Detroit Mayor Dave Bing: ‘Something Big’ Coming From Feds as Health Care, Service Jobs Growing in City

Editor’s note: Sven Gustafson and Julia DuBois of A Healthier Michigan are attending Transformation Detroit, a media briefing focusing on efforts to remake Detroit. The event is being sponsored by the Detroit Regional News Hub and is being supported by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Could Detroit be line for a large worker-retraining program from the federal government? Perhaps something done in concert with the city’s schools?

In a speech Tuesday that focused heavily on jobs and education, Mayor Dave Bing, fresh from a visit Monday with President Obama, teased “something big” to come from the White House. While he offered no details during an appearance at the Transformation Detroit media briefing, he said an announcement was forthcoming from the federal government.

“One of the things I think that I am bringing back is that the president is very serious about helping the city of Detroit,” Bing said. “So I think short term, meaning the next 45 to 60 days, I think we’re going to see something significant in the city of Detroit in terms of change.”

While acknowledging that the city was unlikely to get as much federal money as it would like, Bing added, “We need some massive dollars from a (jobs) retraining standpoint.”

Bing, a former Detroit Pistons standout who went on to become a business owner, said the city can no longer afford to be dependent on automotive and manufacturing jobs to provide jobs and revenue. He said forecasts call for the most job growth in health care, while service businesses are also growing in the city.

Two major hospital systems in the city are already expanding.

The Detroit Medical Center is due for an $850 million investment from Vanguard Health System Inc., its new owner.

Further west, Henry Ford Health System has secured most of the 300 acres it wants to assemble near its West Grand Boulevard campus for retail, medical office and senior and medical-student housing. The intent is to lure private vendors that supply products and services to the health system to open locations near its main hospital campus.

“We have had no shortage of private investors who are interested,” Robert Riney, Henry Ford’s president and chief operating officer, said Monday.

“We’ve had a great response and we’re going to be making a major announcement in about three months.”

In addition, firms like GalaxE Solutions, Blue Cross and Quicken Loans have all made commitments to locate or expand in Detroit, adding about 8,000 new jobs for the cash-strapped city, Bing said.

“I don’t think they’re making those decisions because they just only love the city of Detroit,” Bing said. “They’re business people, they’re smart business people, they’re going to get a return on their investment. The real estate prices in the city of Detroit are at an all-time low, so it’s a good time to buy.”

But Bing acknowledged that the city’s K-12 public schools still needed massive investment. His remarks come a day after Gov. Rick Snyder and Roy Roberts, emergency financial manager of Detroit Public Schools, announced a plan to place low-performing schools in a separate district with a revamped administration.

“We’ve also got three generations who grew up in that same system who are now unemployable,” Bing said.

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