SBIO semi-finalist Plascon Plastics’ patented processes allow specific waste streams of materials to be incorporated directly into the injection molding process for use in new plastic products and packaging. | Image credit: Plascon Plastics
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A lot of the discussion at the G7 summit next month will focus on ocean sustainability and a plastics charter still being negotiated with G7 nations, led by Environment Minister Catherine McKenna. While the Prime Minister focuses his ocean’s agenda is expected to focus on three areas: combating overfishing, reducing the dumping of harmful plastics and finding ways to help coastal states — including parts of the United States — cope with rising sea levels, corporations are already redesigning their business around cleaner oceans.
In spite of a chaotic political arena, a majority of Americans share the view that The Good Life is defined by connections to people and planet more than by material wealth and consumption. Furthermore, Americans are looking to brands to take the lead in showing them how they can make a more fulfilling life according to a US study of 1,000 adults 18+ conducted in April 2017.
Conflict is inevitable with any high profile project. However, a carefully structured dialogue could offer a more effective and durable method to resolve conflicts and build consensus around controversial or often complex projects.
If project teams for high profile projects, such as a new international border crossing, a jail, new stadium or arena or a large mixed-use development are serious about seeing their vision a reality while contributing to the community, an effective strategy would be to engage the community and other stakeholders early in the process.
Public affairs professionals with a solid reputation in the community and one who is familiar with the stakeholders and the issues important to them, can then help develop strategic and meaningful relationships, long before a high profile and often controversial project is announced. That professional can then create a community roadmap to help the project team navigate through the minefields of any project. They will help minimize risk and help anticipate barriers to seeing projects to their completion.
The community benefits when everyone is engaged. From the design stage to the public process in securing permits, in addition to raising capital and targeting potential retailers and other tenants, constant engagement is vital to the success of any high profile project.
Developing strategic relationships “early-on” helps minimize risk and helps anticipate barriers to seeing projects to their completion. Effective communications is vital to the public’s understanding of the project and the governments involved in helping the project move forward. Therefore, the company or consortium leading the project should be in control of the process and be proactive with their messaging and outreach.
As Mayor Duggan begins to set Detroit on a path to prosperity, based on my experience in serving as the Communications Director for the City of Detroit, here is what I recommend:
Create a process to resolve disputes
To facilitate change in the city, the city needs to be more responsive to its constituency and those that want to do business in the city. Therefore, it should have a system to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently.
While the city may have an administrative hearings bureau and an Office of Ombudsman, what it is missing is a process by which to resolve disputes with the city, within the city and between the city, its vendors and even with other governments or quasi-government entities.
The Mayor should work to create a process by which to help resolve disputes or facilitate change in the city. This also includes facilitating citizen engagement and working to find ways to leverage the public discourse to create sound policy for the city. This includes issues within the city’s neighborhoods, including dealing with vacant lots, code enforcement, abandoned property, parking tickets and other issues.
To address many of the underlying problems in the city, Mayor Duggan should designate someone to address poverty in the city and create an anti-poverty agenda, with the goal of ending poverty in Detroit. The anti-poverty agenda will include many issues the Mayor will most likely work on, such as creating new jobs, improving the public’s health (under the new authority) and enhancing educational opportunities (through Detroit Public Schools and the various charter schools in the city). But it will take someone whose full time job it is to think about ways to resolve the poverty issue to end poverty in the city. This includes focusing on families and early childhood education as well as integrated pediatric care to help break the cycle of poverty.
This is an area where I am confident the new mayor will have a leg up on. However, I hope that the Mayor and his administration will look at where there are redundancy in the systems and work with various organizations in the city, such as the Detroit Regional Chamber, Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, New Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, the Downtown Detroit Partnership and others and help those organizations support the Mayor’s efforts by eliminating redundancy allowing each organization to refocus on what made their organizations strong.
What about Canada
I also hope that whatever strategy they embark on that they include Windsor/Essex as a partner.
A final area that I hope will receive some attention is Detroit’s brand. There has been a lot of discussion about Detroit’s brand or tag line. Detroit has a brand and the Mayor should reinforce what has made Detroit a great city and why Detroit will forever have a unique place in America’s fabric. We are tough and resilient. Detroit build America’s middle class and we will rebuild it. We may sometimes find ourselves down, but never out. And the mayor should support that effort.
With Black Friday behind us and Cyber Monday behind us, retailers in Michigan, New York, Vermont, Washington and other border states are missing a huge opportunity to woo Canadian's across the border to shop in their stores for the holidays.
It seems these days, Canadians are watching the exchange rates more than ever as the slightest increase will create a more powerful Loonie, luring Canadian's to cross the border to do their holiday shopping.
However, US retailers, at least those in the Detroit-area, fail to market their products in Windsor and Southwest Ontario. Not only do they fail to advertise or otherwise promote their products in Canada, they don't accept Canadian currency. On the other hand, travel to Windsor, not only will downtown merchants or those at Devonshire Mall and other local outlets, accept the American Greenback, but the parking meters accept US currency as well.
Unlike other bordering states, Detroit is the only metropolitan region that borders another Canadian metro region, and yet, businesses in Detroit fail to see the opportunities that exist on the other side of the river.
While those in Windsor travel more frequently to Detroit to eat, play and enjoy what the region has to offer, they are often left to themselves to figure out where to shop or eat. While Windsor has its own media, The A Channel, CTV, CBC, The Windsor Star, The Globe and Mail and The National Post, among others, we share media as well such as WDIV, WXYZ, FOX Detroit (WJBK) and others. However, through targeted mail or placing ads in Canadian media we are missing a chance to take your product directly to a new market and bring Windsor-Essex 216,000 + residents into your store.
Detroit needs to think regionally and bring Windsor into the discussion.It is time Detroit gets to know its neighbors. While the Detroit Regional Chamber and Windsor Essex Chamber may have a special relationship to help members with cross-border business it is not enough to bring our communities together. While the Canadian US Business Association recently re-established itself, it is not enough to know how to effectively market our business in both regions. And yet, thousands of people travel across the Detroit Windsor Tunnel, Blue Water Bridge and Ambassador Bridge to go to work, to meet family, to go to the doctor and to shop.
Well Detroit, you missed your chance on Black Friday, but now you have a few weeks to prepare for Boxing Day.
Victoria Day. Victoria Day coincides also with Canada's official birthday and, like Memorial Day in America, officially marks the beginning of the summer season. But how many American's know that, let alone folks from Michigan and specifically Detroit.
Detroit is located just .65 miles (1.05 KM) north of Windsor. In fact, siting in my office overlooking Windsor, I often get text messages from Verizon saying I am now in Canada and roaming charges will apply when I have not moved from my desk in America.
As I walked to work this morning, I noticed the unusual traffic at The Detroit Windsor Tunnel, of Canadian's coming into Detroit, Mich. Where would their final destination be? The Somerset Collection? The Motor City Casino, MGM or Greektown Casino? A metropark? Or the Detroit Zoo?
Regardless of their financial destination, were we in Detroit marketing to them? For the past few weeks, I have been learning about a variety of Memorial Day sales or things to do on Memorial Day weekend, but what have we been doing to promote our products, our shops, restaurants and destinations to our Canadian neighbors?
According to a SEMCOG study, 455,000 Canadian's visited the Detroit area in 2008, spending on average $69 per day. Drive the parking decks at The Somerset Collection or the parking lots at Target and Costco in Madison Heights, and you will be surprised to see the number of Ontario plates.
Why is it, that our neighbors know so much more about us, then we do about them. Is it because we are the larger metropolitan area and that they consider us a part of their region, and yet we do not consider them a part of ours?
As Detroit continues to find its niche, to re-establish itself in the global marketplace and to move forward, we must embrace our Canadian friends and neighbors. Let us begin to collaborate, to integrate and to incubate new opportunities together. But first, we must get to know our Canadian neighbors, to understand their culture, be respectful of their countries traditions and to explore opportunities for stronger engagement.
To our Canadian friends, we wish you a Happy Victoria Day and a great summer ahead of each of us.
A region just north of Detroit saw a problem and created a collaborative effort to create, adopt and implement a five-year regional economic roadmap. During the process of creating the strategic plan, more than 400 stakeholders were asked to identify their top two priorities for the local economic development corporation to tackle. Earlier this month, the Windsor-Essex (Ontario, Canada) Economic Development Corporation announced their five-year plan at a Windsor-Essex Chamber luncheon. The communities, including government, labor, business and acadamia, collaborated and everyone made a commitment to change.
Since the Windsor Essex collaboration began in 2010, 1,862 new jobs were created, $73 million in investments were made, 6,069 jobs were saved and 28,092 small business inquiries were made. To find those numbers in Southeastern Michigan, one would have to contact Automation Alley, the DEGC, the Detroit Regional Chamber, Ann Arbor Spark, TechTown, Velocity, and others. Unlike our Canadian neighbors, our region continues to be fragmented and polarizing.
As a result of their efforts, Windsor has gained international attention for its efforts, seeing such headlines as:
- “Top 7 intelligent community of the year”(Intelligent Community Forum)
- Windsor-Essex to lead nation’s economy Growth (Conference Board of Canada)
- Top 5 Best Places to Invest (site Selection)
- Canada’s auto capital named city of the future (CBC news)
- Mini Motown Finds there is life after autos (Calgary Bean, 3.20.11)
Last week, the Business Leaders for Michigan announced their turnaround plan for the State of Michigan. A great plan that any lawmaker could pick up and start using. While it is a great plan, we need the input of all the interested parties, labor, university and others, if we are to truly implement an agenda that we can all agree on and start moving forward with.
In addition, Detroit's business leaders, if not those throughout the state of Michigan, need to reach out to Windsor’s business leaders. We need to collaborate across borders and work collectively for the good of our region, as a region.
*The views expressed in this article of those of the author and in no way attributed to Fraser Trebilcock or the lawyers and staff within the firm. A similar version of this article appeared in the September 12, 2011 issue of Crain's Detroit Business. This blog post appeared on Fraser Trebilcock's Blog first. DETROIT, MICH. + WINDSOR, ONT. -- With all the debate and discussion as to who should build a new bridge, we are missing the point as to why a new border crossing is so important. Sure we can say a new bridge is important because the U.S. conducts more trade with Canada than any other country or it is good to have an additional border crossing for redundancy in our crossings, but what does it mean for us here in Michigan?
First, we as Americans know very little about our Canadian neighbors in part because we fail to know Canada as well as Canadians know America. It is time that we, particularly in the Detroit area, consider Windsor-Essex part of our region. Instead of looking across the river and standing in awe that it is another country, we need to look across and recognize our neighbors as our business partners and welcome them as members of our community.
We take for granted our proximity to Canada and do not fully understand the unique relationship we have with Canada. From cars to energy to actors, athletes, agriculture and financial markets, we have a lot in common and a lot to better understand. For example, Windsor was recently named one of “The Top American Cities of the Future,” by FDI Magazine, a publication of The Financial Times. (Cities from Canada, the United States and South America were included in the “American Cities” competition.) That award was given after the Conference Board of Canada said that the Windsor-Essex economy will outperform all other Canadian cities in 2011. That includes outperforming Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Windsor also was named in the top 7 of intelligent cities, by the New York-based Intelligent Community Forum, a non-profit think-tank.
Despite the collapse of the auto-industry the Windsor-Essex region remains strong in manufacturing, renewable energy, logistics/warehousing and agri-business. For example, Windsor-Essex has the longest growing season in Canada, averaging 212 days, and the largest greenhouse industry in North America for vegetables and exotic flowers. With a similar growing season, why can’t we have move quicker on the various urban farm initiatives or take Canada’s lead and build just as many greenhouses on this side of the border. In addition, there are currently 14 commercialwineries with internationally recognized wine that we could work with Tourism Windsor-Essex-Pelee Island to promote. And just 45 minutes from the border in Harrow, Ont., the Canadian Government created the Greenhouse & Processing Crops Research Centre where new technologies are created affecting the agricultural industry. Why can’t we link that Centre with all the food technologies being created in and around Battle Creek. We can’t in part, because we are not taking the time to develop regional partnerships across the border to mutually benefit both economies and both nations. We are too focused on ourselves.
In addition to agriculture: Windsor-Essex is investing in the creative industries including digital media and working with their universities and colleges to keep rising talent in the region. Why can’t we work together, as a region to keep rising talent in the region?
As for Ontario’s film industry, given the uncertainty of Michigan’s film industry, Windsor-Essex may just become Hollywood’s next big thing as Ontario has a permanent Film and Television Tax Credit, with an additional 10 percent for productions outside of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Regardless of what happens with the film credits here in Michigan, we should promote Detroit together with Windsor-Essex to the entertainment industry and continue to build upon the existing film industry in Detroit, while allowing it to expand into Windsor-Essex. Should Detroit loose its clout in the entertainment industry we can work with our Canadian neighbors to still keep the industry in the region. Instead of going to work in Detroit, for example, production crews, talent agents and others would just cross the border and work in Canada, just like the 7,000 Canadian health care workers do everyday to work in Detroit-area hospitals.
Organizations in Detroit and Windsor are working together. The University of Windsor is working with TechTown and has joint programs with The University of Detroit, The University of Michigan Dearborn and Wayne State University. (In full disclosure, the University of Windsor is a client of mine). While Windsor Regional Hospital and Hôtel-Dieu Grace Hospital have developed a strong partnership with theHenry Ford Hospital in Detroit for patients in need of emergency cardiac care. However, to enrich our region with culture and business acumen on both sides of the border, more partnerships around culture and business must matriculate.
The Detroit Windsor relationship is more than just about a border crossing, an annual celebration of our freedom with fireworks, air races or a periodic visit to Erie Street. It is about jobs and commerce, history and culture and the unique geography we share with each other that no other North American city has. While Detroit and Southeastern Michigan’s population may have declined over the past 10 years, if we include Windsor and Southwestern Ontario, we have a much stronger story to tell. In promoting the region, the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Agency says, “economic prosperity does not recognize borders.” We in Michigan should not allow a border to stand in between us and our ability to better appreciate the unique opportunity we have with our Canadian neighbors -- To grow our economy and stand out from others. In fact, we should build a bridge between our cities that will be used to enhance our economy as one regional economy.