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Movin' On Detroit

So much GREAT news about and around Detroit today:

--Non-profit healthcare corporation Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan made it official and said it would move 3,000 employees from Southfield to the Ren Cen downtown in 2011. (More from Blue Cross CEO Dan Loepp in a minute.)
--Quicken Loans CEO Dan Gilbert talked about his commitment to Detroit in The Detroit News; its move downtown starts Aug. 16.
--The Kresge Foundation via Rip Rapson told Detroit News columnist Laura Berman how much hope he has for Detroit and Mayor Bing.
--The city of Pontiac (in neighboring Oakland County) told the News about its “free rent for a year” project to revitalize its downtown. Detroit, take a memo. Do this immediately!

I got a chance to download with Loepp just after the morning's big announcement. He is realistic; he said his company's move isn't the silver bullet that will magically turn Detroit around. But it is a major move, bringing lots more warm bodies to the city and showing the business community's faith in the D.

But could it be a tipping point is in the works? Are we looking at critical mass?

Loepp admits he's not sure. But he feels “the idea of what we're doing will have significant positive impact,” he said.

“This was a prudent business decision – I feel strongly that a single campus will be great for our culture,” Loepp said, noting how much the healthcare industry is going to change in the next 3-4 years because of healthcare reform.

Putting a significant number of its employees together in Detroit saves the company money (plus it gets nice tax incentives…) All told, the healthcare giant now has 6,000 people in Detroit (plus another 1,500 or so staying in Oakland County). Now, the Ren Cen is some 92 percent occupied because of BCBSM. He's heard that Seldom Blues might reopen, and two new food franchises are planning to move into the building's massive food court upon the news.

Here's what I thought was interesting: there are 8,000 people in that big old building. Some 5,000 are from General Motors, which recently committed to stay there too. The press conference had a host of BIG names: Bing, Chris Ilitch, GM's head honcho Ed Whitaker and the like. They are TOGETHER in this thing, this struggling city.

“We're bringing $180 million worth of payroll down here,” Loepp said. “There is a synergy happening.”

He added: “There's a lot of exciting things here, I think. … This, along with other things going on, gives the city a feeling of hope. It's clear that Mayor Bing is committed to doing the right thing around virtually everything when it comes to the city.”

Is having a good mayor enough? No, it's about having some brave (and financially savvy) business leaders willing to take “leaps of faith,” Loepp said. “It really is important for the urban centers to thrive not only for the city but for the region.”

I also LOVE that Loepp in January gave a bunch of business to Cindy Pasky of Strategic Staffing Solutions, a longtime Detroit company. Chris Ilitch told Loepp he should have his staff down to Comerica for a kind of welcome party. Loepp's company insures about half of Michigan, so he's always talking to business executives. Maybe he can spread the good word about JOBS in Michigan. (I just love capital letters today…)

I leave you with some words I stole from Mayor Bing's Facebook persona. This comment came from a Detroit resident upon hearing about the BCBSM move: “Thank you for starting to make Detroit a city where businesses WANT to be. :)”

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  • 1

    Alright1...Now let's talk -up this W.A.M. idea(s). ...You know!...This world Automotive Museums concept. Everyone has been using MY buzzwords from the last 35years(I almost Saved THE OLD Stove when it was STILL in Fort Wayne Storage...eventually others w/ $$$ did it right!). SYNERGY...Critical Mass!... Using High-Speed Rail 50% for Travel-50% almost as' seed 'money to 'grow' investments ...Start figuring out what historic ' DETROIT HISTORIC FACTORY ' archetype should be demolished for parking-and Park Land!-...What parts , such as the old Ford Piquette plant, should or at least to start, CAN be cheaply Secured, then get NationWide(prob. for Free!) Union-Guilds-Libraries to do "hot" Lists(fast!; ya' know, in factory 'speak')..What goes..What StaysAND WHY!!..60-90 day review process...Nothing Protracted!..Get vacant important bldgs. Donated for $1: Then draw up LARGE---LARGE TaX Benefits!..TAX Benfits are in a very REAL WAY-Free seed money..A city can't tax something empty, until it's something useful! If City, State, Counties, HECK , even Feds. want to study impact ..All that self-serving Happy 'Horse S--t'..THE BIG GUYS (YOU know WHO you ARE!!) Start twisting arms (right Manny-Matty!?) 'til pols. can create POsitive Buzz!..THE AREA IS FRIGGIN" READY...I ...JUST START...To butcher an old biblical phrase , credited to a Chinese philosopher,..To clean up a city, one must start by sweeping ones' own steps'...Whoa!....C'Mon, for CRIPES SAKES! THIS in the emotional doldrums...Let Detroit, by doing what the Big 3 Historically has done, lead us out of THE GREAT RECESSION!..AMEN!....PSS...I guess Manny-Matty is really just floating a new bridge idea?...!0,000 jobs MI. Legislature!!..He's already A BILLIONAIRE...AND...AND...OLD!!

  • 2

    I think one of my favorite things about this site is that a good number of the commenters are mentally deranged.

  • 3

    It makes me happy to hear that business are moving back into our troubled city.

    If only we could get young people to start moving there as well!

    I had this idea that maybe Detroit could start offering free houses for young college graduates and encourage them to start fixing them up and improving the neighborhoods. There is nothing like a sense of home-ownership to make kids stay put. They could come up with innovative business, arts and jobs ideas, and get state and federal funds to pursue them.

    We need more young, energetic and creative people who value cultural diversity and environmental sustainability.

    I honesty believe that with fearless leadership and creative ideas Detroit could become a model city that others could learn from and emulate.

  • 4

    Hey, Stanley, Not to pick on you, THAT WAS A RAMBLING treatise. I'm not that versed on computers , Yet. BUT..., ...I maintain EVERY ONE OF THOSE PROPOSALS are doable, and for low costs! Everyone is tired of at least 43 years of Detroit -Bashing1...Everyone who cares, has been schooled for 43 yrs.,..HELL!...Forever!.. The defects and deficits around 'here' are well documented! Let's throw out some positivity before TIME splits for Chicago, or New York, or?...Believe me, My daughter recenty traveled Coast to Coast from la-SF, to New York City....Her comments (from DOWN IN THE TRENCHES!) were...Chicagos Ghettos were larger, and worse than ANY area of Detroit. (PERHAPS GHETTOS is an Antiquated, even racist , term...Let's say poorest areas). BUT by far ...By far!!...The biggest Hell-Hole of all..New York City!.. Just passing this along. I don't recall hearing anybashing by those cities' populace. Just saying'...

  • 5

    As you pointed out Dave, you can't recall any bashing of Chicago or New York. Ever wonder why Chicago, especially the South Side, and the New York gettos never grace the cover of TIME in the same way as TIME featured Detroit? How come NBC's Chris Hanson, or any other national TV network for that matter, doesn't report the filth and despair of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Los Angeles and San Francisco? Why is Detroit, and only Detroit, portrayed in such a one sided, negative way? Why does it take a trip such as your daughter has taken, to discover the truth?

    Just asking ...

    • 5.1

      not to make this site a personal debate issue,... jee, I'm literally mising the point. That truth being what?

  • 6

    The "truth" Dave, that your daughter discovered, and that you, yourself, stated is that every major, urban area in this country is infested with slums, decay and crime - with Chicago and New York making Detroit look like the Garden of Eden by comparison. However, the national media has singled out Detroit as the poster child for filth, decay and corruption while other cities, with the same or even worse problems, are viewed thru rose colored glasses.

    I don't minimize Detroit's problems - they are severe. But that does not justify whatever motives the national media has for their unrelenting, one sided, negative smear of Detroit.

    Many of our problems are of our own creation, many are the result of the national economy but many are the result of Detroit's negative image as promoted by the national media. Where is the same coverage of Chicago's south side? Have you been to Baltimore lately? And San Francisco is not all cable cars, and Fisherman's Wharf. There are slums there - horrific slums. But TIME magazine won't show you those the way they showed Detroit's. Why?

    With our well promoted negative image, Detroit businesses are finding it hard to recruit talent. No one wants to come here. Outside investment has dried up. With no talent and no money, many businesses are forced to leave Detroit and Michigan or fail. Many of our best and brightest young people have been forced to leave as well. There are no jobs. The auto industry, our major employer is flat. Why? Because the Japs produce far superior cars? No they don't. But the national media says they do and the American public believes what they are told to believe. Interestingly, The New York Times just wrote a very negative critique of the Chevy Volt - before the 1st production vehicle has even rolled off the line. And Rush Limbaugh pretty much relayed the same message to his ditto heads.

    Negative publicity is a pretty powerful thing. It can destroy a city.

    That's my point Dave, and yours as well. I don't see how you could have missed it.

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