Destination Detroit: Making the Case for Amazon

Destination Detroit: Making the Case for Amazon

Community responsibility is a topic dominating a lot of corporate boardrooms. But nowhere is that talk more magnified than in Detroit, where I serve as President and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Detroit is one of the cities vying to draw Amazon and a workforce of 50,000 people, and I’m pleased to be on a committee of business, political and community leaders working hard to draw the company here.

We believe Detroit is a real contender — not the longshot that some have painted it to be.

Why? Because we who live and work here have seen the dynamic transformation taking place, and we know that this city has unparalleled support from businesses like Blue Cross, putting their vision into action to spur resurgence and growth in our cities. It’s paid off for us and can do the same for Amazon.

Our company was one of the first willing to kick-start Detroit’s economic redevelopment through our initiative to consolidate our Southeastern Michigan workforce to downtown Detroit – a decision that was both good for business and for the city. Along with other businesses, we supported the Live Downtown program, in which cash incentives were offered to employees who moved downtown, where they work and play.

Blue Cross and other businesses financially supported efforts to save Detroit’s Music Hall. We were leaders in the Grand Bargain to save historic works from the Detroit Institute of Arts, helped fund EMS vehicles and patrol cars to strengthen public safety, and contributed to make the Q-Line, our public rail system, a reality.

We’ve done the same in other cities throughout our state.

In 2012, we opened a new BCBSM and BCN walk-in sales and service center in downtown Traverse City. Even before my time as CEO, we moved our West Michigan operation to the Steketee’s Building in Downtown Grand Rapids, and transformed the Board of Water and Light Building in Downtown Lansing for the new Accident Fund Headquarters.

We don’t just talk about community responsibility, we live it. But it takes courage and vision.

When I made the decision to move 3,000 workers to Detroit six years ago, the national economy was in a slow recovery.  Detroit’s auto industry had just emerged from financial restructuring.  The City of Detroit was on the verge of its own bankruptcy process.  This 300-year-old city looked its age.

But you should see Detroit now.  Just six years later, it teems with new restaurants, bike lanes, storefronts, green parks and spaces, waterfront development and sports arenas, building upon the rich and diverse culture that has always pulsed through our city.

Today, the heartbeat of Detroit is as strong as it has been in my lifetime – and I was born on Detroit’s east side.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan came home to Detroit because I believe –our employees believe — not just in the potential of our city, but in the power of our community.

Other companies have passionately joined Blue Cross in bringing their workforce and businesses downtown and helped reinvigorate our core, igniting the imagination of the region and the nation.  We’ve got more to do, but we’re committed and courageous.

Amazon has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of Detroit’s resurgence – and rejuvenate one of our nation’s greatest cities – by taking a courageous step to invest in a place that has a history of overcoming obstacles and creating innovation that inspires the world.

I encourage Amazon’s leaders to take Detroit seriously. We did, and are proud of the excitement, passion and results that followed.

Move here. Move the world.

Photo Credit: Scott Laidlaw

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