8 Things We’re Looking Forward To At The 2016 Detroit Policy Conference

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The Detroit Regional Chamber’s 5th annual Detroit Policy Conference will be held at MotorCity Casino Hotel on Wednesday (Feb. 24), and we’re going to be there to capture all the action to share with you and be part of the conversation.

The event brings together about 800 business, community and political leaders from across the city and region, and this year, will focus on sustaining Detroit’s momentum by supporting and strengthening neighborhoods throughout the city. Even if you’re not going to the event yourself, you can follow the entire conversation on the #DPC16 hashtag on Twitter (be sure to follow us!)

As a preview of what to expect, here’s a quick rundown of eight events we’re really interested in on Wednesday from the Chamber’s website where you will find the complete list.


1. Hearing David Maraniss, Author Of “Once In A Great City”

If you take a look at this book, it’s interesting to see just how many names are still the same as the ones we deal with today and echoes of times past (multiple generations of the Sheffield family, John Conyers is still around, Mayor Mike Duggan today has a former press person for chief of staff and multiple former media folks in his team as did Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh during the 1960s) from fifty and sixty years ago. In an interview of the Chamber’s website, Maraniss says when asked if leaders in the past had “their head in the sand” about Detroit:

Some of it was beyond their control, but rather than saying they had their head in the sand, I’d use the metaphor that they were blinded by their own success and they thought it would continue and only grow. They didn’t really see what was coming because they thought they were doing well. It is often hardest to see trouble ahead when you’re not in trouble in that moment. So, they thought the newer, better, revitalized Detroit was what was in the future, when actually it was just the opposite.


2. Connecting Communities: The Impact of Regional Transit

The upcoming Regional Transit Authority millage will significantly impact the trajectory of the city’s revitalization. Reliable, comprehensive regional transit is important in the neighborhoods whether they’re in the suburbs or the city; and the lack of a transit system is slowing economic recovery.


  • Michael Ford, CEO, Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan
  • Rev. Oscar King III, Pastor, Northwest Unity Baptist Church
  • Melissa Roy, Executive Director, Advancing Macomb
  • Laura Trudeau, Managing Director, Community Development and Detroit, The Kresge Foundation

3. Building Safe Neighborhoods: Crime and Vitality

Circling back to safety issues, Chuck Stokes, editorial and public affairs director at WXYZ-TV 7, will lead conversation on the progress made in the post-bankruptcy era to improve neighborhood safety through efforts to install more public lighting to reduce police response times and eliminate blight.


  • U. Renee Hall, Deputy Chief, Neighborhood Policing Bureau, Detroit Police Department
  • Peg Tallet, Chief Community Engagement Officer, Michigan Women’s Foundation
  • Linzie Venegas, Chief Marketing Officer, Ideal Group
  • James Ward Jr., President, Greenacres Woodward Community Radio Patrol
A Detroit Neighborhood (Photo: Jerry B, Licensed via DepositPhotos)
A Detroit Neighborhood (Photo: Jerry B, Licensed via DepositPhotos)

4. Combating the Digital Divide: Detroit Disconnected

In order to get a good paying job in today’s economy, you need to be computer literate and connected. Daniel Howes, associate business editor at The Detroit News, will lead conversation with panelists to explore Detroit’s internet connectivity, the challenges and issues contributing to the city’s digital divide, and strategies to increase residential broadband adoption. We’ve written about how 39% of households in Detroit have no internet of any kind.


  • Diana Nucera, Community Technology Director, Allied Media Projects
  • Jerry Paffendorf, Co-founder and CEO, Loveland Technologies
  • Marlin Page, Founder, Sisters Code

5. Building Detroit: One Homeowner at a Time

Moderated by Jennette Smith, editor at Crain’s Detroit Business, panelists will discuss the aggressive efforts underway to replace blight with residential development through collaborative partnerships between the city and business community.


  • Matthew Elliott, Michigan Market President; Market Executive, Global Commercial Banking, Bank of America
  • Craig Fahle, Director of Public Affairs, Detroit Land Bank Authority
  • John George, CEO and Co-Founder, Motor City Blight Busters Inc.


6. Future of DPS and Education

With all the talk in the news lately regarding Detroit Public Schools, panelists will examine the future of Detroit Public Schools as the state and city navigate legislation intended to address the longstanding problems faced by poor-performing schools in Detroit.


  • Clark Durant, President, The New Common School Foundation
  • Karen McPhee, Education Advisor to the Governor, State of Michigan
  • Dan Varner, CEO, Excellent Schools Detroit

7. Transforming Detroit’s Neighborhoods Through Financial Literacy

John Hope Bryant, CEO and founder of Operation HOPE and founder of Bryant Group Ventures, will engage in a moderated discussion on efforts underway to encourage financial literacy throughout Detroit, stressing the importance of connecting individuals who have great ideas to resources and other assets in hopes of creating a new class of entrepreneurs that feel empowered to break the cycle of economic poverty.

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8. Pitch Competition

Detroit entrepreneurs always need resources. That’s why it’s good to see that the Detroit Regional Chamber has partnered with the Michigan Women’s Foundation and Comcast Business Solutions on its first Pitch Detroit competition. It’ll be emceed by Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of Michigan Women’s Foundation.

There will be four Detroit-based entrepreneurs who will pitch their business plan to a panel of expert judges in front of Conference attendees. The winner will receive a prize package worth over $7,500 that includes cash, professional business services and an all-expense paid trip to the 2016 Mackinac Policy Conference to pitch for a grand prize in front of 1,500 business and political leaders.

Finalists include Tatiana Grant, Co-owner, Flash Delivery and President, Infused Public Relations and Events; Anthony Hatinger, Co-founder, Detroit Ento; Jarret Schlaff, CEO and Co-founder, Boots on the Ground; Justine Sheu, CEO and Co-founder, Pro:Up.

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