George W. Jackson, Jr. became interim president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation
(DEGC) in February 2002, and was elected to the position on a permanent basis in April 2002. The DEGC is a private, nonprofit corporation devoted exclusively to supporting Detroit's economic development projects and initiatives by providing technical, financial and development assistance to the city and the business community. The DEGC also serves as the professional and administrative staff for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the Economic Development Corporation of the city of Detroit (EDC), Tax Increment Finance Authority, and Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (DBRA). It is the lead organization for implementation of permanent revitalization improvements (the Lower Woodward Improvement Program) for Superbowl XL, held in Detroit in February 2006.
George also assumed the responsibilities of chief development officer for the city of Detroit from 2006 to 2010. This position includes the responsibility of overall coordination of city economic development activity, as well as supervision of the Detroit planning and development department, the Detroit Building Authority, and the civic center department.
George is the past chairman and serves as a board member of the NextEnergy Corporation
, a corporation committed to making Michigan a world leader in alternative energy by advancing the use of alternative energy through groundbreaking research, design, manufacturing, education, commercialization and the marketing of alternative technologies.
Prior to his current position, George was the director of customer marketing for DTE Energy, where he worked for 27 years. Under George's leadership, the DTE Energy economic development department gained national recognition and was a recipient of the Site Selection Magazine
Utility Economic Development Award. George has also played an influential role in city of Detroit, Southeastern Michigan, and state of Michigan economic development programs, projects, initiatives, and organizations.
George's past honors include: Automation Alley 2007 CEO of the Year; Crain's 2006 Newsmaker of the Year; Michigan Economic Development Association 2006 Member of the Year; Oakland University Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award 2006; and the Association of Blacks in Energy 2003 Lewis Latimer Award.
George is a native Detroiter and a graduate of Detroit Cooley High School, Oakland University (B.S. Human Resource Development) and Central Michigan University (M.A. Management – Business Management).
Every coach and every business manager knows you must have good talent on your team to succeed, and demographers agree. Places that attract a well-educated workforce do better economically than those that don't, and for years, Detroit was an example of a place that did not. That's all changing for a number of reasons.
There are college-educated professionals moving into downtown through consolidation and relocation of businesses, such as Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and General Motors.
There are job openings in Detroit at places that have been expanding, such as GalaxE Solutions, Urban Science and Strategic Staffing Solutions.
Major institutions such as Henry Ford Health System and Wayne State University have joined major companies to offer their employees incentives to live nearby in greater downtown and midtown.
Those moves have prompted new restaurants to open and events to grow. A bicycle tour of the Motor City (organizers call it the Sans-Motor City) grew from 300 riders to 4,300 riders over the course of six years. Dig Downtown Detroit, a social media site, recently promoted a week of events that included: BoatoberFest – a cruise on the Detroit River featuring tastings of beers from local microbreweries; the Michigan Apple Pie Contest at Eastern Market; a tour of architecturally significant buildings hosted by the Detroit Art Deco Society; an after-hours event at the Detroit Historical Museum featuring a look at an electric car – built in 1914; and the launch of a new City Year with 81 young people starting a year of public service. And oh, yeah, the Tigers are in the playoffs, the undefeated Detroit Lions played a home Monday Night Football game, and the Red Wings opened their season of hockey.
All these developments are steps forward, but only if talented young people know about them. And that's why DEGC is a sponsor of LiveWorkDetroit!, an effort to connect Michigan's college graduates to new opportunities in Detroit and promote the city as a post-graduation talent destination. Every month LiveWorkDetroit! holds a different event to let young college students experience what we have to offer and to network with potential employers.
The next event is October 21, and it will feature entrepreneurs and companies in Detroit's growing creative sector. Find more information for employers and participants here.
Comerica Park is known around Major League Baseball as a pitchers' park because of the long distances to the outfield fences. It gives up fewer home runs than a lot of other places – Yankee Stadium among them. To win here, teams have to be able to score many ways – from strings of walks and singles, stolen bases, sacrifice bunts and well-placed drives for extra-base hits.
From an economic development perspective, Detroit itself has been trying to shake a reputation as a "pessimists park," because people don't think it's a place that allows many "home run" business investments. I don't think that's necessarily true – and we've got a billion-dollar Marathon refinery project, about $700 million in recent auto assembly plant reinvestments, and $800 million in hospital construction in the works to back up my case.
Even so, we can't depend only on major investments to turn around the whole city, or even an important district such as greater downtown. That's why we have been steadily directing our attention to small- and medium-sized businesses to make economic scores for the city. We are doing this by contacting several hundred business owners every year to assess their needs, and by launching new programs to fill gaps or address targeted industries. Our SmartBuildings Detroit energy conservation grant program has awarded $6.4 million to leverage investments of more than $62 million by 19 different businesses, cultural institutions or government agencies. The Green Grocer Project has worked with more than a dozen independent grocers, giving them operational technical assistance, financing, city permits and connections to other resources. Our brownfield program has potentially leveraged $610 million in investments with $101 million in incentives.
For all its work with small businesses, DEGC has earned national recognition from the Initiative for Inner City Competitiveness, an organization that promotes and nurtures growing urban businesses all over the U.S. Later this month, the ICIC is conducting one of its national small business training events here. Several dozen Detroit-based businesses are likely to join almost 50 others from around the country to attend educational sessions about different forms of capital and how to effectively communicate with bankers and investors. We welcome all those guests, because as they grow, they may find Detroit a great place to expand.
It's pretty clear from our track record that while we continue to "swing for the fences" with major job growth, we continue to score with help for companies that is transforming individual neighborhoods and the city as a whole.
The Detroit Tigers are playing postseason baseball for the first time since 2006, and since they are playing the New York Yankees in the first round, there's bound to be quite a bit of media attention for the series. It's also possible that there are sportswriters visiting Detroit who haven't been here since 2006. To all of those visitors, welcome back, because we've got a lot of new stuff to show you.
You probably are seeing a lot more people around. That's because thousands of new people have started coming to downtown Detroit to work. Some examples:
But those are just our first inning hits. Since 2006, GM and Chrysler together have reinvested approximately $700 million in Detroit and Hamtramck assembly plants that build Chevrolet Volts and Jeep Grand Cherokees, among other vehicles.
- General Motors consolidated offices, bringing the number employed in its Renaissance Center headquarters to 4,400.
- Quicken Loans has moved its headquarters downtown with its first phase of 1,700 employees.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is moving 3,000 employees downtown.
- GalaxE Solutions has hired about 150 people to date for its IT business.
Also in the same timeframe, DEGC has managed nearly $50 million in new construction. Some examples downtown or nearby:
Other major projects:
- The Rosa Parks Transit Center
- Downtown streets and streetscapes
- Capitol Park
- Paradise Valley street and park improvements
- The Dequindre Trail bike and pedestrian path
Brownfield incentives have supported $3.2 billion in potential investments in manufacturing, industrial, retail, commercial and residential redevelopment of blighted or obsolete properties – many of them vintage buildings.
- The 457-room Westin Book Cadillac Hotel opened after a $190 million renovation and restoration that required 22 layers of financing.
- Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby opened as a business conference hotel with 200 suites and state of the art meeting amenities.
DEGC-led business incentive and support programs have granted more than $6.5 million for energy conservation, creative enterprises and grocery store improvements through its targeted programs.
In this year alone, companies assisted by DEGC are investing $15 million in the city and have created or retained more than 400 jobs.
So don't be surprised if you hardly recognize us. We are still the Motor City – and a lot more. And don't expect to stay away as long next time. The Detroit Lions could be playing for the NFC Championship here on January 22, 2012. We'll leave a light on for you. It's no trouble because we are installing 500 high-efficiency LED streetlamps downtown between now and then.
The difference between "vacant land" and "valuable development parcel" in Detroit is not always that obvious, and sometimes it takes quite a bit of effort and patience to turn one into the other. The site of the former Uniroyal property is one example of that. Beginning in the late 1800s and continuing through the early 1980s, the 43-acre site was home to numerous industrial operations, including tire manufacturing, ammonia production, iron production and manufactured gas production from coal. Those historical operations left industrial byproducts in the soils that have stopped redevelopment, because they must be removed first. Settling the questions about who should pay and how much took more than 20 years. In the meantime, the property looked simply like vacant land.
Today, the area doesn't look much different, but when DTE Energy and others signed an agreement with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority
, it instantly became a valuable development site again. The most visible signs are the trucks and earthmoving equipment that have begun the 18-month first phase of remediation. As we begin the $20 million project to haul away hazardous material from the west third of the property, I think its fair to stop calling it "the old Uniroyal property" and start calling it "the Belleview Development Site."
The likely first redevelopment of the site will be the construction of one of the final sections of the East RiverWalk by the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy. That is a very significant project. Right now the RiverWalk
runs continuously from the Civic Center to Mt. Elliot Park. Completing that last half-mile to Gabriel Richard Park will connect almost 10 miles of bike/pedestrian trail with three major destinations – downtown Detroit, Belle Isle, and Eastern Market.
A mixture of residential and other uses is expected for the remainder of the Belleview site. Bettis/Betters Development, LLC, holds an agreement with the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to develop it. What once was "toxic" vacant land is now on its way to becoming a milestone in the transformation of the Detroit East Riverfront District from industrial to recreational, residential and commercial. It has not been easy or quick, but it will be worth it.