Profession: Chief Development Officer, City of Detroit
Location: Detroit, Michigan
What was the first philanthropic gift you ever gave?:
I was a member of my local community foundation’s youth council while in high school. The youth council recruited members from each of the community high schools and I was lucky enough to become a member. A scholarship program for a summer camp was the first gift we gave as a part of that team.
What is your role to rebuild Detroit through philanthropy?:
My role is to coordinate local, state and national philanthropic giving that helps revitalize Detroit and builds public private partnerships in the city. A key part of the job is to partner with cabinet members and department heads to find ways that local private investment can leverage competitive federal funds for Detroit. Real success is finding new people and institutions around the country who are not current investing in Detroit, but now want to be part of the city’s story.
Is there an example of this philanthropy in action you can share with us?:
One example happening right now in Detroit is called Motor City Match. Foundations teamed up with the city to launch an innovative program to help rebuild the commercial corridors in our neighborhoods, just like Detroit has done recently in its downtown and midtown corridors. Motor City Match provides $500,000 a quarter in competitive grants, loans and technical assistance to new or expanding businesses or building owners to locate and thrive in Detroit. Anyone from anywhere can apply now and if they are not successful, they can apply again next quarter.
Who inspires you to give?:
As a combat veteran who served with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Afghanistan, I feel a special bond with returning veterans. The majority of my volunteer efforts in recent years focused on helping build a better bridge into the civilian world for veterans exiting the service. I have worked closely with Team Red, White and Blue on their efforts to link service members to their community and bridge that civilian military divide. I hope to help make Detroit a true model city in the years ahead for the million or so veterans that will exit the service in the next 4-5 years.
What motivates you to be a part of rebuilding Detroit?:
I am a lifelong Michigander and my wife Jocelyn and I have lived in Detroit since 2004 and we were married on Belle Isle in 2006. She is the Dean of the Law School at Wayne State University in Detroit now and I have this role coordinating philanthropic investment in the city. We both simply love Detroit. We love its tough, gritty and innovative spirit. We love the strength of community and resilience of the city through hard times and creativity of its neighborhoods. As someone fascinated by history, there are few towns in the world with more interesting history than Detroit — it built the Arsenal of Democracy that won WWII, it put the globe on wheels with its auto industry, it brought Motown, electronic music and extraordinary sports stories to the world. To be a part of this city building its next chapter is an honor.
How can others be involved in giving back to Detroit?:
Our city’s Land Bank auctions three homes a day on Building Detroit, a special opportunity for anyone looking to invest in the city. Also, in my first months on the job I worked with our jobs and economy team, and department heads to help develop a matrix of initiatives and investments those interested in Detroit’s revitalization can support. I would love to talk or meet with any individual, foundation or business interested in the city to match their interests with those investment needs. I am also part of a team hosting the next Detroit Homecoming led by Crain’s Detroit Business. The focus of the Homecoming is to welcome back those who’ve left Michigan and Detroit, but now want to engage in the city’s comeback. In short, for anyone with any interest in being a part of Detroit’s revitalization, at any level, there is a way contribute.
What’s an issue that’s on your mind to address next?:
As our new City Planner, Maurice Cox recently said, “Detroit has a once in a lifetime opportunity to re-imagine the American city, transforming an abundance of land into a valuable community asset … Detroit is well positioned to be the place where urban innovation and economic opportunity intersect, creating a new kind of sustainable city–one that is equitable, just and simply more beautiful.” Working with Maurice and community leaders to help that innovative transformation of vacant land take place is foremost on my mind.
What philanthropic models of support are you excited to build in Detroit?
The new method of crowdfunding can be transformative for cities, especially Detroit. The power of small contributions where maybe people can’t make a large investment like a foundation, but together, those small amounts can be a large amount. Innovative use of these platforms to channel the resources already in our community and neighborhoods to revitalization, alongside the good will around the country of those pulling for Detroit, has great potential.
What would you like your legacy to be from your role?
The north star for our whole team is to grow the city’s population for the first time in decades. The goal is bold and there is a long way to go, many challenges to face, but Detroiters have always sort of loved a challenge. For me to just play a positive role and contribute in some way to helping the city turn that corner would mean the world to me. Regardless, it’s a really special moment in the history of Detroit. I’m excited to be part of Detroit’s story.
Photo Credit: The Ann online magazine