Business group cites progress on goals to boost Detroit regional economy

Posted on December 14, 2011

Business Leaders for Michigan, the state’s corporate leadership group, said Monday that its five-year-old effort to rejuvenate the regional economy, known as Road to Renaissance, had achieved five of its six goals.

The only goal missed was the creation of a transportation innovation center, a sort of super research incubator for transportation research and development, which failed to become a reality because of the lack of government subsidies.

But the group said in its final report on Road to Renaissance that five other goals were met. Launched in 2006, the Road to Renaissance helped connect efforts from a wide variety of business, civic, academic and nonprofit organizations. Many of the initiatives envisioned operate with various partners overseeing them.

“This effort has had stunning levels of involvement, complexity and reach,” said Doug Rothwell, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan.

“Countless hours, people and significant amounts of energy were dedicated to growing our economy in Greater Detroit.”

Among the specific progress points cited in the final report:

Aerotropolis. A Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corp. (ADC), composed of nine stakeholder governmental units, the Airport Authority and some private organizations, has been created, and legislation to provide incentives to locate within the Aerotropolis zone passed in 2010.

Creative economy. Virtual operations of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center (DC3) Business Accelerator launched in 2010, and the physical Acceleration Studio opened in summer 2011 in the Taubman Center of the College for Creative Studies in New Center.

Incubators. A new business accelerator, or incubator, opened recently in Macomb County, joining Ann Arbor SPARK, TechTown at Wayne State University and others that have grown significantly in recent years to offer counseling and other services to start-up entrepreneurs.

The News Hub. Business Leaders for Michigan launched the Detroit Regional News Hub to promote positive stories about the region.

Grow talent. The various partners in Road to Renaissance have focused on a number of educational initiatives to help prepare students for technical and entrepreneurial careers. Clearly, the regional economy needs to make more progress. But Rothwell said hitting five of the six Road to Renaissance objectives laid a foundation for the future.

“By taking time up-front to identify our areas of strength and opportunity, we are able to know with certainty which assets and resources our region can most readily capitalize upon,” Rothwell said. “With that solid base, our footing is more certain as we move into the future.”

He added, “You never declare total victory with these things. It’s an ongoing effort.”