Editorial

Growth seeds planted by a city’s real owners

May 23, 2014
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Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, flew into Detroit last week to announce the investment bank’s decision to provide $100 million in loans — including some endowment funds — to business and property owners in the city that is $18 billion in debt. Recipients of those loans may or may not reside in Detroit.

Later Dimon — whose firm last fall paid to the U.S. Department of Justice a record $13 billion settlement for toxic mortgage-backed securities — flew out of Detroit to head home.

The Business Journal has opined the importance of Detroit’s recovery, but it will not happen without grassroots efforts and partnerships among the real stakeholders: those who live and work and govern in the city and in the closest suburban rings.

The Business Journal contrasts that significant loan investment with the philanthropic investments of Grand Action. The group led by Dick DeVos, John Canepa and David Frey has coordinated $130 million in private philanthropy (and spurred far more such beneficence) and $420 million in construction. Their announcements were made from their downtown offices, a short drive from near-city suburban homes, all in Kent County.

The CEOs and owners of West Michigan’s Big Three furniture makers and international Fortune 500 companies keep their primary residences in West Michigan, and most have in the past 10 years committed to investments in downtown offices and showrooms. Those among the Grand Action business leaders repeatedly describe the reason for their beneficence as an investment in their hometown.

Dimon noted during the press conference — reported around the world — that JP Morgan Chase has a significant investment in the Motor City, including its lead in the 2010 IPO for General Motors following its bankruptcy.

There is no doubt of the significance of the public relations coup for Detroit and state leaders, backing belief in the city’s coming resurgence. Nor is there any doubt that Motown’s retrenchment is dependent on every taxpayer in Michigan as the legislature commits state money to help prevent deeper cuts in retiree pensions and the sale of valuable city-owned art. 

As the U.S. Census Bureau reported at week’s end, Motown continues to lose population (another 10,000, calculated in July 2013) as do its suburban communities.

Last week, Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. committed to creating a pathway for community-wide stakeholders in the process of anticipating how the downtown will develop in the next 10 years. These stakeholders include more than building or property owners, extending to four groups now shaping the Downtown Plan: the city of Grand Rapids, which is involved with Grand Rapids Whitewater, a private group, in the Grand River Corridor project; Grand Rapids Public Schools; the DDA; and the parking/transportation coalition, which includes city departments and The Rapid, the regional mass transit authority.

These are the people who “live, work and play” in the urban area and participate in its continued growth. Community stakeholders also are the real seeds for Detroit’s turnaround.

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