Blog: George Lenko

Look in the dictionary under community involvement and you're likely to see George Lenko's face. A second term city commissioner in Pleasant Ridge, he spearheaded the NextCruise event during Dream Cruise and has a passion for regional development and transit issues --topics he will be writing about in this week's Guest Blog.

Post 3: Aerotropolis (and more)

My commute is much different now. After 25 years of working mostly in downtown Detroit, I now work for a company based out-of-state. When I’m not traveling, I work from my home. The company I work for has major offices in fourteen states, so they’re accustomed to working with staff in other locations. To them, I just work in another 'other location'.   

When I started working this way, I thought it was a fairly unique arrangement. It didn’t take long to learn that it was not at all uncommon, that on every block a number of my neighbors were working from home. Similarly, I found on my flights that there is lots of Michigan-based talent that regularly travels to cities afar to work in many different fields. I learned that all one needs is a phone, a high-speed internet line, and a great airport to work nationally, from home.    

I’ve flown a lot, and would say without hesitation that Detroit Metro Airport is among the best, and it will be better still with the opening of its new North Terminal. I’ve often discussed this with fellow business travelers, and they all see the advantages of being based here. Whether one considers flight choices, on-time performance, weather issues, or ticket prices, we really have it awfully good. In fact, I have an easier time traveling to meetings from Michigan than if I were based in one of my company’s main offices! 

Readers of Metromode are likely familiar with Aerotropolis; that is, the concept that a region can build supporting infrastructure for its airport to the point where the airport itself becomes an economic draw. Amsterdam has done this successfully, and so too can this region.   

We’ve heard many benefits of Aerotropolis, but perhaps not how it might tie into health care. Two years ago, our newspapers reported that Phil Lesh, from the Grateful Dead, had to choose where to get a needed surgical procedure. He had the means to go anywhere in the country, but chose to come to Detroit where Henry Ford Hospital was doing ground-breaking work in robotic prostatectomy.  This kind of travel is sometimes called domestic medical tourism. 

While a number other cities have medical centers which can claim similar levels of specialized care, there are few that also have a stellar airport. In health care, we usually think of the main variables as cost of care, quality of care, and access to care. We can replace the latter with transit to care.   

Michigan’s health care system is top quality because this region historically has had rich medical coverage, as well as a number of first-rate teaching hospitals. If this were coupled with our vision for Aerotropolis, marketed appropriately, and coordinated among our competing hospital systems, southeast Michigan could become a preferred destination for quality medical care.