Fixing Detroit will have an impact on Grand Rapids

July 22, 2012
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Anyone traveling in and out of Detroit for Tiger games or on business this summer has a clear reference as to the immense amount of work necessary to rejuvenate Michigan’s largest and best-known city. But the Downtown Detroit Partnership, now chaired by entrepreneur Cynthia Pasky of S3 Strategic Staffing Solutions, provides more than just a sliver of hope: It is providing significant results.

The programs and their results deserve attention — not just for the economic ramifications across the state but for the examples provided to other Michigan cities, including Grand Rapids.

Pasky is touring the state to spread the word, but the mission is more than a public relations effort. It’s about taking aim at perceptions with the evidence of budding success.

Downtown Detroit Partnership, formerly chaired by Roger Penske, is summed up by Pasky as initiatives to assure the city is “safe, clean and inviting.” Politics and “positions” are eschewed by this group — and it’s working because sitting CEOs are spending time working on the initiatives.

“They don’t send staff members to meetings — they come to the meetings,” she noted.

The backbone, however, was the commitment by those CEOs to move their headquarters into the downtown and, with them, 11,000 employees.

The list of companies is a Michigan Who’s Who, including General Motors and, most recently, DTE Energy and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Compuware and Quicken Loans led the parade. Collaborative reports released by the Brookings Institution, Social Compact and University of Michigan are tracking the numbers.

The Grand Rapids Downtown Development Authority has been struggling with resolutions to provide housing and find ways to keep young millennial professionals living downtown. Downtown Detroit Partnership answered that question with “Challenge Detroit,” by which 30 companies provide 30 young people one year of paid work, 40 hours per week, in a program similar to internships. The “winners” of the jobs must also provide charitable services.

Pasky said the city is now home to 800 interns. It also sponsors D:Hive, aimed at providing a hub where young professionals can gather, exchange ideas, learn about the city, solve potential problems and provide information for those new to the city. Most of all, it provides connections.

“That’s how we’re rebuilding Detroit,” Pasky said.

It also is interesting that another program overlaps the initiatives in the city’s neighborhoods and supports neighborhood development. With that, there also are inroads to voter behavior, cause and effect on Detroit’s very tarnished political reputation.

As the CEOs in Detroit again claim the city and provide sustainable effort, it is all the better for Michigan — especially for Michigan’s second largest city.

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