Blues support Henry Ford’s push to drive economic development in Detroit


The embattled city of Detroit received good news this week with the announcement that Henry Ford Health System plans to invest $500 million in its New Center hospital campus.

The move is part of a nearly $1 billion proposal to establish a “Community Health Park” of retail, housing and medical office development immediately south of the hospital. The plan would create 250 high-paying jobs, Henry Ford officials say, but the project is also intended to lure other businesses, including medical device manufacturers and suppliers.
The announcement follows closely on the heels of the news that Vanguard Health Systems Inc. intends to spend hundreds of millions to purchase and upgrade the Detroit Medical Center, which we’ve commented on here.
The plan is part of Henry Ford’s bold vision for the bleak area surrounding its Detroit medical center, where the main entrance faces a neighborhood rife with vacant lots and boarded-up houses. It also signals a new direction for the Detroit-based, seven-hospital health system, which wants to play a bigger role in driving economic development in the city.
“Someone has to take the first step,” said William Schramm, Henry Ford’s senior vice president for business development. “We’re all sitting around the table looking at who’s going to invest first, and everybody is then willing to follow.”
The ambitious Henry Ford plan still faces hurdles, including lining up an extra $500 million in outside investment and securing support from the city on issues like utilities, realigning streets and tax incentives. There are also sensitive issues involving compensating residents for their homes.
The Michigan Blues feel strongly that the health of the state is closely intertwined with the health of Michigan’s largest city. You can’t have a healthy Michigan without a strong, vibrant Detroit. For that reason, we applaud Henry Ford’s bold proposal.
At Blue Cross, we’ve long embraced a mission of supporting our state’s core cities. In addition to being headquartered in Detroit, we operate offices in Grand Rapids and Saginaw, among other locations.
We’ll also be consolidating roughly 250 employees into the new Accident Fund subsidiary headquarters in downtown Lansing when it opens in 2011. 
Photo courtesy of Henry Ford.