Amazon bid to test leadership team
Competition more keen than when city sought to host Super Bowl XL in 2006 Fashion CEO’s plan to bring hub to city announced at 4th Detroit homecoming
Mayor Mike Duggan likens the gathering regional bid to land Amazon’s second headquarters to delivering Detroit Super Bowl XL more than a decade ago.
But it’s not even close. The hunt for Amazon is far larger, far more competitive and far more likely to tax the ability of just about anyone to corral business, political and civic leaders around a deadline measured in weeks, not years. The deadline is Oct. 19 to proffer a plan to compete for a $5 billion investment worth 50,000 jobs.
“We’ve got five weeks,” the mayor said Thursday at Crain’s Detroit Business’s Detroit Homecoming. “We’re up against really tough competition from really good cities.”
Yes, we are — as Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah learned this week when he flew to Toronto for a speech on trade between Canada and the United States. On the minds of the Canadian CEOs: luring Amazon’s massive economic play north of the border, no mean feat in the era of Trump.
This is no secret to the online retail giant, of course. With a single press release, Amazon unleashed an interstate and intercity feeding frenzy for a chance
Detroit — The city is trying to lure expats back for major investment and Mayor Mike Duggan on Thursday announced it had landed a big one.
Fashion CEO Jeffry Aronsson has committed to providing a plan in February for a fashion hub and campus in Detroit. The location, both said, is not yet determined, but it’s expected to engage smaller city-based companies and “grow Detroit brands.”
“For me, this is a huge big circle coming back and an opportunity thanks to a visionary mayor. To take the sum total of a rather eclectic career and bring it home, this is a homecoming,” said Arons- son, who has been at the helm of major brands ranging from Donna Karan to Oscar de la Renta and Marc Jacobs. “I’m coming home to bring it to Detroit.”
Duggan unveiled the plan during a Thursday speech at the fourth Detroit Homecoming. The event, held at the Factory in Corktown, seeks to draw back successful former residents and spur investments.
This concept evolved from a meeting Duggan had with Aronsson in New York about bringing a new fashion, apparel and luxury sector to Detroit. Aronsson, whose family has roots in Corktown and ran a successful restaurant business, said
to land one of the biggest economic development fish since, when? The stakes are high, and the cost is likely to be even higher.
That’s not deterring Detroit’s mayor, facing re-election. It’s not deterring Quicken Loans Inc. Chairman Dan Gilbert, who quickly accepted Duggan’s offer to chair the regional effort to prepare an Amazon bid. And it’s not deterring local and state politicians, or a business community that is far more active in economic development efforts than their predecessors a decade ago. It shouldn’t. In fundamental ways, this region is different than the one industrialist Roger Penske shepherded through the process of bidding for a Super Bowl (at the personal request of Bill Ford Jr., whose family owns the Lions). It’s more competent, more confident and often more regionally cooperative.
It’s witnessed the deep costs of division and political corruption, of big business that worries more about bragging rights with competitors than being competitive. It’s tasted the ignominy of financial dissolution, and seen how private capital can breed renewal.
Weathering the near-collapse of two Detroit automakers, the Great Recession and the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history can do that. Seeing the crucial importance of individual leaders in a broader mosaic of leadership can, too. So can national embarrassment.
Southeast Michigan is legendary for parochial infighting pitting city against suburb, for measuring solutions to difficult civic problems in decades, not years, for fixating on why change cannot happen instead of pushing to make it happen.
Which raises a critical point that will be answered by the success of Gilbert & Co. to rally disparate leaders quickly around a cohesive bid: Were the speed and decisiveness of the auto restructuring, of the city’s financial workout, of the revitalization of downtown just historical aberrations?
Or are they harbingers of a can-do future liberated from the confrontational zero-sum game that helped drive Detroit and its hometown auto industry to the edge of complete financial collapse?
Look, no one should kid themselves: For a bid that seeks access to regional transit with connections to an international airport, the region that put America on wheels is woefully behind. For a bid that aims to create a second headquarters hub for one of 21st-century America’s iconic corporate brands, southeast Michigan isn’t too far removed from the stain of bankruptcy, municipal and corporate.
How indelible are those Daniel.Howes@detroitnews.com
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