Page 1

It’s all good: Ron Torbert balances career, NFL referee duties Page 3

Women in Leadership: Amal Berry Page 14

MARCH 18 - 24, 2019 |



Semi-trucks delivering goods and food for and Gordon Food Service drive westbound on I-96 near Howell in Livingston County. CHAD LIVENGOOD/CRAIN’S DETROIT BUSINESS

Heavy trucks often take the blame for crumbling pavement, but they’re few and far between By Chad Livengood

The heaviest trucks rolling down Michigan's roadways are the ones carrying the materials used to build the roads they’re often blamed for breaking. And despite shouldering public scorn for pockmarked pavement surfaces, commercial trucks reaching Michigan’s highest-in-the-nation truck weight limits of 164,000 pounds are few and far between.

About 6 percent — or 6,385 — of the nearly 111,500 registered commercial trucks in Michigan are licensed to carry loads exceeding 80,000 pounds, the federal weight limit that can only be exceeded in other states with a special permit. Just 2 percent — 2,649 — of the entire statewide fleet can exceed 145,000 pounds and reach the 164,000-pound maximum weight, according to state vehicle registration data.


Need to know  Michigan has the highest truck weight limits in the U.S.  Commercial truckers brace for another fuel tax hike

“We’re not dealing with a heck of a lot of vehicles in the total scheme of things, but they do draw a lot of attention,” said Walt Heinritzi, executive director of the Michigan Trucking As-

“Everyone wants to blame truckers. But how are we going to get the roads fixed?” asked Steve Messina, vice president of Messina Trucking Inc. in Shelby Township. Messina Trucking hauls construction aggregate — sand, gravel and crushed stone — that’s mixed into concrete or asphalt for roads in metro Detroit with a fleet of 8-axle and 11-axle tractor-trailers.

sociation. “Ironically, a good portion of them work in the road construction industry.” With the Legislature now mulling over Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for a $2.5 billion fuel tax increase to fund road repairs, the debate over who’s to blame for Michigan’s cracked, eroded and pothole-ridden highways, local streets and bridges continues to rage.



Soave Enterprises acquires WSU weighed trying to buy DMC for $2B New Center Stamping By Jay Greene

By Dustin Walsh

For a century, workers inside 950 Milwaukee St. have bent and stamped steel tonnage into car bodies. But industry consolidation in the automotive stamping sector and technological advancements crippled the growth of what became New Center Stamping Inc. in 1982. The company

expanded into aftermarket parts for its former owner General Motors and added welding, assembly, engineering and tool and die capabilities but struggled to reinvest in its own growth. Now another ownership transition holds new promise for the famed plant on Detroit’s North side. SEE SOAVE, PAGE 30

Vol. 35 No. 11

$5 a copy. $169 a year.


© Entire contents copyright 2019 by Crain Communications Inc. All rights reserved

Is the Detroit Medical Center worth $2 billion to Wayne State University, the state of Michigan and possibly Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan? That was the price tag for DMC that several consultants presented the board of governors for Wayne State in early 2018, when the university was beginning to explore a vari-






One sign of Detroit’s turnaround? More big meetings By Doug Henze | Special


Ford Health. Two former WSU board members and two current board members said they have heard current board members Michael Busuito, M.D.; Sandra Hughes O’Brien; and Dana Thompson favor such a plan to buy six-hospital DMC over the Henry Ford deal. The three board members have not responded to interview requests the past two weeks.

ety of options for fixing severe financial problems at its medical school and faculty practice plan. While a majority of the full eight-member board, Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson and medical school leaders rejected buying DMC as unfeasible because of the high cost, at least three board members have continued to talk about it as another “alternative structure” to the proposed affiliation with Henry


to Crain’s Detroit Business

ngineers, civil rights leaders and science-mind of visied teens will be among the thousands this year for tors who converge on metro Detroit of momentum in a conventions — yet another a sign resurgent downtown. The new Little Caesars Arena sports and concert venue, a revitalized riverfront and scores of restaurants and retail shops have created a national buzz, hospitality experts

Need to know

say. “There’s a lot more positive national press and there’s a lot more positive local press and that really helps us,” said Judy Booth, director of sales and marketing for the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. “Meeting planners across the country are very curious about what’s going on in Detroit. Look at where we were five years ago. How does a city go from complete bankruptcy to a must-see destination?” Among the groups coming to see it are:  For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, an organization that sponsors youth robotics competitions, which will hold its 2019 FIRST Championship at Cobo Center from April 24-27; the  The National Association for Advancement of Colored People, which is bringing its 110th national convention to Cobo from July 20-

National buzz has more meeting planners interested in Detroit, the region’s tourism professionals say

FIRST youth robotics championship, NAACP, National Society of Black Engineers bringing big meetings here in 2019 for  Room shortage still makes it hard Detroit to compete

24; En The National Society of Black gineers, which holds its 2019 Annual Conference at Cobo March 2730. FIRST, which initially visited Detroit in 2018, is projected to bring 50,000 visitors this year, with 8,000 n

est is the requests for proposals meeting planners send to cities they’re considering as convention destinations. From 2017 to 2018, DMCVB responded to 13 percent more RFPs, Beachnau said. Landing a convention means millions of dollars in revenue from out-of-towners for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Convention delegates contribute $265 a day, on average, while leisure travelers generate $178 a day, according to the DMCVB. “Any time you bring in large numbers of people … there is going to be that spinoff, where restaurants are going to see a larger amount of business and museums (are, too),” Beachnau said. Major convention player Cobo upped events booked from 166 to 244 and revenue from $5.5 million to $13.8 million from 2013 to 2018, said Cobo General Manager Claude Molinari. The center forecasts reve-


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From staff and wire reports. Find the full stories at

Report: Poor roads cost Michigan motorists $14.1B

Michigan motorists rack up $14.1 billion annually in additional vehicle operating and other costs caused by crumbling roads, congestion-related delays and crashes, according to a new report from transportation research nonprofit TRIP. Wear and tear, increased fuel consumption and vehicle repairs are eating away at drivers’ wallets, time and patience. According to the report, “Modernizing Michigan’s Transportation System: Progress & Challenges in Providing Safe, Efficient and Well-Maintained Roads, Highways & Bridges,” nearly half of major roads in Michigan are in poor or mediocre condition, more than 1-in-10 bridges are structurally deficient and drivers lose up to 54 hours per year in traffic congestion. Driving on rough roads costs Michigan motorists $4.6 billion annually in accelerated vehicle depreciation and additional costs for repairs, gas and tires, says the report from Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. TRIP is sponsored by “insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers, businesses involved in highway and tran-

sit engineering and construction and labor unions,” according to its website. In the Detroit area, poor roads cost the average driver $824 per year in additional vehicle operating costs, up from $562 in previous reports, while drivers in Ann Arbor pay $642 and $708 in the Lansing area, the report says. The report also says the state’s roads are to blame for congestion that costs motorists another $5.6 billion in lost time and spent fuel, as well as $3.9 billion in serious and fatal crashes linked to road design. Besides costs incurred by average motorists, failing infrastructure has a broader negative impact on the state’s economy, the report indicates. Each year, $1 trillion in goods are shipped — 70 percent by truck and 15 percent by courier services — throughout Michigan, relying heavily on the state’s network of roads and bridges. “Regions with congested or poorly maintained roads may see businesses relocate to areas with a smoother, more efficient and more modern transportation system,” according to the report. TRIP released its report as the state’s lawmakers once again reckon with the deteriorating roads and try to agree on a way to fund badly needed fixes. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a 45-cent fuel tax hike that













Crumbling roads cost drivers in Michigan hundreds of dollars a year in vehicle repairs and other costs.

would generate an additional $2.48 billion for roads each year and suggested funneling money to the most highly traveled roads.

State halts $115 million psychiatric hospital

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration has delayed construction of a $115 million state psychiatric hospital in Michigan’s Thumb region, citing staffing shortages and other concerns months after the groundbreaking, the Associated Press reported. The Department of Health and Human Services announced last week it will hire an outside consultant to review the project and make recommendations. The move sparked criticism from Republican lawmakers

who worry the Democratic governor could try to build the hospital elsewhere. The 150-bed Caro Center — one of five state psychiatric hospitals — opened more than 100 years ago and treats adults with serious mental illnesses. Under a budget plan approved by the Legislature in 2017, construction of a new 200-bed hospital in Caro, 35 miles northeast of Flint, is to be completed in 2021. Then-Gov. Rick Snyder attended a groundbreaking in October. The state said the current hospital faces “notable challenges,” including staffing shortages and recruitment barriers. There is no active permanent psychiatrist on staff, so state psychiatrists from elsewhere have been pulled in to treat patients, ac-








cording to the department. It pointed to a design delay because of difficulty identifying a safe, sustainable water source at an acceptable cost, and it said only 30 percent of the 86 patients have family living within 75 miles of the existing hospital. The review and resulting recommendation — due by the end of June — will help “determine what is in the best interest of Michiganders who need critical state hospital services,” DHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a statement. “Bed capacity, access to trained staff and proximity to family and community services will be a part of the reexamination.”

CORRECTION Over a recent five-year period, Michigan averaged an annual outflow — those leaving the state — of 43,000 college-educated residents per year. A Page 3 story in the March 11 issue incorrectly characterized that number.



Crain’s Detroit Business will name the 2019 Notable Women in STEM in a special report on May 27. These women are engineers, scientists, programmers and developers, technologists, and mathematicians. They’re also leaders in their workplaces and the community.

Deadline to submit nominations extended to Monday, March 25

For more information or to nominate, visit

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Build Institute expands reach in Michigan, Midwest By Sherri Welch

that can range from $7 to $20 per ticket depending on the seat location. “It is pretty substantial savings,” Lott said. The Pistons also are pushing a $99 package that includes tickets to three games and a bobblehead at each. “Those are always a big hit with our fans,” Lott said. There are a number of ongoing promotions that the team is ramping up for on its social media channels, such as a throwback promotion that offers upper-level seats for $8.89 on March 28.

Detroit-based Build Institute has licensed its basic entrepreneurial education curriculum to a Fort Wayne, Ind., group working to develop an entrepreneurial system there. At the same time, it’s expanding its classes and select entrepreneur support programs to other cities in Southeast Michigan, starting with Pontiac and Hazel Park. Build is in the pilot phase of scaling its programs through April Boyle: Other an effort dubbed “Build Cities.” places interested The three cities in program. are enabling it to test different Need models for bringto know ing its programs  Has licensed to other commuFort Wayne nities. economic The three cities development are the first to see group to use its Build classes outBuild Basics side of Detroit, curriculum for but leaders in entrepreneurs other places have also expressed  Launched interest, said classes in Pontiac, Build Founder plans to launch Executive them in Hazel Park and Director April this summer Boyle.  Expansion to Build has fieldthe three cities is ed queries from part of a pilot local communitesting models for ties including expanding to other Ferndale, Harper cities Woods, Clarkston and Port Huron, and also from two other Indiana cities as well as Liverpool, England. “We’re getting on the map for equitable and inclusive entrepreneur support, reaching ... women and communities of color,” who often face barriers to starting their own businesses, Boyle said. Other communities are looking to replicate Build Institute’s grass roots talent development and entrepreneurial ecosystem, Boyle said.



SCORING OFF A PLAYOFF PUSH Detroit Pistons trying to goose attendance with perks, winning By Bill Shea


he Detroit Pistons are something of a vexing mystery. They win a bunch, then lose a bunch. Lately, they’ve won more than they’ve lost and are threatening to make the NBA playoffs for only the second time since 2009. The Pistons have struggled with attendance since falling into a funk over the past decade, unable to regularly fill the Palace of Auburn Hills and, since relocating downtown in 2017, the new Little Caesars Arena. Detroit’s playoff push has spurred a recent up-

tick in crowds — and the team’s business staff is trying to goose attendance at the final few home games during the stretch run. To fill more seats, the team has launched a handful of incentives while simultaneously ramping up social media promotions. “It’s important to get the building full. The team feeds off that,” said Brad Lott, the Pistons’ senior vice president of sales. One tactic to spin the turnstiles has been to eliminate fees on single-game tickets for the rest of the home schedule. That includes eliminating the per-order fee of $4.75, and the individual ticket fee

Detroit Pistons guard Glenn Robinson III (22) attempts a layup as Chicago Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) defends during a game March 10 in Detroit. CARLOS OSORIO/ASSOCIATED PRESS


Work-playoff balance: Exec juggles NFL referee life By Bill Shea

Like any football fan, you want to know what Ron Torbert thinks about that critical missed penalty call in the NFC championship game in January, but he can’t talk about it. Torbert, 55, is vice president and general counsel at Southfield-based construction giant Barton Malow Co., but diehard football fans know him as an on-field NFL official since 2010, and a referee and crew chief since 2014.

Need to know

Ron Torbert balances being a corporate general counsel and an NFL referee 

 He was the alternate ref for this year’s Super Bowl

He wasn’t officiating that game, but the blown call, which helped propel the Rams to the Super Bowl instead of the Saints, was the talk of the football world for weeks. But because Torbert is a referee, league policy dictates that he cannot comment pub-

licly on individual players, coaches or teams, or specific plays that happened during the season. But he still gets asked. “Most Monday mornings, at least one person I know or work with will ask me about a play they saw in a college or NFL game,” he said. “Most of the questions are about rules rather than an official’s judgment on a particular play. I am always happy to help educate fans about the rules of the game.” Torbert himself made a trip to the

Super Bowl. After officiating the New England Patriots-L.A. Chargers playoff game on Jan. 13, he was the backup referee last month for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, and would have taken the field if crew chief John Parry had been hurt. The NFL assigns officials to playoff games based on their performance during the regular season, and the odds are high that Torbert will be the referee for a Super Bowl in upcoming seasons. SEE TORBERT, PAGE 33

Ron Torbert is vice president and general counsel at Barton Malow Co. and also an NFL referee.

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COM M U N IT Y We travel your roads and live on your streets so we know well what is important to your community. Local knowledge and personal understanding – it’s all connected.


The Boulevard West building at 2990 W. Grand Blvd. in the city’s New Center area hit the market with an $4 million ask, $1.4 million more than the $2.6 million health care CEO Mashiyat Rashid paid for it at the end of 2016.

Sale near for New Center’s Boulevard West building after fraud pleas force forfeiture By Kirk Pinho

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A West Bloomfield Township man’s $150 million in health-care fraud is trickling its way through Detroit commercial real estate as a sale of a New Center area building appears imminent. The Boulevard West building at 2990 W. Grand Blvd. in the city’s New Center area hit the market with an $4 million ask, $1.4 million more than the $2.6 million health care CEO Mashiyat Rashid paid for it at the end of 2016, only about six months before his and his co-conspirators' scheme began to unravel as charges were filed in federal court in Detroit. In October, he pleaded guilty to a pair of charges — conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, and money laundering — and he now awaits an Oct. 17 sentencing stemming from the nine-year scheme that involved what prosecutors say was the distribution of more than 6.6 million dosage units of controlled substances like oxycodone, hydrocodone and oxymorphone. Some of them ended up sold on the streets. Rashid’s case also drew attention in the last two years for the luxuries he reaped as a result of his scam, which also involved six others. Among the extravagances: Hermes clothing, Richard Mille watches, a Lamborghini and Rolls-Royce Ghost, a Franklin mansion and other real estate, including the five-story Boulevard West building. Court documents say that in November he was ordered to forfeit the 59,000-square-foot building and land at 2932-2942 W. Grand Blvd., as well as a total of $11.55 million he had stashed away in various bank accounts in his own name and those of his various businesses and their affiliates. Filings from last month say that a sale for $5 million to an entity called Detroit Development Real Estate LLC is expected to be completed be-

Need to know

JJSale for $5 million is expected to be completed before March 25 JJOwner was ordered to forfeit building, land after pleading guilty to health-care fraud JJBuilding repairs costing tens of thousands of dollars are needed, records show

fore March 25. That LLC is registered to Menachem Cohen at an address on West 10 Mile Road in Southfield; a phone number listed for the LLC was disconnected. An email was sent to the company through an email address listed on its Facebook page; a direct message through the social media platform was also sent. The Feb. 7 filing also says that the building’s two largest tenants, Henry Ford Health System and Walker-Miller Energy Services LLC, have moved out. An earlier filing says building repairs costing tens of thousands of dollars are also needed. Michael Stevenson, co-founder of Southfield-based law firm Stevenson & Bullock PLC, is the court-appointed receiver. An email to him seeking comment and additional information was not returned. Kim Page, who is marketing the property for sale at $67.72 per square foot, said her company, Front Page Properties, has had a lot of activity in the building but no formal offers yet. The marketing materials say the property is five floors with the potential to be expanded by another five stories. “We have gotten a lot of interested parties in it and even possibly some potential offers as well,” she said. Page then deferred further comment to Stevenson. Brokers say that when dealing with what’s known as an “impacted sale” — one in which there may be issues with the property’s title — it’s important to disclose those potential snags, and be sure that the sale proceeds are

going to be enough to cover the claims associated, such as liens or other title issues. While they may not have to get into the specifics of a case such as Rashid’s, potential buyers need to know about certain aspects of a property’s history. Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America NA filed a lawsuit against Rashid and his M. Rashid Holdings LLC last year saying he took out a $1.95 million mortgage with them to buy the property but was in default. Subsequent filings say that M. Rashid Holdings hadn’t made its August and September 2017 mortgage payments and that a separate entity, M. Rashid Holding LLC, was set up to collect payments, although no payments were made on the loan. Then in December, the receiver for the property, had a $3.925 million offer ($66.45 per square foot) from Birmingham-based The Barbat Organization, run by Duane Barbat, to purchase the building. Barbat said the deal fell through because of month-to-month and expiring leases. “Once you start running the numbers and bringing tenants in and giving them improvement dollars, the pro forma just didn’t make sense, and the building doesn’t have parking, not a single parking spot,” Barbat said. At the time Rashid pleaded guilty, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider called the crimes “particularly troubling” because Rashid’s clinics “made Michigan’s opioid crisis even worse by prescribing over six million dosages of medically unnecessary opioids to individuals who were already suffering from opioid addiction.” An email sent to Rashid’s attorney, Sara MacWilliams of Bloomfield Hills-based MacWilliams Poirier PLLC, was not returned last week. Kirk Pinho: (313) 446-0412 Twitter: @kirkpinhoCDB


Leadership Defined: Delta Dental CEO Goran Jurkovic “We make sure Delta Dental is a force for good.” What is the importance of diversification to your business? We purchased a technology company five years ago—Dewpoint—and it has been instrumental to our growth and expansion. We built Red Cedar Investment Management and it will make a significant impact in 2019. We are diversifying in exciting new directions to ensure we are on the leading edge of business. What are some good leadership traits? I don’t care if you’re a 10-person shop or 1,000-person shop, you have to be able to communicate with every employee so they understand ultimately why they are here. … You also have to engage with local and state government leaders and charitable organizations. Fulfill your mission but also be faithful to your corporate responsibility. Who have been the biggest influences in your life?


n Jan. 1 of this year, Goran Jurkovic became president and CEO of Okemos-based Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. The company is one of the largest dental benefits administrators in the nation, covering nearly 9 million people and generating almost $3 billion in revenue.

success. We are diversifying our portfolio of businesses, including increasing our Medicare and Medicaid work, through which we cover 1.5 million individuals. Those programs are growing, and we want to be able to provide benefits to individuals who need the care and maybe don’t have the access.

Succeeding retired CEO Laura Czelada, Jurkovic, 48, is just the sixth person to hold the top job since Delta Dental of Michigan was founded in 1957 in a small house on the west side of Lansing. It is a fast-growing company with a loyal and engaged workforce.

How can Delta Dental find and retain talent for its workforce?

“We have numerous employees who have 20, 25, 30, 35 years with the company,” Jurkovic said. “I think that says a lot of things about our employees and our corporate culture.” Jurkovic knows the challenges ahead for businesses in the healthcare industry will be daunting. The opportunities, he believes, are greater. That’s why he doesn’t lose sleep about the future. The company expects to continue gaining market share in the dental benefits business and leading the promotion of oral and overall health. Jurkovic plans to broaden Delta Dental’s reach by diversifying its business and corporate citizenship portfolios. Building healthy, smart, vibrant communities has become the purpose of and a motivating force for the enterprise. The impact of that focus will become even more evident in the community as Delta Dental and the Delta Dental Foundation prepare to invest nearly $7 million in corporate citizenship and philanthropic initiatives in 2019. Jurkovic spoke recently with Crain Content Studio about Delta Dental’s mission, goals and community impact. What are important goals and initiatives for Delta Dental this year? At the core of what we do is our overall mission to improve oral health … to get people to the dentist, knowing how important it is from a health perspective. But oral health is not an isolated issue. It is connected to public health, education and overall economic development. That’s why we are now also engaging in talent and economic development to create the conditions necessary for our customers’


We need to commit to talent if we want talent to commit to us. That’s why we are investing in high-profile placemaking projects that make the communities we serve attractive to young and highly-skilled workers. It’s also important to engage in the community through corporate citizenship and philanthropy. But we can’t just build cool communities, we have to be a cool company. And we are. We are a huge small company. We serve millions of people, conduct business internationally and employ nearly 1,000 people, and yet our culture is familial and our workforce is stable and loyal. Talk about the company initiatives that support communities. Doing dental benefits better than anyone else isn’t an end unto itself; it is a means to building successful, sustainable communities where people can raise their families and enjoy their lives. Building healthy, smart, vibrant communities is simply why we do what we do. That objective anchors our strategic plan and drives our corporate citizenship and philanthropy. Nearly two-thirds of our workforce, including most of our top executives, volunteer and participate in various community activities. We clean up neighborhoods, pack food for children and families in underserved areas, read to kids in schools, sit on nonprofit boards. We make sure Delta Dental is a force for good. Talk about your role in building Delta Dental’s infrastructure and technology. Technology is the backbone of everything that we do. We are making major investments in our systems to revolutionize claims processing, bring new, innovative training opportunities to dentists in our network and enhance our customers’ experience. People want to be able to interact with whatever device they are holding—and they need us to keep their data secure.

I’ll always go back to my parents as being the biggest influencers in my life. They’re immigrants from Croatia who became UAW auto workers for 30-plus years. Their daily work ethic and the premise that nothing is given to you impacted me. How do you see the growth of Delta Dental? Dental Delta has seen record growth over the last decade; we have no doubt we will continue to expand. Our products, our service, our price and our value are second to none. But we know our competition is fierce and we have to innovate and anticipate change every day. On top of that, we have to ensure that we are not only the best dental benefits partner, but the best business partner in the market.

About Goran Jurkovic Background: Certified public accountant. Joined Delta Dental as accounting manager in 1999. Also served as chief risk officer, controller, CFO and COO. Hometown: Lansing. Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Michigan State University. Boards: Business Leaders for Michigan, Lansing Economic Area Partnership, Sparrow Foundation and MSU Master of Science in Healthcare Management. Family: Wife, Mandy, son Nick, and daughter Olivia. Pets: Morgan, an English Cream Golden Retriever. Best golf round: One over par. Best book read in the last five years: “10% Happier” by Dan Harris. Favorite sport: Soccer. Someone he’d like to meet: Grandparents who passed away in Croatia before he could meet them.


C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9

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The Phoenix MIll in in Plymouth Township is being turned into restaurant and banquet space with an anticipated completion in the fourth quarter of 2020 following the approximately $2.5 million project.

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Three historic industrial mills in Wayne County are slated for redevelopment, with one already the target of a $2.5 million plan to turn it into a restaurant/banquet facility. The Hines Park Mill Run Placemaking Project, which is part of a broader effort to improve and connect parks in Wayne County with about $5.5 million in spending set for this year, is just one of several efforts underway discussed Thursday night during Executive Warren Evans’ annual State of the County address in Dearborn. The project, which was unveiled last year and is gradually making headway with development agreements signed or nearing completion, proposes that developers turn the three buildings, which range in age from 84 to 97 years old, into things such as restaurants, breweries, art galleries and bicycle shops. A plan is already underway to turn the Phoenix Mill, built in 1922 at 14973 Northville Road in Plymouth Township into a restaurant and banquet center by Richard Cox and Gregory Donofrio, the group behind an entity called Critical Mass LLC. Additional plans in the so-called The Henry project include streetscape and landscaping improvements, improved access to Middle Rouge Park and getting the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to township board documents. The purchase price is $615,000. Northville Township-based Inform Studio PC is the project architect while Taylor-based J.S. Vig Construction Co. is the contractor. Cox said Michelle Lussier, the restaurateur behind Lucy & The Wolf and Table 5 restaurants in Northville, is behind the new restaurant at Phoenix Mill. In addition, the family behind Genitti’s Hole-In-The-Wall in Northville is working on the banquet component, Cox said. Construction is expected to be complete in the fourth quarter next year, Cox said, adding that financing for the project has been finalized. “We are in the middle of some of the site cleanup. We are working on Phase 2 completion and completing the tank removal that’s got to happen, and we are emptying the building right now,” Cox said. Other buildings included in the plan are the 4,200-square-foot Newburgh Mill at 37401 Edward N. Hines

Need to know

Hines Park Mill Run Placemaking Project is part of broader effort to improve and connect parks in county

Opposition to land sale

 Three historic industrial mills are slated for redevelopment  $2.5 million plan to turn mill in Plymouth Township into a restaurant/ banquet facility

“The county executive believes it’s our job to provide that sense of place and quality of life so that we can retain and attract the talent which ultimately attracts businesses and investments.” Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive in charge of economic development

Drive in Livonia, which was built in 1935, and the approximately 5,500-square-foot Wilcox Mill at 230 Wilcox Road in Plymouth, built in 1923. All three properties are in Hines Park, the sprawling 2,300-acre area that is traversed by the 17.5-mile Hines Drive. The asking price for Newburgh Mill is $400,000; it sits on 1.83 acres and is being marketed for sale by the Southfield office of Colliers International Inc., a brokerage company. The asking price for Wilcox Mill is $1.4 million; it sits on about 14.5 acres and is being marketed for sale by Southfield-based Signature Associates Inc., another brokerage company. Some activists are concerned that an 11-acre chunk of that property could be sold off for residential development. The county says that 11-acre parcel is secondary and it hasn’t yet decided to sell that parcel. Six of the 19 Ford Village Industry Mills that were built are located along the Middle Rouge River: Phoenix, Wilcox, Newburgh, Nankin Mills, Waterford and Northville, the latter two of which are privately owned. Nankin Mills was turned into the Nankin Mills Interpretive Center at 33175 Ann Arbor Trail, the headquarters for the Wayne County Parks & Recreation Department.

The mills project, which has faced pushback from a group called Save Hines Park that contends the county is selling off parkland, is part of a broader vision to, as Evans says, make the parks more appealing and connected. “Right now you can go to western Wayne, and unless you want to get hit by a car or truck, you can’t go to the eastern part of Wayne in any sort of pleasurable way,” Evans said in an interview with Crain’s in advance of his Thursday address. This year marks the centennial of Wayne County Parks. “The ability to connect parks in this county through hiking trails and bike trails is the next 100 years of the parks. I don’t think it makes sense to think the first 100 years will look like the next 100 years,” he said. Yet Save Hines Park prefers leasing the mill buildings to private developers for redevelopment rather than selling them, as has been the plan with the mills and the Warren Valley Golf Course. “We strongly oppose selling these buildings, and the parkland they sit on, because once they are sold they are lost forever and we will have no ability to protect these important historic park amenities,” the group says on its website. Khalil Rahal, assistant county executive in charge of economic development, said the parks projects are part of a broader economic development effort in the county. “Our economic development strategy utilizes a back-to-the-basics approach to developing our economy,” he said. “Western Wayne County is increasingly becoming a bedroom community. The key to developing our economy is the retention and attraction of talent. Today’s talent is looking for a sense of place, vibrant culture and atmosphere, and amenities that positively impact quality of life. The county executive believes it’s our job to provide that sense of place and quality of life so that we can retain and attract the talent which ultimately attracts businesses and investments. We believe investing in parks and trails will contribute significantly to that effort.” Kirk Pinho: (313) 446-0412 Twitter: @kirkpinhoCDB


BUSINESS LEADERS: Gas tax is fairest way to fix Michigan’s D-minus roads

Business Leaders for Michigan details the scope of the state’s road funding problem, offers solutions for filling the gap By Crain Content Studio

State and Local Transportation Spending (Annual Averages 2012-16)

United States 4.98% When it comes to better funding Wisconsin 6.88% Michigan roads, the state’s largest busiPennsylvania 6.82% nesses want to see action. Ohio They also want to spread some hard 4.70% truths. New York 3.41% Business Leaders for Michigan (BLM), Michigan 3.85% a nonprofit organization that includes Indiana 4.91% the senior leaders of the state’s largest Illinois 5.95% employers and universities, detailed those truths in a recent call to action for Source: The Brookings Institution 2019 increased road funding in the state. Among them: president of Public Sector Consultants. cially something as complicated as ■ Last year, the American Society of Investing an added $1.6 billion in state roads,” Rothwell said. “You can’t solve a Civil Engineers rated the state’s roads a highway and bridge infrastructure an$2 billion to $4 billion problem with inefD-minus; at the same time, San Francisnually could create or sustain 18,000 ficiencies or tolling or financing mechaco-based autonomous car software jobs, increase the gross state product by nisms — it’s a funding issue, at its core.” company IvI5 used real time data to $1.5 billion annually and increase real Bob Emerson, former Democratic name Michigan’s roads the worst in the personal income by $1.1 billion annually, state Senate leader, echoed that sentination. according to BLM. ment. “Everybody’s going to look for an ■ The average Michigan driver is easy way out of this,” said Emerson paying $686 more a year from driving on Narrowing the debate during the panel discussion. “All the rough roads – a $4.8 billion annual cost Road funding increases enacted in magic solutions are gone.” for all motorists in the state. 2015 under former Gov. Rick Snyder and Albert Berriz, CEO of McKinley, em■ Every dollar spent on road preser- a Republican-controlled Legislature phasized the urgency of solving the vation eliminates or delays the need to were meant to address the problem, the problem. “Any number you hear today is spend $6 to $14 on repair report noted, but have really already out of date,” Berriz said. and reconstruction. only staved off more precipi“Our roads are an emtous decline. How a user fee could fill barrassment, the problem’s By 2026, without further the funding gap getting worse, it’s getting intervention, the number of BLM’s report notes several opportumore expensive, and there roads in “good” or “fair” con- nities to fill the road funding gap. aren’t that many options to dition is projected to dip beThe organization also made clear its fix it,” Doug Rothwell, BLM’s low 40 percent. A commission preferences without supporting a spepresident and CEO, told a assembled for Snyder deter- cific proposal. crowd of business execumined Michigan needs $2.6 “We believe user fees, which could be tives who gathered for an billion more in infrastructure a gas tax, is the best and fairest way to unveiling of the report ear- “It’s really about funding a year to maintain do it,” Rothwell said. Heavy road users the political will to quality roads. The longer the are often heavy gasoline consumers, so lier this month in Lansing. “It’s really about political get the job done.” state doesn’t meet the fund- they pay the most in gasoline taxes. will to get the job done.” ing gap, the pricier full reLike all states, Michigan levies a Doug Rothwell, The report, “Call to Ac- Business Leaders pairs become. per-gallon tax on gasoline. In January tion: The Need for Increased for Michigan “Saying let’s wait … a lot of 2017, after remaining flat for 19 years, Road Funding in Michigan,” other roadways are going to this tax increased from 19 cents to 26.3 also illustrates the costs to business in- fall into that poor category and you’re cents a gallon. Michigan’s rate ranks 18th vestment. The state’s highways, rail lines going to need a lot of money to bring nationally and in 2019 is projected to and ports move $860 billion in freight them back up,” Paul Ajegba, director of raise $1.2 billion. Raising the gasoline tax every year, most of which relies on the Michigan Department of Transporby 1 cent per gallon would generate Michigan roadways. In addition, “com- tation (MDOT), said during a panel dis- about $46 million annually; a 25-cent panies routinely cite reliable access to cussion about the report. per gallon increase would generate interstate highway systems and other Rothwell said he hoped BLM’s report about $1 billion annually. major routes as a critical factor in their would “narrow the debate” around road Emerson and Ken Sikkema, a Repubchoice to locate,” the report states. funding by focusing on viable solutions lican and another former Michigan SenBLM collaborated with Public Sector that aren’t born from misconceptions. ate leader, have formed the Michigan Consultants to research and deliver the All the panelists agreed that any as- Consensus Policy Project in part to call report. “There is a real cost to inaction,” sumption that MDOT could have billions for a 47-cent gas tax hike over nine said Julie Metty Bennett, senior vice of dollars in inefficiencies to cover the years. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, in her funding gap is simply unfounded. budget proposal unveiled this month, “There are so many rabbit holes you called for a 45-cent gasoline tax hike, can go down on any policy issue, espephased in over one year.

Other potential funding mechanisms offered up by BLM include a sales tax increase, a motor vehicle registration tax, a mileage-based user fee and highway tolls. Financing options include bonds, public-private partnerships (P3s) or creation of an infrastructure bank. Rothwell said BLM is prepared to fully support a proposal consistent with the principles outlined in its report.

PANELISTS Business Leaders for Michigan recently convened a panel to talk about road funding.

Opportunity to make a difference Ajegba said he had been heartened by the focus on the state’s transportation infrastructure. “I’ve been in the department 29 years, this is really the first time in my career fixing the roads has been top priority for the governor or for business leaders in this state,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for us to really try to make a difference on this whole issue.” He said he hopes this year will be a watershed moment for getting Michigan’s roads back in shape. “I think we’re getting to a point now where everybody is finally realizing, ‘Yes, it really is that bad; we really need to do something now,’” he said. Sikkema agreed. “Stop the ‘wait’ narrative,” he said. “It’s just getting more and more expensive.”

Paul Ajegba Michigan Dept. of Transportation

Julie Metty Bennett Public Sector Consultants

Take action For several decades now, Michigan’s General Fund has not increased, and the gas tax was not indexed to inflation, which pushed the state further behind in infrastructure investment with each passing year, compared to other states. If no action is taken, Michigan will likely face a disruption in its robust pattern of sustained economic growth. States that are actively investing in their roads and bridges will win the business investments that could have been headed for Michigan. Their workers will reap the benefits of new construction projects and site expansions. A long-term solution will require additional analysis and thoughtful negotiations between Whitmer’s administration and legislative leaders to work out the details – negotiations which Rothwell says are a valuable opportunity to show that Michigan can solve one of America’s greatest challenges in a bipartisan way. Download the full BLM road funding report and get involved in the organization’s work by visiting www.

Albert Berriz McKinley

Bob Emerson Michigan Consensus Policy Project



Ken Sikkema Michigan Consensus Policy Project

BLM road funding 3-18.indd 32

3/13/19 4:17 PM

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DMC, Henry Ford, WSU crucial to city


he long-running three-way dance between Wayne State University’s medical school, its longtime partner Detroit Medical Center, and would-be new partner Henry Ford Health System is more than just a political dust-up. It is a story whose outcome will profoundly affect Detroit’s future, and it’s not an overstatement to say that it’s a life-or-death negotiation for residents of Michigan’s largest city. And an opportunity to attract more research dollars to the city Wayne State’s medical school is the largest such school in the nation on a single campus, training around 1,200 future doctors at any given time. It is by far the largest source of physicians who wind up practicing in Michigan, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of practicing physicians in the state at a time when Michigan doesn’t have enough doctors. Both health systems serve as safety-net hospitals in one of the nation’s poorest cities, and treat hundreds or thousands of people every day. It’s unclear what exactly is driving the dispute among a faction of Wayne State’s board of governors over a deal between Wayne State and Henry Ford Health System. Ostensibly, the dissident board members have objected to payments totaling more than $7 million to consultants who have worked on the deal, and say their objections are about transparency and accountability. We would simply observe that it’s a business fact of life that consultants with niche expertise are called in for such complicated deals in the works between parties that operate on budgets of $1 billion or more. None of that explains why they changed their minds after voting unanimously last fall to accept a letter of intent for the affiliation between Henry Ford and Wayne State. Some former board members speculate in Jay Greene’s story on Page 1 that one driving factor could be a continued desire by some current board members for Wayne State to buy DMC. Plans that have been studied include the state of Michigan and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan teaming up to buy DMC for $2 billion, then turning it over to Wayne State to operate. That would be an ambitious plan — the phrase “pie in the sky” comes to mind. It’s hard to imagine there would be political appetite in Lansing for that sort of expenditure when officials are already scrapping over $2.1 billion a year for Michigan’s roads. And that’s presuming Blue Cross would have any interest. But a stronger future for all three of these institutions is in Detroiters’ best interests. It’s especially crucial because in a year and a half, DMC’s for-profit parent company will no longer have any remaining obligations tied to its previous role as a nonprofit safety net hospital system. That owner, Tenet Healthcare, will then be free to sell off hospitals together or separately or even close one or more of them. That uncertainty is part of what has driven Wayne State executives to seek a future with Henry Ford. This is why it’s critical that the trustees at Wayne State seek common ground agreement on the medical school’s future. More than 20 business and community leaders — including several prominent university donors — made that clear in a letter to the board last week. Leaders within the political parties that nominate these trustees to serve in the public interest might also want to chat privately with them about what exactly is at stake.


Time to fix school funding method To the Editor: As a Detroit-area businessman, I read with great interest the Crain’s letter to the editor, “Money hasn’t solved educational woes” (Crain's, March 2). There are some undeniable facts when it comes to Michigan’s broken, outdated school funding method and the need for a new, fairer approach that helps prepare all students for the modern workforce. First, Michigan ranks dead last nationwide in school funding growth. Second, funding for our schools has fallen more sharply than any other state over the past 25 years. Third (and simultaneously) Michigan is consistently a bottom 10 state in student performance, and our state’s talent

gap only continues to widen (which is bad for business). Finally, this is an issue that knows no political party affiliation. It affects all Michiganders. It simply costs more to educate a student who lives in poverty, has special education needs or speaks English as a second language. Michigan’s one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to how we fund schools is broken. We’re falling down on the job — and failing our kids in the process. Without a new, fairer school funding plan, students will only continue falling behind their peers across the country in a fiercely competitive global economy. For the past two years, I have been proud to serve on the School Finance Research Collaborative, which last year produced Michigan’s first com-

prehensive school adequacy study that provided a roadmap to fixing Michigan’s broken school funding method and making it fair for all students. The Collaborative is a diverse group of business leaders and education experts from all corners of Michigan who agree it’s time to change the way Michigan’s schools are funded. All students deserve an equal chance at getting a high-quality education and competing for good-paying jobs. Now is the time to equip all students with the skills necessary to compete for 21st century careers. Anything less would be a disservice to our kids and our state. Sincerely, Jim Stapleton Detroit-area businessman Regent emeritus, Eastern Michigan University

Talk is cheap, but social media missteps can be costly P

eople are constantly talking about the impact that social media is having on our society. What it’s doing to our children and what it’s doing to our communities. Social media has also been an amazing tool for businesses, as it allows companies to amplify their messages in a very cost-effective way. Entire brands have been built using nothing more than social platforms. Many corporations have harnessed the power of social to improve their customer service. It’s a direct line to your customer. There are companies in Detroit, including General Motors and Quicken Loans, that have entire “social listening”

KC CRAIN Publisher

teams. They work in rooms with sophisticated equipment and algorithms that can help them deal with upset customers or help them identify potential customers who are unhappy with rival brands. This all happens on a very massive scale.

Other companies have failed miserably by missing the opportunity to build loyalty through listening. Their inability to connect with their customers can destroy brand equity. Customers want to feel like they can trust the brands they do business with. So what about company employees who use social media? What is their responsibility — or company liability — when employees use the company name as part of their social identification? Harder to monitor but very important. A single person in a company can do much damage to the brand. It’s a tightrope between free speech ideals and the ability of a company to

protect its image and brand. It’s even tougher to navigate when your business is news. Crain Communications is a business-to-business media company with brands in many different parts of the world. We’ve been a trusted news organization for more than 100 years. Our employees are constantly working to build awareness for their direct business but also their own brands through social. In some media companies, journalists have been fired over controversial tweets that damage the medium’s reputation for objectivity. Some have resigned because they don’t want to be restrained from commenting or offering opinions.

Credibility and objectivity are the core of our work at Crain. We work hard to make sure that the trust we’ve built with our audiences carries over to the social space. Navigating the ability to build and engage our growing audiences through social media while remaining a trusted, objective source of news and information is key. This is a conversation many media companies, including ours, are having internally all the time. It’s an important one. Trust in institutions is falling, including in media. It’s a time we all in this business should be listening to our readers — maybe a little more before that next tweet.

C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9


International students part of the workforce solution


n her first State of the State address, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer detailed the important goal, critical to Michigan’s prosperity, that 60 percent of Michigan adults attain a postsecondary education credential by 2030. The web of interconnected challenges stemming from a shrinking population of high school graduates is compounded by prior decades of higher education funding cuts and rising tuition costs. The distressing result is that we can neither fill up the seats at our public colleges and universities, nor provide the workforce that Michigan needs to keep our companies competitive or attract new ones. (See “A Pipeline Out of Balance” in the Feb. 18-24 issue of Crain’s) Immigration — and international students, in particular — offers an important component of what, inevitably, needs to be a multipart solution to this important public policy crisis. Contrary to images projected by popular media and President Donald Trump, immigrants to Michigan are overwhelmingly college-educated and an important part of our state’s talent solutions. In fact, 63 percent of new adult immigrants to Michigan since 2010 possess at least a four-year college degree, which is more than 2.5 times the college attainment rate of Michigan’s general population. While comprising around 7 percent of Michigan’s population, immigrants represent 15 percent of its science, technology, engineering and mathematics workforce. More to the point of Michigan’s higher-education challenge, however, international students represent an important opportunity to boost enrollment at Michigan colleges and universities, contribute (through higher tuition rates) to their financial well-being and provide Michigan companies with the STEM talent they need to thrive. With more than 34,000 international students — a little more than 5 percent of total enrollment — paying two to three times the tuition of instate students, it is estimated that international students contribute $1.2 billion annually to the Michigan economy, supporting over 14,000 jobs, and helping Michigan colleges and universities keep the lid on tuition increases, enabling them to educate more Michigan students. International students don’t just provide important tuition dollars. They predominate in the STEM fields, especially at the highest level of study. In fact, 80 percent of the students in U.S. graduate programs in computer science, electrical engineering and industrial engineering, more than 60 percent of the graduate students in mechanical engineering, and more than 40 percent of the graduate students in physics and mathematics are international students. If Michigan companies are to attain the talent they need to be a global leader in automotive design and engineering, mobility, bioscience and research, we will need to effectively tap into this talent pool, in addition to developing the skills of instate students and retooling Michigan’s workforce. The importance of international student graduates to the American economy is growing. In 2014, the number of new international stu-

OTHER VOICES Steve Tobocman

dents working in the U.S after graduation through the Optional Practical Training portion of their student visa (a program that allows international students to work for a set time in their field of study) surpassed the number

of immigrants employed with H-1B visas for specialty workers. Use of OPT has grown 330 percent between 2004 and 2016, including a four-fold increase for STEM graduates. High-skilled immigrant talent does not just fill critical shortages for U.S. companies. For the past quarter-century, immigrants have helped launch one-quarter of all the hightech startups in the U.S. The average immigrant tech entrepreneur starts his or her company 13 years after entering the U.S., and attending an American college or university is the No. 1 reason such founders came to the U.S. Similarly, of 87 startups in the U.S.

that have grown to valuations over $1 billion, more than half were launched by immigrants. And almost half of those immigrant founders first came to the U.S. as international students. Recently, BusinessForward, a national small-business advocacy organization, released two reports making the case for international students as critical sources of tuition to colleges and universities and talent for American companies. The reports highlight that last year U.S. college enrollment dropped by 354,000 students. International students are critical to keeping down the price of tuition for domestic students and to counter years of state budget cuts,

not just in Michigan, but across the nation. Solving the talent pipeline challenge — both in growing the number of available college graduates and STEM talent, but also in making sure that the state’s colleges and universities can sustain themselves and offer reasonable tuition rates for Michigan residents — is a complex challenge. While international students won’t solve all our problems, they certainly offer a potential solution to some of them. Steve Tobocman is executive director of Global Detroit, a regional economic development organization.

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Alessandro DiNello,

President and CEO, Flagstar Bank

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Executive Director, Rochester Downtown Development Authority


April 24 9 – 11:30 a.m. The Fillmore, Detroit Individual tickets: $80 Reserved table of 10: $850

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Register at Contact Lisa Rudy at for sponsorship opportunities.



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One sign of Detroit’s turnaround? More big meetings By Doug Henze | Special to Crain’s Detroit Business


ngineers, civil rights leaders and science-minded teens will be among the thousands of visitors who converge on metro Detroit this year for conventions — yet another a sign of momentum in a resurgent downtown.

The new Little Caesars Arena sports and concert venue, a revitalized riverfront and scores of restaurants and retail shops have created a national buzz, hospitality experts say. “There’s a lot more positive national press and there’s a lot more positive local press and that really helps us,” said Judy Booth, director of sales and marketing for the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. “Meeting planners across the country are very curious about what’s going on in Detroit. Look at where we were five years ago. How does a city go from complete bankruptcy to a must-see destination?” Among the groups coming to see it are:  For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, an organization that sponsors youth robotics competitions, which will hold its 2019 FIRST Championship at Cobo Center from April 24-27;  The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which is bringing its 110th national convention to Cobo from July 2024;  The National Society of Black Engineers, which holds its 2019 Annual Conference at Cobo March 2730. FIRST, which initially visited Detroit in 2018, is projected to bring 50,000 visitors this year, with 8,000 attending the NAACP convention and 13,200 turning out for NSBE. The NAACP hasn’t held its convention here since 2007, while the NSBE hasn’t met in Detroit since 1995. “We’re certainly seeing an uptick in interest in meetings of all sizes,” said Dave Beachnau, senior vice president of sales, marketing & sports for the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau. “It’s a byproduct of (how) the conversation about Detroit has certainly changed.” One measure of increasing inter-

Need to know

 National buzz has more meeting planners interested in Detroit, the region’s tourism professionals say  FIRST youth robotics championship, NAACP, National Society of Black Engineers bringing big meetings here in 2019  Room shortage still makes it hard for Detroit to compete

est is the requests for proposals meeting planners send to cities they’re considering as convention destinations. From 2017 to 2018, DMCVB responded to 13 percent more RFPs, Beachnau said. Landing a convention means millions of dollars in revenue from out-of-towners for hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Convention delegates contribute $265 a day, on average, while leisure travelers generate $178 a day, according to the DMCVB. “Any time you bring in large numbers of people … there is going to be that spinoff, where restaurants are going to see a larger amount of business and museums (are, too),” Beachnau said. Major convention player Cobo upped events booked from 166 to 244 and revenue from $5.5 million to $13.8 million from 2013 to 2018, said Cobo General Manager Claude Molinari. The center forecasts revenue of $14.25 million for 2019. “We’ve got a very strong 2019,” Molinari said. “The facility has undergone a massive renovation (and) the city of Detroit — especially Midtown and Downtown — has metamorphosized.” In 2015, Cobo completed an upgrade that brought 25,000 additional square feet of exhibit space and upgraded IT capabilities. The 2.4-million-square foot facility now has 750,000 square feet of exhibit space and 10 gigs of bandwidth. SEE MEETINGS, PAGE 12

In this package

 One sign of Detroit’s turnaround? Big meetings. This Page  Companies break out of static meeting spaces. Page 11

Detroit’s Renaissance Center LARRY PEPLIN FOR CRAIN’S

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Out of the box



Companies break out of static meeting spaces to help employees relax, have fun, forge bonds By Doug Henze

Special to Crain’s Detroit Business

When it comes to inspiring their staffs to reach for the next big idea, companies are in full retreat — corporate retreats, that is. Why sit in a static meeting space when you can take it to the next level at a rock climbing wall or break out of the rut at an escape room? “It’s great to get out of the windowless conference room,” said corporate retreat planner Adrienne Nutter, owner of Fandangle Events in Grosse Pointe Park. “(Companies are) trying to get the employees to relax a little bit, have fun, but also get in the mindset of working together.” Adds Lauren Van Haaren, a junior publicist with J’Adore Detroit, “I think it boosts closeness. People are just looking for a unique space with fun energy.” J’Adore, headquartered in a loft in Eastern Market, holds corporate meetings paired with walks through the selling sheds. And when it comes to hosting a murder mystery event, they’re not above suspicion. In a time when corporate teammates often are half a world away — connected only by phone calls or Skype conferences — lively retreats serve to form bonds, Nutter said. “One of my favorite team-building events … is learning how to sail,” said Nutter, who takes clients to the Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit. “I have seen it be very successful. You have to work together.” Doesn’t float your boat? Perhaps a scavenger hunt or road rally will get the team going. “By the time they’re (at the corporate meeting spot), they already have something to talk about,” Nutter said. Volunteering with charitable groups, such as Gleaners Community Food Bank or Habitat for Humanity can give the team a sense of giving and accomplishment. For more out-of-the-boardroom experiences, try treating the staff to:  The Michigan DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit, which combines meeting space and a meal with indoor and outdoor activities ranging from birding, tracking, and wetlands or history walks to fishing, archery, kayaking or snowshoeing  Tree Runner Adventure Park in West Bloomfield, where team members can challenge themselves with 195 obstacles and 41 zip lines across eight wooded acres. The facility also

offers a covered picnic area, along with snacks and beverages  Detroit’s Escape The Room, where players locked in a room use their wits to piece together the clues that will allow them to break free before time runs out. Players can choose from three themed escape rooms. At Topgolf in Auburn Hills, the staff literally can get into the swing of things. Golfers stationed in 102 heated, outdoor bays — spread across three floors — drive balls at targets to score points. “We have event rooms where people can come in and do their corporate meetings and, afterwards, they go out and play golf,” said Director of Sales Bob Raymond, adding that companies can reserve bays together. “There’s a lot of bonding going on. Everyone has a chance to 1.) contribute and 2.) win.” Topgolf soon will offer access to a teambuilding expert to help companies plan activities. When an afternoon of co-worker togetherness isn’t enough, some companies forge bonds with overnight retreats. Metro Detroit options include:  The Howell Nature Center, which offers meeting space, along with six lodges that have fireplaces and kitchens. Amenities include hiking trails, a teaching zoo with injured native animals and wildlife programs  The Inn on Ferry Street — four restored Victorian mansions and two carriage houses with 40 total overnight rooms, plus meeting space for 22 people. “We’re right around the corner from the DIA and the cultural museums,” said Manager Holly Cheslock. Breakfast comes with the rooms.  The food is the focal point at Zingerman’s Cornman Farms in Dexter. Visitors can spend the day watching cooking demonstrations and participating in cheese tastings or preparing meals for patient families at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor. Although the site doesn’t have lodging, it does offer a blend of rustic and modern. Its 1837 red barn was renovated in 2011 to include a bar area, modern appliances and an elevator. “Meals and food naturally bring people together,” said Jamie Gray, company marketing & communications manager. “Our hope is teams can come to Zingerman’s Cornman Farms and feel like they’re escaping the city.”

At Tree Runner Adventure Park in West Bloomfield, team members can challenge themselves with 195 obstacles and 41 zip lines across eight wooded acres. TREE RUNNER ADVENTURE PARK — WEST BLOOMFIELD




The Michigan DNR Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit, which combines meeting space and a meal with indoor and outdoor activities.

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Possible is everything.

First Robotics brought 35,000+ people to Cobo Center in 2018. The event returns to Cobo April 24-27.



The center, home to the North American International Auto Show in January, will host Youmacon, an anime convention expected to bring 21,000 attendees to the city from Oct. 30-Nov. 3. Also on tap for the center is the SAE International WCX World Congress Experience, projected to bring 12,000 automotive engineers, manufacturers and suppliers together April 9-11. Events at other major metro Detroit destinations include:  Horizon League Motor City Madness, forecast to bring 21,500 basketball fans to LCA March 11-12;  The Quick Lane Bowl, a Dec. 26 football game bringing 20,000 fans to Ford Field;  The Great Lakes Invitational hockey tournament at LCA Dec. 30, expected to bring in 20,000 hockey enthusiasts; and  UBM Americas’ 2019 Battery Show, which will bring an estimated 8,300 people to the Hyatt Place Detroit/Novi at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi Sept. 10-12.

Suburban staycation In addition to the major conventions, metro Detroit hosts hundreds of smaller events throughout the year, Beachnau said. Business comes both from the suburbs and feeder markets, such as Chicago and Cleveland. “The Washington, D.C., market is another key market for us from a convention standpoint,” Beachnau said, pointing to the large number of national associations based in the D.C. area. Detroit also has become more of a leisure destination, with suburbanites staying downtown after sporting events or concerts — something many avoided when there was less to do and the city was perceived as more dangerous. “People are coming to downtown for a weekend getaway,” Beachnau said. Leisure travelers also are heading in from out of town, Booth said.

Little Caesars Arena brings visitors to Detroit with events including the recent Horizon League Motor City Madness basketball tournament and the Great Lakes Invitational hockey tournament later this year. LARRY PEPLIN FOR CRAIN’S

“When you’re in Lonely Planet and Forbes and all these great publications that you’re the must-see — people have heard,” she said. At national trade shows, business executives and other attendees now line up at Detroit information stations to learn about the city, Booth said. “It’s such a relief and you just want to say, ‘It’s about time. It’s our turn,’” said Booth, who has been “selling” Detroit since 1996 — first for DMCVB and now for Marriott. “We have a lot to brag about now. I remember the days where there were three or four restaurants (downtown) you could recommend. (Now), I can’t keep up.” That’s not to say that the job of rebuilding Detroit’s image is done. After decades of decline, the city’s national reputation still suffers from concerns about crime and lack of entertainment opportunities. “We’ve made a huge change,” Booth said. “(But) we’ve got a lot of work to do.” To combat that problem, DMCVB puts an emphasis on bringing meeting planners to the city. “That’s the key for us is getting

them here to see it first hand and to experience it for themselves,” he said.

Room shortages still an issue Making Detroit a national convention destination also comes with another problem — a shortage of hotel rooms in the downtown core, tourism professionals say. Although the city has more than 5,000 hotel rooms downtown, it best accommodates events requiring 1,000 to 2,000 rooms, Beachnau said. That’s because convention-goers want to stay near events. “When you’re trying to attract an event here, they’ll say, ‘How many rooms do you have within walking distance of the convention center?’” Molinari said. “(With big shows) if just all the exhibitors were to stay downtown, we’d have no room for out-of-town guests.” It’s not a matter of trying to compete with national hospitality powerhouses, such as Chicago, Booth said. “It’s hard for us to compete against Indianapolis or Cleveland or Atlanta,” she said.

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$7.1M acquisition adds visual services to TLS Productions By Dustin Walsh

Ann Arbor audio, lighting and rigging firm TLS Productions Inc. now has a visual component following its $7.1 million acquisition by Japanese subsidiary Hibino USA Inc. Hibino acquired an 80 percent stake in the company in a deal that closed at the end of February. TLS Productions will remain an independent entity under Hibino’s ownership. The deal provides TLS Productions, which sells its audio and lighting services to exhibitions, concerts, etc., the ability to offer Hibino’s visual component. Hibino designs and sells LED-video screens for use in the exhibition space. Together, TLS and Hibino can offer a full suite of the digital and visual components required to put on an event. Proceeds of the sale will be used to acquire more gear, allowing TLS Productions to meet the growing demand from the exhibition sector, particularly in the private equity and medical conference space, TLS President Bill Ross said. “We’re going to be able to do more work across a greater spectrum,” Ross said. “While trying to build up this company, we met up against the difficulty of getting access to real funding. Bank lending is still hard for small businesses and we wanted to really break out of the mold we were accustomed to.” TLS Productions, formerly part of Tobins Lake Studios founded in Brighton in 1954, was established as an independent company in 1996 completely focused on the overhead lighting rigging for auto shows. Auto show technological expansion across the U.S. provided TLS Productions with growth, generating about $9 million in revenue in 2013, up from $1 million in 1997. But the founders recognized auto shows weren’t enough, with Ross and CEO Brad Hayes buying out the former majority owner in 2012. “The auto industry is always cyclical,” Hayes said. “Auto shows will continue to be viable, but the internet and automakers’ changing tastes in how they use auto shows has really changed that market. There’s just a smaller pot now.” Hayes and Ross pushed the company more into the audio space, hiring freelance sound engineers to expand its offerings to concerts and corporate events. Some of its lighting and audio production has been used on tour by ZZ Top, the Eagles and Toby Mac. TLS Productions employs 28 fulltime workers at its Ann Arbor and Las Vegas offices with another 100plus freelancers. It’s also established itself in the casino gaming industry, where contracts are plentiful, Ross said. “Casinos are easy money,” Ross said. “The competition to maintain the highest-end facility is stiff, so they are constantly updating technology and layout and that provides us with ample opportunity.”

TLS Productions provides overhead lighting to MGM Grand Detroit, MotorCity Casino Hotel and Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit, Firekeepers Casino Hotel in Battle Creek and Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort in Mt. Pleasant. It has also done work for the Detroit Institute of Arts and The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn. Growth outside of the automotive sector allowed TLS Productions to generate about $16 million in revenue in 2018.

Hayes believes the company can now double its growth by 2022 and quadruple it by 2026 with Hibino’s assistance. “Hibino really makes us a full-service production with greater access to markets in Asia and Europe,” Hayes said. “We now have a worldwide base without having to load equipment onto a container ship.” Dustin Walsh: (313) 446-6042 Twitter: @dustinpwalsh

Brad Hayes: Auto industry always cyclical.

William Ross: Going to be able to do more.

Need to know

J Japanese subsidiary Hibino USA acquired 80 percent stake in Ann Arbor company J Deal allows TLS expansion into video services J

Finance and medical expos lead growth

“While trying to build up this company, we met up against the difficulty of getting access to real funding. Bank lending is still hard for small businesses and we wanted to really break out of the mold we were accustomed to.” Bill Ross, TLS president


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C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9



A SENSE OF BELONGING Amal Berry works to make sure DTE’s 10,000 employees and the communities they serve are included By Rachelle Damico

The Berry File

Growing up, Amal Berry didn’t always feel like she fit in. “As a kid, I was always the underdog, and I always wanted to help the underdog,” Berry said. Her family immigrated to the United States from Lebanon a year after a civil war broke out in 1975. Too young to have been taught English in Lebanon, Berry picked up the language by watching episodes of “The Brady Bunch” and “The Flintstones.” “I felt early on the dynamics of being an immigrant in a foreign land and trying to assimilate and feel acceptance in a space where I felt that I did not belong,” Berry said. Her childhood experiences have informed her nearly 20-year-long career in diversity and inclusion. Now, as the Diversity and Inclusion manager for DTE, Berry’s job is to make sure DTE’s more than 10,000 employees feel included and that the company supports a diverse workplace. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in history and sociology, University of Michigan-Dearborn

Special to Crain’s Detroit Business

How did your family immigrating to the U.S. influence what you wanted to do?

In 1976, there weren’t a lot of Arab Americans in the metro Detroit area. My family and I were kind of here by ourselves. In my classroom, there was one other Arab girl who was

Career ladder: Worked in the banking industry for more than 23 years, including a 14-year career at Comerica Bank, where her last role was vice president, diversity education manager. Afterwards, she worked at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan as senior director and chief diversity executive for more than two years. She left to launch her own consulting company focused on diversity and inclusion efforts and executive services for nonprofits before transitioning to her current role. Current role: Manager, Diversity and Inclusion, DTE Energy

“The more diverse experiences, backgrounds and ideas you have in business, the more likely you are to attract all kinds of customers to sustain and grow the success of the business.” Amal Berry

DTE Energy Diversity and Inclusion Manager Amal Berry at the company’s headquarters in Detroit. ERIN KIRKLAND FOR CRAIN’S

born in the U.S., but she wanted nothing to do with me because I was foreign. It was a really big transition. Everyone looked and ate differently than I did. Things weren’t as acclimated to support diversity at the time. I think because of that experience, I wanted to help others who felt like they didn’t fit in. Diversity and inclusion work is really about creating a sense of belonging and a sense of welcoming for each and every one of us. When did you figure out you could do that as a career?

My high school teacher was a sociology and history PhD. I found his class to be incredibly insightful and challenging. After taking several of his classes, I knew this was something I wanted to do. I wanted to study the interactions of people from different backgrounds and how they may influence each other or not at all. After you graduated from college, you went into banking. How does a history sociology major end up in banking?

It came down to the dollar signs. I had to find a way to go to and pay for college. The banking industry helped me acquire my bachelor’s degree, so I stayed in the banking area for a very long time. It helped position me for the role (in D&I) that I’ve been doing now for almost 18 years.

When did you first start working in the diversity and inclusion field?

When I started working at Comerica, I developed a strategy for attracting business from the Arab American community. It had less to do with banking products and services and much more to do with understanding the history of the community and their needs from an emotional perspective. That became a platform to service other diverse communities. Working at the bank was very rewarding. In some cases, I was able to help immigrants who became citizens establish and live the American dream. What’s your current role at DTE like?

A typical day is going to meetings and collaborating with different business units across the company. We’re creating opportunities for learning and training for our employees and our leadership. I’m also creating a strategy for the entire company on how to create a culture of inclusion and how to grow our talent succession planning to be reflective of the communities that we serve. There are also times where perhaps a colleague is having an issue where they didn’t feel a sense of belonging. We’re often brought into the conversation to help folks understand a situation and what they can do to improve their relationships with

others. Those can be life-changing moments. What do you wish people knew about diversity and inclusion?

I think everybody thinks affirmative action and diversity and inclusion are the same thing, but they are completely different. It’s not only for women and people of color. We believe that any time there’s more than one person in the room, we have diversity. It’s up to each and every one of us to make sure that everyone at the table feels included. That includes white men. All of us as a society are included in this conversation. If we’re missing the voice of one person, we’re not creating inclusion. Why do you think it’s important that businesses have diversity and inclusion?

People don’t realize the impact D&I has on our daily interactions, including business outcomes. Studies show that diverse teams are often times more innovative, achieve higher results and perform better than homogeneous teams. The more diverse experiences, backgrounds and ideas you have in business, the more likely you are to attract all kinds of customers to sustain and grow the success of the business. Diversity and inclusion isn’t just good for business, it’s a necessity.

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Women’s Business Forum Presents: New Pursuit. 8-10 a.m. Troy Chamber of Commerce. Speakers include: Marvin Figaro and Mary Combias, Talent Delivery Leads, Kelly Services, on how to prepare for a job interview and how to look for a new career or position not in your current field; Andrea Fleischflesser, leadership coach, Destination You Coaching and Development, on tools and methods for personal growth and confidence building; Brenda Meller, Meller Marketing, on LinkedIn training, coaching and guidance, how to search for jobs on LinkedIn and how to prepare for that search and Lisa Fairbairn, director of Career Advancement, Northwood University, on MBA programs and how furthering a college degree can help in climbing the workforce ladder. Hilton Garden Inn Detroit-Troy. $15. Website: ness-forum-presents-new-pursuit

2019 MICHauto Annual Meeting. 8 a.m. March 26. Detroit Regional Chamber. Jim Tobin, chief marketing officer and president of Magna Asia for Magna International, will share his perspective on the automotive industry’s impact on next-generation mobility transformation and how it will change the talTobin ent pipeline’s needs. Detroit Athletic Club. $20 members. $40 nonmembers. Contact: Maggie Greaney, phone: (313) 596-0482.

Professional Development Seminar: Manage Conflict & Deal with Difficult Issues. 7:30-10:15 a.m. April 16. Detroit Economic Club. Topics include: How to create a climate where healthy, productive conflict exists; how to deal with disruptive conflict in a timely and effective manner; recognizing strengths and areas for improvement around tackling difficult issues; building a climate for productive conflict and strategies, tactics and actions to encourage healthy conflict to obtain better team results. Lawrence Technological University. $45 members, $55 guests of members. Website:

Social Media For Business Growth. 9-11:30 A.M. Oakland County One-Stop Shop Business Center. An overview for using LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to grow any business. Topics include: three things to do to find success on each platform; how to use status updates that gain attention; ways to manage priorities; how to make posting simpler and the fastest way to grow an audience. Oakland County Executive Office Building Conference Center. $40. Phone: (248) 858-0783; email:

Economic Prospects for the U.S. and Regional Economy in 20192020. 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. March 26. Detroit Economic Club. Stuart Hoffman, SVP and senior economic adviser, PNC Financial Services Group Inc., will share his insights on the U.S. economy’s 2019 and 2020 direction and will forecast indicators such Hoffman as jobs and the unemployment rate, interest rates, the stock market and consumer spending, including vehicle sales. Westin Book Cadillac. $45 members, $55 guests of members. Website:

Women’s Space in the Gig Economy — Facing Challenges and Tools for Success. 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Washtenaw Community College. Panel will explore what the gig economy is, how it affects women, and strategies for making the best of it. Panelists include: Monica Gobba, Integrative Nutrition Health Coach; Darci McConnell, president and CEO of McConnell Communications Inc.; Stephanie Prechter, former WCC student and entrepreneur and Diana Wong, strategy consultant and executive coach. Free. Morris Lawrence Building, Ann Arbor. Website:

Workforce: Solving for Jobs, Mobility and Equity in an Era of Rapid Change. 4-7:30 p.m. March 26. University of Michigan Poverty Solutions. Event will feature leaders in the field of workforce development and economic mobility including a keynote address from Greg Foran, Walmart U.S. president and CEO, and Julie Gehrki, Walmart vice president of Philanthropy, and closing remarks from Garlin Gilchrist, lieutenant governor of the state of Michigan. Free. Ross School of Business, Ann Arbor. Website:


A Conversation with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. 3:30-6:30 p.m. May 2. Jay Monahan, commissioner of the PGA Tour, will discuss the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the tour’s first-ever event to be held in Detroit, and the emphasis placed on charitable impact in the communities in which the tour plays. Detroit Golf Club. $45 members, $55 guests of members. Website:

J Detroit-based private equity firm Huron Capital Partners LLC’s platform company Ronnoco Coffee LLC, manufacturer and distributor of coffee, tea and related products, has acquired Beverage Solutions Group, Maynardville, Tenn., provider of beverages and convenience store and food service industry equipment. Websites:,,


Viewpoint Psychology & Well-

ness LLC, Commerce Township, a wellness center, has opened a new clinic at 7035 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield Township. Phone: (248) 721-9335. Website:

NEW SERVICES J Doeren Mayhew, Troy, a CPA firm, is offering Cyberclaw, software designed to help protect organizations against cybercrime. Website: J TrialAssure, Canton Township, a clinical trial software company, has developed a reduced cost pricing model for universities that need to

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Fully Human: 3 Steps to Grow Your Emotional Fitness in Work, Leadership, and Life. 11:30 a.m.1:30 p.m. May 15. Detroit Economic Club. Susan P a c k a r d , c o - f o u n d e r, Scripps Interactive Networks and HGTV, tells how organizations can revitalize and shift their leadership practices to build effective, Packard supportive and winning teams. The Masonic. $45 members, $55 guests of members. Website: To submit calendar items visit and click “Events” near the top of the home page. Then, click “Submit Your Events” from the drop-down menu that will appear. Fill out the submission form, then click “Submit event” at the bottom of the page. More Calendar items can be found at


Now is the time to invest in your future. The Broad

be more compliant with clinical trial transparency regulations from the Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health, and medical journals. Website: J The Impact Network, Detroit, an African American owned and operated Christian television network, will soon be available on the Verizon Fios platform. The network features programming on urban ministries and gospel lifestyle entertainment. Website: Submit Deals & Details items to


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Company Address Phone; website

Majority owner(s)

Ilitch companies B 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit 48201 (313) 471-6600;

Marian Ilitch chairman


Dakkota Integrated Systems LLC 1875 Holloway Drive, Holt 48842 (517) 694-6500;

Andra Rush chairman and CEO


RKA Petroleum Cos. Inc. 28340 Wick Road, Romulus 48174 (734) 946-2199;

Kay Albertie owner

Aristeo Construction Co. 12811 Farmington Road, Livonia 48150 (734) 427-9111;

Michelle Aristeo Barton, president; Anne Aristeo Martinelli, chief strategy officer

Detroit Lions Inc. 222 Republic Drive, Allen Park 48101 (313) 216-4000;


Michigan employees Jan. 2019/ 2018

Revenue Revenue ($000,000) ($000,000) 2018 2017

Percent change

Percent womanowned

$3,523.0 C $3,325.0 C




Type of business

Food, sports and entertainment industries. Companies include Little Caesars Pizza, Olympia Entertainment, Detroit Red Wings, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, MotorCity Casino Hotel, Ilitch Holdings Inc., Champion Foods, Olympia Development and Little Caesars Pizza Kit Fundraising Program Complete assemblies for original-equipment manufacturers




710 807


499.8 C

490.0 C




Petroleum wholesaler, biodiesel, ethanol, E-85, jet A and jet A1 products, compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas as well as a hauler of crude oil




462 484


General contractor and construction manager. Excavation, concrete, structural steel fabrication and erection, and equipment installation services. Serves the manufacturing, industrial, energy and higher education markets

Martha Ford owner, chairwoman

361.0 D

341.0 D




National Football League franchise

Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc. 645 Griswold St., Suite 2900, Detroit 48226 (313) 596-6900;

Cynthia Pasky president and CEO




NA 1,402


Buff Whelan Chevrolet 40445 Van Dyke Ave., Sterling Heights 48313 (586) 939-7300;

Kerry Whelan president




174 166


Consulting and staff augmentation services, managed service provider and vendor management programs, outsourced solutions, executive search services, call center technology and a domestic IT development center Automobile dealership

Vesco Oil Corp. 16055 W. 12 Mile Road, Southfield 48076 (248) 557-1600;

Marjory Epstein, chair; Lillian Epstein Stotland, president; Lena Epstein, general manager




193 184


Distributor of automotive and industrial lubricants, petroleum and aftermarket products and chemicals


Bowman Chevrolet 6750 Dixie Highway, Clarkston 48346 (248) 575-5000;

Katie Bowman Coleman president and owner




135 135


Automotive dealership

Mindi Fynke president and CEO




148 142



EHIM Inc. 26711 Northwestern Highway, Suite 400, Southfield 48033-2154 (248) 948-9900;

Pharmacy benefits management services, third-party administration and consulting services


Mahar Tool Supply Co. 112 Williams St., Saginaw 48602 (989) 799-5530;

Barb Mahar Lincoln CEO




86 88


Tool management partner and industrial distribution, commodity management, gauging, staffing

Lynn Terry president




168 159


Truck sales, parts and service


Wolverine Truck Sales Inc. 3550 Wyoming Ave., Dearborn 48120 (313) 849-0800;

Sharon Cannarsa president and CEO




227 274


Precision machining and assembly of automotive products


Systrand Manufacturing Corp. 19050 Allen Road, Brownstown Township 48183 (734) 479-8100;

Judith Kucway CEO and CFO




300 280


Stamping plant; automotive welding, assembly, dies and prototypes


Motor City Stamping Inc. 47783 N. Gratiot Ave., Chesterfield Township 48051 (586) 949-8420;

Margery Krevsky Dosey CEO




53 E 65


Talent management and event staffing agency


Productions Plus - The Talent Shop 30600 Telegraph Road, Suite 2156, Bingham Farms 48025 (248) 644-5566;


ARC Supply Chain Solutions Inc. 13221 Inkster Road, Taylor 48180 (877) 272-3523;

Greta Elliott president




43 39


Third-party logistics service, freight bill audit and payment, freight optimization


MVC 27087 Gratiot Ave., Roseville 48066 (586) 491-2602;

Linda Torakis president




14 14


Automotive decorative trim components including chrome plating, paint, injection molding, stamping, tool building


G-TECH Services Inc. 17101 Michigan Ave., Dearborn 48126 (313) 441-3600;

Mara Kalnins Ghafari secretary




397 476


Technical staffing firm specializing in the placement of engineers, IT, and finance and accounting professionals on a contract and directhire basis

Tanya Bartelo owner




26 26



Seko Worldwide Detroit 6800 S. Cypress, Romulus 48174 (734) 641-2100; detroit

Global logistics provider, including air, ocean and domestic transportation, as well as customs brokerage services and export crating

Elizabeth Hammond president




73 74


Facility maintenance services company


Contract Direct 24300 Southfield Road, Suite 221, Southfield 48075 (248) 395-1166 ;

4 5 6 7 8

This list of woman-owned businesses is an approximate compilation of the largest such businesses headquartered in Michigan. Percentage of the company that is woman owned may not be solely held by the leading shareholder. Number of full-time employees may include full-time equivalents. It is not a complete listing but the most comprehensive available. Crain's estimates are based on industry analyses and benchmarks, news reports and a wide range of other sources. Unless otherwise noted, information was provided by the companies. Brazeway Inc. which was No. 8 last year no longer qualifies since Axel Johnson became the majority owner in December. TTi Global which was No. 16 on last year's list also no longer qualifies after GP Strategies Corp. acquired the company in December 2018. BlueWater Technologies Group Inc. which was No. 17 on last year's list were not able to respond before publication. Rush Trucking which was No. 13 and CrossFire Group which was No. 25 on last year's list both declined to participate. NA = not available.

B Marian Ilitch is the chairperson of the company after the death of husband, Michael Ilitch, on Feb. 10, 2017. Excludes revenue from Detroit Tigers. C Crain's estimate. D From Forbes. Net of stadium revenue used for debt payments. E Some employees transferred to the newly opened offices in Dallas and Nashville.

CRAIN’S 2019


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Crain’s Notable Women in HR are the people behind the people. In this special report, we honor outstanding women at Michigan companies who recruit, attract, retain and engage the people who make businesses successful. They motivate excellence, make or break company culture and help manage the rapid change every business must navigate today.


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n Market Leader Michigan and Northwest Ohio, Willis Towers Watson

n Managing Director, The Andrews Group, Ann Arbor

n Vice President, Human Resources Operations and Chief Diversity

n Vic

n Education: Master of Business Administration, Human Resources,

n Ed

“Diane cares about employees and students. This is seen in her putting her reputation on the line to support underserved communities with a path to individual prosperity,” said Russ Kavalhuna, president of Henry Ford College. Diane Antishin, who leads a staff of 175 at DTE, is responsible for talent acquisition and HR consulting, workforce planning and analytics, compensation, benefits and wellness functions, and strategic labor and employee relations. Her work has resulted in savings in health care and other benefits. Under her guidance, the Detroit-based utility partnered with the college on The Power and Trades Pathways Program, a critical mix of education and employment created to help make Michigan a destination for skilled workers. Antishin’s team is laser-focused on making the program successful by guiding and consulting with students, including those in underserved populations, and expanding the program to meet the needs of industry. They developed the program in collaboration with college personnel and provided substantial resources, such as a series of professional videos. “With Diane’s leadership, DTE is leading the way in showing how community colleges and industry can partner to make our communities better places for all citizens,” Kavalhuna said. Antishin also serves on the Board of Directors for the American Society of Employers and Haven-Oakland Foundation, which supports victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

In the

PLC, Southfield

n Education: Bachelor of Science in Actuarial Science and

Mathematics, University of Michigan

In 2017, Michelle Acciavatti became the region’s first female market leader in Willis Towers Watson’s 70-year history. She specializes in consulting with large global organizations on the strategy, design and management of their risk and human resource programs. She also is responsible for colleague engagement and recruitment. Acciavatti implemented Accelerate Development training, which helps staff hone leadership and soft skills, and unconscious bias training, which teaches employees to recognize legacies and layers of bias in themselves and others. She also launched a “Did You Know?” campaign, which assists staff in their understanding and appreciation of cultural, ethnic and religious differences. Acciavatti’s work in the community includes serving on the Board of Directors for the Detroit Economic Club, where she has spearheaded a partnership between the DEC and Willis Towers Watson to promote professional development peer groups within membership. Moreover, in 2017, the Special Olympics of Michigan honored her with its President’s Award for her vision, direction, passion and leadership. “Michelle Acciavatti has been a member of the Special Olympics of Michigan Board of Directors for seven years. Most notably, Michelle helped to oversee the transition from one long-term CEO to hiring a new CEO in June 2018. In 2019, Michelle became the president of the Board of Directors,” said Tim Hileman, president and CEO of SOMI.

n Education: Master of Science in Human Resources and

Organizational Development, Eastern Michigan University

Through the Andrews Group, Karen Andrews serves as chief human resources officer for organizations that require strategic-level thinking but cannot afford the cost of hiring a full-time HR executive. She teaches executive leadership development courses. And she scouts talent through research, quantitative testing, networking events, virtual meet-ups, talent fairs and partnerships with community agencies. Andrews collaborates with clients to create a compelling vision and strategy with specific goals, objectives and clear accountability for all parties. She helped Gift of Life Michigan, the state’s federally designated organ donation program, end 2018 20 percent above its goal. It transplanted more than 1,000 organs that year, its most successful year to date. “With her guidance, we were able to solidify our core purpose and values into our strategic plan in measurable and actionable ways and to impart those to the entire organization and ultimately to save more lives. We felt like Karen was an integral part of our team,” said Gift of Life Michigan CEO Dorrie Dils. Andrews, a member of the Society for Human Resource Management, also led merger negotiations for the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum and the Leslie Science and Nature Center and assisted in culture transformation after the merger. TAG’s managing director also provides pro bono HR consulting for and serves on the boards of the Eastern Michigan University and Ann Arbor Community foundations.

and Inclusion Officer, DTE Energy, Detroit Wayne State University




n Vice President, Director of Human Resources, Greenleaf Trust,

n Vice President of Operations, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

n Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Communications


n Education: Bachelor of Business Administration, Finance, Western

Michigan University

Karen Baldwin developed a recruiting process that values talent attraction, diversity, dedicated onboarding, talent retention and benefits. Her strategy includes leveraging Greenleaf’s internship program with Western Michigan University, attending and recruiting from conferences focused on diverse talent, and educating staff about the biases everyone carries so they can communicate topics that are important to personal and corporate success. Baldwin strives to hire students after internships, and on-boarding for every Greenleaf employee is a twoweek process. Believing there was room for improving benefits, she also increased maternity leave to 12 weeks and successfully advocated for a matching paternity leave policy. Karen’s efforts have helped the company stay disciplined and purposeful while growing by more than double digits every year for 20 years. “Karen is an HR leader who is a clear difference maker in an elite organization. Her high standards for quality, service and talent make an exceptional impact on the growth culture of Greenleaf Trust,” said Brad Black, president and CEO of HUMANeX. Baldwin also serves on the board of and chairs the HR committee for MRC Industries, which dedicates resources toward helping individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, emotional impairments and mental illness.

n Education: Master of Business Administration, Saginaw Valley State


Patricia Benner’s ever-increasing competence and capacity for high-level work are the primary reasons Mackinac Center for Public Policy promoted her to vice president of Operations. She has been integral to the development of the center’s mission and vision statements and in ensuring staff reconnect with that vision as a team or in collaboration with trainers and consultants. Further, Benner conceived of and implements the center’s robust hiring process and developed targeted training opportunities for staff members. She also realized colleagues of diverse skills and tenures could learn more together than they would within departmental silos. So she designed and piloted an internal professional development program that includes a series of lectures and discussions. The custom curriculum blends opportunities to read, write, discuss and attend presentations on every aspect of policy analysis, public education, nonprofit operations, professionalism, career planning and center vision and values. “The only thing better than getting professional development is knowing that everyone who works for you is getting it too. Pat Benner saw a need for customized professional development on our staff. So, she created a program and made sure that all of our colleagues have access to it,” said Joseph Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

and EH&S (Environmental Health & Safety), Varroc Lighting Systems Inc.; Chief Human Resources Officer, Varroc Group, Plymouth

n Education: Master of Human Resource Administration, Central

Michigan University

With Jackie Chizuk as chief human resources officer of Varroc, an exterior vehicle lighting systems manufacturer, the company has recruited more than 100 engineers globally every year for the past four years as it acquired, opened or expanded centers in nine countries. Varroc also increased staff by more than 70 percent during the past six years. Jackie Chizuk can identify patterns and projects that resonate in one location and implement them globally. “Jackie … has great ability to make sound decisions and a commitment to integrity and accountability. She is KPI (key performance indicator) and data driven and is a great coach for her peers on the management team,” said Stephane Vedie, president and CEO of Varroc Lighting. In the past two years, Chizuk developed new HR reporting and collaboration methods; implemented extensive training centers in new plants prior to beginning production operations; and established a comprehensive wellness program incorporating community, physical, social and intellectual health. Moreover, she spearheaded relationships with community organizations, such as Plymouth Community United Way. “In addition to donations of close to $14,000 to PCUW over that last seven years, employees from Varroc participate in a number of our service drives and events,” said PCUW President Marie Morrow.

ABOUT THIS PROGRAM The women featured in this Notable Women in HR report were selected by a team of Crain’s Detroit Business editors based on their career accomplishments, track record of success in the field, contributions to their community and mentorship of others, as outlined in a detailed nomination form. Notable Women in HR was managed and written by Leslie D. Green. For questions about this special report, contact Amy Elliott Bragg at (313) 446-1646 or or Michael Lee at (313) 446-1630 or malee@ You can read more in our Notable Women series or nominate a Notable Woman for an upcoming section at



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C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9





n Vice President of Human Resources, Centria Healthcare,

n Director of People & Perks, Sachse Corp., Detroit

n Vice President, Talent Strategy and Development, Cooper Standard,

Farmington Hills

n Education: Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality, Business, Human

Resources and Psychology, Michigan State University

In less than two years, Lisa Cunningham has overhauled the recruiting and applications process for Centria Healthcare. To make sure job candidates are a great fit, she has built partnerships with services that provide insight into the personality and cognitive abilities of job candidates. She also launched a branded job web page and an applicant tracking system and developed a requisition approval process that complements the finance team’s process. Cunningham also created training and engagement teams that support staff and drive engagement and retention. This includes the application of “Stay Interviews,” which have helped reduce attrition of staff in key roles. When faced with an issue, she performs a root-cause analysis to ensure problems are fully resolved and prevent them in the future. She is also rolling out new life-cycle surveys, which will measure team members’ experience at key points throughout their careers. The idea is to use that information to improve talent acquisition processes and job satisfaction. She also introduced an HR Help Desk that not only benefits employees but also provides tracking and visibility of HR issues. “Lisa excels in many ways as a Human Resource leader, but her communication skills are top notch. She works hard to communicate through the right channels and always ensures her team understands the ‘why’ behind her direction,” said Amy Campbell, director of Operational Performance at Centria.

n Education: Master of Business Administration in Management,

University of Detroit Mercy

Myra Ebarb has improved the Sachse Corp. team member experience through constant feedback, upgraded benefits and streamlined processes. “Myra … always challenges the status quo. Several years ago, she tackled a growing concern of disparity in our team members’ work/life balance by implementing a unique and diverse wellness program. In addition, she championed the adoption of an unlimited PTO program. In sum, her leadership and stewardship of these programs, amongst others, has led to a healthier and more productive team, and higher retention rate of our team members,” said Lee Hurwitz, president of Broder & Sachse Real Estate. The Project:U initiative Ebarb implemented focuses on the betterment of health, wealth, mind and body. Sixty percent of the staff participates in the initiative, which includes chair massages, gym reimbursement, flexible spending accounts, mortgage savings, a book club and social events. Now Ebarb is spearheading a mental health campaign to destigmatize mental health issues. She also created a Coaching Basics training course to help new managers. Ebarb increased retention at Sachse by 10 percent using a formal team feedback program that includes a portal allowing staff members to provide feedback on any matter. And while the team now conducts annual surveys, they switched from annual reviews to quarterly check-ins that allow staff members to evaluate themselves and their manager prior to meeting.


n Education: Bachelor of Science in Control Systems Engineering,

Boston University

Andrea Ebbitt earned her recent promotion at Cooper Standard by successfully executing onboarding, performance management and succession management projects. Recognizing the need to help new hires feel as if they are part of the team and hit the ground running, she directed a global team to develop Drive: Take the Wheel. The initiative combines a robust online tool and one-on-one interaction points throughout an employee’s first 90 days. Under Ebbitt’s leadership, her team has reviewed and standardized key job descriptions and identified critical skills necessary for global engineers, plant managers and front-line supervisors to be successful on the job and in the future. Her team also retooled the performance management process to make it more interactive. It now encourages peer feedback and more touch points with management throughout the year. “The work Andrea does in the talent area is critically important to the success of our company. But in addition to the work, it is how she does it. She models our values on a daily basis,” said Larry Ott, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Cooper Standard. Moreover, as chair of the Cassie Hines Shoes Cancer Foundation, Ebbitt has helped send nearly 170 young adults diagnosed with cancer to camp where they can challenge themselves physically and mentally and connect with others.


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n Vice President, Human Resources, Matrix Human Services, Detroit

n Vice President, Human Resources and Facilities, Stefanini US,

n Vice President, Human Resources, AccessPoint, Farmington Hills

n Ex

n Education: Master of Arts, Organizational Management, University

of Phoenix

When Karen Gray joined Matrix Human Services — a 540-employee nonprofit that provides pre-K Head Start programming along with a community center, HIV outreach, teen mentoring, workforce development and senior citizen services — she filled a leadership position that had been vacant for four years. Three months after being hired as director, Matrix promoted her. “The most important thing I can say about Karen Gray is that, over a short time, she has gained the trust of a large agency. Employees believe their concerns are taken seriously, and they see Karen follow through on commitments she’s made. Her capability and warmth have made her an effective change agent, and I could not ask for a better business partner,” said Matrix Head Start Director Cristal Claussen. In one year, Gray revised policies, procedures, recruiting and onboarding. She implemented a professional development process, a rewards and recognition program and a new performance management process. In addition, Gray restructured HR roles and responsibilities, trained managers and conducted succession planning and a staff satisfaction survey. She also started a monthly newsletter, began celebrating employee successes and defining organizational culture and expanded recruiting outreach through her Change the Culture, Change the Game initiative. In addition, Gray operates as an independent consultant who has recruited for a doctor’s office and built an HR department for a mortgage company.


n Education: Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and History, University of


The number of programs Stefanini’s human resources department enacted under Heidi Hagle’s leadership exemplify her focus on talent. Her team has implemented workplace flexibility; a variety of training programs; a program that helps staff to understand the business challenges employees face and helps them make better decisions; more focused onboarding; behavioral assessments for recruiting and ongoing management; employee engagement surveys; and social responsibility programs. Moreover, Hagle executed effective integration of employees of an acquired company. “The partnership with Heidi was essential in the transformation that Stefanini has been experiencing in recent years. We have created and implemented a new internal (digital) communication platform with several channels (newsletter, mobile app, TV screens, etc.) and reinforced the new concept of co-creation, with our CEO engaging with all the almost 5,000 Stefanini employees working in our region,” said Stefanini Marketing Vice President Carla Ferber. Additionally, Hagle served as cheer commissioner for the Lakeland Broncos Football and Cheer Organization, where she revamped the cheer program and increased membership. “She continuously went above and beyond her job role, including continuing in the role even after her daughter was no longer cheering, to ensure each child and parent had a positive experience,” said Lakeland Broncos President Stephanie Gacki.

n Education: Bachelor of Science in Food Nutrition, Madonna


AccessPoint CEO and Chairman Gregory Packer calls Jill Hannigan a consistent overachiever. The service her team provides is the backbone of AccessPoint, which provides human resource services to 360 small and mid-sized businesses comprising more than 5,000 employees. Hannigan, a member of the Society of Human Resources Management and National Association of Professional Employer Organizations, also heads AccessPoint’s internal human resources and oversees the client-facing HR team. Through weekly strategy meetings and effective oversight and feedback into best practices, she has built an army of loyal and dedicated providers who help the company achieve retention goals and grow its company base. Her responsibilities include resolving issues that cause clients to be deemed at-risk. She has directed the rewrite and overhaul of AccessPoint’s scope and pricing, created the annual client review which gives clients a voice and helps the company provide the services they need. Hannigan serves the community through her company’s volunteer programs. She also is a member of the Parent Teacher Association at her child’s high school and works closely on fundraising programs and events for Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan, American Cancer Society and Autism Awareness.




n Vice President, Human Resources, Detroit Regional Chamber,

n CEO, EverythingHR and EverythingHR Financial Services, Rochester

n Senior Vice President, Human Resources, CMS Energy, Jackson

n Education: Master of Science in Administration - Human Resources

n Education: Master of Science in Human Resources, Central Michigan

A trusted adviser to the CEO, Michelle Hansel is integral to the development, structure and implementation of programs, training policies, compensation structures, benefits, recruiting and onboarding. Under her direction, the organization now boasts a 90 percent retention rate. The onboarding system includes assigning each new employee a “buddy” from a different department along with meetings with every department head and lunch with the CEO and COO. The program, which helps integrate staff, also extends to interns. “Michelle is the voice of our team. She is trusted by every member of the Chamber team, no matter if they’ve been with us for 25 years or 25 months. As an executive in our organization, she is a trusted partner to management, to the Board of Directors, and to myself,” said Sandy Baruah, president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber. Hansel is behind the Balanced Scorecard that helps the nonprofit benchmark against others, create people goals, and monitor financial performance. In addition, she leads the Organizational Culture Committee and its wellness and diversity programming. She also improved internal communication and ensured the nonprofit’s workplace policies were family friendly by instituting paternity leave. “Michelle’s passion for professional development, commitment to the elevation of human resources and her engaging and collaborative leadership style made her a key contributor to Detroit SHRM's strategic vision,” said Debra Williams, chief human resources officer at Wayne State University and immediate past president of Detroit SHRM.

Felicia Harris’ EverythingHR handles specific human resources-related tasks and financial consulting to business, educational, government and nonprofit organizations around the nation. In 2018, her clients hired more than 500 employees. The company also provides newsletters and hosts workshops for business owners, managers and supervisors aimed at helping them hire and retain quality employees. Last year, Harris launched a podcast on BlogTalk Radio, where she and experts cover a variety of issues and answer call-in questions. “As a heavily federal and state regulated motor carrier, we recently had the pleasure of working with Felicia and using EverythingHR services to assist us with a workmen’s compensation underpayment claim. ... Not only have our issues been resolved, but we saved over $60,000 and have been educated on how to perform better,” said Raluca Caraba Chit, president of ROC Express Inc. Harris, a problem solver who uses multidimensional approaches to her work, could not find a program she liked to help clients track employee attendance, key workforce metrics and billable hours. So, she created the EverythingHR HRIS app, which is available on QuickBooks, to help employers unite human resource strategy with business strategy. She is working to create a mobile app and to add a low-cost virtual HR service for microbusinesses that cannot afford an inhouse HR team. An involved and energetic member of her professional community, Harris has helped entrepreneurs at the Macomb-Oakland University Incubator earn U.S. State Department contracts by assisting with grant writing, reviewing proposals and determining staffing requirements and budgeting.


Administration, Central Michigan University



n Education: Master of Science in Human Resources and

Organizational Development, Eastern Michigan University

Since being elected to her position in 2015, Catherine Hendrian and her team of about 220 have served Consumers Energy’s 8,500 employees. She leads the utility’s traditional HR functions and its Learning & Development and Strategy Mobilization teams and has created a holistic experience that provides employees with the tools to deliver. Hendrian strongly advocates for diversity and inclusion in the workplace. She meets with various employee groups, from minority women to millennials, to understand how she can ensure they have long-lasting careers at CMS. In partnership with the union, she created a “boot camp” that gives veterans three weeks of training followed by a three-month paid internship. The program has earned the company a Rising Star Award from the Michigan Veteran Affairs Agency. And the organization’s new Project Search internship program provides people with disabilities an opportunity to gain real-life experience. Moreover, when CMS announced it would go coal-free by 2040, Hendrian’s team mobilized retention and retraining agreements with workers at coal plants. “Over the course of her leadership, I have found it particularly impressive how she has brought to life the concept of … care for our co-workers. Initiating efforts to reduce the human struggle at work. Encouraging a business environment where our co-workers’ health and well-being are a focus. Changing the dialogue and interactions to one of respect, while maintaining accountability,” said Garrick Rochow, senior vice president of Operations at CMS Energy.


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ď Ž Executive Director, Human Resources, Lawrence Technological

ď Ž Chief Human Resources Officer and Executive Vice President,

University, Southfield

ď Ž Education: Master of Science in Administration, Central Michigan


Deshawn Johnson takes a calm and analytical approach to hiring, training and retaining staff in alignment with the university’s strategic objectives, her colleagues say. “Deshawn has initiated many programs that have saved the university both time and money and have improved the level of customer service to all our employees,� said Linda Height, vice president of finance and administration, LTU. Johnson, a member of the Society for Human Resources Management and HR Certification Institute, keeps abreast of the external environment by staying compliant with federal, state and local laws and through re-certification of her credentials. In recent years, she added several programs and initiatives. Johnson implemented two voluntary early retirement programs and a benefits renewal process that decreased health and welfare costs to Lawrence Tech by $1.1 million. She also recently streamlined the university's benefits administration process and moved from a manual entry system to an electronic data feed process. Johnson also developed and implemented an updated talent acquisition strategy, which included background checks and electronic access to all employee forms through DocuSign. She also took the lead on developing Lawrence Tech’s conflict resolution policy, which included developing new processes, documentation, and creating a committee. And she improved employee retention by creating employee recognition programs, Employee of the Month and Department of Excellence.

“Michelle is the voice of our team. She is trusted by every member of the Chamber team, no matter if they’ve been with us for 25 years or 25 months.� – Sandy Baruah, President and CEO, Detroit Regional Chamber

“Sandy ‌ is a highly respected and multi-talented executive who has led the effort to create a strong culture Â?of diversity, creativity and innovation throughout our company.â€? – Gary Torgow, Chairman, Chemical Financial Corp.

Chemical Bank, Troy

ď Ž Education: Bachelor of Arts in Finance, Michigan State University

Under Sandy Kuohn’s direction, her team of 58 has tirelessly provided transparency and personal support to Chemical Bank staff members during four acquisitions and mergers. They’ll do so again when the bank merges with TCF, more than doubling staff. A candid and passionate leader, she has a keen understanding of the competitive environment within the financial services industry and her leadership has been instrumental in developing strategies necessary to differentiate Chemical Bank from the competition. “Sandy Kuohn is a highly respected and multi-talented executive who has led the effort to create a strong cultureof diversity, creativity and innovation throughout our company,� said Gary Torgow, chairman of Chemical Financial Corp. In recent years, Kuohn added to the talent acquisition team, placed a major focus on diversity and inclusion, implemented university relations and team member referral programs, enhanced social media branding and outreach, developed a competitive pay and benefits program with clear expectations and added the Chemical University Training Program. Believing an organization’s success begins and ends with its culture, she works to ensure team members are highly satisfied and can perform at their best. As a result, she implemented the culture transformation ambassador program, where a group of nominated team members unite to create a process that allows employees to hold meaningful and honest dialogue. The team then uses the feedback to assist senior management with ideas and strategies.

CELEBRATING your award-winning leadership.

Thanking Pam Ries, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Congratulations Pam on being named one of Crain’s Detroit Business 2019 Notable Women in HR. Spectrum Health is proud to have leaders like you who are dedicated to the health and well-being of our communities.

icuof ‌ hument cus. pect, se- Š Spectrum Health


C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9





n Chief People Officer, Emagine Entertainment Inc., Troy

n Chief Talent Officer, Mechanical Contractors Association of Detroit,

n Chief Human Resources Officer, Mercy Health and Saint Joseph

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n Education: Master of Science Administration in Human Resources

n Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development

n Education: Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Development,

Oakland University

Shelby Langenstein created the majority of Emagine Entertainment’s policies and procedures. “Shelby is the top 10 percent of C-Suite leaders I have worked with in 20 years of public and private sector leadership,” said Tripp Adams, COO of Emagine Entertainment. “While many leaders struggle in the transition from middle management to senior executive, she has been operating in this role for several years. With no prior HR or executive experience, she now successfully manages an HR team and people development for over 1,500 employees across four states. She navigates HR crises while also being one of the CEO’s most trusted strategic advisers.” Langenstein began as a team member and worked her way up to theater manager at age 22 and then human resources manager a year later. She started the company’s first HR department as a one-person team overseeing five theaters. After two additional promotions, the latest in 2018, Langenstein oversees two team members managing HR for 20 theaters. She believes businesses that invest in and advocate for their employees are more successful and acknowledged there were not enough incentives for Emagine to retain top talent. So, Langenstein set out to change the narrative. She increased vacation and personal time for management and main office team members, developed a maternity and paternity leave policy, and implemented a new 401(k) program with a company match. Langenstein also created a leadership bonus incentive program and a general management certification program to recognize and reward top performers and developed a clear and measurable career path for employees. In addition, she identified gender pay disparities and successfully advocated to resolve them. Now, Langenstein is advocating for a higher minimum wage for entry-level employees and increased salaries for starting management. Langenstein also works one-on-one as a volunteer with the Proud Equestrian Program in Michigan, a therapeutic horseback riding program for people with disabilities that helps to improve balance, coordination, posture and muscle tone.


Administration and Organization Development, Central Michigan University

Melody Magee has been instrumental in helping thousands of people find work. She has even gone as far as assisting unemployed and under-employed individuals to complete job applications. “Melody and I have worked with a planning team to host the Greater Grace Temple College Fair and Career Expo for over a decade. This event has exposed masses of teens, adults and families ... to colleges, universities, skilled trades and jobs,” said Tyrone Winfrey, CEO, Winfrey Group. Through the Mechanical Contractors Association of Detroit — which provides human resources services to building contractors and recruits journeymen for skilled trade apprenticeship training programs — Magee has quadrupled the number of applicants to the apprenticeship programs MCA represents and created partnerships with community organizations. She recognized that many in her target community considered skilled trades training and related organizations as hostile toward them. So she successfully worked to make the environment and work sensitive to diversity and reversed the community’s perception by re-posturing MCA and the entire skilledtrades community as a positive and real opportunity. Additionally, she improved marketing materials and social media presence; increased the number of recruitment locations; developed a relationship with the Veterans Administration; networked with the Coalition of Black Trade Unions; surveyed apprentices, applicants and prospective applicants; expanded recruitment efforts; enrolled journeymen and their families; and secured resources to assist recruits with transportation, housing, childcare and family buy-in. “Melody has been invaluable to our efforts to recruit and train young people from struggling communities,” said Vince Giles, president of the Skilled Trade Employment Assistant Program. “She has counseled us on our outreach and recruitment efforts.”

Mercy Health System, Canton

and Labor and Employment Relations, Oakland University

Significant contributions to hospitals in the Saint Joseph Mercy Health System earned Ane McNeil the position she has today. She provides strategic direction and statewide integration of a single perspective on HR-related matters affecting more than 22,500 employees. “Ane has elevated our colleague engagement efforts, encouraged workforce development through professional development opportunities, and ensured that all our employees have a safe and supportive environment in which they can do their best work,” said Rob Casalou, president and CEO of Mercy Health and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System. Since 2018, McNeil has led an evidence-based talent acquisition program designed to improve the quality of the roughly 7,000 new hires each year and increase diversity. The program, so far, has reduced the time it takes to fill positions by 14 percent, increased minority hires by 20 percent, reduced first-year turnover by nearly 6 percent and saved an estimated $2 million-$3 million a year. She sought to increase diversity by creating a Career Development Center that is moving 50 staff members from entry-level jobs to middle-wage in-demand jobs to enhance racial equity and creating a pathway to 150 jobs for underserved populations in Grand Rapids’ neighborhoods. McNeil’s work also has included participating in the state’s Marshall Plan by creating health care job pathways for high school and adult education students. McNeil participates in several organizations, including Inforum. “Among her contributions is serving as a member of the steering committee of HealthcareNEXT, our industry group that supports women’s career development in health care fields,” said Inforum President and CEO Terry Barclay.



n Partner and Co-Owner, The Hunter Group LLC, Bloomfield Hills

n Senior Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer, Spectrum

Health, Grand Rapids

n Education: Master of Business Administration, Michigan State


Since Blaire Miller joined the Hunter Group, a Plante Moran spin-off and executive search firm that recruits executive leadership in a variety of industries, she and her partners have worked to diversify their practice experience. Miller, an expert in crafting leadership succession plans and recruiting strategies, uses a 26-step process to evaluate a client’s culture, talent gaps and strategic vision and determine the leadership talent necessary to fulfill that vision. The company has successfully placed an executive director at Mosaic Youth Theatre; CEOs at Forgotten Harvest and the Judson Center; and CFOs at Eastern Michigan University, International Bancard Corp., Belle Tire and Kenwal Steel Corp., among others. “We worked with Blaire to recruit our COO. Blaire went through a detailed process to understand our organization, our functional requirements and our cultural profile. I felt like I had a partner in the hiring process who really cared about getting it right. She found an excellent candidate for us,” said Farida Ali, CEO of Dynamic Computer Corp. Miller also helped grow the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO) in Southeast Michigan. “Her exceptional leadership and creativity shine as she has been our Michigan Chapter Chair of WPO since 2016. The group has grown to become a powerhouse of women in different areas with the help of Blaire’s many ideas, workshops and the guidance that she brings to the table,” said Sassa Akervall, CEO of Akervall Technologies Inc.

“Shelby is the top 10 percent of C-Suite leaders I have worked with in 20 years of public and private sector leadership.” – Tripp Adams, COO, Emagine Entertainment

“Melody has been invaluable to our efforts to recruit and train young people from struggling communities.” – Vince Giles, President, Skilled Trade Employment Assistance Programs

n Education: Bachelor of Arts in Education and Communications,

Grace College

It’s easy to see how Pam Ries earned her latest promotion in 2016. “Through her strategic leadership, Spectrum Health has increased employee engagement and wellness; built an adaptable, sustainable and flexible workforce; and become a more diverse, equitable and inclusive organization. She has played a major role in integrating new organizations into our system and preparing our leaders for cultural transformation. She consistently demonstrates the passion, values and commitment that are hallmarks of a notable leader,” said Spectrum President and CEO Tina Freese Decker. In the past two years, her team of 340 employees developed and implemented numerous solutions, including an inclusion and diversity plan that includes equity of care, cultural competence, workforce diversity, community engagement and supplier diversity. With that, they increased starting minimum wage to $12 an hour in 2018. In addition, they initiated an entry-level workforce development plan to better prepare employees to establish careers at Spectrum, reduce turnover rates, create impactful experiences and ensure a sustainable pipeline of engaged employees. She implemented an employee listening model that includes surveys, onboarding and mobile-enabled dashboards and a Physician Leadership Academy to invest in Spectrum doctors. Ries and her team also developed programs that benefit the community, including a Medical Assistance apprentice program in partnership with West Michigan Works and a scholarship fund for Grand Rapids Community College that financially assists students interested in health sciences or health care careers and provides mentoring and internships.

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n Chief Human Resources Officer, Rehmann, Troy

n Vice President of Human Resources, Barton Malow Co., Southfield

n Chief Organizational Development Officer, Great Lakes Water

n Education: Master of Business Administration, Wayne State

n Education: Master of Business Administration, Davenport University


Katie Strehler leads all key areas of HR at Rehmann and has been integral to the financial services provider’s redesign of organizational structure. The change requires leaders in each office to drive associate engagement, development and growth, as she realizes the importance of the employee-supervisor relationship. In recent years, Strehler developed and executed strategy that links associate feedback to organizational goals. As a result, engagement increased and turnover decreased at Rehmann, which operates 24 offices in Michigan, Ohio and Florida. She also managed, supported and directed the staff transition through 14 mergers and led benchmarking initiatives to strengthen rewards programs. “Katie is passionate about the Rehmann culture and ensuring that we build an environment that attracts, develops and retains the next generation of leaders for our firm. In addition to having a strategic vision for our culture, she is a trusted adviser to the Rehmann team with her very approachable and transparent style,” said Rehmann COO Stacie Kwaiser. Under Strehler’s leadership, the company earned several Best Companies to Work for awards, including one from Accounting Today and one from Florida Trends. Dan Handley, regional president and CEO of Dale Carnegie Training, called Strehler an amazing leader committed to finding ways “to protect, nurture and develop the true source of competitive advantage — a winning culture.”

Jennifer Sulak Brown cultivates an atmosphere in which staff views HR as a resource of trusted partners and advisers. “Jennifer has her finger on the pulse of our business. I like to call her the doctor of HR because she diagnoses the needs of our employees, and many times, prevents problems before they even occur. Jennifer is someone you want on your team because she gets it done,” said Chuck Binkowski, COO of Barton Malow, a contractor known for building Little Caesars Arena and the Shinola Hotel, among other projects. Her concern for employees’ needs is seen in the launch of programs such as a healthy living series, a Woman in Leadership program, and all-day companywide conferences, held in Detroit, Baltimore and Orlando, that provide corporate insight, diverse learning opportunities and cultural camaraderie. To improve talent acquisition and retention, Sulak Brown led the development of the Employee Value Proposition, which sets the tone for positive employee experiences, development opportunities, community outreach programs and diversity and inclusion efforts. She proposed and managed the six-month Women @ Barton Malow: Leadership Development program. Sulak Brown belongs to multiple industry-related organizations and has a strong grasp of the labor shortage facing her industry. As a result, her team, which serves more than 2,000 employees, implemented a new staffing application tool to manage staffing requests and employee transactions to better understand each employee’s experience and career aspirations.

Authority, Detroit

n Education: Bachelor of Science in Psychology, Wayne State University

Terri Tabor Conerway was vital to the 2016 launch of the Great Lakes Water Authority, which replaced the Detroit Water and Sewage Department as the provider of water and wastewater services to 127 Southeast Michigan municipalities. She coordinated the sharing of information and directed the collection and analysis of data. Tabor Conerway ensured the representation of all stakeholders’ interests and that the GLWA team received necessary resources and training, developed an orientation program, assisted in the assessment and selection of staff members and implemented the HR management and payroll software. A few years ago, she and GLWA accepted a challenge from the Department of Labor to annually create a job training program that addresses water industry needs. So far, her team has created and launched apprenticeships for electrical instrumentation control technicians and maintenance technicians. They also partnered with Focus: Hope and Henry Ford College to expand opportunities. In 2018, her team developed the One Water Institute, which provides development for staff and member partner communities who want to progress to roles in safety, water operations, wastewater operations, technology and leadership development. “She never hesitates to take on planning initiatives, and she knows how to bring people together to get a project done or to simply have fun. Terri’s strengths and skills translate far outside her profession, she never turns down the opportunity to help others,” said Denise Page Hood, chief judge of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan.

Congratulations Marcy Tucker!


Cooper Standard is proud to congratulate Andrea Ebbitt on being named one of Crain’s Detroit Business 2019 Notable Women in HR.


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YOU’VE LAUNCHED THE CAREERS OF INTERNS, SEASONED PROFESSIONALS AND LEADERS. Northwestern Mutual-Troy would like to congratulate Marcy Tucker on being recognized as a Crain’s 2019 Most Notable Woman in Human Resources. We are so proud of your leadership and dedication to demonstrate our values of Integrity, Growth, Excellence, Community, Courage and Personal Responsibility. Our mission is to transform lives by aligning actions with intentions to achieve financial security. Thank you for helping us do that! 901 Wilshire Drive Suite 300, Troy, MI 48084 248-362-2220

Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM and its subsidiaries).

C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9






n Vice President of Human & Community Relations, Bridgewater

n Executive Director of Recruitment,

n Vice President Global Leadership and Organizational Development,

n Ex

n Education: Master of Public Administration, University of Louisville

n Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic and Industrial Designs,

n Education: Juris Doctor, Washington & Lee University

People trust that Marcy Tucker has their best interest at heart. She is part of the national group of executive directors and chief recruiting officers that strategize recruiting programs and initiatives for Northwestern Mutual offices throughout the U.S. Northwestern Mutual promoted Tucker to her current role in 2017. Her work leads to necessary insight, increased employee satisfaction and higher retention rates. She has been instrumental in the recruitment of many of the leaders now in local offices. Tucker is essential to Northwestern Mutual’s efforts to employ innovative technological methods for recruiting talent. She was project manager on the national committee to assess how well the company’s new Bullhorn software captured information for reporting purposes. As co-lead with Marketing on the Fortune 500 company’s geo-fencing effort, she and her team showed leadership the power of the platform to improve recruiting capabilities and communication. Besides her role with Northwestern, Tucker volunteers time at Focus:Hope and the Humane Society. She also is the first woman president in 20 years of the University of Michigan Club of Greater Detroit. “Marcy is extremely dedicated to getting things done and will follow through to the very end to ensure that each event goes through without a hitch. She is always easy to work with and to communicate with, and remains calm no matter the situation,� said Chad Massey, vice president of the UM Club of Greater Detroit.

Noelle Valente steadfastly shows her dedication to the vision of leadership at automotive seating systems supplier Lear. “Her Leadership Development team is driving unique innovations all designed to ensure that we continue to increase the percentage of leaders at Lear that get results the right way, while at the same time increasing the likelihood that people who work at Lear get the benefit of working for a great leader,� said Tom DiDonato, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Lear. Valente helps spread the mindset of inclusivity, delivering the message that employees need to see others as people who matter and not as problems. She also implements Lear’s global employee empowerment plan, called Together We Win, which includes surveying plant employees about the most important elements — such as health and safety and a sense of belonging — that impact their engagement. Further, Valente serves as a member of the Board of Advisors for Southwest Solutions. “She provides her expertise and insight on human resources, leadership development and other management experiences to help us improve our service to veterans, the homeless, children and families. Noelle leads by example, as a generous personal donor and a key advocate for Lear’s investments in our community. She also co-chairs the nominating committee for our Board of Advisors. She’s a great example of how companies can have a greater impact when their leaders are really engaged in the mission and work of nonprofits like Southwest Solutions,� said Steve Ragan, senior vice president of Development & External Affairs at Southwest Solutions.

Interiors LLC, Detroit

Elaine Tingle so impressed leadership at manufacturing company Bridgewater Interiors that they actively recruited her away from one of their joint venture partners. The Minority Business Enterprise employs 2,400 people at four locations in two states. Tingle leads the entire spectrum of human relations and is also the “face of the company.� She leads a team of 15 at Bridgewater and additional staff at the company’s partner for delivery of support and employee benefits. In recent years, she increased recruiting resources and saw positive acquisition results. This is particularly difficult since Bridgewater strives to reach aggressive targets for the numbers of racial and gender minorities in its management team. In addition, Tingle’s HR staff conducts employee engagement surveys, which help drive retention, and developed a formal effort to drive corporate philanthropy dollars to organizations at which Bridgewater employees volunteer. Tingle has successfully conducted United Auto Workers labor negotiations in different regions, securing two collective bargaining agreements. She also trains other managers for Bridgewater’s joint partner to be successful in such talks. “Elaine’s greatest strength is that she is able to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the people and therefore come up with creative solutions to issues that support both. She is extremely professional, kind and knowledgeable,� said Lisa DeBone, executive director of Human Resources & Labor Relations — Americas for Adient plc.

Northwestern Mutual, Troy,

Lear Corp., Southfield

University of Michigan



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Congratulations to Diane Antishin, vice president of Human Resources & chief

diversity and inclusion officer at DTE, for being named among Crain’s Detroit’s “Notable Women in HR.� Through passionate leadership, she’s advanced our diverse and inclusive culture and created a more welcoming workplace. And as a mentor and champion for young people and women, she’s paved the way for many to have their own rewarding careers.



Congratulations, Diane! We’re proud to have you on the team.

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n Executive Director, Leadership Resources Consulting, Auburn Hills

n Group Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Plex

n Education: Master of Business Administration, University of Detroit


Michele Williams’ Leadership Resources Consulting provides HR best practices to clients in need and analyzes Human Resource issues, such as policy gaps, performance management concerns, organizational structures and processes. Williams has advised Northeast Guidance Center, a health care center, on the administration and annual review of its HR policies, analyzes current HR programs and recommends, develops and implements training to board and staff to help maintain compliance. She sits on the organization’s board and chairs its HR committee. “Michele’s leadership has provided stability to our board HR committee and to the agency’s HR department displaying a strong depth of experience as well as imaginative educational resources for improving knowledge,” said Northeast Guidance Center President and CEO Sherry McRill. She also directed operations staff in a shared services environment for Lafarge NA (now LafargeHolcim) delivering payroll, benefits and human resource administrative services to 6,000 employees. There, she reduced HR costs by $750,000 and mitigated HR operations risks. “I was fortunate enough to meet Michele when she was recommended as an addition to the Human Resources committee of the Board of Directors of HAVEN. Shortly after Michele joined the committee, we found ourselves needing to find a new CEO, Human Resources director and a business operations director. She assisted with sourcing resources, designing interview materials, initial phone screening and general HR wisdom. With her assistance, we were able to fill these crucial positions in only 3 1/2 months,” said Janet Vermeulen, chair of the Human Resources committee at HAVEN.

“With a strong leader like Cheryl driving our culture, our employees are inspired and motivated to do their best work for our customers.” – Bill Berutti, CEO, Plex Systems Inc.

“Elaine’s greatest strength is that she is able to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the people and therefore come up with creative solutions to issues that support both.” Lisa DeBone, Executive Director of Human Resources & Labor Relations - Americas, Adient plc. – Sandy Baruah, president and CEO, Detroit Regional Chamber

Systems Inc., Troy

n Education: Bachelor of Arts in Employee Relations and Psychology,

Michigan State University

Where others are intimidated by taking on new challenges and problems, Cheryl Yuran embraces and craves opportunities to solve problems and try new approaches. When she began working at Plex Systems in early 2018, her first task was to spend time gaining a deep understanding of its people and culture, of what some 540 employees wanted and needed to be successful. With those insights, she organized her HR plan, programs and initiatives around employee benefits, learning and development and culture. When, in an employee survey, many employees expressed interest in a stronger prescription drug benefit, Yuran and her team improved benefit offerings, also adding a Roth 401(k) investment option. Under her direction, her team revamped the company’s performance management process, launched LinkedIn Learning, introduced a new mentorship program, and created diversity and inclusion and women resource groups. She also introduced offerings where staff could have fun, relax or increase their wellness and fitness. Through her team’s Fitness Unleashed program, Plex partnered with the Oakland County Animal Shelter where employees could walk several shelter dogs. “With her hands-on and personal approach, Cheryl has done a fantastic job helping our employees feel supported in their personal and professional lives,” said Plex CEO Bill Berutti. “With a strong leader like Cheryl driving our culture, our employees are inspired and motivated to do their best work for our customers.”


Senior Vice President, Global Human Resources, Communications and EH&S

on being named one of


C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9


Birmingham to use data to pull in national, regional stores By Annalise Frank

Birmingham — home to a 96 percent retail occupancy rate and 60 salons — has hired a new consultant to target specific regional and national retailers to help create the right downtown mix. And luring more restaurants isn’t a priority. The city’s Birmingham Shopping District employed Bloomfield Township-based CC Consulting starting March 7 to recruit prospective tenants, shopping district Executive Director Ingrid Tighe said. Shops that sell clothing, shoes or other goods are in the sights. The retail recruiter approach isn’t new. Birmingham, with a walkable downtown centered along Old Woodward Avenue, has employed them for around nine years. But now the city is using a more “tailored” approach, City Manager Joe Valentine said. CITY OF BIRMINGHAM The shopping district and CC Con- The Oakland County city of Birmingham’s shopping district has hired a consultant sulting are using data collected by Fort to attract new retailers. Its downtown is pictured on Old Woodward Avenue. Worth-based Buxton Co. that identified market segments, target audiences and Coming and going specific prospective retailers that would The Morrie: A Royal Oak dining, drinking complement the Oakland County city’s Willow and Fernn Boutique: Women’s and live-music restaurant that’s existing mix. CC Consulting is on a lifestyle boutique with interactive salt bar expanding this spring to a second location yearlong contract not to exceed and aromatherapy bar to hold soft at 260 N. Old Woodward Ave. $25,000. Built into the contract, the opening Saturday at 528 N. Old Woodconsultant gets paid extra as more deals ward Ave. Custom Shop Clothiers: Custom dress close and for signing high-priority re- Petite Cabane: Children’s boutique to shirts, suits and trousers shop that closed tailers, Tighe said. in early winter at 223 S. Old Woodward Ave. open Saturday at 205 E. Maple Road In a separate, ongoing project, OakCafe Via: A fine-dining restaurant at 310 land County hired CC Consulting in 110 Couture: Fashion retailer recently E. Maple Road that closed suddenly last late summer for its first large-scale re- opened at 110 S. Old Woodward Ave. March (and will be replaced by Pernoi) tail attraction effort, focusing on draw- Pernoi: An internationally inspired ing destination retail to downtowns fine-dining restaurant helmed by veteran Suzy Perette: Designer clothing shop and historic corridors. Birmingham got chefs Takashi Yagihashi and Luciano that closed in early winter at 33717 6.0 in. an OK from the county before hiring DelSignore to open at 310 E. Maple Road Woodward Ave., #530 the same consultant, Tighe said.



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This map shows the Birmingham Shopping District’s footprint. The 1 and 1A sections designate District 1, the central business district; and 1A, the area outside the central business district.

When asked about potential overlap, CC Consulting principal Cindy Ciura said there’s “such different demographics and different vibes to the cities I’m focusing on that that doesn’t happen ... the majority of folks I’m reaching out to for retail have very specific needs and wants and they’re not overlapping.” The list of regional and national companies Birmingham is targeting is covered by a nondisclosure agreement, according to Tighe. But she said they’re aiming for women’s and men’s clothing, children’s stores, shoes and other buyable goods. Ciura added that she would “love to grab the top online concepts that are looking for brick-andmortar.” The city is in current discussions with a women’s accessories brand and outdoors retailer. “I think it’s really important to have strong anchor stores that are nationally or internationally known, like (womenswear chain) Anthropologie (at 214 W. Maple Road in Birmingham). ... Traffic will be driven to the national brands,” said Vicki Blazier, a longtime Michigan resident whose new business Willow and Fernn Boutique opened Saturday on North Old Woodward Avenue. “But you also have to have that sprinkling of mom-and-pop shops.” The shopping district networks with Michigan entrepreneurs, too, Tighe said. But that effort is separate from this consultant-fueled push. Regional and national brands make up 20 percent of retailers in the district. There are 26,214 households within a 10-minute drive of downtown Birmingham with a median household income of $88,559, according to Buxton’s data collected for the city, one of the region’s most affluent. Shoppers “just want high-quality, beautiful apparel,” Tighe said. “I think people are not looking necessarily for expensive. They’re looking for high quality.”

96 percent full

they weren’t worried about empty windows. The area covered by the Birmingham Shopping District — funded through an assessment on commercial space — has 260 storefronts currently in operation: 115 retailers, 55 restaurants and 90 service providers (including the aforementioned salons), according to Tighe. The shopping district calculates occupancy rate by square footage; by that metric, it’s at 96 percent. But there’s still turnover. And of the 26 vacant spots, just three are designated as target spaces for restaurants. The shopping district board decided not to focus on recruiting restaurants — the city is well-known for its plethora of upscale and fast-casual options. Rental rates per square foot in the Birmingham area averaged $29 at the end of 2018, according to CoStar Group Inc. Tighe said that can vary from $35$40s in the downtown center at Maple Road and Old Woodward to around $25 at the edges of the shopping district. The city is on the “higher end” for rents, Ciura said, along with Rochester. “We are in a strong position right now ... we have 96 percent (retail, restaurant and service store) occupancy,” Tighe said. “But our attitude is we want to continue to be proactive ... There’s a lot of competition from other communities around us.” Valentine echoed Tighe’s sentiment on needing to showcase Birmingham’s individuality among trendy downtowns. He said they’ve seen shoppers leave Birmingham for other cities’ downtowns, but they’ve also seen the opposite, as some argue urban centers are winning out over traditional malls. Building mixed-use developments adds to that desirability, Valentine said. More than a half-dozen projects totaling more than $250 million are either under construction or in serious planning phases, including a new luxury hotel and upscale retail, Crain’s reported in November.

Birmingham isn’t exactly hurting for retail: Both Tighe and Valentine said

Annalise Frank: (313) 446-0416 Twitter: @annalise_frank

C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9


Kraig Biocraft raises $1M in new capital to boost spider-silk production in Vietnam By Anisa Jibrell

Ann Arbor-based Kraig Biocraft Laboratories Inc., which produces spider-silk fibers using genetically modified silkworms, said it has raised $1 million in new capital to fund the expansion of production in Vietnam. The bulk of the funding will go toward ramping up production of genetically engineered spider silk at the company’s facility in Vietnam’s Quang Nam province, it said in a Monday news release. Funds will also be used to support research operations, improve the company’s balance sheet and support other initiatives.

just over $400,000 in annual revenue for 2018, he said. Last year, the company opened a Prodigy Textiles Co. Ltd. facility in the Quang Nam province to support recombinant spider silk production. Anisa Jibrell: (313) 446-0495 Twitter: @anisajibrell


Kraig Biocraft Laboratories makes materials from spider silk fibers made by genetically modified silkworms.

Need to know

 Bulk of funding will go toward ramping up production of genetically engineered spider silk  Funds will also be used to support research, improve balance sheet, support other initiatives  Ann Arbor-based company did not disclose names of investors

Spider silk is one of the toughest fibers known and Kraig has targeted it toward military, industrial and other uses. “Securing this bridge financing was a key piece to funding the company’s commercial expansion strategy and puts us in a strong position as we expand spider silk production we shift operational focus to production,” COO Jon Rice said in the release. “This capital is necessary to support commercial expansion, which is essential in establishing market channel collaborations for consumer products.” Kraig Biocraft Laboratories (OTCQB: KBLB) is not disclosing the name of the investor group at this time, Rice told Crain’s. The company generated

Crain’s seeks to honor Notable Women in STEM Crain’s Detroit Business plans to salute 2019 Notable Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in Michigan in a special report on May 27. In that report, we’ll profile women in STEM who are considered leaders in their workplaces and in the community. The form and accompanying materials must be submitted by Monday, March 25. The program is open to fields including engineering, information technology, software programming, life sciences, education, and other STEM-related fields. To nominate a candidate for consideration, go to www.crainsdetroit. com/nominate. Please note, there is a $65 processing fee for applications. Crain’s Premier Membership holders get one complimentary nomination. Contact Keenan Covington at kcovington@ for redemption information or questions on the program.


It’s where academic excellence, career building and hands-on experience come together. A master’s degree in business or information technology from Walsh bridges real-world understanding with a nationally-ranked business curriculum. That’s why you’ll find Walsh graduates in every Fortune 500 company in Michigan.

C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9


Stacey Abrams to speak at Mackinac Policy Conference By Anisa Jibrell

Need to know

Political activist Stacey Abrams of Georgia is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on the nation’s current political landscape at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference in May. Abrams is a former Georgia House minority leader and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of the southern state who delivered the Democratic Party’s response to Stacey Abrams: To deliver keynote President Donald Trump’s State of speech May 30. the Union address last month. She also founded Fair Fight Action last year to advocate for election reform and engage in voter education and turnout in Georgia. Abrams, who is set to speak May 30, joins several other scheduled speakers, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, both of whom will deliver keynote addresses, as well as economist Michael Porter and Katherine Gehl, former CEO of Milwaukee-based Gehl Foods. Abrams made history last year when she became the first female Afri-

JJGeorgia Democrat to speak May 30 JJFormer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former

Ohio Gov. John Kasich also set to give keynotes

JJAbrams says she hasn’t ruled out ruled out running for president in 2020

can-American to win a gubernatorial nomination for a major party in any state. She narrowly lost to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp amid allegations of voter suppression. In an interview this week with PBS News Hour at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Abrams confirmed she isn’t ruling out a 2020 presidential run. “Twenty years ago, I never thought I’d be ready to run for POTUS before 2028. But life comes at you fast ... Now 2020 is definitely on the table,” Abrams said in a tweet on March 11. The annual Mackinac Policy Conference, which runs May 28-31 on Mackinac Island, includes a roster of influential names in local politics and community leadership. The event is platform to discuss topics such as mobility, economic development and education. For more details, visit Anisa Jibrell: (313) 446-0495 Twitter: @anisajibrell

SPOTLIGHT Meritor promotes Anderson to CFO

Meritor Inc. promoted Carl Anderson to CFO following the resignation of its top financial executive. Anderson, 49, replaces Kevin Nowlan, 47, in the role effective immediately, according to a news release Wednesday. Nowlan, who also served as senior vice president and president of MeriAnderson tor’s trailer and components division, resigned to take another CFO role with a yet-to-benamed company, the Troy-based supplier said. Joe Plomin, senior vice president and president of Meritor’s aftermarket and industrial and trailer business, will assume Nowlin’s responsibilities over its trailer and components business. Anderson adds senior vice president to his title as well as becoming the CFO. He previously served as group vice president of finance for Meritor. He joined the company in 2006 as director of capital markets. Prior to joining Meritor, Anderson worked in the financial sector, including as a senior manager for GMAC Financial Services and First Chicago NBD Bank.

Brian Ahlborn to lead Fusion Coolant Systems

A former executive of Canadian powertrain parts supplier Linamar

Corp. is the new CEO and president of Fusion Coolant Systems Inc., a coolant and lubricant technology company based in Canton Township. Brian Ahlborn, 56, replaces founder and inventor of the technology Steven Skerlos, who will serve as chairman and chief technology officer, according to company spokeswoman Elyse Winer. “Brian brings to Fusion a clear vision, profound industry knowledge, a strong leadership style, not to mention a laser-like focus on execution, that will rapidly transform the company,” Skerlos said in news release. “Fusion is perfectly positioned to benefit from his vast skills and experience. I couldn’t have imagined a better fit for CEO and President. We are all excited for Brian to take the wheel.” Due to Skerlos’ primary position at the University of the Michigan as the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of mechanical engineering and civil and environmental engineering, he has always maintained a limited role with the company, Winer said in an email. Ahlborn began his new role in January, according to Winer. Ahlborn’s experience spans more than three decades working with automakers, suppliers and startups, the release says. He has held various posts in the automotive realm including president of Linamar’s European group and president of the company’s Canada and U.S. group, according to the release.

Ahlborn also served as CEO of Los Angeles-based fuel injection manufacturer Transonic Combustion Inc. and president of Livonia-based McLaren Performance Technologies.

Clarkston chamber hires new leader

The Clarkston Area Chamber of Commerce has hired a new executive director. Beginning March 18, Shaun Hayes, 28, takes the helm of the nonprofit organization representing Independence Township, Springfield Township, City of the Village of Hayes Clarkston, Davisburg, Dixie Highway Corridor and Sashabaw Corridor, according to a news release from the chamber. Hayes replaces Marie Clifford, who has been serving as interim executive director since September, when Janelle Best left the position to be president of the Howell Chamber of Commerce. Clifford will remain with the chamber in a role to be determined by Hayes, said Emily Ford, the chamber’s president. The executive director is a fulltime position that oversees the chamber and its 14 volunteer board members.

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Taking its programs to new areas of need aligns with Build’s mission, she said. It also presents an opportunity for new revenue for a nonprofit that relies on foundation support for more than half of its budget.

About Build Launched seven years ago as a program of D-Hive within the Downtown Detroit Partnership, Build looks at entrepreneurship as a path out of poverty, a way to help build wealth and ownership for people of color, said Boyle. At the core of its offerings is an eightweek business and project-planning class taught by local small business owners and held in neighborhoods to ensure it’s accessible. Classes are taught by local experts and cover all the basics of starting a business — from licensing to financial literacy, market research to cash flow and more. Participants leave the class with a completed business plan, a cohort of fellow entrepreneurs in Detroit, and the knowledge to take their idea to the next level. The classes — which cost $500 but are adjusted according to what each entrepreneur can pay — are aimed at small businesses with fewer than five employees and revenue of less than $100,000. Beyond the classes, Build’s offerings have grown to include a suite of programs supporting small businesses, including networking events, Detroit Soup events that build awareness and help raise funding, assistance in raising capital, opportunities to test concepts through pop-up markets and continuing education programs. Build Institute became an independent nonprofit in January 2018 and is preparing to move this summer to The Corner development at the former Tiger Stadium site in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood. Its new location will include pop-up retail space it didn’t have to lease to entrepreneurs in the past. Since its launch in 2012, 1,700 people have graduated from its Build Basics classes, with over 550 businesses and 1,200 jobs created, according to Build Institute. Of those participating in its programs, 70 percent were women and 60 percent were people of color. Build has helped 50 of those entrepreneurs raise a total of more than $350,000 through the Kiva Detroit platform. Its graduates have gone on to secure over $2 million in funding through Motor City Match, Hatch Detroit, NEIdeas, Detroit Demo days and other microgrant programs. As it prepares to move into its new home this summer, Build is working to take its programs to the three pilot cities. Each is operating on a different model.

Expanding to Indiana There’s a very strong regional push for entrepreneurial and small business in Fort Wayne and the surrounding region, said Trois Hart, director of Seed Fort Wayne, a quasi-government, nonprofit entity that manages targeted revitalization efforts for a seven-squaremile area of neighborhood corridors and industrial areas in Fort Wayne. “Northeast Indiana understands the strength and power of entrepreneurship, and for our program, in particular ... there’s a natural tie there that we believe is a strategy to improve opportunities for everybody in the region.” Last August, the Greater Fort Wayne

economic development corporation and JP Morgan Chase & Co. sponsored a trip for Fort Wayne leaders to Detroit to look at redevelopment here, with a focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Its tour included stops to learn about Motor City Match, Ponyride and Build Institute, Hart said. Seed liked Build’s curriculum and its focus on access for women and people of color. Seed licensed the Build Basics curriculum for a year and in late February hosted representatives from Build Institute to train 10 facilitators or teachers for the classes in Fort Wayne. Seed is initially planning 10 cohorts of the eight-week classes which are set to launch this spring but could add more if demand is there, Hart said. Build Basics is a tool to help people organize their inspiration and get them on a path, Hart said. Seed plans to plug participants into a larger ecosystem after they graduate to further support business creation, Hart said, with workshops providing a deeper dive into their business plans, networking opportunities, mentoring and more. Build is charging cities outside of Detroit between $10,000 and $30,000 in annual fees to bring the eight-week training classes and any other programs selected to their communities, Boyle said. It’s offering, for additional fees, access to its other programs like the Open Cities monthly networking events and Detroit Soup, along with additional consulting on best practices around launching the programs and building their ecosystems. Build is operating on a budget of just under $1 million this year. About 55 percent of its revenue is foundation grants, 25 percent earned revenue and the remaining 20 percent is split between individual and corporate support, Boyle said.

Expanding locally Closer to home, Build is providing facilitators in other cities and developing models to fund the programs. In Pontiac, Flagstar Bancorp Inc. (NYSE: FBC) made a $26,000 grant to pilot Build Basics and a Pontiac Soup program, as part of its $10 million commitment to economic development in the city. Classes launched in mid-February with 16 entrepreneurs. Tameka Ramsey — a graduate of Build and owner of T. Ramsey and Associates, a Pontiac-based consulting firm specializing in training, branding and empowering nonprofits — is serving as facilitator. Build Basics classes and possibly a networking or fundraising event are expected to launch this summer in Hazel Park. Under that agreement, the city will fund half the costs of the program for a year, and Build will secure a match from a local funder for the other half, Boyle said.

Detroit as a model There’s still work to be done here in Detroit to ensure under-served populations of entrepreneurs can access the microloans and other supports now available to them, as a recent report commissioned by NEI pointed out. “But our ... neighborhood, placebased small business ecosystem is pretty far along compared to other places around the country,” said Matthew Lewis, communications officer for NEI. “Detroit is actually leading in the network behaviors, acting as an ecosystem ... they are collaborating, not competing.” Sherri Welch: (313) 446-1694 Twitter: @SherriWelch


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Soave Enterprises bought out former owner, chairman and CEO Greg Smith this month with plans to double New Center’s revenue in the next 24 months. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but New Center Stamping generated revenue of $33 million in 2017, according to Crain’s data. Soave Enterprises, an industrial services holding company, previously owned 33 percent of New Center Stamping. In January 2018, New Center Stamping hired former Delphi executive Ray Fernandez as the company’s president, charged with diversifying the company’s stagnant aftermarket part portfolio. The company inked a deal last year to supply low-volume stampings to the new Flex-N-Gate plant in Detroit. Fernandez will remain in the role under Soave.




Weighing alternatives

Spread the load, save the road

Despite allowing double-trailered trucks at heavier total weight than other states, Michigan’s weight limits result in a maximum-loaded double-trailer weighing less per axle than a pair of maximum-loaded single trailer trucks.

Michigan allows trucks to weigh up to 164,000 pounds. But the state’s 13,000-pound weight limit per axle requires that weight to be spread out differently than states that have 80,000-pound weight limits but require fewer axles. The Michigan Department of Transportation’s engineers have long contended the 13,000-pound axle limit more evenly spreads out the wear and tear on the state’s roads than allowing fixed-axle trucks weighing 80,000 pounds at 16,000 pounds per axle.

17,000 17,000

17,000 17,000

17,000 17,000


160,000 lbs over 10 axles

‘They all get weighed’ While Michigan’s high weight limits get publicly scrutinized by motorists and politicians alike, the Michigan State Police operates 15 weigh stations aross the state that are typically open between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays, with some intermitent overnight and weekend operations. The State Police’s motor carrier unit has 106 troopers assigned to inspect and weighing trucks at the checkpoints along Interstate 69, 75, 94 and 96, said Capt. Mike Krumm, commander of MSP’s commercial vehicle enforcement division. But not all trucks have to physically stop at the weigh station — a little-known fact that may contribute to the motoring public’s perception that Michigan’s weigh stations aren’t being utilized. Each station has censors in the roadway ahead of its exit ramps that weigh trucks while they’re driving down the road at 60 miles per hour, Krumm said. Commercial trucks that utilize the PrePass or Drivewyze weigh station bypass software programs sends real-time weight data to the station operator once they cross over the censors embeded in the roadway, Krumm said. If the censors detect one of the axles may be overweight, a trooper in the weigh station directs the truck driver to pull in to be weighed. Of the








154,000 lbs over 11 axles


Each trailer is subject to Michigan’s 13,000-pounds-per-axle weight limit. State transportation engineers have long contended Michigan’s lower per-axle weight limit more evenly distributes cargo weights on roadways than tractor-trailers in other states that follow the 80,000-pound federal limit (Michigan’s maximum limit has been grandfathered by the federal government). Fully loaded with gravel, Messina said one of his company’s 11-axle tractor-trailers typically weighs 147,000 pounds, with 17,000 pounds apportioned to the truck’s steering and drive-train axles. In most other states, the same load would require two five-axle trucks weighing 73,500 with more weight per axle, adding to congestion on the road, Messina said. “We use less of the road to move more tonnage than any other state,” said James Burg, president of the James Burg Trucking Co. in Warren.







Source: Michigan Dept. of Transportation

Crain’s Detroit Business graphic by Lisa Sawyer and Chad Livengood

2.3 million trucks that were wirelessly weighed last year, 3,613 were weighed on a static scale at one of the weigh stations, Krumm said. “They all still get weighed,” Krumm told Crain’s. “There’s not one truck that drives by our scales and doesn’t get weighed.” Trucks not equipped with the PrePass or Drivewyze technology are required to pull into the weigh stations when they’re open. “We don’t have vehicles that just go up and down our roads and bypass our scales,” Krumm said. The weigh stations, though, cannot catch every overweight truck on the roads. That’s due in part to the fact that they’re spread out across the Lower Peninsula in mostly rural areas that absorb the majority of Michigan’s interstate travel. But the trucking industry attempts to police its own weights for shorter-distance hauls, particularly within urban and suburban areas. Most rock quarries where heavy trucks pickup loads of crushed limestone, sand, gravel and other aggregate have scales and each truck is weighed before leaving, Messina said “If they’re overloaded, they make them dump off,” he said. “The quarries won’t allow them to leave if

they’re overweight.” Overweight trucks that are within 4,000 pounds of the 13,000-pound per axle limit are considered a “misload” by the Michigan State Police and fined $200 per axle, Messina said. Any truck with weights per axle exceeding 4,000 pounds are fined $1 for every pound, he said. “They can be hefty,” Messina said of the fines.

“I think two things are necessary for New Center’s success,” said Ed Schwartz, chairman of New Center Stamping, executive vice president at Soave and president and CEO of its industrial cleaning company MPS Group. “One is organization, which they have with Ray and his team. The other is capital. We have that and we’re going to invest in it and make it more successful.” Schwartz said Soave plans to invest under $10 million to grow the company’s low-volume stamping capabilities, with the intent of starting a second shift in its schedule which will include additional hiring. The 20-acre, 240,000-square-foot New Center Stamping currently employs roughly 200, 70 percent of whom are Detroit residents, the company said in a press release. New Center Stamping is the first manufacturing company in Soave’s $1.8 billion portfolio. Its holdings in-

Of the 111,470 trucks registered in Michigan ...


46,150 medium trucks under 26,000 lbs.


31,575 interstate trucks hauling less than 80,000 lbs.


27,360 other trucks between 26,000 and 80,000 lbs.


6,385 able to carry more than 80,000 lbs.*

*2,649 of those are registered to carry over 145,000 lbs.

Michigan’s higher weight limits stem from the state’s long history in the logging, steel and automobile-making industries that required moving heavy loads of raw materials and finished from across the state, Burg said. Burg contends the condition of Michigan’s roads is not a result of heavy truck weights, but deferred maintenance by cash-strapped government agencies. “If I were to maintain my vehicles as poorly as MDOT has maintained the roads, I would have been put out of business a long time ago,” Burg said. “We have a maintenance problem and a funding problem.” Commercial trucks pay annual registration fees that range from $590 for a 24,000-pound delivery truck —

such as a United Parcel Service box truck — to $3,741 for an 11-axle tractor-trailer licensed to haul a maximum 164,000-pound load. The heaviest trucks can include grain haulers, petroleum tankers, two-trailer gravel trains and asphalt trucks. In 2017, registration fees for all vehicles in Michigan were increased 20 percent and the tax on diesel fuel was hiked from 15 cents per gallon to 26.3 cents — to make it the same rate as gasoline — in the first increase of the diesel tax since 1984. Whitmer’s proposed 45-cent increase on the 26.3-cent fuel tax rate “would definitely hurt us,” Messina said. “It makes it almost to the point where it’s not profitable,” Messina said of a 71.3-cent fuel tax. “It’s hard to raise your prices to accommodate for that increase.” Whitmer’s road funding proposal did not include any additional fees or fines for heavy commercial trucks, though the Democratic governor is open to discussing that issue with legislators. “Heavy trucks are going to pay more in diesel ... they’re going to pay a lot more,” Whitmer said after speaking at a Detroit Regional Chamber event last week. “But I do think that there’s some work we need to do in terms of weights

and that’s something I’ve got to work with the Legislature to get done.” The head of the Michigan Trucking Association said the industry is not phased by the prospect of higher taxes, especially for interstate haulers because their diesel fuel taxes and registration fees are spread proportionately among states based on miles traveled. “We will as an industry step up to the plate and pay our fair share,” Heinritzi said. “I don’t see the tax rate in of itself being a reason for carriers to avoid Michigan. They may not stop here, but they will pay the taxes.” Politically though, the trucking industry has been a strong force in Lansing for years, staving off past efforts to change the weight limits or impose higher user fees. Whitmer, who served 14 years in the Legislature, is aware of the complicated politics of trying to squeeze the trucking industry while seeking an expansive fuel tax increase for the state’s other 7 million motorists. “The more and more we complicate it, the harder and harder it’s going (to be) to get done,” Whitmer said. “And that’s why this (fuel tax increase) is simple ... and it does the job.”

clude luxury condos in Florida and Virginia, several metal processing and recycling companies, auto dealers in Kansas and Missouri, MPS Group, a hydroponic tomato farm in Ontario and Detroit’s cab company, Checker Transportation Co. Soave is leaning on Schwartz’s manufacturing background to lead New Center Stamping to its potential. Prior to joining MPS in 2010, Schwartz served as an executive vice president at TriMas Corp., which manufactures aerospace fasteners, food and beauty industry dispensers, gas and oil industry engines and pumps, etc. He also served in leadership roles at lighting manufacturer Philips. “All of my background is manufacturing,” Schwartz said. “This is a nice change for me and something I’m looking forward to taking on.” But competing in the stamping space is increasingly difficult, said Michael Robinet, executive director

at Southfield-based research and strategy firm IHSMarkit. “Vertical integration has become increasingly critical as companies need something to add value, whether that’s welding, riveting, etc.,” Robinet said. “If you’re a stamper servicing the lifespan of a component for 10 years ... how do you make money hitting something a thousand times with a press? Stampers now won’t touch any program unless it’s producing 50,000 or 100,000 units a year. That’s not in the cards for smaller stampers, so they need to find another way.” For New Center Stamping, it’s expanding the low-volume stamping they are doing for suppliers like Flex-NGate. “A lot of players are moving upward to larger components with larger presses because it’s cost-prohibitive and not as many players there. That does open up some opportunity for smaller stampers, but it’s still competitive.”

Schwartz thinks Soave’s investment is going to rectify the problems New Center Stamping has faced in recent years — more equipment means more work. Plus gaining non-aftermarket clients provides a clearer path toward financial growth, as the aftermarket industry is reliant on servicing trends and accidents. Many stamped parts are used to replace parts on vehicles involved in crashes, which isn’t predictable. “Servicing assembly plants is more stable, regular production than the aftermarket business,” Schwartz said. “We’re limited by capacity and we don’t have all the automation to compete in the large stamping space, but we have the financial capabilities to shift the strategy to better markets and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Bracing for a tax hike

Chad Livengood: (313) 446-1654 Twitter: @ChadLivengood

Dustin Walsh: (313) 446-6042 Twitter: @dustinpwalsh

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In a playoff push, single-game ticket sales see the biggest spike, Lott said. The team didn’t disclose its season-ticket base or group sales inventory, which account for a majority of ticket sales during the season. Lott said the Pistons were third last season in group sales, which are everything from corporate outings to scouts to school organizations such as DECA. Most groups are about 50 to 60 people, he said. “That’s one of our strong suits,” he said. “What makes group sales so successful, it’s something anyone can do. It’s one night, not a season commitment.” While most group sales are scheduled ahead of the season, a handful of group sales requests have cropped up as the Pistons inch toward a rare playoff berth, Lott said. Previously scheduled groups are asking for additional tickets, he added. Winning, of course, is the No. 1 way to boost ticket sales. Brad Lott: Group “With the sucsales is a strong cess on the suit for Pistons. court, everything you do (in sales and promotions) is amplified,” Lott said. When the Pistons dominated the NBA in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and when they were good through the early and mid-2000s, they led the league in attendance. They sold out every game from the Palace’s opening in November 1988 through December 1993, a stretch of 245 games during which they won two NBA championships. They then sold out 259 consecutive games at the 22,076-seat Palace from 2004-09, winning another title and leading the 30-team NBA in attendance during that stretch (except for 2007, when they were second only to the Chicago Bulls). When they subsequently sank into mediocrity, or worse, fans abandoned them and Detroit fell into the bottom half or third of NBA attendance. It got so bad that the arena’s red seats — which show up starkly on TV when empty — were replaced with more visually subdued black chairs. This season, Detroit ranks 24th in the NBA after 34 home games with an average of 15,898 fans per game at 20,491-seat Little Caesars Arena. In their three home games from March 3-10, they improved that home average to 17,919 per game, which would rank 17th in the NBA. Last season, which saw the addition of star forward Blake Griffin via trade, the team averaged 17,413 fans per game for the 41-game home schedule. That ranked 19th. Even with Griffin, a six-time allstar, and good players such as Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson, the Pistons’ performance remains inconsistent. For example, an 8-2 stretch in November was followed by them losing 16 of their next 20 games. Through March 14, they were 13-5 since Jan. 31, with this month’s five-game winning streak coldly brought to an end with bad losses at Brooklyn and Miami. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs, and Detroit was in the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference heading into


Detroit Pistons bobbleheads are among the perks being offered to fans who attend games at Little Caesars Arena.

Team owner Tom Gores and his private equity fund acquired the Pistons and related assets in 2011 for $325 million — a steal in terms of pro sports team prices. In 2015 he bought out his company’s 49 percent stake for an undisclosed sum. Under his ownership, the team has a record of 269-356 (.430). Their lone winning season was 2015-16 when they went 44-38 (.537) and got swept out of the first round of the playoffs by Cleveland. The losing likely has been a drag on the team’s worth compared to its peers, but it’s still gained an immense value since Gores bought it. Forbes recently valued the team at $1.27 billion, which represents a $945 million jump in value since 2011, but lags behind the average NBA team value of $1.9 billion. A team’s true value, of course, is what someone will pay for it. The Pistons’ off-court business unit was restructured under Platinum and performance has improved, with Chief Marketing and Revenue Officer Charlie Metzger telling Crain’s in 2018 that corporate sales revenue has doubled since moving downtown last year as a tenant at new Little Caesars Arena. It’s also building a $65 million headquarters and practice facility in New Center slated to open later this year. Gores, a billionaire, has struggled to find the right front office and coaches to fix the losing. He has parted ways with four coaches: He fired John Kuester shortly after buying the team in June 2011 and replaced him with Lawrence Frank, who was fired after going 54-94 (.365) from 2011–13. Gores next fired Maurice Cheeks after a 21-29


start to the 2013-14 season, and then last year fired his replacement, Stan Van Gundy, after he went 152-176 over four seasons. Detroit’s lone post-season appearance was that sweep by Dan Gilbert’s Cavaliers in 2016. The latest attempt to end the suffering came when Gores hired veteran NBA executive Ed Stefanski to oversee the franchise, followed by adding ex-Raptors coach Dwane Casey to replace Van Gundy. He also added noted analytics expert Sachin Gupta as assistant general manager. It’s too soon to tell if their efforts will be successful long term, or even if they’ll lock down a playoff spot this year. “Are the pair there to keep jobs, or take chances?” said Dwyer. “In the pair’s defense, Pistons fans aren’t after temerity. They just want a playoff team.” The business strategy of winning games, and spending smartly to do it, is something Gores and his aides have repeatedly said is their goal. The ticket-buying fanbase came to expect it and, as gate totals have shown, has become restless or apathetic in the wake of decades of good basketball: The Pistons made the playoffs in 20 of the 26 seasons from 1983-84 through 2008-09, and in that span they won three NBA championships out of the five finals they reached. They’ve been in the playoffs for 41 of their 71 seasons. As for 2019 individual game playoff tickets, if they happen for Detroit, details are expected to be released in coming weeks, the Pistons said. Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626 Twitter: @Bill_Shea19


The Pistons’ corporate sales revenue has doubled since moving downtown last year as a tenant at new Little Caesars Arena.

“The team plays hard, and it has finally become entertaining to watch. Blake’s show has been a deliberate tune-in all season.” Kelly Dwyer

home games against the Lakers on Friday and Raptors on Sunday. After that, the Pistons have a fivegame road trip before returning March 28 to host Orlando. They have five home games remaining after that road trip, and will continue to try to convince fans to buy tickets. Detroit may yet squander its playoff bid, and its two especially ugly losses last week drew the attention of national sports site Deadspin, which called the Pistons’ shooting “ghastly” in an analysis. Still, the analytics site FiveThirtyEight on Thursday had the Pistons with a 96 percent chance of making the playoffs.

How full the seats are as the season winds down will be mostly up to the players, and the team hasn’t scrimped on roster spending: Detroit ranks 8th in the NBA with a $125.2 million payroll. That’s led by Griffin’s $32 million salary this season as part of his fully guaranteed five-year, $173 million contract that Detroit inherited when it traded for him in January 2018. So far, the money appears to be worth it because Griffin, 29, is among the NBA’s leaders in scoring and has the team poised to get back into the postseason. “The team plays hard, and it has finally become entertaining to watch. Blake’s show has been a deliberate tune-in all season. This group just badly wanted Detroit basketball back where it counted, around for parts of spring, and I can’t argue against writing big checks to chase that midpoint down,” said Kelly Dwyer, longtime basketball analyst at outlets such as Sports Illustrated and Yahoo Sports and now author of The Second Arrangement NBA newsletter.

Kitch Drutchas Wagner Valitutti & Sherbrook


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One proposal, delivered to the WSU board in a report in December 2017, was for the state of Michigan to partner with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to acquire DMC from the health system’s parent company, Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp., according to a 33-page report on options for the medical school prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Under that option, the state and Michigan Blues would issue tax-exempt bonds to purchase DMC and then turn over controlling interest to Wayne State to own and operate. Blue Cross spokesperson Helen Stojic said the Blues weren’t consulted about the plan and it was “never a consideration on our end.” Last week, Crain’s reported details of a letter of intent signed by Wayne State and Henry Ford to create a health sciences center limited liability corporation that could create a $2 billion enterprise over 30 years. The proposed affiliation, which has been called transformational because of the multimillion-dollar investments from Henry Ford and the joint research, clinical services and education possibilities, has been rejected now by at least four WSU board members, whose opposition halted talks in early March as they neared the finish line. The fourth member, Anil Kumar, M.D., was elected to the board last November. “Busuito (Hughes O’Brien and Thompson) had an idea to buy DMC for $2 billion. I want to be respectful of them, but we had experts come in to talk about pros and cons about buying DMC. To me it seems not viable,” said David Nicholson, a former WSU governor for five years who was defeated in an election last fall. “First, you can’t buy something that is not for sale,” said Nicholson, who is president and CEO of PVS Chemicals Inc. in Detroit. “It was not clear where the funding would come from. There was talk about two private individuals (or private equity company) and asking the Legislature. (This idea) has been floated around for a long time.” A spokesman for Tenet in Dallas declined an interview request. “We don’t comment on rumors,” said Tenet spokesman Lesley Bogdanow. Several times over the past few years, Tenet officials have told Crain’s that DMC is not for sale either as a whole system or as individual hospitals. Under a 2010 agreement with the Michigan attorney general’s office, Tenet also cannot close any of DMC’s six individual hospitals until Dec. 31, 2020, 10 years after their initial purchase by Vanguard Health Systems. In 2011, nonprofit DMC was sold to for-profit Vanguard for about $1.5 billion, which included $417 million to retire debts, at least $350 million in capital expenditures and an additional $500 million for new capital investment. In 2013, Tenet bought 28-hospital Vanguard for $1.73 billion. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, said in an email to Crain’s that he is skeptical that Wayne State could buy DMC and would be opposed to the university buying a safety-net hospital system. “It’s a rare occurrence when a struggling for-profit can become a non-struggling nonprofit,” he said. But he added that a possible affiliation between Wayne State and Hen-


Detroit Medical Center is owned by Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp.

“First, you can’t buy something that is not for sale.” — David Nicholson, former WSU governor

ry Ford is “an intriguing idea and hopefully secures a longstanding resource for high quality medical training in Michigan. I also hope, as things unfold, they include in their goals, objectives, and deliberations a metric related to ‘retaining these graduates’ at a very high percent of what I’ll call Michigan successes.” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office did not respond when asked about the possibility of the state of Michigan helping to buy DMC. In a statement earlier this month when asked about the Henry Ford affiliation, Whitmer said: “Wayne State University is important to the state of Michigan. The administration also recognizes the important role the Detroit Medical Center and the Children’s Hospital play in providing care as the state’s largest safety net hospital system.” Diane Dunaskiss, who was on the WSU board 24 years and also departed after last year’s election, said the board has been fully briefed about various plans to affiliate with Henry Ford, buy DMC, partner with Tenet or with competing nonprofit health systems. Another alternative, instead of forming a limited liability company with Henry Ford, would be to simply sign individual joint-venture deals with Henry Ford and other hospitals to bring in more education and re-

“(An affiliation) has the potential to be transformational for the entire region. Henry Ford has a history for providing care for Detroit, a commitment for more than a century, and so does Wayne State.” — Kim Trent, chairman of the Wayne State board of governors

search dollars, she said. “There are pros and cons to each one,” Dunaskiss said. “Nobody agreed with them (board members about the DMC purchase),” she said. “Their approach was unrealistic because of the depth of problems facing the medical school and the need to find an outside partner.” Kim Trent, chairman of the Wayne State board of governors, said it is unrealistic for anyone to believe the state of Michigan, private investors or any combination of nonprofit companies could come up with $2 billion to buy DMC. “With the challenges we have with Wayne State now, and the trends with financing with state funding for higher education, it would not be the best use of resources to buy a safety-net hospital,” Trent said. “The purchase price alone is prohibitive. Even if we could attract that financing, I don’t know how it would be sustainable and how we could maintain a high level research and education at Wayne State.” Trent said she favors the affiliation plan with Henry Ford. She said she remains optimistic that the board in the coming weeks can address concerns about the plan and get talks back on track. “It is in the best interests of the community for (the affiliation) to happen,” said Trent, adding: “It has the potential to be transformational for the entire region. Henry Ford has a history for providing care for Detroit, a commitment for more than a century, and so does Wayne State.” Mark Gaffney, chair of the Wayne State board’s health affairs committee, said that when the talks with Henry Ford were suspended, they were incomplete. He said Wilson had agreed earlier this month to make changes in the plan that he believed would satisfy both sides and the objecting board members. “I think they are very unhappy and disgruntled,” Gaffney said. “Conclusions about the negotiations with Henry Ford are way premature.” If the Henry Ford affiliation falls apart, Wilson said, the university would be forced to continue to subsidize the medical school and related entities as it has done the past several years by more than $50 million. “Some people are hopeful the state would come in and buy DMC, but the

state is not in that position, and I don’t think owning a safety-net hospital is the best investment at this time,” he said. Nicholson said Busuito, Hughes O’Brien and Thompson have changed their opinions since November about supporting the proposed Henry Ford affiliation. They voted twice in 8-0 votes last fall to support the letter of intent, he said. “Something has changed. It is a complicated deal. They may be hearing from vested interests hoping to maintain the status quo,” said Nicholson. “We have a relationship with (for-profit) DMC and they are worried about changes. They have a different vision than we do (as a public university). It makes more sense to partner with a nonprofit like Henry Ford.” Dunaskiss said Busuito and Hughes O’Brien have other ideas on how to solve the funding shortfalls besieging the medical school, but they haven’t fully explained how other than to buy DMC or possibly sign a joint venture or individual contracts with Henry Ford or others. “These contracts would not solve the fundamental funding problem we face at the medical school with clinical, education and research,” Dunaskiss said. “We tried this with DMC and they didn’t want to do it.”

Plans presented to the Wayne State board Several sources who asked for confidentiality, told Crain’s that at least four consultants presented to the board or discussed with board members as many as 10 alternate plans to buy DMC, which some board members felt would help solve the medical school’s ongoing funding problems. PricewaterhouseCoopers presented several plans to the board in its report. Two of them involved acquiring DMC. Its first option, submitted months before the Henry Ford letter of intent was signed in September 2018, was that Henry Ford and Wayne State could affiliate in an academic partnership. A second option would be for Wayne State to rebuild its medical school and practice plan with at least a $66 million investment to recruit 85 physicians and then collaborating with McLaren Health Care Corp. on a

multispecialty office building off Woodward Avenue. The third option would be for the state of Michigan and Blue Cross to acquire DMC and turn over management to Wayne State. The report said this option has precedent. In 2013, Highmark, a Pittsburgh-based notfor-profit insurer, purchased West Penn Allegheny Health System. Highmark now is one of the nation’s largest privately integrated health systems. But the report also said that there was “limited indication” from the state or Blue Cross that they would be interested in raising the necessary funding and turning over ownership to Wayne State. “With DMC ownership, the (WSU medical school would be) positioned as an equal in negotiating a longterm, mutually beneficial relationship with (Henry Ford Health System),” the report said. A fourth option suggested by PricewaterhouseCoopers would be to buy DMC with Henry Ford and private equity investors, and then form a new for-profit corporation. Under this option, Henry Ford would buy a majority share of DMC, create a separate for-profit corporation in which Tenet would become a minority shareholder. Private donors or venture capital investors would contribute to the purchase price. The aim would be for that for-profit company to go public on the stock market, at which point Tenet could cash out its shares. The new for-profit entity would contract with Wayne State medical school for branding and marketing of at least $100 million, which would be used to bolster university research and education. Officials for Henry Ford, which would be the managing partner, said they weren’t interested, sources said. Henry Ford Health declined comment. Any plan to buy DMC, said one source familiar with the board briefings, “would have strings from the venture capitalists, from the state, from everybody. It would not have worked and the assets of DMC would become further debilitated. (Keeping DMC for-profit) would make things get worse and worse with every sale as investors squeeze money out of it.” Jay Greene: (313) 446-0325 Twitter: @jaybgreene

C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9


“Everyone that works at this level wants to work a Super Bowl, or more than one Super Bowl,” he said. “It signifies that you had a really good year and were rewarded because of it. ” Torbert has been balancing corporate and football careers for 30 years. He agreed last fall to speak with Crain’s after the Super Bowl. “I consider myself really fortunate. I know of people that have to give up officiating because they couldn’t make it and their other job work,” he said. “Barton Malow has been really supportive of me from the time I got here.” Balancing work and officiating early in his career was easier because the travel was mostly local and limited to the weekends for college games. Once he joined the NFL, the schedule came to include weeknights, especially during the preseason. Torbert’s tools to do any needed Barton Malow work while traveling are familiar to any remote worker: email, texts, videoconferencing. “Technology evolved to stay connected while traveling,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s up to me to manage that balance to make sure my responsibilities to Barton Malow are carried out along with my responsibilities to the NFL. “There have been many instances where I have negotiated complex construction contracts, participated in employee training events, and conducted department meetings from an airport or hotel room while I was traveling for a game or training camp,” he said. Barton Malow’s senior leaders have nothing but praise for Torbert and his work — both legal and football — and noted that his travel hasn’t been a problem and his fame is a useful example for other employees. “It’s been a plus because of his professionalism and him being an example of our core values,” said Ben Maibach, now the firm’s vice chairman and chief community officer after many years as its CEO and chairman. “If anything, it’s been an asset. Ron’s professional. You can make things work if you have the right mindset.” Those who pay attention to NFL officials have praise for Torbert’s work. “Torbert has been a fast-rising star in officiating, and shortly after he joined the NFL, we had already placed him in the running for a potential promotion to referee,” said Ben Austro, editor of the officiating-focused site football, via email. “It did not take long at all, and since the promotion requires there to also be a retiring referee, he might have done it sooner. Since taking the white hat he has proven himself to be a very well respected and capable game manager.” Torbert grew up in Youngstown, Ohio — he was a Houston Oilers fan, bucking against local tradition of cheering for the nearby Cleveland Browns or Pittsburgh Steelers — and got his undergrad degree in political science from Michigan State University in 1985. A law degree followed from Harvard University in 1988. He then worked in the Lansing law office of what’s now called Dykema until 1994, after which he took a staff counsel job at Southfield-based auto supplier AlliedSignal for about a year. He returned to Dykema as a partner in its Detroit office before hiring on at Barton Malow in 2002 as assistant general counsel, he said, and was promoted to his current role in 2004. It was while in his first year at Dykema that a colleague introduced him to football officiating, Torbert said.


Ron Torbert is vice president and general counsel at Southfield-based construction firm Barton Malow Co., and also an NFL referee.

“I didn’t have any experience doing it, but I talked to him and a couple of other officials, watched them work, and thought it would be an interesting hobby in addition to practicing law,” he said. Torbert’s officiating career began, after study and passing the appropriate tests, with junior high and high school games. That was 1989, and he spent a decade working those games in the Lansing area on weeknights and weekends while handling corporate law duties during the day. In 1999, he began working small-college games in Michigan, including Wayne State in Detroit. He then moved up in 2005 to work Division I football in the Mid-American Conference, and a year later began officiating in the Big Ten Conference. Each level of football is noticeably different, even if the fundamentals are the same, Torbert said. “The principle difference is every time you move up, the players are a little bigger, little faster,” he said. “What you learn almost immediately is that the players, the coaches, the teams are more serious about the games. As you continue to move up and work bigger games in bigger venues, the stakes are higher for the players and coaches. You realize, particularly when you make the transition to Division I, the financial rewards for teams that do well are much bigger. “The stadiums are bigger, the crowds are bigger, but at the end of the day whether you work high school or Big Ten games, the field is still 100 yards long and there are still 22 players on the field,” he said. While a Big Ten official, he was invited to work in NFL Europe, which was that pro league’s incubator for young talent on and off the field. He officiated games in Germany, and learned that overseas fans were as quick to boo penalties as their domestic counterparts. “Soccer is still king in Europe, but there were a lot of really knowledgeable fans of American football,” he said. He was hired by the NFL in 2010. Torbert’s first NFL regular-season

game was as a side judge for Ed Hochuli’s officiating crew in Houston, where the Texans were hosting the Indianapolis Colts in front of 70,974 fans on Sept. 12, 2010. While standing on the sideline during the national anthem, he felt a poke in his ribs. “I look up, it’s Peyton Manning. He gives a little smile and wink. The players all know who the rookie officials are,” Torbert said. “The crew had a great game that day. I haven’t looked back since.” He’s now 140 games into his NFL career, and since 2014 has been a referee. In that role, Torbert is in charge of a nine-person officiating crew, which is seven on-field officials plus two more for the instant replay booth. They fly to assigned games, typically on a Saturday for a Sunday afternoon game, and arrive at the stadium about three hours before kickoff. They discuss what’s expected over the course of the afternoon, and follow their assignments and protocols to officiate the game. Torbert also meets with the national TV production crew and stadium operations staff as part of his duties, too. The gameday work follows after-hours film study during the corporate workweek, during which each member of the crew reviews their performance from the last game. Torbert’s crew includes down judge Sarah Thomas, who in 2015 became the NFL’s first female official. “It’s not the novelty that it was when she first came into the league four years ago,” he said. “We’re all gonna get yelled at every now and then. She’s no exception, but she doesn’t get yelled at more than anyone else. She’s treated like an official.” Torbert and Thomas appeared, with a dozens of the sport’s major stars and hall of famers, in the NFL’s 100th anniversary commercial that aired during the Super Bowl to rave reviews. “I got a call from the league office on January 13 inviting me to be part of a commercial that would air during the Super Bowl to launch the NFL’s celebration of its 100th season of football,” he said. “When I learned some of the details about the premise of the com-

mercial and who would be in it, I thought it would be a lot of fun and started packing my bags. I was able to spend time with some of the game’s greatest players, like Barry Sanders, Terry Bradshaw and Emmitt Smith.” Occasionally, NFL officials make headlines for missed or egregiously bad calls — the human aspect of the game. Referees are made available for a pool report if media ask for one after a game to explain penalties or situations. Justly or not, fans, coaches, players and pundits sometimes pile on officials for bad or missed calls that affect game outcomes. Dealing with criticism, and in-game chatter from coaches and players, along with knowing what to expect from teams, is part of officiating life. That said, Torbert said there are no preconceived notions about dirty players and difficult coaches. “I don’t go into a game thinking I’m going to have a problem with a player or a team. That’s now what we’re looking for. Every game plays itself out differently. No player walks into a game thinking they’re cause trouble for officials,” he said. “You do notice that if a team has really great pass rushers, they’re likely to put pressure on offensive linemen, so we watch feet and hand placements. It’s not about looking at an individual player and saying, ‘Watch this guy.’” The NFL in recent years has outfitted officiating crews with tracking devices as part of the league’s effort to get next-gen performance statistics similar to what’s gathered from players. The intent is to monitor physical stresses and reduce loads while reducing recovery time, Torbert said. During a typical three-hour game, officials walk or sprint — sometimes backwards — about four to six miles, he said. “We cover a lot of ground,” he said. Not much of that ground has come at Ford Field, however. The NFL has a computer formula that assigns officiating crews to games, and they typically don’t see the same team more than 2-3 times a season, Torbert said. He’s officiated only three Detroit Lions home games, when he was a side judge and back judge prior to becoming a ref, mainly because the NFL tries avoid assigning crew chiefs games in their home city to avoid any appearance of conflicts. The pay isn’t bad. NFL officials don’t discuss salaries, but a Boston Globe report last year pegged NFL officiating’s average salary for 2019 at $205,000. That’s based on the officials’ 2013 collective bargaining agreement with the league. NFL officials also get paid $2,200 plus expenses for a day of work, the newspaper reported. The work is six months of the year, but involves plenty of offseason rulebook work, workouts, camps, meetings and seminars. Officiating jobs in the other major leagues are full-time and pay more. Torbert hasn’t accomplished his football officiating and corporate careers alone. He’s been married to his wife, Melanie, for nearly 29 years, he said, and has two adult children. He wears No. 62 while officiating because that’s the year his wife was born, he said. “Wearing that number on the field every week gives me a chance to acknowledge her and all the support she has given me as I pursued law and officiating,” he said. “She has been amazing. As you come up through the ranks, you’re gone a lot. That’s not easy. We talk about it constantly and figure out how to make it work.” Bill Shea: (313) 446-1626 Twitter: @Bill_Shea19

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C R A I N ’ S D E T R O I T B U S I N E S S // M A R C H 1 8 , 2 0 1 9




Detroit to invest $4 million in city airport

Benson drew salary from RISE while seeking office

MARCH 8-14 | For more, visit


he city of Detroit plans to invest $4 million in the Coleman A. Young International Airport to replace its main runway this spring. The capital improvement project could start as early as next month, weather permitting, and will close the airport for around three days, said Tyrone Clifton, director of the Detroit Building Authority. Dates have not been set. “The runway is reaching the end of its useful life,” Clifton said. “It needs to be looked at, evaluated and maintained per FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) standards.” The city’s investment in the airport signals a commitment to the 264-acre property as an airport, rather than an industrial or mobility park, as have been suggested by Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration as potential redevelopments. The city seeks to stem losses at the airport, which hasn’t had commercial passenger airline service since 2000 and has been operating in the red for many years. In fiscal year 2017, the airport’s total revenue was $1.76 million, with $2.3 million in expenditures — a $559,448 deficit shouldered by taxpayers. In addition to replacing the asphalt on the larger of the two runways, crews will also install new LED lighting on the runway as part of an airportwide modernization effort that started a couple years ago, Clifton said. About $900,000 has been invested in new lighting. Canton Township-based Cadillac Asphalt was hired as the general contractor for the runway project after an RFP was issued in June. Clifton said he had hoped the project would be done last year, but poor weather pushed it back. The new runway and lighting is being funded through the city’s general fund, beyond the recommended 2018-19 budget of $2.21 million for the airport. The Detroit Building Authority was contracted by the city in October to administer the runway replacement project. Clifton said the department is working with airport officials and the FAA on scheduling a closure that will hopefully result in the least disruption, likely a Friday-Sunday. Ripping up the old asphalt and installing the new runway — to consist of a 10 inch sand sub-base, 8 inch aggregate base and 4-6 inch asphalt surface — will take only a few days. However, the project and disruptions to the runway will continue for six-eight weeks as crews add striping, grooving and signage. The runway was last replaced in 1998, Clifton said. The new one is expected to last 20 years. No serious redevelopment bids have been publicly proposed for the airport since the city said it would explore the option. Some City Council members have been outspoken about maintaining the facility for general aviation, and a consultant issued a report last year advising against redevelopment.


Michigan’s battle against opioid



The city of Detroit plans to invest $4 million to replace the main runway at the Coleman A. Young International Airport on the city’s east side.

Detroit digits A numbers-focused look at last week’s headlines:

$10 million Funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies to help Michigan fight opioid overdose deaths


Cost of a raffle ticket from Cass Community Social Services for a tiny house in Detroit

$4 million

Investment Detroit is making for a new runway at Coleman A. Young International airport

overdose deaths is receiving a $10 million boost from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The New York Citybased charity selected Michigan as part of its $50 million initiative to combat drug overdoses in up to 10 states over three years, according to a news release. J Pasquale’s Family Restaurant in Royal Oak will close April 7 after 65 years in business. The closure was confirmed by Ryan Cohn, managing broker at RBC1 LLC — the real estate firm marketing the property at 31555 Woodward Ave. J The Battle Creek-based W.K. Kellogg Foundation has made a $1.5 million grant to the Motown Museum to expand programs aimed at Detroiters of all ages as part of its planned expansion, according to a news release. J Dallas-based Smoothie King Franchises Inc. this week opened a store in St. Clair Shores — the first in a wave of the smoothie stores planned to open in lower Michigan over the next three-five years, said franchisee Christopher Klebba. J Grosse Pointe Farms-based broadcasting company Saga Communications Inc. posted a 5.7 percent increase in full-year revenue for 2018, aided by acquisitions and natural growth from same-station revenue, according to its earnings report.

J Bob Quinn, the fourth-year general manager of the Detroit Lions, followed two middle-of-the-pack freeagent signings last Monday with a whopper in the afternoon: former New England Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers, widely considered the best player available. J The Lions also have a new Golden Tate — they hope — and his name is Danny Amendola. The team said last Monday that it plans to sign the veteran wide receiver, a move that kicks off the club’s free agency strategy headed into the 2019 season. J All three of Detroit’s casinos benefited from a boost in aggregate revenue for the month of February, rising 4.1 percent from the same time last year, according to a news release. J A TV commercial pitching the Upper Peninsula as an adventurer’s destination leads Pure Michigan’s latest $9.8 million national advertising push. The campaign run by Travel Michigan under the Michigan Economic Development Corp. launched a series of ads last Monday, according to a news release. They’ll run through early June on 15 national cable channels, on streaming services and in some smaller markets.

REAL ESTATE NEWS J Three historic industrial mills in Wayne County are slated for redevelopment, with one already the target of a $2.5 million plan to turn it into a restaurant/banquet facility. The Hines Park Mill Run Placemaking Project is just one of several efforts underway. J It was just too late for Detroit’s Woodland Apartments. The building near Highland Park at 31 Woodland St., which has been vacant since the 1990s, will be torn down after an ultimately futile effort to spare it from the wrecking ball. J Last month, the number of single-family homes and condominiums sold in Southeast Michigan surged 10.9 percent to 5,170, compared to February 2018, according to data from Farmington Hills-based Realcomp Ltd. II. Harsh weather that battered Southeast Michigan last month pushed back buying and selling activity.

ecretary of State Jocelyn Benson collected a $300,000 salary last year from billionaire real estate mogul Stephen Ross’ national nonprofit focused on improving race relations in professional sports while she was running for statewide office. Benson made the disclosure in a voluntary release of her personal financial information last week, part of the Detroit Democrat’s efforts to prod the Republican-controlled Legislature to mandate annual financial disclosures by state elected officials. Michigan is one of two states that doesn’t require any personal financial disclosure by top government leaders. “Much like then-Attorney General Bill Schuette and other candidates for office, Jocelyn Benson continued the responsibilities of her day jobs while running for office,” said Shawn Starkey, communications director for Benson. Benson continued to be CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) through September 2018, when Time Warner executive Diahann Billings-Burford became the organization’s top executive, Starkey said. “There was an overlap period with

Benson and the new CEO to ensure a smooth transition,” said Starkey, who was previously vice president of communications and marketing under Benson at RISE. RISE was Benson founded by Detroit native and University of Michigan mega-donor Stephen Ross, chairman of the New York City-based real estate development firm The Related Cos. and owner of the Miami Dolphins. Benson also disclosed she earned $70,000 from Wayne State University’s Law School in 2018 while running for office. During the winter 2018 semester, Benson taught a class on “Sports and Inequality,” Starkey said. “She also consulted with the law school and university on fundraising matters in 2018,” Starkey said in an email. Benson stepped down as dean of Wayne State’s law school in the fall of 2016 to become CEO of Ross’ anti-racism sports initiative.


Cass Community Social Services showed off the donated tiny house it is raffling off outside Eastern Market’s Shed 5 during its Empty Bowls fundraiser on March 8.

$50 for a chance at tiny home and to help others W

hen Cass Community Social Services got a call from a woman offering to donate a tiny house, the Rev. Faith Fowler thought nothing of renting a truck and going to pick it up — in Omaha, Neb., in January. Manufactured by Tumbleweed Tiny House Co. in Colorado, the 190-square-foot house is less than 5 years old. It includes a kitchen with full-size appliances, a bathroom with a shower, a loft with room for a queen-size bed, a small living room area and a gas-powered stove. It’s mounted on wheels, though, and the homes on Cass’ tiny homes campus in Detroit are not, said Fowler, executive director of the Detroit-based nonprofit. So she asked if the donor would mind if she raffled it off to support its own tiny home construction. The donor agreed and Fowler, 60, headed to

Nebraska, accompanied only by Cass’ church and community relations liaison, Sue Pethoud. Cass plans to sell 1,000 raffle tickets for $50 each to give people the chance the win the home and give Cass’ own tiny-home construction a financial boost. Guests of its 16th annual dinner fundraiser on Saturday got the first chance to buy tickets. Any remaining tickets will be sold at its Detroit headquarters or through its website. The drawing will take place July 8. A $50 raffle ticket is a bargain for the chance to win a tiny house, Fowler agreed. So why not set the ticket price higher? “I thought somebody who really needed it, who really wanted it, may not be able to come up with $100,” she said. “I wanted them to have a shot at it, too. Hopefully somebody who really could use it wins it.”

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Profile for Crain's Detroit Business

Crain's Detroit Business, March 18, 2019 issue  

Crain's Detroit Business is the premier business publication for Southeast Michigan. This is the issue published March 18, 2019. You can fin...

Crain's Detroit Business, March 18, 2019 issue  

Crain's Detroit Business is the premier business publication for Southeast Michigan. This is the issue published March 18, 2019. You can fin...