The Five “Ps” of Detroit’s Economic Revitalization


I believe that the best way to strengthen the quality of life, ensure long-term opportunities for our loved ones, and combat society’s ills is a solid economy with good jobs. It is why I’m an economic developer, and it’s why I’m in Detroit right now. This city has a rich history as an economic and cultural hub, and it is clearly on its way to a strong recovery. There is a palpable sense of excitement about Detroit’s turnaround.


The enthusiasm we feel is a great motivator, but it is not a final result. We have to keep channeling that enthusiasm in ways that improve lives in measurable ways. I think there are five key components to that effort — and I call them the Five Ps: Plan, Partnership, People, Publish, and Population.



Detroit needs a detailed strategic plan to drive our work generating new investment. Detroit Future City gave us a solid, overarching long-term framework, but we need more detailed strategies focused on building on our strengths and broadening investments in automotive, manufacturing, logistics, defense, information technology, food and renewable energy. To work, the strategies need support from the public and private sectors as well as our highly committed philanthropic community.




Although my focus as the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation is growing the economic base of the city of Detroit, I am personally a strong proponent of regional collaboration. There are three million people in the region, and we all suffer if we continue to behave as though our actions don’t affect others. To become a consistent magnet for global investments, the region needs Detroit as a strong urban core, and Detroit needs thriving suburbs. We have strong leadership at every level of government in city, county, region and state, and I am proud to work in partnership with all of them to keep the economic momentum building.




As terrific as they are in their own right, Detroit’s economic successes in a few high-profile districts do emphasize the challenges we still face in our population as a whole. The Detroit unemployment rate hovers at 27 percent, the adult poverty level is 38 percent and among children it’s 58 percent. We should pursue development strategies that decrease the gap between the haves and have-nots. That means encouraging entrepreneurs and neighborhood businesses. It also means using the tools we have now to ensure that public investments in companies generate jobs and other benefits to make those investments worthwhile.


Publish (and Post)


In spite of some remarkably positive headlines around the world, most people still don’t recognize the progress we’ve made in Detroit. We are not trying to “go back” to recreate the Detroit of the 20th Century. We are building something new, but based on the strengths of our legacy as a center of manufacturing, culture and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their race, nationality or gender. That’s a good story and we need to own it, live it, and tell it to each other and the world through our personal communications, social media, and traditional press. For better or worse, our communications define us; we have to publish, post or perish.




This is part two of “People.” Not only do we have to generate better opportunities for people who live in Detroit today, but we have to grow our population by convincing new people to move here. Let’s face it, we’ve got room for a lot more people, so let’s start recruiting them and welcoming them when they arrive. Across the world, young people are coming back to cities, and Detroit is in a perfect position to catch that wave. We have great talent graduating from our universities and colleges, and we have to include them in our strategies for development. Job opportunities attract people and a growing population generates economic activity and a growing tax base for city services, so let’s take advantage of that virtuous cycle.


In sum, Detroit can and should be a leader in the global next economy. Using the key building blocks of committed business leadership, political will, and community engagement, we can ensure the strong economy that the people of Detroit deserve. At DEGC we work hard every day recruiting new businesses and promoting the growth of existing businesses — not just for their own sake — but to create jobs and opportunities for Detroiters, increase City revenues, and improve the quality of City services and the quality of life for people who live, work or visit here.

Rod Miller

President and CEO

Let’s put the pedal to the metal


I am excited to be in Detroit serving the city in my new role as President and CEO of DEGC. I got into economic development because I’m a firm believer that the best way to strengthen quality of life, ensure long-term opportunities for our loved ones, and combat society’s ails is a solid economy with good jobs. Whether I was leading efforts to ensure jobs for the people of New Orleans, as in my last role, or recruiting global companies to Phoenix prior to that, I have always been firmly committed to strategies and programs that are aggressive and effective, thoughtful and focused, and that play to the inherent strengths of the local market.

The recent groundbreaking for a new sports and entertainment district Downtown is a good example of that kind of strategy, and it would not have happened without the excellent work of DEGC. The new district will be a catalyst for additional investment and a destination for visitors who will leave here with positive experiences from our city. Chris Ilitch, president and CEO of Ilitch Holdings described the district as “Detroit built,” and we have the tools and the commitment to ensure that it generates jobs and training opportunities for Detroit residents and Detroit-based businesses.

Under my leadership, with direction from our board, DEGC will continue to build on the strengths of Detroit to craft our story as we attract new investment and companies, provide leadership in real estate development, and drive prosperity. Detroit has a rich history as an economic and cultural hub and is clearly on its way to a strong recovery. Detroit can and should be a leader in the global next economy. Using the key building blocks of committed business leadership, political will, and community engagement, we can ensure the strong economy that the people of Detroit deserve. As CEO of DEGC, it’s my aim to work collaboratively, yet provide strong leadership, and to continue to communicate our shared path forward.

As noted elsewhere in this newsletter, DEGC has professional staff that wins awards and is recognized for its leadership. I’m honored to join such a top-notch group of professionals. They are a very skilled crew with the enthusiasm and work ethic needed to keep pressing ahead.

Together we are going to “put the pedal to the metal” to accelerate the revitalization of Detroit. Onward and Upward,

Rodrick Miller

President and CEO

Spotlight on two DEGC staff


Art Papapanos, vice president, Board Administration, and Brian Watkins, Business Development Manager, are in the spotlight this month.

Art recently received the Council of Development Financial Agencies (CDFA) Excellence Award for his role in the approval of 215 brownfield redevelopment plans for an anticipated investment in the city of Detroit in excess of $6.4 billion, creating approximately 19,500 jobs.

The CDFA is a national association dedicated to the advancement of development finance concerns and interests. It is comprised of the nation’s leading and most knowledgeable members of the development finance community, representing public, private and nonprofit entities.

“Each year CDFA is proud to honor excellence in development finance. The work of our award winners is cutting edge, innovative and an example of best practices in our industry,” said Toby Rittner, CDFA president and CEO.

Brian was recently selected to participate in Leadership Detroit XXXVI. Led by the Detroit Regional Chamber, it is designed to create awareness of key issues that affect the Detroit region and to challenge emerging and existing community leaders to bring about positive change in the community through informed leadership.

Leadership Detroit participants represent a cross-section of the community including business, organized labor, government, education, media, civic groups, health services and community organizations. There are more than 1,800 alumni of Leadership Detroit classes.

Congratulations Art and Brian!

Tiffini D. Smith

Director of Communications

DEGC Board selects Rodrick Miller as its new CEO


We are pleased to welcome Rodrick T. Miller to DEGC and Detroit — as our newly selected president and CEO. Rod Gillum, Chairman of the Board of Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC), announced the Board action Friday. Miller is the founding President and CEO of New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA), a public-private partnership organization that creates an enabling environment for business, grows jobs, and grows investment in New Orleans.

Before he launched NOLABA in 2011 Miller led successful economic development initiatives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Phoenix and Glendale, Arizona. He also has experience in private industry as a consultant to governments involved in large-scale infrastructure projects.

“Rodrick Miller has an outstanding record in leading new initiatives to attract business, jobs and investment to the cities where he has worked. He has also overseen infrastructure improvements that retain existing businesses and drive further development” said Gillum. “DEGC has earned a reputation for innovation in economic development and project management, and we are confident that Miller’s experience and expertise will build on the positive momentum in Detroit and the region and accelerate that progress going forward.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said, “Rod Miller is very impressive and very well qualified. I’m extremely pleased that he has accepted the leadership position at DEGC and I know he’ll do a great job helping to bring new businesses and jobs to Detroit.”

Miller said, “Detroit has iconic status among cities around the world, based on its long history as a center for business and culture. It offers a unique value proposition to the businesses that invest here, and my goal is to leverage its assets and work with its people and the City administration to create more jobs and spur more investments that will make an even better Detroit.”

Miller is expected to start at DEGC September 15. He succeeds George W. Jackson, Jr., who has served as President and CEO of DEGC since February 2002. Jackson is leaving DEGC to form a Detroit-based private consulting and development firm. He has been elected by the board as Member Emeritus of DEGC’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

Tiffini Smith
Director of Corporate Communications

REVOLVE Detroit team earns Crain’s “Intrapreneur” Award

Crain’s Detroit Business has named DEGC’s REVOLVE Detroit as part of its annual Salute to Entrepreneurs issue. REVOLVE program manager Michael Forsyth and his associate, Lori Allan were individually honored in the “Intrapreneur” category for their work inside DEGC creating innovative ways to connect retail store owners, startups, property owners, community organizations and artists. DEGC launched REVOLVE Detroit in the fall of 2012. Since then, Forsyth and Allan have worked under the REVOLVE banner to help revitalize West Village, the Livernois corridor, and as described in another article in this Growth Detroit Report, Grandmont Rosedale.

Crain’s annually recognizes entrepreneurs who are noteworthy for their innovation, problem solving ability or sheer relentlessness. Forsyth told Crain’s, “Being an intrapreneur is about understanding the mission of your organization and staying true to that, but taking a different path to get there.” In the case of REVOLVE, that meant using Facebook, and other social media tools to promote participation, hosting a program-specific website, and recruiting Lori Allan to help write, design and post web and print materials to promote the program. Allan started at DEGC as an intern while studying at University of Detroit Mercy, and she demonstrated such a wide variety of skills that she was hired as a communications and marketing consultant for REVOLVE.

Forsyth and Allan will be recognized along with the entrepreneurs that Crain’s is saluting at a lunch program July 24 at The Henry in Dearborn.

Tiffini Smith

Director of Corporate Communications