BY JAMES B. NICHOLSON and SANDRA E. PIERCE • January 25, 2009
Economies function as regions -- not as townships, cities or counties. For too long in metro Detroit we have tried to grow our economy in political and geographic silos. Given the financial challenges our community is facing, regional cooperation is more important than ever.
Despite the challenges, business leaders continue to be engaged and financially supportive of regional economic development. For example, Detroit Renaissance has led the development of the region's first economic growth strategy in collaboration with community leaders across metro Detroit. Called the "Road to Renaissance," the plan links and leverages resources and leadership to build economic capacity across geographic, commercial and political boundaries. To date, nearly $75 million has been raised from private, public and foundation investors to implement the plan
Moving forward, Detroit Renaissance is putting energy behind several key initiatives we think have great promise to shape the future of our region. Common themes among all of these efforts are that they build on our existing assets, promote entrepreneurism and take the long view that economic transformation doesn't happen overnight. Yet we need to proceed with a great sense of urgency to execute these strategies as quickly as possible.
Among these keys:
• The development of the Detroit regional aerotropolis is nearing reality. By the end of this year, we should see a development corporation formed by the nine units of local government within the aerotropolis area to market the property, and a state incentive package enacted to attract investment. Estimates are that this one initiative alone could generate 60,000 new jobs in the next 10 years.
• Detroit Renaissance is working to develop a more robust business-university partnership that leverages one of our strongest assets in Michigan -- our public universities. We applaud the formation of the University Research Corridor and initiatives being taken by higher education to advance economic development. But we think these efforts can be enhanced by having business play an active role in helping to identify future research needs, utilize graduating talent and partnering to develop emerging industry sectors.
• Last year, Detroit Renaissance created the Renaissance Venture Capital Fund to advance business creation and growth in innovation-based sectors. The goal this year is to increase the size of this fund and use it to link successful entrepreneurs with established companies so that we plant their roots strongly in Michigan.
• Last year, the organization also launched the Detroit News Bureau to communicate regional economic progress, new initiatives and community assets to the media within and outside the region. This year, we should see impact from this initiative by proactively reaching out to the national and world media and using social media to communicate our story more effectively.
Our region is undergoing an economic transformation that is admittedly a work in progress where the process is at times disruptive and disconcerting. But Detroit Renaissance is committed to help shape our region's destiny and achieve a prosperous future.
JAMES B. NICHOLSON is president and CEO of PVS Chemicals Inc. SANDRA E. PIERCE is president and CEO of Charter One Bank. They are board members of Detroit Renaissance; Nicholson serves as vice chair of the board's Executive Committee and Pierce chairs the Wayne policy committee.