MACKINAC ISLAND — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan buried attendees of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference under a mountain of numbers to describe the city’s progress during a keynote presentation Wednesday.
Duggan said the city is making progress on its post-bankruptcy rebound, and used data to tell the story. Tens of thousands of street lights repaired and replaced. Crews picking up 600 tons of trash a week. More than 100,000 vacant lots being mowed at least twice a year.
And it’s more than mere appearances. Duggan said the city has gone from 13 to 38 working ambulances over the past two years, and emergency medical response time has been cut nearly in half, to a little over 10 minutes, close to the national average. The city has also hired more than 100 new emergency medical technicians to staff those ambulances.
One example of the city’s improvement is the Marygrove neighborhood. Last year, Duggan showed attendees a map of the neighborhood that showed 120 vacant houses — most of which, Duggan said, it was assumed would have to be torn down.
Instead, Duggan said, 90 of the 120 homes have been saved, and 33 have already been sold at auction.
Live feeds of conference keynotes and major panel discussions are available at this Detroit Public Television link.
Earlier Wednesday, conference attendees heard a rousing endorsement of small, entrepreneurial business as an antidote to urban poverty from John Hope Bryant, founder and CEO of Operation HOPE Inc. and founder of Bryant Group Ventures. Through Operation Hope and its partners, Bryant, a native of struggling Compton, Calif., is responsible for more than $2 billion of private capital supporting low-wealth home ownership, small businesses, entrepreneurship and community development investments in underserved communities across the United States.
Another panel discussion covered the local, natural foods movement, led by Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods, which has hundreds of Michigan suppliers and six locations in the state. Other panelists include Craig Edsill, president of Clemens Food Group, a Pennsylvania pork producer that recently announced a $250 million pork plant in Coldwater that will create 800 jobs, U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, and Dave Zilko, vice chairman of Garden Fresh Gourmet, a Michigan food industry entrepreneurial success story.
And Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in opening remarks, was interrupted by protesters concerned about an aging oil pipeline between Michigan’s peninsulas that lies on the bottom of the Straits of Mackinac.
Also, TV’s Mike Rowe, along with Snyder, announced a series of videos designed to help students, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors understand the opportunities in skilled trades. Rowe has collaborated with the Michigan Talent Investment Agency to produce six videos designed to engage middle and high school students and show them opportunities within the tool and die industry, healthcare, information technology, construciton, advanced manufacturing and welding. In addition to Rowe’s videos, Tom Daldin, host of Under the Radar Michigan, is producing five videos targeting younger, elementary school students. These videos will inspire children as they think about what they want to do when they grow up by highlighting jobs in food, agriculture, natural resources, manufacturing, health care, design, and art. State officials say skilled trade jobs represent about one-third of Michigan’s employment base, with more than 8,300 jobs currently available. Attracting future talent and addressing perceptions is crucial as employers will continue to actively seek skilled talent to fill the projected 6,700 skilled trade job openings each year through 2022. Rowe’s keynote says American culture has demonized many skilled-trades jobs, while colleges encourage students to rack up huge debts in programs that train them for jobs that don’t exist.