I believe in the greatness of cities. They are the heart of commerce, attracting business, nurturing investment, creating jobs. And they are the soul of our culture, where intellect and the arts originate. In Michigan and across the country, cities are at the very core of our existence. That is why energy spent building and strengthening our cities is energy well spent.
As I reflect upon being elected Executive Committee Chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership (DDP) , so many possibilities and mission-critical tasks come to mind. There is so much to do to continue the positive momentum, so much we must do as we work to restore the luster to our city.
Belief keeps us here, but belief backed by action is what really moves us forward. I learned that from Tony Earley of DTE Energy, my predecessor, who has been a constant positive presence in Detroit and with the DDP for many years. Growing up on Detroit’s east side, in the triangle created by Kelly Road, Hayes and Houston-Whittier streets, I believed in this place. And I believe in Michigan. That belief remains intact, even as times have changed. In Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing, young residents and future residents want and deserve a place they can call home – a place they can live and thrive in, a place they can identify with and stand up for. A place they can believe in.
The DDP will make that happen in Detroit. I promise that, in the full comfort of knowing that positive energy and substantive results are already moving Detroit in that direction. It isn’t just talk. More than ever, there is action. People are taking notice. There is a buzz in the air today and excitement about what Detroit can become.
As president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, I can emphatically state that our company has a real stake in the success of Michigan’s core cities. When national media resorted to the tired old bit of taking a swipe at Detroit when census results came out this winter, I wrote a blog post to provide some perspective about what is really happening here. There are ongoing struggles and concerns here, and a real uphill climb to get where the city can be, but there is also real momentum and a confident resolve.
Of the many responses to that blog post, one sticks with me:
“As a Detroiter, I believe in this great city. After reading your article, my enthusiasm has grown even more. Through your words and actions, please continue to believe in our city.”
Those words meant a lot to me. Because I do believe in our city, I believe in its people and I believe with great confidence that together we can accomplish many things. The comment demonstrates that belief is infectious and it leads to action.
The Blues are taking actions to make Detroit stronger, by moving 3,000 employees to a unified downtown Detroit campus. It is a move that will bring our total number of Detroit-based employees to 6,000. It will contribute more than $3 million annually to the city tax rolls, create hundreds of new jobs and breathe life into countless restaurants, clothiers, boutiques and other businesses downtown. It is a move that brings $180 million in BCBSM annual payroll into the city.
This is all part of an ongoing corporate commitment that will ultimately bring 97% of our BCBSM and Accident Fund Holdings workforce into the epicenter of Michigan’s 3 largest cities – Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. Our actions reflect our belief in a bright future for Michigan and Detroit, and our deep conviction that building up Michigan’s cities will help the entire state prosper.
My vision for Detroit fuels my commitment to the DDP. I see Detroit’s return to prosperity and the transformation of our city into a place that serves as a magnet to businesses from across the country and around the world, a place that beckons talented professionals looking for the right place to launch and sustain their careers. They will come to Detroit because they will see the city as we see it – as a great place to work and live.
Companies like Quicken Loans, General Motors, Compuware, DTE and Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) have long been leaders when it comes to investing in Detroit. It is no coincidence those companies are strongly represented with the DDP along with other great companies and institutions like the Penske Corporation, Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Health System, Wayne State University and Olympia Development.
All that we do together through the DDP is helping to build the critical mass necessary to make Detroit a destination. And with everything we do, we continue to build and strengthen partnerships between companies committed to Detroit and Michigan. The Blues and many of the other organizations mentioned above are not just aligned on ideology. We are joined by strong bonds as customers and providers of service to each other. That same critical mass of partnership is occurring in Lansing and Grand Rapids.
In Detroit, all of us in the DDP feel energized by the belief and critical mass that we see building exponentially. And we all believe there are many more great things we can do together downtown that will greatly benefit the entire city, as well as the region.
Efforts by all of these organizations, along with the Blues, have created a steady drumbeat of optimism and excitement for the future of Detroit. This summer, a group of five DDP member companies including BCBSM joined to create the “Live Downtown” program, which offers incentives to those who either reside in Detroit or wish to make Detroit their home.
I can tell you that the response has been amazingly strong, beyond what we imagined. People want to play a positive part inDetroit’s comeback story.
The DDP exists for this very purpose. It has been my honor and privilege to interact with the tremendous leaders who drive the DDP and who share a vision of a vital and vibrant Detroit. For six years as a director and executive committee member, I have witnessed firsthand how the DDP works to support, strengthen and improve the city. I have seen what an organization can do through collaboration, unity and strength under the guidance of visionary leaders like DDP Board Chair Cindy Pasky of S3 and President and CEO Dave Blaszkiewicz.
In my new role as Executive Committee Chairman, we will continue to work together toward creating a strong Detroit that not only draws new investors to our city, but gives our children a reason to stay and build their careers right here at home.
We believe, and we are committed to substantive actions that will propel Detroit to a new era of prosperity. In the months and years ahead, we will make Detroit a city anyone can be proud of, and believe in.
Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, and chair of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association national board, representing 39 Blue plans providing coverage to nearly 100 million Americans.
Photo Credit: Urban Adventures