Howes: Business backs Duggan, pivots to neighborhoods
Mayor Mike Duggan didn’t show at Business Leaders for Michigan’s CEO Summit Thursday. But the enthusiasm over his commanding re-election win? Palpable.
Not so much because the CEO-turned-mayor is a favorite of a business community that has longed to have a pragmatic ally atop City Hall. But because his 44-point win over state Sen. Coleman Young II signals more-of-the-same political stability needed to deepen and expand reinvestment in Detroit amid strengthening economic growth.
“People want predictability and sustainability, and that’s what we got,” Mark Davidoff, Michigan managing partner of Deloitte LLP, said on the sidelines of the CEO Summit. “People don’t invest in unpredictability. We have a sense of cohesion at home.”
Two of the key ingredients of that alignment are stable, financially disciplined leadership at the city and a unique kind of can-do nonpartisan cooperation this region hasn’t seen in many, many years. It transcends party, parochial, sometimes even financial, interests, encouraging business to invest with a confidence that has long eluded the poorest major city in America.
That’s huge — if it can be sustained. Detroit’s reinvention, accelerating since its emergence from Chapter 9 bankruptcy three years ago next month, cannot be separated from the personalities of the people calling the shots. People change, and so do their motivations.
Among the challenges facing the mayor and his many big-name business boosters, few are more important than sustaining the cooperation and collaboration that has helped pump billions in private-sector investment back into the city. Another challenge: extending that spirit, and real dollars, deeper into the neighborhoods.
The mayor knows it, too. Good ol’ Detroit confrontation, coursing through this region’s metaphorical veins for nearly half a century, kills deals and alienates investors. It drives business leaders to make other choices because in an era of mobile capital and mobile talent, they can.
That’s one reason why Duggan promised “one Detroit for all of us” on election night, an end to “us-versus-them politics ... forever.” In the long run-up to Tuesday’s vote, his administration focused increasing attention on neighborhood revitalization — a governing imperative with huge political implications.
Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert, clearly the mayor’s favorite mogul, knows it, too. He told The Detroit News that, “If neighborhoods don’t do well, downtown won’t do well,” an extension of Duggan’s political priority to focus reinvestment and rehabilitation programs where real Detroiters live.
The “Two Detroits” narrative, adopted by Young in the campaign, is more than the creation of political consultants. It’s real, backed by hard numbers on crime and jobs, per capita income and educational attainment ... and just your own two eyes.
It’s the startling contrasts: the rehabbed office buildings downtown compared to vacant and burned-out homes; soaring demand for apartments and condos in the central city compared to abandoned houses in neighborhoods; jobs filled by the college-educated compared to a dearth of jobs for those without advanced education or the skills to compete.
“I would anticipate that a lot of the mayor’s economic development initiatives move out to the neighborhoods,” said Steve Arwood, former CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and now CEO of Miller Canfield Consulting. “I definitely expect that to speed up.”
It should. Cities are sustained by the people who live in them, who source goods and services locally, who buy homes and condos, who rent apartments, who frequent bars and restaurants, who walk along the riverfront, who pay taxes and who educate their children in its schools, public, private or charter.
Detroit’s reinvention needed to start somewhere financed by someone, and that was the Woodward corridor with money fronted by Gilbert, the Ilitch family and foundations like Kresge, to name three. That momentum can be sustained socially and politically only if it moves outward to include more ordinary Detroiters.
“We don’t have one Detroit yet,” said Joe Anderson Jr., chairman of TAG Holdings LLC, a manufacturing holding company with interests in auto parts, heavy equipment and aerospace. “This city will not be successful unless we address those neighborhoods.
“White millennials will not come and stay in the city unless it’s safe ... and the services in the neighborhoods are acceptable. This mayor has made good progress. Now the question is, does he deliver on that — like the stadiums, business offices being built, condominiums?”
Daniel Howes’ column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHowes_TDN, listen to his Saturday podcasts, or catch him 3 and 10 p.m. Thursdays on Michigan Radio’s “Stateside,” 91.7 FM.