Edsel Ford: Make regionalism “a way of life”

June 4, 2007

Source: Crain’s Detroit Business
By: Bill Shea and Jennette Smith
Published: June 04, 2007

MACKINAC ISLAND — An opening session for the Mackinac Policy Conference served as a rallying cry for the One D collaborative effort with participants urging more business and government leaders to join in.

In his opening remarks Wednesday, One D champion Edsel Ford asked for audience members to make regionalism a way of life. Afterward, a panel of members from the participating groups in One D discussed progress and challenges.

“Parts working together in harmony is an apt description of the communities of the Detroit region, when we are at our very best,” Ford said. “The way we pulled together for last year’s Super Bowl is just one recent example. But that was an effort built around an occasion. For the communities of regional Detroit to shine their brightest, we need more than an occasional effort … we need to embrace regionalism. We need to make it a way of life.”

For One D, a group of six regional civic groups that are working together on five priorities for the region, to succeed, each organization needs to exhibit organizational selflessness, Ford said. The groups behind One D are the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Renaissance, New Detroit, United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan.

The five priorities are economic prosperity, educational preparedness, regional transit, race relations and quality of life, with regional collaboration as an umbrella over all.

Maud Lyon, founding director of the Cultural Alliance, said “One D is about eliminating duplication of efforts.”

And, by laying regionalism over the top with Ford as “the guru of regional collaboration” Richard Blouse, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, said the inter-related priorities can move along faster.

Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance, said the five priorities are at different stages of evolution and some will require more change. And Michael Brennan, president and CEO of the United Way, compared the region’s movement to a One D framework to a technology upgrade.

“We’ve operated for a long time on DOS,” he said. “We’re trying to move to Windows.”

Ford, when interviewed after the panel discussion, said One D next needs to get more corporate leaders, nonprofit leaders and elected officials behind the effort. County executives, for example, would be a great addition. Ideally, Ford said, even after progress is made on priorities, the One D work plan can be updated and continue instead of disbanding.

“The theory is: This is a process,” he said.

For now, until more specifics about business support are announced, supporters can speak positively about the region and find ways to collaborate more often, panelists said.

One element has already been made public is the “Road To Renaissance” regional economic revitalization plan from Detroit Renaissance, the CEO council representing the region’s largest employers. That effort, which has a $75 million-$80 million price tag, was rolled out in November. It identified six economic revitalization goals for the region, and 11 strategies to accomplish those objectives were made public on May 1. (See story, Page M65.)

One D has what it calls numerous supporting organizations involved in its specific efforts, said Christina Lovio-George, president and CEO of Lovio George Inc., which was hired to handle media relations for One D. Those include Ann Arbor Spark, Automation Alley and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, and is in talks with others, such as the Metropolitan Affairs Coalition.

Paul Tait, executive director of SEMCOG and president of MAC, said talks remain under way to get MAC involved in the One D effort. MAC is a regional public-private partnership that promotes quality of life and economic issues in the region.

“There needs to be a way for the other organizations to engage with One D,” Tait said. “All of those organizations need to make sure we’re all working from a complimentary playbook.”

The notion of regional collaboration is driving force for all of One D’s efforts, said Dick Blouse, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber

“One D is built on two pretty simply pinnacles — it’s essential the region stands above any one municipality; the region has to be what’s looked at as what is best for the region,” he said. “Secondly, all of us will learn to think that way. That’s a huge change. It’s saying, “How does what I do affect the region?’ ”

The Michigan Minority Business Development Council is participating in One D’s regional transit objective, said Louis Green, the council’s president and CEO who said the importance of regional collaboration can’t be stressed enough.

“Regionalism is a necessity if we are going to quickly emerge from the business malaise we’re experiencing. We are only going to be successful as a region,” he said. “I don’t see it yet, and what I’m hoping to see is people acting, speaking regionally.”

Green said his 2,500-member organization is happy to be involved because minority-owned businesses are an overlooked force in the region.

“We’re not often part of these conversations,” he said.

One D is “deliberate in effort to not try to plan for everyone in the region,” Rothwell said. By limiting things, that helps eliminate the main criticism of regional plans in the past — money from the suburbs being siphoned to fix Detroit.

“Work in the past on regionalism has tended to gravitate toward win-lose scenarios: One community benefits at the expense of another,” he said. “That is a reason why this initiative can work so well — all priorities benefit the entire region; they certainly don’t hurt anyone.”

What’s next is “taking it to the next level” Rothwell said. In other words, finding additional outside organizations that can collaborate with the six charter organizations.

“Mackinac is the vehicle for allowing that to happen,” Rothwell said.

The Road To Renaissance plan, which includes significant elements from the chamber’s study, is the major contribution to One D from Detroit Renaissance, Rothwell said, so he’ll be on the island to tout the overall effort, network and answer questions.

“Right now, what we’re trying to get across is, we haven’t had anything like this before. This is a big first step for the region,” he said.

Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626, bshea@ crain.com

Jennette Smith: (313) 446-0414, jhsmith@crain.com


One D or bust

June 3, 2007

Source: Detroit Free Press
Published: June 3, 2007

Strategy must bring meaning to regional cooperation

MACKINAC ISLAND — If you did not spend the past few days in meeting rooms at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, you have probably never heard of something called One D: Transforming Regional Detroit. And maybe you never will.

You’re supposed to feel it.

“This is a movement we are trying to create,” said Doug Rothwell, president of Detroit Renaissance, one of the six founding organizations of One D.

“This is like going from a DOS operating system to Windows,” said Mike Brennan, president of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, another founder.

“It might be five years before you see the needle move on some of these issues, but it’s going to happen,” promised Maud Lyon, founding director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan.

What, exactly?

That’s a fair question, since this One D thing hardly marks the first effort to pull the Detroit region together, nor the first to be rolled out in a big way at the annual Mackinac conference of the Detroit Regional Chamber, another of the founding organizations. Why is this one going to be different?

The leaders of the organizations involved — the others are New Detroit and the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau — understand the question and the skepticism they face. But they appeared undaunted at meeting after meeting during the conference, insisting they have achieved a new level of cooperation and that now, in these tough times, is when change must begin.

That may be the best case they can make even if they can’t say it too loudly because it sounds threatening. But we are threatened. We’re in bad shape, in danger of becoming an economic backwater, and nothing in the current power structure can fix it. Something’s got to give, and it might as well be all those old barriers that have impeded progress for so many decades.

Even if you don’t know what One D is, you know where those barriers are: between city and suburb, black and white, Republican and Democrat, have and have-not, plus along county lines, city and township borders, and between the Detroit region and the rest of Michigan. Those barriers generate suspicion, closed-mindedness and a me-first instead of we-first attitude that has blocked movement on such basic things as a coordinated, comprehensive bus system.

Dick Blouse, CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber, noted that the Chamber first adopted a resolution 40 years ago in support of regional mass transit. That’s four decades. And today, more people than ever drive themselves to work every day and grumble about the traffic while those who take the bus have a harder time than ever getting where they need to go. That’s progress?

One D: Transforming Regional Detroit has staked out six areas for measurable progress, with “measurable” being a key word. After all, if nothing changes, nothing changes, so this group needs to be all about results.

The areas are economic prosperity, with goals including job growth in the upper fourth of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas; educational preparedness, with goals including high school graduation rates in the top half of the nation’s 20 largest metro areas; quality of life, with goals including “fully sustainable arts, cultural and social service organizations”; and race relations, with one goal of increasing positive media coverage of the region’s diversity; and the aforementioned regional transit. On that last, the goal isn’t this specific, but the first thing needed is an end to the ability of communities to opt out of the SMART system. Bus service is never going to be regional if buses have to keep going around the likes of Livonia and Novi.

One D deliberately kept government agencies out of its structure because it intends to be a one-voice advocate for public policies that are consistent with economic development in the region. And government tends to start from what you can’t do instead of what you can.

Edsel Ford II has been named to lead a Champions Council that is charged with evaluating One D’s progress on each of its priorities and issuing an annual report. Here’s hoping he issues more than one, because this region ran out of excuses for not changing a long time ago and now is running out of options.

“Regionalism is the only way we will be able to compete in a global economy,” Ford said in a speech to the conference. “That is the essence of our motivation to act and think differently.”

That, and a healthy measure of fear.

RON DZWONKOWSKI is editor of the Free Press editorial page. Contact him at dzwonk@freepress.com or 313-222-6635.