While the masterfully executed exit from bankruptcy will forever own its rightful place in history, Detroit faces another game-changing opportunity: Creating a growing economy that works for everyone. It is a challenge cities from around the nation are grappling with, and one, if accomplished here, will again demonstrate Detroit’s influence on the country.
The progress in downtown and Midtown has been miraculous, but more of that is needed to be world-class – and for Detroit to thrive in the global economy, that opportunity must be more widespread. Vibrant, safe neighborhoods hold the key to the all-encompassing metric that will shape this city’s trajectory: Population growth. Cities with growing neighborhoods where people can live, work and play will be the winners in the global economy.
Increasing economic inclusion, where all people from all neighborhoods can pursue opportunity will multiply Detroit’s momentum. Investments being made in the city and state will ensure greater returns if opportunity is shared. In other words, there is a vested interest for our entire region to develop cohesion around creating increased opportunity.
Shared opportunity has transformational power. It makes communities more stable. It provides access to the economy. It helps families withstand the financial shock of unexpected medical bills or job loss. And most importantly, it validates the American notion that if you work hard, you will have the chance to chase your dreams and care for your loved ones.
Mayor Mike Duggan’s phenomenal work and relentless focus on city essentials such as lighting, public safety and blight reduction have created the opportunity to intensify our collective focus on building a city where all can pursue prosperity.
So how do we get there? Pursuing inclusion will require an intentional and cohesive effort. Leadership from business, political and philanthropic circles and the community have a role in making this happen. The Detroit Regional Chamber is committed to playing its part as is TheHUB, which is helping to drive this important conversation.
The Chamber is partnering with Operation HOPE CEO John Hope Bryant and Mayor Duggan to recruit 20 organizations to serve as HOPE Inside Centers throughout the city of Detroit. These centers attack financial literacy and transform neighborhoods by empowering residents to manage their personal finances by improving their credit scores.
We are also proud to work with the Mayor’s Grow Detroit’s Young Talent program with the goal of providing 8,000 Detroit youth with summer jobs and career experience. The Chamber’s work through the Detroit Scholarship Fund provides Detroiters a tuition-free path to a college education. These are ways to help reach the goal of ensuring that the opportunities created by Detroit’s resurgence reach its proud neighborhoods, which ultimately will amplify the momentum.
That is the ethos for the 2016 Detroit Policy Conference. The conversation is intended to provoke thought and inspire business, civic, political and community leaders from the city and suburbs to take action and create an economically inclusive Detroit. The agenda will touch on the challenges facing the city, from education to regional transit to public safety, and how they impact our community.
After all, the health of neighborhoods is related to the health of our city, region and state. Michigan goes as Detroit goes, but let us not forget … Detroit will go as its neighborhoods go.
By Sandy K. Baruah
The Honorable Sandy K. Baruah is president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, one of the largest in the country. Under Baruah’s leadership, the Chamber focuses on four strategic priorities: economic development, regional collaboration, education reform and membership value.