Crain's Detroit: Ilitch Business Alum Dave Meador on regional economic development

The 23-member CEO group that called for regional transit in April plans to launch a regional economic development nonprofit this year.

The new organization plans to focus primarily on marketing and business attraction and provide something the region doesn't have: a single point of entry and a coordinated, rapid response to requests for regional data on information such as real estate and infrastructure.

"Even though you hear a lot of deals, and it sounds like things are going really well in economic development, we are underperforming as a region. Because of that, our regional unemployment number is higher than it should be; (our) poverty number is higher and median income is lower," said Dave Meador, vice chairman and chief administrative officer at DTE Energy Co., during the Detroit Regional Chamber's Mackinac Policy Conference last week.

Benchmarking of comparable metropolitan areas with regional economic development groups shows they've attracted jobs and capital investments, he said. 

Rapid response

In addition to marketing, the economic development nonprofit would provide a single point of entry for regional analytics and the capability to respond to any question an interested employer might have.

"You go to the best regions in the country like Atlanta, Ga., ... any question that comes in gets answered in 24 hours," Meador said. "If you came to this region and had questions about land, or real estate or infrastructure, it might be six months for us to respond."

The CEO group looked at regional economic development approaches at Invest Atlanta — where the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.'s new president and CEO Kevin Johnson last worked — and Columbus 2020.

The Ohio group said it was losing out on new business attraction to cities such as Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, Meador said. A decade later, its data shows the group is winning business from those cities.

Meador added, "When we talk to those groups about our region, they say we don't even show up on the radar as someone they should be worried about."

150 years in the heart of Detroit