New regional economic development group gets name

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

The unnamed regional economic development group started by an unnamed regional CEO group finally has a name.

The Detroit Regional Partnership is up and running in its charge to market the 11-county region of Southeast Michigan and attract out-of-state business investment here, the nonprofit said in a news release Thursday after it kicked off a 30-day listening tour with stakeholders in the region.

"Through the region, there's a lot of positive support," the group's CEO, Barry Matherly, told The Detroit News as he traveled from a meeting in St. Clair County to Macomb County. "People want to see more companies looking at this area. They want more opportunities to recruit companies to the area. They're very appreciative of what's being done, but think there could be a lot more than that."

Matherly, who formerly headed a similar organization in Richmond, Virginia, is building the partnership upon the people and assets of the Detroit Regional Chamber's Destination Detroit five-person business attraction program.

The program's work is continuing, including hosting companies in Detroit during the North American International Auto Show, but the Detroit Regional Partnership is developing a new strategy for marketing and creating a pipeline of companies to whom to promote the region. Matherly said he expects that to take shape by July.

About 15 local CEOs make up the informal group that launched the nonprofit. They come from the largest companies in the region including Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co., Quicken Loans affiliate Rock Ventures, Ilitch Holdings Inc., health-care systems and major foundations. They meet quarterly at DTE headquarters in Detroit to identify areas they can affect with funding and leadership: transit, job training, public place-making and economic development across Southeast Michigan.

DTE Energy Co. CEO Gerry Anderson, who chairs the Detroit Regional Partnership's board, previously said private corporations and foundations initially will fund the nonprofit, though he said he expects the public sector eventually will contribute, as well.

Based on similarly sized regional economic development organizations, he said the target investment for the nonprofit is about $6 million. Destination Detroit previously operated off $750,000 per year.

Matherly said the group's name is meant to convey its purpose. The partnership consulted with an ad agency and site selection committee to ensure it could translate internationally and provide a sense of what it was.

"What we heard from everybody is that Detroit had to be in the name," Matherly said. "The 'regional' had to be in the name because it's the whole region, and we're all going to be working together to create a better economy."

Although the nonprofit now has a title, Matherly said the group also will select in February a name for the regional economic development "ecosystem" as a secondary branding tool for the nonprofit and its public sector partners.

"If I'm a county leader from Monroe, I can say, 'I'm from Monroe, but I'm also part of this regional group of people,'" Matherly said. "It'll be what knits us together."

Following a nationwide search, Matherly came from the Greater Richmond Partnership, which covers the city of Richmond and three surrounding counties. During its 2017–2018 fiscal year, the partnership helped to create 20 economic development projects and 1,623 new jobs.

A certified economic developer, Matherly has more than 24 years of leadership experience and previously served as the chair of the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development association in the world.

In addition to Anderson, the nonprofit's board includes Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah and Mayor Mike Duggan as well as Charles “Chip” McClure, the managing partner at Michigan Capital Advisors, and Ray Telang, greater Michigan managing partner at PricewaterhouseCooper and Detroit Regional Chamber chair.

Macomb and Wayne County executives Mark Hackel and Warren Evans are also on it. Phil Bertolini, Oakland County deputy executive, is serving in an advisory role after Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson expressed skepticism over joining the organization.

The 11 counties the nonprofit will serve are Genesee, Lapeer, Lenawee, Livingston, Macomb, Monroe, Oakland, Shiawassee, St. Clair, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. Anderson has said he expects representatives from all the counties will hold a board position or serve on a board committee.

"Having an organization dedicated to marketing our region and attracting investment is such an important step forward in our region's momentum and recovery," Anderson said in a news release. "This group is exactly what its new name reinforces: a partnership – by the region and for the region – to attract investment and jobs that will add vitality to our communities."