Ten Foundations Create $100 Million Fund to Transform Detroit's Economy

Ten foundations have agreed to establish a $100 million fund to help the metropolitan Detroit region make the transition to an economy that is less dependent on auto manufacturing, the Detroit Free Press reports.

After depending on auto companies for jobs and civic leadership for nearly a hundred years, the region's economy now faces the reality of a permanently smaller automotive base with less money and clout. The New Economy Initiative, one of a number of efforts initiated by civic and corporate leaders to address long-term challenges confronting the region, will aid the metro Detroit area in transitioning to a knowledge-based economy that relies more on entrepreneurial activity than manufacturing.

The Ford, W.K. Kellogg, and the Kresge foundations have each agreed to contribute $25 million to the initiative. The other contributions include $10 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, $5 million from the Hudson-Webber Foundation, $2.5 million from the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation, $2 million each from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Charles Stewart Mott, and Skillman foundations; and $1.5 million from the McGregor Fund.

Steve Hamp, former chief of staff to Ford Motor Co. chairman Bill Ford, will lead the new organization, which will be governed by an eighteen-member board; ten of those seats will be filled by participating funders. According to Hamp, the fund will support workforce training, individual entrepreneurial start-up firms, and programs to translate promising new technologies into profitable companies.

"We've got to help turn this economy around," said Mariam Noland, president of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and one of the effort's leaders. "Philanthropy altogether can't make up the losses and the needs that we have here. We can't replace the public dollars. What we can try to do is help move this economy forward."

John Gallagher. "Region's Economy Gets Cash Infusion." Detroit Free Press 09/14/2007.