — abandoning Detroit,” Brewer said. He said the turnaround plan lacks "any sacrifice by greedy, corporate CEOs" but "enormous sacrifice by working people and the unemployed."

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