The Renaissance Center was buzzing with a new found energy today. From the 21st floor of the newly remodeled 500 Tower, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) cut a blue ribbon signifying the opening of their newest commitment to the City of Detroit. Today marked the first day at a new office for 300 employees, the first of several waves of moves that will find 3,000 people calling the 500 and 600 Towers their new work address.
“For a kid who grew up on the east side of Detroit, this is an exciting day,” he announced.
Today marked the beginning of the final push to make sure 97 percent of all BCBSM employees work in a core downtown location. Starting with a building renovation in Grand Rapids and moving on to the renovation of an old coal fired power plant in Lansing, this is part of an ongoing push by BCBSM to help strengthen the employment picture in Michigan’s core cities.
Make no mistake, this is a challenge taken by Loepp and BCBSM because they saw an economic benefit to being a part of the renaissance of Michigan cities. He noted that it helps create the critical mass needed to attract companies from out of state and to give a younger workforce the density needed to create the urban experience they normally would have to move away to find. And in the end, there is a net benefit of $7.5 million in taxes for local government entities.
While Loepp was the most excited employee, George Jackson from the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation was one of the most excited officials in attendance.
“From an economic development perspective, this is what it’s all about. It’s more than just a bricks and mortar renaissance, it’s a people renaissance. It’s feet on the street,” he noted.
In addition to the words excitement and renaissance, the words partnership and courage were used quite frequently during the ribbon cutting ceremony. Detroit Mayor Dave Bing commented on the courage it took to see such a large move come together during difficult economic times. Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano talked about the partnership needed to pull off this entire project … so did Bob King from the UAW, Jean Rose from General Motors and the chairman of BCBSM Board of Directors Gregory A. Sudderth.
Mayor Bing also talked about the collaboration among city, county and business leaders to make this move-in day possible. He stated that the job of city government is not to create jobs, rather it is to create the right type of environment to encourage other companies to make the same move as BCBSM.
So, what does a move like this prove? For Bing, it’s a chance to show that Detroit is already back on the rise. “We’re gonna fool a hell of a lot of people in this country,” he emphasized.
For Loepp, it is a chance to prove that his company is a true partner in the economic well being of Detroit. As he reminded the gathered media, “Detroit is our home, it has been our home for 72 years and it will always be our home.”