Jackson to leave DEGC, form private consulting firm

Jackson departing DEGC

George Jackson announced last week that he’ll be leaving DEGC at the end of March to
form his own Detroit-based private consulting and development firm. Needless to say, all
of us here at DEGC are very disappointed about losing such a dynamic leader and a
caring CEO, but we know how passionate he is about the city and look forward to
working with him “from the other side of table,” as he puts it.

George has been the president and CEO of DEGC since February 2002. Prior to that, he
worked for 27 years at DTE Energy, rising to the position of Director of Customer
Marketing.

During the announcement of his resignation, George said, “I had a tremendous run at
DEGC working with great companies here and from around the world, and solid partners
in the private and foundation communities. I look forward to working with great partners
as we continue to transform Detroit into a leader of innovative urban redevelopment.”

Among the accomplishments of DEGC under his leadership, George is most proud of the removal of the cement silos along the Detroit River and the transformation of the riverfront from industrial to mixed use. Now everyone enjoys recreational access to the river.

Some of the many other successes DEGC achieved during George’s tenure include:

• The restoration and reopening of the Book Cadillac as the Westin Book Cadillac
Hotel.
• Innovative programs and incentives that relocated Quicken Loans to Detroit,
consolidated operations of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan here and led to the
re-concentration of technology and creative companies in Downtown and
Midtown, bringing in well over 10,000 new employees.
• The opening of Whole Foods Market – the first national grocery chain to open in
Detroit in decades.
• The largest retail development in more than 40 years, anchored by a Meijer
superstore.
• Steering the development and beginning implementation of Detroit Future City, a
comprehensive 50-year framework to help guide decision makers as they
revitalize the city with innovative approaches.

Everything was accomplished with an impeccable record of fiscal and ethical
responsibility, maintaining balanced budgets and clean auditing reports for DEGC and all
the public authorities it administers.

As the head of DEGC, George encouraged partnership and teamwork amongst the staff.
No matter your position within the organization, he was always willing to listen to
suggestions for improvements, ideas for new programs or just chat with his employees.
Not many employees can brag that they had a thirty-minute conversation with their CEO
about a golf game, their new house or the grand kids. George’s approachability, sense of
humor and demeanor made him more than just our boss; he is a friend.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say it has truly been an honor and a privilege to work for
George over the last 12 years. All of us at DEGC wish him great success in his new
endeavor.

Tiffini Smith
Director, Corporate Communications

Construction on Livernois “Avenue of Fashion” continues

Livernois Avenue of Fashion

DEGC is making continual efforts in the revitalization of Livernois Avenue to get more and more businesses into the area and make this historic “Avenue of Fashion” a thriving community once again. For example, through its REVOLVE program DEGC partners with business owners to activate empty storefronts and encourage pop-up and permanent retail to enter the community.

The latest in the series of plans for Livernois involves an approved initial phase of construction. This first phase includes 2.8 miles of streetscape improvements on Livernois Avenue between the Lodge Freeway and 8 Mile Rd., consisting of boulevard landscaping, irrigation and pedestrian amenities. Construction is set to begin in the spring of 2014 and finish by summer 2014. The City of Detroit Department of Public Works will oversee the construction. The Economic Development Corporation of the City of Detroit (EDC) will oversee the project design implementation.

This initial phase of construction will enhance the image and elevate the brand of the area as a special place, creating a unique experience for anyone who gets off of the Lodge or turns off of 8 Mile. This end-result of the construction will elevate the role of arts in the community and will aim to bring new businesses to the area.

The construction is one project done within the context of a much larger series of investments taking place with many partners. There is approximately $5 million in redevelopment in the pipeline for the upcoming few years,

“There are lots of exciting developments to come including plans for improved lighting along the avenue and several great real-estate projects like the opening of The Hunters Supper Club building and Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles ” said Michael Forsyth, DEGC business development manager.

Funding for this initial construction will come from grants from the Michigan Department of Transportation, the City of Detroit Planning and Developing Department, in addition to grants from the University of Detroit Mercy and the Kresge Foundation. Be on the lookout for changes coming this spring and summer.

David Tobar – Project Manager

Business Spotlight: Craft Work – Hubert Yaro, Co-Owner

Craft Work
Craft Work is an American restaurant in the heart of historic West Village in Detroit. The restaurant prides itself in taking classic American dishes and putting a twist in the recipes. Co-owner Hubert Yaro has received a lot of support in the community since opening in December 2013. Currently, Craft Work is open Monday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to midnight and serves food from 5 through 11 p.m.

What makes Craft Work unique to your other restaurants?

The location! I’ve opened restaurants in Birmingham (Commonwealth Cafe) and Royal Oak (Ronin Sushi), but I really wanted to open a restaurant in my neighborhood. Craft Work is very personal to me because I live right around the corner. I love living and working in Detroit.

The space is great and the charm of the building really drew me in. In fact, the building is 90 years old so inevitably there was a lot of work involved in getting the restaurant up and running, but it was worth it. The history in this space is a great asset as well, because a lot of our customers have fond memories of this place throughout the years. This is very much a Detroit restaurant. That very special feel when you walk in the door – paired with our quality service – makes it a win-win.

What is your menu all about?


The menu is classic American. We are committed to sourcing quality meats, dairy and bread. The technique our executive chef Matt Dalton uses for our menu is a unique blend of multiple cultures. Our dishes are very balanced, and customers will walk out of the restaurant feeling full and satisfied.

What is it like working in Detroit, and how does the Detroit location contribute to the business’ overall success?


The community here is so strong and tight knit. There is a lot of pride and spirit in the neighborhood. I’m really inspired by it. People take care of their properties, homes and businesses, and I’ve received so much support with Craft Work. I think the restaurant being in Detroit has everything to do with how positively it’s been received.

Anything new and exciting coming up for Craft Work?


I really look forward to continually making a positive impact on the community and getting more involved. We’re also very excited to begin serving brunch in March on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Michael Forsyth, REVOLVE Detroit Program Manager

Contractor Spotlight: Tooles Contracting Group

damon-toolesTooles Contracting Group is a full service general contractor that has operated in Detroit for the past seven years. The team of estimators, schedulers, project managers and administrative employees are proud of the world-class results with their “out-of-the-box” thinking.

While most of its work is in Detroit, Tooles Contracting Group also has an office in Las Vegas and was recently nominated for an award for its outstanding work on the iconic Las Vegas Strip. Tooles Contracting Group President and CEO Damon Tooles shared with us his thoughts on contracting in Detroit.

What are some of the current projects you’re working on in and out of Detroit?
We just completed our work on the Cobo Center project. We’re currently working on the Dearborn Intermodal Passenger Rail Station, which is a new $28 million train facility in Dearborn Michigan that affects Henry Ford and Greenfield Village. We’re also currently completing 14 incinerators at the Detroit Waste and Sewage Department (DWSW) facility. Another great project in the works is the Mt. Elliott Park, which is an extension of the RiverWalk in Detroit for the Riverfront Conservancy – it’s a $12 million project.

What types of services do you provide?
We are a general contractor and deliver services related to that, as well as design-build contracting and construction management. We have self-performed services and self-perform drywall, metals and concrete.

How have you partnered with the DEGC in the past? Do you hope to continue a partnership in the future?
The DEGC is a great group to work with. We’ve had some projects with them in the past, like the Capitol Park project and the Cobo Center convention center. We look forward to continue working with them in the future.

What aspects of contracting in Detroit do you enjoy the most and why?
We’ve had the opportunity to work on some very unique and diverse projects in the city, like the DWSW project and the new Cobo Center renovations. Working on various projects throughout the automotive industry in Detroit is enjoyable. We also get to do some architectural and industrial work in the city, like the Guardian building project, a $22 million renovation of the 80-year-old building for the County. The diverse number of projects that we get the opportunity to get involved in is wonderful in Detroit.

We’ve been in Detroit for seven years and we have 37 staff members in the city. We enjoy all of the excitement that’s happening downtown. The things that DEGC is getting into is refreshing. Looking at Detroit’s growth over the past years is interesting. There used to be a time where you could go to lunch at noon and get a seat immediately. Now you have to go at 11:30 a.m. because there’s a lot of activity down there.

What was it like to be nominated for the Contractor of the Year Award by the Nevada Minority Business Development Council?
We’ve had an office in Las Vegas for five and half years. We had an opportunity to work on the strip at the New York New York casino, as well as the MGM Grand. It was very nice to be recognized as a company that was coming from halfway across the country and have the Nevada Minority Business Development Council recognize and see the work we were doing to meet their goals. It was very rewarding.

Waymon Guillebeaux
Executive VP, Project Management

CEO Spotlight: M. Kay Willingham Art in Motion

Art in Motion is a ceramic studio on Livernois Avenue where anyone can participate in workshops, attend classes, gain technical skills, enjoy private lessons and work in an open studio setting. The studio also represents artists in the Detroit community. Co-Owners M. Kay Willingham and Audrey Long popped-up the studio last May and June while participating in REVOLVE Detroit’s “Art + Retail on the Ave.” program to revitalize Detroit’s historic Livernois Avenue of Fashion. Art in Motion went on to be one of the Art and Retail Ave. winners, and its permanent presence launched during the Detroit Design Festival.

Where did you get the name Art in Motion?
I’ve worked with ceramics for a decade – selling my own personal art, doing private shows and teaching. I realized that as I move through life my pieces also represent movement, so the name was born, and it has stuck and grown into the businesses and studio that Audrey and I have today.

What made you want to expand your presence in Detroit?
I’ve lived in Detroit my whole life, and I grew up in this area near Livernois. I attended Cass Technical High School, and the University of Detroit for my undergrad in marketing and management and my graduate degree in management and psychology. Needless to say Detroit lives in my heart. Becoming involved with REVOLVE was the next step to doing what I love in the city I love.

Describe your experience with REVOLVE.
Our experience with REVOLVE can be described in one word: wonderful. It made the business change in some exciting ways going from being a pop-up to becoming permanent in the area. REVOLVE and DEGC offered us great support throughout the competition, and still remain a great contact as we continue engaging in the community.

What is your company culture?
Our doors are open to anyone.  Our artists come from a mixed and diverse culture. We’re all very passionate about art, and bettering Detroit. Think of the TV show The Voice, no one is looking at the contestants, they’re assessed based on their talents – we’re the same way. We come together in the name of art, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you’ve come from or anything really – if you enjoy and are interested in art we’d love to meet you.

We also reach out to others to share our passion. We’re involved with Play with Clay for Kids, which is a program that allows us to go into schools and teach art technical skills to elementary and middle school students. It’s really rewarding to give children an opportunity to be creative and have an outlet they may not have had exposure to otherwise.

Art is truly in one’s spirit.

What’s coming up for Art in Motion?
Currently we’re working on offering additional workshops and classes for people of all ages. We want people to come for date nights, senior nights and all kinds of other occasions. Our doors are open to anyone and everyone, and we look forward to offering more of a variety of experiences for them. We are also in the process of scheduling a few private shows in January and February.

Kay Willingham
|Co-Owner