The big 4 what regional priority do you believe the big 4 should focus their efforts on and resolve? Every year Mackinac Policy Conference participants look forward to the big four panel. This year, the Detroiter asked them.
Willliam A. Crouchman
chairman Macomb country Board of commissioners
Is there anyone who has not felt the pinch of rising fuel prices? Can anyone deny that our region is in dire need of economic development and investment? I believe that the development of a mass transportation plan here in Southeast Michigan will help to address and alleviate both of these issues and more. Further, mass transit should be a top priority upon which regional leadership places immediate focus and resolves with collective efforts and resources.
There are many positive benefits to creating a convenient, affordable, reliable and safe public transportation system. Mass transit reduces congestion on roads, increases accessibility, results in fewer accidents and improves air quality. It increases mobility choices for aging populations and people with disabilities. In addition, it provides a link to more jobs and provides workers with options for cost-effective, dependable commuting. Employers also gain access to a broader workforce, which enhances competitiveness.
Mass transit encourages growth in planned corridors, provides interconnection to vibrant centers and discourages sprawl. Mass transit can also reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and since it now costs upwards of $3.50 per gallon of gasoline, that would certainly provide welcome relief.
Over the last 20 years, light rail projects developed within our country have created jobs and enhanced economic development. Research indicates that for every dollar invested in light rail mass transit development, an additional $8.50 is generated through private investment in commercial and residential development.
Consider this: If leaders in the Southeast Michigan region were to take a conservative approach and expect a return of "only" 4:1 on mass transit development dollars invested, we would still experience a $4 billion surge in private development from an investment of $1 billion dollars.
In metropolitan areas that already have mass transit systems in place, it has been demonstrated that this investment supports regional economic vitality and sustainability. It serves as a catalyst for new opportunities for users of the system as well as non-users.
The benefits of having an effective mass transit network to serve our regional area are clear. It is absolutely necessary for leadership to focus on finding a viable way to bring mass transit to our region so that we can meet the future economic and social needs of our population.
Cobo Hall Must be Renovated
Wayne Country Executive
More than 16,000 jobs and nearly $600 million a year in economic impact.
That's what the North American International Auto Show provides for the metro Detroit region. No wonder other cities around the United States and the world are trying to take what we have.
The Auto Show is a trademark for this region. But to protect our trademark, we need a renovated, expanded Cobo Hall.
Our regional crown jewel is badly in need of a facelift and more space to house the Auto Show and a attract other shows and conventions.
My administration has proposed a plan that would renovate Cobo and add 120,000 square feet at a cost of $323 million. It would be paid for by extending the hotel and liquor tax for seven years. Originally, we had proposed a bigger expansion that would have extended the tax 22 years.
Legislation has been introduced that would make Cobo a first-class venue.
Now we must act with a sense of urgency to get this project done. Despite numerous meetings, the stakeholders have not been able to reach a consensus. But the stakes are too high to quit now. After all, this is about real people, real jobs.
The regional stakeholders must focus on the renovation and expansion of Cobo before it's too late. Meetings are ongoing but the parties and their staffs must negotiate around the clock if necessary to reach an agreement.
Rebuilding Southeast Michigan's Economy
L. Brooks Patterson
Oakland Country Executive
Rebuilding the economy of southeast Michigan, which has been decimated by home foreclosures, layoffs, plant closings and manufacturing job losses, stands out as job number one for this region. All other issues pale by comparison.
According to the latest economic outlook for Oakland County conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, the worst of our economic tailspin may be over, but that's not to say there will not be more pain in the immediate future.
After losing 18,500 jobs in 2006, Oakland County is projected to lose only about 4,400 jobs in 2008 while gaining 1,200 new jobs in 2009 and 5,600 new jobs in 2010.
Part of this rebound is being fueled by my Emerging Sectors program, which has attracted 71 emerging sector companies that have pumped more than $1 billion in new investment into the region while creating 11,732 new jobs, all in the span of just three and a half years.
In the days and months ahead, all of us in leadership positions must work together to come up with ways to put our residents back to work, partner with the educational and business communities to provide new learning opportunities for our children to enable them to compete in the new global economy and retrain workers who have lost their jobs or need new skills to keep their current jobs.
The challenge before us is to transform southeast Michigan once again into a thriving, strong and growing economy that can compete head-to-head and toe-to-toe with anyone, anyplace in the world.
Light Rail: A Powerful Economic Driver for the Region
Kwame M. Kilpatrick
Mayor, City of Detroit
Light Rail implementation should be top priority for regional leaders. In addition to transporting our residents and visitors, it will be a vehicle for continued economic growth and prosperity for the entire region.
Decades of failed regional cooperation around this topic leaves us as the last metropolitan area in the nation without a rapid transit system. We now have a legitimate plan for rapid transit that will allow our region to get rid of that designation and help retain talent, diversify our industries and compete in the new global economy.
The Detroit Transit Options for Growth Study (DTOGS), a technical review following funding guidelines established by the Federal Transportation Administration, has concluded a light rail line along Woodward Avenue would be a viable mode of rapid transit for our region.
Research shows building a new light rail system from downtown to Eight Mile would be a powerful economic driver that would create more than 12,000 jobs; increase business sales by at least $130 million and stimulate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic development.
It is also a benefit that DTOGS has the support of state congressional leaders from both sides of the aside who sit on the appropriations committee and business leaders who have committed resources to bring light rail to Woodward Avenue.
Our region is poised to finally have rapid transit, now it's up to us to make it a reality. Visit www.dtogs.com to get on the fast train to economic growth and prosperity.