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Creating 21st Century Communities – September 21-24, 2010 – Hyatt Regency, Dearborn

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This year we’re bringing in high-energy, passionate presenters to create a fast-paced, intense and exciting experience based around the eight assets. We’ll combine the best that national experts offer with our own local success stories from around the state to deliver dynamic, to-the-point presentations followed by break-out discussions.

Scroll down the page to read more about:

Brian Balasia - CEO, Digerati (Entrepreneurship, Sept. 22)
Robert Bobb - Emergency Financial Manager, Detroit Public Schools (Education, Sept. 23)
Yohannes Hailu - Asst. Professor and Assc. Director of the Land Policy Institute (Multiculturalism breakout, Sept. 23)
Jack Hess - President, Columbus, IN Chamber of Commerce (Cultural Economic Development, Sept. 22)
Peter Kageyama
- Founder, Creative Cities Summit (Messaging & Technology, Sept. 23)
Jacky and Dora King - Founders, Harvesting Earth Educational Farm (Green Initiatives, Sept. 22 )
James Howard Kunstler - author, urban planner (Physical Design & Walkability, Sept. 22)
Alan Mulally - President and CEO, Ford Motor Company (Welcoming General Session, Sept. 21)
Steve Tobocman (Multiculturalism, Sept. 23)
Susan Zielinski - Managing Director, University of Michigan SMART Program (Transit, Sept. 23)

More information on our speakers will be added here as it becomes available.


Brian Balasia balasia

Brian Balasia, president and CEO of Digerati, Inc., is recognized as an expert in business process engineering.  As a sophomore at the University of Michigan, Balasia and classmate Joe Klecha co-founded Digerati Inc., a company that develops individually tailored electronic records systems for medical practices and institutions. 

Today, the Detroit-based company works with clients in a wide range of industry sectors to evaluate business processes, human resources, and technology systems, in turn creating streamlined operations and driving tangible returns.
Balasia also is the founder and president of The MORE Program, (Matching Opportunities and Resources for Entrepreneurs), which facilitates connections between entrepreneurs, emerging businesses and the state’s universities. 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Commerce selected The MORE Program to develop the Statewide Entrepreneurship Support System (SESS), a system designed to help expand successful entrepreneurship in the state.  It will refine the way entrepreneurs find the assistance they need regardless of their location or circumstances and will streamline the process, remove the confusion, and provide a clear, logical approach to seeking, finding and accessing information, support and funding.


Robert Bobb

Robert Bobb has been the emergency financial manager for the of the 87,000-student Detroit Public Schools since March 2, 2009. This year’s League Convention focuses on the eight assets that make for vibrant communities as identified in the League’s Center for 21st Century Communities initiative. Bobb’s presentation is related to the 21c3’s education asset.

Mr. Bobb assembled a team of national turnaround experts to address the district’s legacy deficit which was projected to peak at $305.8 million by June 2009, and to create for the school district a Master Education Plan for 21st Century Teaching and Learning; plans for Safe and Secure Learning Environments; Facilities; and Parent and Community Involvement; as well as a Master Long-term Financial Plan. Immediate establishment of an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) began a path to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse, and creation of an internal Office of Internal Audit assured that internal controls are in place. The OIG efforts resulted in 218 cases opened from 281 tips received, referral of 15 cases to federal and state prosecutors, four criminal prosecutions, 19 disciplinary hearings, termination of 9 employees, and identification of 17 computer theft suspects. Detroit Public Schools also addressed 89 percent of the previous problematic audit findings. Academic restructuring resulted in new assignments for 37 of the district's principals, nonrenewal of contracts for 44 others, and restructuring of 40 Detroit Public Schools including 22 of the district’s high schools. Nineteen of 42 high schools opened in Fall 2009 with new principals.

Mr. Bobb holds more than 30 years executive management experience in both the private and public sectors. He is the owner, President and CEO of the LAPA Group, LLC, a multi-faceted private/public sector consulting firm. He was elected city-wide as the President of the Washington, DC Board of Education in November 2006. Mr. Bobb is the former City Administrator and Deputy Mayor for Washington, D.C. and served as the District of Columbia’s Homeland Security Advisor. He managed a workforce of approximately 20,000 employees and an annual budget of $8 billion dollars. He served as the City Manager of Oakland, California and Executive Director of the Oakland Redevelopment Agency, City Manager of Richmond, Virginia, City Manager of Santa Ana, California, and City Manager of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Mr. Bobb holds the distinction of having served on a continuous basis as the longest tenured African-American City Manager/City Administrator in the nation. He is an expert on the issues facing urban government in the realms of education, economic development, community and neighborhood development, municipal budgeting and finances, contract negotiations, public/private partnerships of sports franchises, libraries and recreation facilities, and social problems such as crime and grime.


hailuYohannes G. Hailu

Dr. Hailu actively engages in public policy analysis and decision supports, particularly in community and regional economic development. He leads a policy research program that aims to enhance strategic decision making in economic development. As Associate Director of Policy Research at the Land Policy Institute of Michigan State University, he has co-led numerous policy studies in urban and regional development, regional prosperity, place policy in the “new economy” and land use policy. Many of these works have informed policy choices in Michigan.

As a dedicated land grant university scholar, Dr. Hailu promotes the use of economic science in informing policy choices. At the conference, he will discuss about the economics of multiculturalism, and why inclusiveness and diversity matter to community economic development. Based on three nationwide studies (sources of economic development at the local level, the structure of fast growth and place differences in effectiveness of growth strategies), Dr. Hailu will provide evidence-based discussion on the roles of multiculturalism in building 21st century communities.  

Dr. Hailu is the recipient of numerous research and service awards, including the Thomas F. Torries award for research excellence. He is regularly invited to speak in numerous professional associations and policy organizations on economic development policies and strategies in the “new economy.”


Jack Hess

Jack Hess is president of the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, IN. Under Hess' leadership, the Columbus Chamber is working to reinvent itself, by transforming from a conventional business membership organization to a collaborative, high-tech, knowledge-intense organization which builds on "the power of place" to create and foster a regional business climate while fostering a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Columbus, IN is currently ranked in the top 100 "Best Places to Live and Launch" a business by Fortune Small Business Magazine. The Columbus Chamber was awarded the 2009 Chamber of the year Award by the Indiana Chamber Executives' Association (ICEA).

The city also won the highly competitive 2006 America in Bloom national competition in its population category, for its excellence in heritage, urban forestry and floral displays, and was chosen the "Best of the Best" for landscape design.


Peter Kageyama

Peter Kageyama is a partner with Creative Cities Productions (formerly Sextant Marketing Group) and the founder of the Creative Cities Summit, a multi-disciplinary conference on the issues cities face in the 21st century.

Peter has spoken to communities around the world, from Spain to Kansas City. His consulting and development services for the Creative Economy focus on entrepreneurs, cities, arts and cultural organizations, and technologies that impact the quality of life.

Peter works internationally on projects that have positive economic, social, cultural and environmental outcomes. He is also a certified innovation coach who specializes in helping communities become more innovative. A former attorney, technology entrepreneur and professional dancer, Peter now produces events and video content and is a frequent speaker at events all over the world. He is based in St. Petersburg, Florida but is a Midwesterner at heart, originally from Akron, Ohio.


Jacky and Dora King

Jacky and Dora King operate King Karate in Flint, Michigan and the Youth Karate-Ka Association, which provides a place for at-risk youth to be educated and trained in the martial arts. The couple also are among the founders and driving forces of the Flint area's urban agriculture movement.

The Kings founded Harvesting Earth Educational Farm in Beecher, just north of Flint in Genesee and Mt. Morris townships. Students from their Karate school work on the urban farm to learn life-lessons and the importance of healthy eating and giving back to their community. Jacky is an 8th degree black belt Karate instructor who, along with his wife, Dora, a 6th degree black belt Karate instructor, started the Harvesting Earth Educational Farm in 2006. With the help of volunteers and their Karate students the urban farm now covers 13 formerly vacant city lots, and includes a hoop house that extends the growing season. Their work in Flint in using urban gardening to help instruct their Karate students has gained national media attention. Michigan State University faculty and students are producing a documentary about the efforts to make Flint, Michigan, a healthier, greener community. The documentary will include footage from the work at the Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.

Joining the Kings at the convention session will be Erin Caudell, outreach program coordinator at the Ruth Mott Foundation in Flint. She’s also an education specialist and horticulturalist for the Ruth Mott Foundation and writes a biweekly gardening column in a local newspaper. She’s a leader in the urban gardening movement gaining momentum in communities throughout the nation. Erin has helped start numerous urban gardens in mid-Michigan and will give tips and advice on how your community can start an urban garden. Caudell will conduct this session along with Jacky and Dora King.

(Photo Courtesy of The Flint Journal)

James Howard Kunstler

Nationally known author, social critic, urban planning expert and journalist James Howard Kunstler will talk about his vision for a future beyond fossil fuels at the League's 112th Annual Convention taking place September 21-24 in Dearborn, Michigan. Go here to register.

The author of The Geography of Nowhere and Home from Nowhere, Kunstler has long been recognized as a fierce critic of suburban sprawl and the high costs associated with an automobile-centric culture. He has lectured extensively about urban design, energy issues and new economies for the TED Conference, the American Institute of Architects, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the National Association of Science and Technology and other professional organizations as well as at numerous colleges and universities, including Yale, MIT, Harvard, Cornell, University of Illinois, DePaul, Texas A & M, West Point, and Rutgers University among many others.

A seasoned journalist, he continues to write for The Atlantic Monthly,, The New York Times Sunday Magazine and the Op-Ed page where he writes about issues related to the environment, urban planning and the economy. His latest book, The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century (2005), expands on his past critiques of suburbia by exploring the sweeping economic, political and social changes that will result from the end of access to cheap fossil fuels and the impact this will have on the way we live, work, farm and build. In spring 2008 the Atlantic Monthly Press published Kunstler's tenth novel, World Made By Hand, a story set in America's post-oil future. The follow up, The Witch of Hebron, will be published this fall.


Alan Mulally

Alan Mulally is president and chief executive officer of Ford Motor Company. He also is a member of the company’s Board of Directors. On July 7, President Barack Obama announced that Mulally will serve on the President’s Export Council (PEC), advising the President on export enhancement and ways to encourage companies to increase exports and enter new markets. Ford believes that an export-driven strategy is critical to achieving economic growth, job creation and a sustainable future.

Prior to joining Ford in September 2006, Mulally served as executive vice president of The Boeing Company, and president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. In that role, he was responsible for all of the company’s commercial airplane programs and related services. Mulally also was a member of the Boeing Executive Council and served as Boeing’s senior executive in the Pacific Northwest. Mulally was named Boeing’s president of Commercial Airplanes in September 1998. The responsibility of chief executive officer for the business unit was added in March 2001.

Throughout his career, Mulally has been recognized for his contributions and industry leadership, including being named one of “The World’s Most Influential People” by TIME magazine in their 2009 “TIME 100” issue, “Person of the Year” for 2006 by Aviation Week magazine and one of “The Best Leaders of 2005” by BusinessWeek magazine.

Mulally previously served as co-chair of the Washington Competitiveness Council, and sat on the advisory boards of NASA, the University of Washington, the University of Kansas, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Air Force Scientific Advisory Board. He is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering and a fellow of England’s Royal Academy of Engineering.

He also served as a past president of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and is a former president of its Foundation. Additionally, Mulally served as a past chairman of the Board of Governors of the Aerospace Industries Association.


Steve Tobocman

Former House of Representatives Floor Leader Steve Tobocman will speak on multiculturalism as a dynamic force for change at the League's 112th Annual Convention taking place September 21-24 in Dearborn, Michigan. Go here to register.

Steve is managing partner at New Solutions Group, LLC and currently serves as the Co-Director of the Michigan Foreclosure Task Force, a 200-plus member statewide advocacy organization seeking to help Michigan respond to the foreclosure crisis. In addition, Steve is spearheading the Global Detroit study for the New Economy Initiative and Detroit Regional Chamber, looking at how southeastern Michigan can utilize foreign-born talent and global connections to expand the economy.

In 1998, Steve conceived of, created, and served as the executive director of Community Legal Resources, a business law pro bono program to provide free legal services to nonprofit organizations serving low-income communities across Michigan. Community Legal Resources was selected as one of the five leading nonprofit legal services programs in the nation by Power of Attorney in 2001 and Steve was honored with the American Bar Association’s Business Law Public Service Award in 2002.

In 2002, Steve became the first person to unseat an incumbent member of the House of Representatives in Michigan since term limits were adopted in the mid-1990s. He served in the Michigan House for three consecutive, two-year terms (the maximum allowed under Michigan’s term limits laws.) He was elected Majority Floor Leader, the second-highest position in the Michigan House, during his third term. He is author of 24 public acts and an important contributor to such initiatives as legislation authorizing Michigan land banks and a statewide housing and community development fund. He played key roles in one of the nation’s toughest immigrant consumer protection laws, rewrote blight laws and helped strengthen protections for low-income tenants against eminent domain.

Susan Zielinski

Susan Zielinski, Managing Director of the University of Michigan SMART Program, will discuss the “mobility challenge” and the five themes for building sustainable transportation systems now and into the future. Susan is the keynote speaker for Thursday morning's general session, and will also lead a breakout session on transit during the Michigan Municipal League’s 112th Annual Convention, Sept. 21-24 in Dearborn.

Susan believes our cities are on the verge of evolving into a New Mobility, a transformative concept sparked by advances including new fuel and vehicle technologies, more flexible modes of transporation, innovative land use and urban design, new business models and new collaborative partnerships.

As a transportation planner for the City of Toronto, Susan worked for over 15 years developing and leading transportation and liveability policies and initiatives. She has advised on a range of local, national, and international initiatives. Susan joined the “Sustainable Mobility & Accessibility Research and Transformation" (SMART) program in 1994.  The program is a project of the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute and the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.  The SMART program undertakes research, demonstration projects, education and global learning exchange on a range of issues related to the future of transportation.

Susan was also a longtime board member of Canada’s Center for Sustainable Transportation and a founding board member of the Green Tourism Association.  Before joining SMART, Susan spent a year as a Harvard Loeb Fellow focusing on New Mobility innovation and leadership. Prior to 2004, she co-founded and directed Moving the Economy (MTE), a Canada-wide “link tank” that works to catalyze and support sustainable urban transportation innovation as well as New Mobility industry development, an integrated industry approach developed at MTE.




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