"If the outside of an apple is rotten you can simply peel it away and continue eating, but if the core is rotten you have to throw it away." Such was the analogy used by CEO's for Cities President and CEO Carol Coletta as she began a two-day session in Detroit which brought together leaders from across the country to discuss and assert the value and importance of core cities.
The most recent CEO's for Cities fall meeting, held in Detroit on November 8th and 9th, was summarily titled, "The Good Life Transformed, When Times Call for Radical Change". The event featured speakers from the private, public and philanthropic sectors discussed efforts being undertaken in Detroit and cities across the country to re-establish core cities.
Discussions and presentations centered around the importance of anchor institutions such as higher education and health care to revitalizing downtowns and core cities. In particular, the effort underway in Detroit's mid-town area bringing together Wayne State University, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center was highlighted.
The importance of philanthropic organizations such as foundations and their leadership role in such efforts is becoming more and more clear. The mid-town project is led by the Hudson-Webber and Kresge Foundations and the broader New Economy Initiative in Southeast Michigan is led by a large group of foundations that have contributed $100 million to transform the area's economy and workforce.
League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin was part of a closing discussion on the issue of regionalism and the importance of core cities to the region. The conclusion reached by the panel was clear, while economies are regional, all regions are anchored by a strong core city. Without a strong central city, the long-term economic strength of a entire region cannot be sustained.
Also participating in the event was the League's Sean Mann. Sean, who is the project manager for the League's "Let's Save Michigan" campaign discussed his involvement in the "Detroit Declaration" a local initiative led by Detroiters like Sean who are working together to create better neighborhoods and a better city.
Other good sessions included presentations from the Knight Foundation on its "Soul of the Community" program a recent nationwide survey done with Gallup to gain a better understanding of resident attachment to place. Look for more information on this and other highlights of the meeting in future posts.
Arnold Weinfeld is Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Michigan Municipal League. He can be reached at 517-908-0304 or by e-mail.