Category: Top News Written by Minehaha Forman, Special To The Chronicle
ROY ROBERTS (left), DPS emergency manager, and John Covington, Education Achievement Authority chancellor. — Monica Morgan photo
Detroit’s social and economical resurgence hangs in the balance of public education. Poorly performing schools scare off current and potential residents, which in turn shrinks the tax base, spelling hard times for the city at large.
But after years of mismanagement and financial pitfalls, a new day is dawning for Detroit Public Schools. That was the message leaders spearheading education reform in Detroit were spreading at the Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics forum at the Detroit Athletic Club on Thursday, June 14.
The forum, titled “Education 911,” hosted two panelists who are arguably the most influential of the “Pancakes” speaker series when it comes to Detroit: Roy Roberts, DPS emergency manager, and Dr. John Covington, chancellor of Michigan’s new Education Achievement Authority (EAA).
The event concluded the annual four-part Pancakes & Politics series for 2012 with a theme of transformation.
During the lively and frank discussion, the team shared their vision for the future of public schools in Detroit, informing the over 300 attendees of their plans. The message was clear: it’s time for change. Roberts and Covington are heading up a massive turnaround for Detroit Public Schools. They’re not talking minor policy shifts, they’re geared to reset major functions in the system.
Most of the focus of the forum was on the EAA, a new public school system in Michigan with a mission to transform the lowest achieving schools into the highest. Because 38 of the 100 worst performing schools in the state were in DPS, the program is launching in Detroit. And for that kind of turnaround, schools can expect big changes.
“There’s a misunderstanding that the EAA is going to come in and close a bunch of schools. That’s not the case. It’s making these schools better,” said Covington.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Roberts, who Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to chair the executive committee for the organization, giving him the authority to make the decisions on which schools enter the EAA. Still, out of the 38 lowest performing schools, Roberts has only transferred 15 of these into the EAA so far, including some charter schools.
“There is no war between DPS and charter schools. The war is over. It’s law: If we have a charter school, a DPS or an EAA school that is not performing, we will take them out of here,” Roberts said.
EAA schools will be different. For instance, they will assign 95 percent of their total funding to classrooms instead of administrative posts. And there will be no grade system. Students will move up based on the classes they passed, not their age. The new independent entity is a public/private partnership between Detroit Public Schools, the State of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.
“We meet with parents on a regular basis so they understand this is not a bad thing,” Covington said about the EAA. “We’re going to transform how we teach and deliver services.”
Another change parents will notice in the new school system is the number of required instruction hours increasing. That is to make sure students have to keep up with global learning. In some countries, students are in school seven days a week, all year long.
According to Covington, Michigan has the lowest number of required instruction hours for its students in the entire nation. He said Michigan schools require 170 days of instruction per year for students, a number he bumped up to 210 for students in EAA schools.
Between Roberts and Covington, it was clear their passion for education is strong and genuine, and the changes they are making they believe are the best for the most important stakeholders — the children.
“Kids can’t vote and kids don’t have money so I’m speaking for the kids,” said Roberts, recalling when he was a young student in a family that struggled to make ends meet. “I’m gonna keep the conversation on the kids.”
Covington remembered a time when he worked in a correctional facility and noticed the young people inside were very smart and had great potential but were, sadly, products of a failing system. Since then he said he has committed his life to bettering education to keep as many youths as possible outside of bars.
“When test scores are low, we always want to start with the kids and don’t stop to think that it might not be the kids, it’s the adults in the system,” he said.
Roberts looked back on his first year as emergency manager and said he learned a lot.
“I was foolish last year. I’m wise this year. It’s the toughest job I’ve ever had in my life,” he said. “The people you try to help the most are the ones toughest on you.”
As far as unions go, Roberts said he hopes everyone will do what’s right for the children and is optimistic that there will not be a strike. The EAA system is not yet unionized.
“Right now we’re starting the EAA without being hamstrung by collective bargaining agreements,” he said.
Looking forward, Roberts said he plans to better his communication with parents and students.
“All parents want their children to do well. We need to do a better job of customer service,” he said. “We have to forge relationships with parents and treat them in a way we believe the parents and kids are most important.”
But Roberts and Covington insist that they cannot transform schools without the support of stakeholders from all backgrounds. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have schools that provide the best education for students now and generations to come.
“This is something we can’t do by ourselves,” Covington said, calling on people to get involved in the process. “We need the general community to get actively involved.”
The sponsors who made this discussion possible include Buick, Comcast Business Class, Strategic Staffing Solutions, HAP, Honigman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, PNC, Quicken Loans and UHY.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:33
Category: Top News Written by Steve Holsey
Some people were, in the most literal sense, born to do what they do. For these people, there are no other options. The question is not, “How do I go about doing this?” Rather, it is, “I am going to do this.”
In the field of entertainment, Michael Jackson was a perfect example of that. The same applies to Sammy Davis Jr., Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Ben Vereen and others.
So it is with Usher Terry Raymond IV who, since emerging in 1993, has established himself as a multi-talented entertainer (singer, dancer, actor, songwriter) who is here to stay, in it for the long haul so to speak, like Beyoncé, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, Will Smith, Jennifer Hudson and others who comprise a list that is not particularly long.
USHER HAS used the word “flamboyant” to describe himself, which is a great asset when one is on stage keeping people entertained.
Right now Usher is hard at work promoting his just-released new album, “Looking 4 Myself,” and it is expected to equal if not surpass the sales of such previous megahits as “Confessions,” “Raymond v. Raymond,” “8701” and “Here I Stand.”
Usher was born in Dallas, Texas, but his childhood was spent primarily in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Not surprisingly, he got his first experience singing in the youth choir at church. It felt good and right.
ventures. He is part owner of a professinal basketball team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and is involved in several restaurants. He is also the founder of New Look, a non-profit organization, the purpose of which is “to provide young people with a new look on life through education and real world experience.” The organization also revitalized a part of New Orleans following the disaster that did so much damage to the city. Usher says he believes in giving, on stage and off.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:24
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
With the 2012 London Olympic Games on the horizon, it seems appropriate to revisit one of the legends of the Olympic Games.
Doing my usual channel surfing, I came up on a PBS documentary, “American Experience: Jesse Owens.”
Most sports aficionados and history buffs know of the legend of Owens; however, his compete and dehumanizing degradation delivered by America’s intense racial separation kind of got lost in the real picture of this of a man.
Even today, over 70 years later, many Americans take pride in recalling how Owens undermined Adolf Hitler’s theory of Aryan racial superiority by winning four gold medals (100-, 200- , 4x100 meter relay, and, long jump) at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
“American Experience: Jesse Owens,” directed by Laurens Grant and written by the frequent PBS collaborator Stanley Nelson (“Freedom Riders”), is a level and striking production that suffers from its shortness: about 52 minutes. There’s not much time to get below the surface, and Owens’ troubled post-Olympic life gets particularly abrupt treatment.
The triumph of this “American Experience” documentary on Owens, who died in 1980, is that it enshrined his Hitler situation without ignoring the depressing extent to which Owens’ own country also treated him as second class.
As an Olympian in that time, he was under the authority of U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) chief Avery Brundage (an acknowledged racist), who admired Hitler and infamously replaced two Jewish sprinters on the 4-by-100 relay team because it could have further embarrassed Hitler if they won.
After embarrassing Hitler in his own stadium in 1936, Brundage stripped Owens of his amateur standing, effectively depriving him of the chance to make a living from his skill. For years after the Olympics, this superb athlete was relegated to a sideshow — until finally, in 1955, President Eisenhower made him a national “goodwill ambassador” promoting the high ideals of America.
However, before Eisenhower’s benevolent spirit, Owens had to race against horses and other degrading actions to support his family.
Just like Joe Louis, who knocked out German champion Maximillian Adolph Otto Siegfried Schmeling, and in spite of his color, he became an American hero. However, like Owens, it did not carry over to life in America. Louis was attacked by the IRS and it destroyed his life. Owens faired no better.
But the irony of both their lives in segregated America was that they did not outwardly complain. Maybe it was the times, where many thought it was better to go along to get along. The fact of the matter is that it was life threatening to oppose the status quo.
In the 1968 Olympics, African-American’s discontent with how they were being treated at home spilled over into one of the most famous protests in USOC history — the Tommy Smith and John Carlos black gloved raised fist during the National Anthem.
No matter how badly treated Owens was by the establishment, his nemesis, Brundage, help recruit him to talk to the African-American athletes while at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games. The threat of protest was in the air and the USOC wanted Owens to help defuse it. In fact, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought the discontent to the forefront by refusing to join the USOC basketball team.
With American cities smoldering in discontent and hungering for change and equal rights, the athletes ignored Owens’ cajoling. George Foreman, who won the heavyweight Olympic title and pranced around the ring with two American flags. He was scorned by the Black community on his return home.
Foreman told me in an interview that he was a young country boy who had no understanding of the complexity of life and the anger of his fellow African-American Olympians. He said he was just happy to be there and out of his situation at home in Houston.
Carlos and Smith became the poster boys for standing up to the injustice that was permeating American society, while Foreman and Owens took on the appearance of Uncle Toms.
For me, Owens is an almost preternaturally graceful and heroic figure, asserting his will despite isolation and scorn even greater than Jackie Robinson had to face. But he also represents the power of segregation at that time, when a man of his caliber was so beat down he was afraid to challenge inequality face to face.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 12:06
Category: Top News Written by Leland Stein III
Since it was race weekend in the Motor City, it is appropriate to recount that an African-American male is breaking barriers in one of the most segregated sports – NASCAR.
The young Black driver is Darrell Wallace Jr. He said he’s gotten a lot of support from the racing community, but he’s also had to deal with some prejudice.
Wallace, 18, said that some of his competitors in years past have resented him, assuming he only got his position because he was Black. Wallace said he’s also had racial slurs and taunts thrown his way from the grandstands.
But that type of criticism serves as motivation for him. He’s also reached out to the family of Wendell Scott (documented in the Richard Pryor movie “Greased Lightning”), a NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee and the only African-American to win a race in NASCAR’s top series.
“My goal is to look back at what Wendell Scott has done. Hearing all the stuff that he went through is definitely a lot different than what I go through now,” Wallace said. “I’m just trying to carry his torch further than he did and do it in the right way.”
For now, Gibbs Racing plans to have Wallace run the No. 20 Toyota in four nationwide races this season, including a return trip to Iowa in August and dates in Dover and Richmond.
“Right now, I’m just like, ‘OK, cool,’ you know? I don’t think it’s hit me yet. I don’t even know if it will. It takes a lot, and I mean a lot, to get me pumped up. But I mean, this is big,” Wallace said. “The mood I’m in right now is like ready to go. Just kind of ready to see what we’ve got.”
In a sport that’s been almost the exclusive domain of White male drivers, it’s impossible to overlook Wallace. He’s one of the most promising African-American drivers to come along in decades and arguably the best talent to come through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program, which was started eight years ago to give women and minorities a better chance of landing a NASCAR seat.
However, not to the surprise of those that know Joe Gibbs, the former Washington Redskins Super Bowl winning head coach, he has always been a inclusive person and after retiring and taking on NASCAR, the spirit of the man has not altered.
Thus Wallace finds himself with a golden opportunity.
“It’s different,” Wallace told reporters. “I get looked at a lot more and talked about a lot more, but it doesn’t bother me at all. It’s actually cool. I mean, some people see it as, this is given to me because of skin color. But others that have raced with me and have known me for a while have seen that I have the talent and skill, and what it takes to run in this series.”
There’s little doubt that Wallace has earned his shot in the Nationwide Series by what he’s done on the track.
Wallace grew up in Concord. N.C., just outside of Charlotte, where he got the nickname “Bubba” from his sister. He started running go-karts when he was nine at the urging of his father, and in 2005 jumped to bandolero cars, winning 35 of the 48 races he ran. He won 11 races in 38 starts in a Legends car circuit a year later and was in late models by 2007.
Wallace signed with Gibbs Racing in 2009.
“It’s not just all of a sudden,” Gibbs said. “Everything he’s done, he’s done it well. When you kind of do it as a younger kid, it usually kind of paves the way for a pretty good career. To have someone that’s really good and is African-American, it will be real valuable for the sport.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 June 2012 12:23
Category: Top News Written by Michigan Chronicle
The racial and ethnic diversity of juries in the region will be the focus of an upcoming community forum featuring senior members of the Justice System in the Eastern District of Michigan, U.S. Attorney Barbara L. McQuade announced on June 4.
The forum, titled “Inclusion and the Justice System: Why Jury Diversity Matters,” is open to the public and will take place Wednesday, June 27, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Wayne County Community College District (WCCCD), Downtown Campus, in the Multipurpose Room 236, hosted by the WCCCD Global Conversation Speaker Series.
The forum panel, which will be moderated by Bankole Thompson, editor of the Michigan Chronicle, will feature Chief Federal Judge Gerald Rosen of the U.S. District Court, Federal Judges Victoria Roberts and Denise Page Hood, U.S. Attorney McQuade, Chief Federal Defender Miriam Siefer and attorney and Rev. Bertram Marks of First Community Baptist Church, who is a member of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. The session will include a period for questions and answers from the public. A reception will follow immediately after the forum.
The purpose of the forum is to educate citizens about the challenges and strategies in the Eastern District of Michigan to seat juries that represent the broad spectrum of citizens of the district.
Because racial and ethnic minorities have been historically underrepresented as jurors in trials held in federal and state courts in Southeast Michigan, Chief Judge Rosen formed a committee, led by Judge Denise Page Hood and Judge Victoria Roberts, to explore new ways to increase minority participation. The committee’s work has been documented in a report which includes recommendations to achieve a more diverse pool of jurors.
“Diverse representation on juries is important to public confidence in the criminal justice system,” McQuade said.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 June 2012 11:15
Category: Top News Written by Bankole Thompson
Churches are key to saving young Black males
The Rev. Marvin Winans’ remark, “I refuse to be afraid of us,” in the wake of the robbery attack on him by four young Black men at a neighborhood gas station on Linwood and Davison, carries a moral truth.
is a statement deeply rooted in the belief that we cannot throw our children away or become prisoners in our own communities, afraid to go out because young Black males have become tigers in the hood, on the prowl for their next victims.
I refuse to accept the notion that there is nothing else we can do, and that the solution is to dump Detroit and move out as quickly as you can. While such reasoning is politically expedient and the common sense thing to do in a state of fear, it is not the answer to the growing socioeconomic ills facing our community. It is not the answer to halt the violence in our town.
To conclude that the best way to deal with the escalating violence in Detroit is to move out of the city is a defeatist attitude grounded in a weak notion that, in fact, we can no longer be problem solvers. Therefore, we should run away from the problem.
What happened to our resilient spirit?
The carjacking of Rev. Winans, a prominent Detroit minister and nationally celebrated gospel singer who was driving with a suspended license, provides a context for our men and women of the clergy to be engaged in tackling the despicable acts of crime in this city.
Just as many were concerned about Winans and his well-being in the aftermath of the carjacking, we should all be equally concerned about the escalating crime rate in our city, and the senseless taking of lives.
We should be concerned about the young woman who was raped in view of her child in broad daylight on Detroit’s west side.
Children and adults are dying in horrific numbers, and the perpetrators of the crimes are usually young Black men.
The young men who attacked Rev. Winans did not know who their victim was, despite his being a prominent figure, seen often on television and in the print media. It says something much deeper: how out of touch they are with the real world outside of their own underworld of violence and mayhem.
If those young men had been properly steered on a right, productive path they would not have become carjackers.
If properly brought up in a nurturing environment and having the self-confidence to know they can be whoever they choose to be, they would not be lured into a world of crime and drugs.
Yes, they must bear personal responsibility, but as a community we also bear responsibility. Churches in particular cannot sit on the sidelines, claiming that parents have all of the responsibility.
What happened to the communal spirit that made each of us responsible for the other? Our brother’s keeper.
What happened to the church that was once the center of our life and thus took a prominent role in the well-being of our children – the future leaders?
Truth be told, Rev. Winans’ attack brought the violent crime in Detroit to the doorstep of the church, and has prompted many in the clergy to call for some kind of action, and knowing that they could be the next victim.
The church has long been the center of transformation and at this crucial time cannot ignore its role in the community. The engagement has to reflect a broader embrace of children who are often treated as outcasts. They need not be.
The interest has to go beyond church members focusing on their own well-being. After all, the church’s Biblical mandate is to go in search of the lost, not the saved.
We have lost young Black males walking down the streets like lions looking for someone to devour. They need to be saved and mentored into understanding that they have great potential, they need not rob, sell drugs or kill.
If their homes did not remind or inculcate in them that sense of personal responsibility, the church can help them develop a clear path to the future. Because the Black church historically has been the guiding light for our communities.
If there was ever a time for the church to demonstrate its power, it is now when Black children are dying and adults are being killed by their own children.
To be commended are the group of clergy members, including Bishop Edgar Vann, as well as members of the law enforcement community and other leaders who last week launched an initiative called Detroit Night Walk to fight crime.
We can create change and help those young Black males trapped at the crossroads of drug dealing and carjacking. I believe that we can transform young Black males who believe they have no alternatives and no future.
In the words of the hip-hop icon and street poet Tupac Shakur, we can make these young Black males “the rose that grew from concrete,” because by virtue of being a Black male they already live under the heavy weight of stereotypes just as we saw in the Trayvon Martin case.
Our young Black males — and anyone who is raising a Black boy is aware of this reality — are already facing an image battle, and many of them are holding our community hostage.
The church can liberate the hostage taker and the hostages.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 May 2012 12:10
Category: Top News Written by Tom Watkins
The annual watering hole gathering of Michigan’s top civic, business, labor, education, government, political and foundation leaders is set to begin.
This three-day event, The Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference, draws up to 1,500 of Michigan’s “movers and shakers.”
Beginning Tuesday, they will eat, drink and mingle on the world’s largest porch at the Grand Hotel to gab about the state’s problems and opportunities. There is no shortage of either.
Will this year be different, or will the confab once again be an annual “pogo stick convention”? Will this be yet another gathering of well-intended people where lots of jumping up and down occurs without any real forward movement?
The event is well organized and features great speakers with a solid agenda. The leaders, Sandy Baruah, president of the Chamber, and conference chair Nancy M. Schlichting, CEO of Henry Ford Health System (winner of the 2011 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award), are extremely able and talented people.
A year’s worth of networking with influential decision makers can be accomplished in three short days on the island. But shouldn’t successful business performance be measured by results rather than by jibber-jabber, schmoozing and socializing?
The theme song from past Mackinac Policy Conferences should be borrowed from country sensation Toby Keith’s CD, “Whole lotta talk ... not much action.”
Since 1981, our top leaders have been gathering on the island of horses and fudge, but to what end? What has been accomplished?
This is not a slam at the Detroit Regional Chamber, which is to be commended for creating a forum for discussion of issues impacting Michigan. Everyone who attends, however, needs to pull out a mirror and take a look — everyone shares the blame for the lack of tangible results.
If government, education and the nonprofit human services community had hosted this 31-year gathering, the business community would be quick with their ridicule and scorn for the lack of results.
Results should matter! Or are we in a collective state of denial?
Michigan has a historical, almost cultural unwillingness to say that the “emperor has no clothes.” Through the years, we have been either unwilling or unable to take on many real problems and to demand real solutions.
Gov. Rick Snyder started off strong in his desire to “reinvent” Michigan. Will he keep the reinvent Michigan pedal to the metal?
We need to stop pretending and worrying about offending. We need bold leadership, courageous action and positive results. Michigan must adapt to the 21st century global economy through innovation and collaboration in order to succeed.
Fareed Zakaria, CNN contributor, and Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times columnist, will be “keynoters” at the conference. They may want to remind the audience that while we dither, the world is moving forward. Michigan is two peninsulas — not an island.
I hope to see “relentless positive action” resulting from the 2012 Mackinac Policy Conference. In the absence of that, I hope attendees at least enjoy the fudge. No pun intended, my favorite is Rocky Road.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 12:31
Category: Top News Written by Phil Power
Travel often gives you new ways of looking at things … and that is certainly true of travel to China. My wife Kathy and I just got back from visiting our son, who lives and works in Shanghai.
We were there for 10 days, and it’s good to be home. But even through the fog of jet lag, the trip gave us plenty to think about.
And the main thing that hit me is what the Chinese are doing with their infrastructure. The trains are amazing. Our run from Beijing to Shanghai ran silently at a posted 303 kilometers an hour (that’s 187 miles per hour!) on an absolutely smooth rail bed.
Seats felt like the first class section of an airplane, with attendants bringing lunch and good views from wide windows.
The roads were wonders to behold, especially in Beijing, where virtually every one had trees, flowering roses and shrubs planted alongside, all well maintained and weeded. The expressways were well designed and in good shape. Traffic congestion in the cities was worse than anything we see here -- which isn‘t surprising, since automobile ownership in China is growing at an enormous rate.
The contrast with what we have here at home could not have been more striking. We’ve basically strangled our railroad system.
Sadly, we get delighted at news that the rail line between Detroit and Chicago will be improved enough to run at 60 mph. And, as anybody who drives in Michigan knows, our roads are still a mess.
So what’s going on here?
Naturally, we need to consider that it’s easy for the Chinese to build roads and railroads: The government doesn’t have to worry about private ownership or public opinion. It controls all the land, and ordinary people don’t have much say in an authoritarian regime.
China also has lots of cash to invest in their infrastructure -- which, sadly, isn‘t the case with us anymore. And when you have a dictatorship as they do, it isn’t hard to make serious political decisions and get them done quickly. Meanwhile, America’s politics are so gummed up these days that it’s hard to get anything done.
Part of the problem, clearly, is that our system is set up so that many varied interest groups are so deeply embedded in the political system that they can veto just about anything they don’t like.
Think Ambassador Bridge owner “Matty” Moroun and his so-far successful efforts to prevent building the New International Trade Crossing over the Detroit River, a bridge virtually everyone else in the business community says is vitally necessary. Think Detroit, where politics and unions are hobbling efforts to implement the consent agreement that might save the city’s finances.
By contrast, one of the remarkable successes of America’s private sector is how in recent years the processes of “creative destruction” have weeded out the inefficient and ineffective.
Whether working through hedge funds and private equity groups (think Domino’s Pizza) or the workings of the bankruptcy laws, American companies as a whole today are far more productive, efficient and profitable than they were just a decade ago.
Why hasn’t something like this happened in the public sector, where things like transportation infrastructure, health care and education are far too ineffective, bloated and unproductive?
One answer: Such activities have been sheltered for years from the bracing winds of competition by government preference and support. So, argue many, take away their sheltered monopoly status.
For example, to force public schools to improve, create competing charters. Those on the right usually want to do away with as much government as possible. That may be a valuable instinct, but taken too far, it runs the risk of throwing out the public interest baby with the monopolistic bath water.
Short-changing our schools and universities, for example, hasn’t seemed to make our people better educated.
Meanwhile, those on the left resist meddling with government-protected sectors, because they fear damaging society’s safety nets. But without the kinds of far-reaching changes that have so improved America’s corporate sector over the past decade, we could easily continue to spend more and more -- while achieving less and less.
To me, it seems clear that a more fruitful approach would be to identify and attack those interests embedded in the system that hold veto power over efforts to change things. In the case of schools, look to the unions. In the case of public transport, look to the veto power of public sector unions like Amalgamated Transit Union Local 312 and AFSCME Local 36. They represent the Detroit bus system’s drivers and mechanics and have held up efforts to create an efficient region-wide bus system. In the case of health care, look to the enormous market power of the big drug and insurance companies.
Don‘t expect hospitals to be change agents either; they pretty much like things the way they are.
How do we get past all this? What we need to do is identify and sideline those special interests that have veto power against changes to the workings of our public sector institutions. That approach, neither Chinese authoritarianism nor left-wing protectionism, seems most likely to offer an effective policy route to change.
The kind of badly needed change, that is, that Michigan needs to compete for jobs and prosperity in the future.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 12:21
Category: Top News Written by Carol Cain
Healthcare is the fastest growing job sector in Michigan with nearly 600,000 people employed in it. That’s why leaders and communities in metro Detroit and state are rolling out the welcome mat with facilities, programs and services.
Add in aging baby boomers — the fastest growing demographic — and that graying is worth an awful lot of green — as in dollars.
The Michigan Health and Hospital Association in 2011 published a study showing how profoundly the healthcare industry affects Michigan’s economy. The study showed health care directly employs more than 546,000 Michigan residents.
These employees earn more than $30 billion in wages, salaries and benefits, and pay $6.6 billion in federal, state and local taxes that help support other community needs, like public safety and schools. Michigan hospitals employ more than 219,000 people.
“Healthcare is vital to creating a healthy economy and a healthy state,” said Nancy Schlichting, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System, who also serves as chair of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s 2012 Policy Conference.
“Quality healthcare is a major factor for businesses considering relocation to a state, and is essential to reducing costs and creating more value for purchasers (employers and government),” Schlichting added.
Others note that healthcare has been the one area that gained jobs during the depression-like conditions following the 2008 global economic meltdown.
“Healthcare has been one of the few bright spots in adding jobs,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano. “With our world class universities, hospitals and research and development skills we have all the right stuff to make Michigan a top destination for medical tourism, too.”
Economic experts point to Michigan’s history of research and development as well as its leading universities to help it in the bid for medical dollars and business that can grow jobs and make communities stronger.
“Life sciences is a real bright spot for Michigan, especially in Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, and Kent counties,” said Patrick Anderson, founder of the Anderson Economic Group.
The economic potential of health and medical care was demonstrated in Michigan at least as far back as the famous Battle Creek Sanitarium in the 1800’s, Anderson pointed out.
“However, because the auto industry was so dominant in Michigan in recent decades, other industries were often ignored,” he said.
Indeed, what we now call “life sciences” has been a big industry in Michigan for many decades. Michigan pharmaceutical companies like Parke-Davis and Upjohn pioneered the industry, and Dow has produced medical devices.
“Only in the last decade or so have we really started counting life sciences properly. I was surprised to the scale of the industry several years ago, and I am certain it has a bright future in our state,” Anderson said.,
“The connection with the research universities is critical to the research and development dollars that have kept flowing into the state even during the recession. That’s one reason that wages in the life sciences often exceed $90,000 per year, and were growing even while most of the economy was contracting a few years.”
Michigan has 146 hospitals, some with national and international reputations for research and breakthrough medical services.
“The Michigan Hospital Association’s recent report shows healthcare has been one of the stabilizing factors through the recent years of financial stress,” said Patricia Maryland, Dr. PH, president and CEO of St. John Providence Health System.
“At St. John Providence Health System we have an annual payroll of approximately $877 million,” Dr. Maryland explained.
St. John Providence Health System includes five hospitals and more than 125 medical facilities in Southeast Michigan. It provides services such as heart, cancer, obstetrics, neurosciences, orthopedics, physical rehabilitation, behavioral medicine, surgery, emergency and urgent care.
“SJPHS has a long-time strong commitment to Detroit as well as all of Southeast Michigan,” Dr, Maryland said. “Our flagship hospital — St. John Hospital and Medical Center — is located in Detroit and has served the community for 60 years. SJPHS invested $162 million in construction there of a new patient tower and doubled the size of the Emergency Department in 2007.”
With people in Michigan living longer — including those with disabilities — the demand for long-term care is growing, which is placing tremendous financial pressure on state Medicare/Medicaid budgets.
Community Living Services (CLS), a nonprofit based in Wayne that focuses on keeping people out of long-term care facilities and at home as long as possible, is one of the largest providers in Michigan.
CLS serves Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.
“It is more than simply not institutionalizing people, it is about having and supporting a quality life in their community,” said Jim Dehem, CEO of Community Living Services.
“There is a growing need and will be going forward for healthcare workers trained for these jobs,” Dehem added.
Across the state, numerous entities are trying to stay ahead of the growing needs of healthcare. Following are a few.
Henry Ford Health System’s growing girth
Detroit-based Henry Ford Health System is one of the country’s largest and most comprehensive integrated healthcare systems.
It’s made up of the 1,200-member Henry Ford Medical Group, five hospitals, Health Alliance Plan (a health insurance/wellness company), Henry Ford Physician Network, a 150-site ambulatory network and many other health-related entities throughout Southeast Michigan.
Henry Ford Health System directly and indirectly supports more than 37,500 jobs and the system’s total impact on Michigan’s economy was more than $5.8 billion in 2010.
With more than 23,000 employees, Henry Ford is the largest provider of healthcare services in Michigan.
“Healthcare organizations have also become one of the major employers in cities and states across the country and contribute significant positive economic activity to companies that do business with them,” said CEO Schlichting.
Henry Ford also aggressively pursued economic development opportunities in Detroit, including plans to develop 300 acres of land adjacent to Henry Ford Hospital with more details to be announced in coming weeks. It also has collaborated with Wayne State University and Detroit Medical Center to revitalize Midtown through LiveMidtown.
BCBSM Eyes Urban Centers
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is taking an aggressive stance in Michigan as it has concentrated its workforce in downtown Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.
Many are still surprised to hear BCBSM — a not-for-profit insurance provider with almost five million customers — has 8,000 employees in the state and an economic impact of $22 billion.
That ranks it behind only General Motors and Ford Motor Company in revenue.
Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO of BCBSM, said it will complete its moves of an additional 3,000 workers from its suburban locations to downtown Detroit in June.
As part of that commitment, the Blues signed a 15-year lease to rent space in the 500 and 600 Towers of the riverfront GM Renaissance Center, which you can see from the window of Loepp’s downtown Detroit office.
BCBSM also completed a top-to-bottom renovation of an old power station in downtown Lansing last year as it turned the long-vacant facility on the Grand River into a modern new headquarters for its Accident Fund Holdings insurance subsidiary.
And in 2003, the Blues transformed the former Steketee’s department store in Grand Rapids into its West Michigan headquarters, a move that has helped gain clients, including furniture maker Haworth, just a month ago.
“We are proud to be part of the industry leading the way to improving Michigan’s economic strength and stability,” said Loepp, who grew up on Detroit’s east side.
“The impacts of the jobs and wages, not to mention tax revenue, ripple through the state in a very positive way, providing good news even during times when other parts of the economy have struggled.”
Perhaps nowhere in the state has a community rallied together so uniquely to market itself as in Grand Rapids, which is gaining international notice with its Medical Mile.
It is an effort started a few decades ago by well-known names of families like Van Andel, DeVos, Meijer and Secchia.
It has grown into an impressive billion-dollar- plus development of medical and research facilities nestled in downtown Grand Rapids along Michigan Avenue.
Medical Mile includes the Van Andel Research Institute, Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Hospital complex, Michigan State University’s Secchia Center Medical School, Meijer Heart Center, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and more.
Construction has been so rampant that the building crane is joked about by some as the official bird of Grand Rapids.
It’s about economic development and providing world-class healthcare and R&D.
David Van Andel, son of the late Jay and Betty Van Andel, is chairman and CEO of the Van Andel Institute. (Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos co-founded Amway, the global direct selling giant over 50 years ago. Mr. DeVos is on Amway’s board.)
It was Van Andel’s parents’ dream to have a world-class medical research facility that David worked to make happen.
The Van Andel Institute was founded in 1996 to do biomedical research in life sciences with a focus on cancer and Parkinson’s disease.
“West Michigan has a lot going for it in the competition with established and emerging life science industries, both in the United States and abroad,” said Van Andel.
“Strong and crucial relationships have been established between independent research institutes, universities and colleges, and clinical organizations, which can create partnerships critical for grant funding and large-scale clinical trials.”
He referenced the region’s R&D prowess as helping build a stronger future.
“A history of manufacturing, research and development, and technological expertise also makes the region a natural for investment and start-ups in the medical device industry,” Van Andel said.
Oakland’s Medical Main Street
When Southeast Michigan’s economy was tanking a decade ago and manufacturing jobs were leaving in droves, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson decided diversification was the solution.
He came up with an action plan he called Emerging Sectors that looked to grow jobs in 10 sectors, and recognized the medical sector as the most promising on his list.
As a result, the county created its Medical Main Street initiative to foster business growth, which has led to more than $831 million in investments and 4,504 jobs.
More important, it is helping the region as it continues to build its reputation as a world-class destination for medical service.
“My goal was to bring together the disparate assets, create an awareness that over the last 15 to 20 years Oakland County had indeed become a center for excellence in healthcare, and that it was only a matter of time before Medical Main Street and Oakland County could challenge the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic for top honors – and we are well on our way,” Patterson said.
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2012 03:21
Category: Top News Written by Patrick Keating
Gov. Rick Snyder is attending the Mackinac Policy Conference for the second time this year. Prior to last year’s conference, he said one of the themes he wanted to see was “people coming together in the new culture we need for our state.” Asked to what degree people have come together, he said there has been progress.
“It’s a work in progress, so it’s not done,” Snyder said. “You don’t change a culture overnight, but I think we’ve made tremendous progress.”
He pointed out that people are working better together, and that the jobs environment has improved dramatically since last year.
He also noted that a number of things discussed last year have been accomplished.
“And now we’re going to continue that dialogue,” he said. “I hope both on working on the cultural issue of better teamwork, working better together, and continuing to work on the same subject matter, which is the need for more and better jobs, and a brighter future for our kids.”
As to the state’s relationship with Detroit, Snyder said his administration has been very proactive about wanting to engage the city in a positive, constructive and supportive way.
His goal, he noted, isn’t to run Detroit, but to be a supporting resource.
Snyder also said he hopes there’s an environment in place to create that working relationship to provide additional supporting resources, particularly on growing the city.
“To grow the city, we need to deal with better financial stability, and we need better services for the citizens of Detroit,” he said.
Asked if he’s ever taken a drive through a random neighborhood, and if so what his assessment was, Snyder said he does things like that on a regular basis. and that he acknowledges that there’s tremendous room for improvement.
“One thing I try to do when we’re in the Detroit area is get off the freeways just drive around,” he said.
Snyder was at a recent No Kid Hungry campaign at Gompers Elementary School. He called it “an illustration of a really nice school” where the kids were excited, but also noted that there were four abandoned homes across the street.
“That’s not the kind of environment you want to have,” he said, adding that such a dichotomy clearly shows there are things that must be improved on.
Last September, a partnership between the state and the Council of Michigan Foundations led to the creation of the Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives, which is based in Detroit. The office is overseen by Harvey Hollins III, whom Snyder called an important asset.
Snyder also said there will be an urban-focused dashboard at some point.
Returning to the subject of the Mackinac conference, Snyder said he wants to emphasize two major things he believes are adding value. The first is Pure Michigan Business Connect.
“Which is that concept of getting Michigan businesses to work more and better with one another,” he said, adding that we’ve already seen great success, particularly with Consumer’s Energy and DTE, as well as with a number of large lenders.
“We’re seeing good results from that, but I want to see many companies and organizations belong,” he said.
“The other one is MI talent.Org, our essentially Pure Michigan Talent Connect equivalent,” Snyder said. “Because we’ve got 80,000 open jobs in our state. And how do we get people connected with these jobs? Because these are great jobs, a lot of them are. And then how do we get more employers telling about their future employment needs?”
He prefers terms like “connecting talent” over “workforce development,” saying it’s more about talent and connecting supply and demand.
“We can do a much better job,” he said.
With respect to the outsider’s impression of Michigan, Snyder, who has traveled around the world, said it’s improving.
“Generally, it’s pretty positive,” he said. “I don’t get a lot of negative feedback, even on some of the Detroit issues.”
Snyder said Michigan has good things to build on; the state just needs to show results.
He reiterated the importance of getting Michiganders to do better business with one another.
“Lowest labor cost is not the driver,” he said. “It’s total cost to quality, and we’re high quality producers here.”
He also plans to stay on the talent question for the next several years.
“It’s just a great opportunity,” he said. “I don’t think anyone does it well in our country, in terms of making that connection.”
He said Germany provides the best illustration of how it’s done well.
“They do really well because they’ve built this program, you know this way of getting people into apprenticeships and other programs,” he said. “Skilled trades is a huge opportunity.”
Snyder added that while Michigan isn’t going to be just like Germany, one can see how the Germans were thoughtful and brought all the sectors together.
He emphasized, however, that the solution isn’t government solving problems.
“It’s government being part of a collaborative effort with the for-profit sector, the not-for-profit sector, everyone coming together and us playing a leadership role,” he said. “But it’s not just about spending money. It’s about bringing us together as a team, working together with relentless positive action.”
Snyder added that it’s working.
He said Germans he’s talked to understand what he’s doing for Michigan as opposed to the U.S.
“All I have to do is go through the list of accomplishments,” he said. “We are the role model.”
He added that Michigan has an appealing environment.
“And more than that, we’ve got people working much better together,” he said. “That’s where I view our opportunity here in Detroit. To get Detroit on the path of being a great city. Think about the power of Michigan with Detroit being on a path for success.”
The governor also spoke about the importance of making library services — especially those delivered via technology — available to all.
“Access to intellectual capital is the real question behind all this,” he said.
Snyder acknowledged the many services libraries provide, which in addition to lending out books, magazines, CDs and DVDs, includes computer and Internet access, a plethora of reference materials, and resources for job hunting — some of which are available through online access, and said making access easier for young people will get them engaged in reading and learning more.
Snyder discussed regional transportation, but said he’d like to take it off the Mackinac conference’s “recurring list.”
“We’re not done with that yet,” Snyder said. “We’ve got it in the legislature, so it’s in process. In a perfect world, we would have had that done.”
Asked how close we are to having a regional transportation system within the next five years, Snyder said he believes we’re making progress.
“I think we just have to go through the normal legislative process, and you run into challenges there,” he said.
With respect to the future of Detroit, Snyder said the city needs to go back to doing what it does best — making thing and exporting goods.
“The ‘imported from Detroit’ line is a fabulous visual for where the city’s going,” he said.
Snyder also said it’s about making Detroit a magnet for young people, and that the neighborhoods have to be part of the equation.
For decades, Detroit has been defined by the auto industry. Snyder said the industry remains very important, and is on a parallel path with the state in many respects.
“There’s a symbiotic relationship,” he said. “So it’s not two separate tracks, it’s like they’re interwoven.”
Last Updated on Thursday, 24 May 2012 03:09
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