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Grand Prix 1In 2014, for instance, the Grand Prix is said to have generated over $47 million in total spending for the region of Southeast Michigan.

In the following years, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014, almost 100,000 people attended the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix underscoring the magnitude of the event both as a draw in the region and an economic engine as well.

This year, the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix returns May 29-31 with expectations that it will make an even bigger impact as it showcases cars from the Verizon IndyCar Series, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the Pierelli World Challenge Series and the trucks of the SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road presented by TRAXXAS. The weekend of car racing will featuree the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit which is being presented by Quicken Loans IndyCar doubleheader.

Beyond the festival of cars and family reunions and less officialdom from local dignitories that take place on Belle Isle as a result of the Grand Prix, lies the econmic impact such events have on the city and the region as well as their educational value.

Large-scale events such as the Grand Prix continue to draw thousands of people to the city each year, who in turn spend an extraordinary amount of money in area restaurants in the city, especially in the downtown and Midtown areas, while taking residence at Detroit’s hotels.

“Major cities across America all have events to lure tourism and create economic stability.  Detroit is very fortunate to have some of the country’s best.  The Ford Fireworks, America’s Thanksgiving Parade presented by Art Van, the Detroit Jazz ­Festival, the North American International Auto Show and the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix are among the best anywhere,” said Tony Michaels CEO of The Parade Company. “These major happenings are draws for people not only in our area, but from across the country and the world.  We should always make sure to brag about these events in every story told about our great city.”

One of the highlights of the Grand Prix weekend is a unique partnership between the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix and PNC Bank, which benefits the Detroit Public Schools through the “Grow Up Great and Fifth Gear” education program.

Known mostly as “Education Day,” and held the week of the Grand Prix, the programs allow pre-kindergarten and fifth grade DPS students to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through motorsports.

About 700 students on May 28 are expected to participate at Belle Isle Park in “Education Day” funded by PNC Foundation to deepen the interest of DPS students in engineering and technology based careers. The students will visit the raceway and take part in activities around key racing concepts like gravity, friction, aerodynamics and safety.

“We are excited to once again to bring hundreds of Detroit Public Schools students to the Grand Prix, thanks to PNC, so they can learn valuable lessons through motorsports,” said Bud Denker, chairman of the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix, who attended the Pre-Racing Fair with DPS students Thursday at Fleming Early Learning Neighborhood Center in Detroit. “This marks the fourth year of the ‘Grow Up Great and Fifth Gear’ programs at the Grand Prix. The enhanced partnership with PNC in 2015 ensures that the students can learn about the key STEM elements of science, math, engineering and technology in a fast-paced racing environment with some of the top professionals in motorsports.”

According to a release, “Originally developed in 2012, the Fifth Gear program was tailored for fifth-grade students to experience the Grand Prix, while PNC continues to contribute to the racing education program in 2015 through Grow Up Great,’ its signature charitable enterprise. PNC Grow Up Great is a multi-year, $350 million initiative created to improve early childhood education, primarily in areas that face educational difficulty. PNC Grow Up Great promotes the importance of the first five years of life, which according to research is highly critical to long-term achievement, by assisting educators, community partners, and families provide unique and intuitive opportunities that augment education and development in the early years of children.”

PNC Regional President Ric DeVore explained his organization’s commitment to the educational value of the Grand Prix weekend of activities.
“PNC’s ongoing support of the Grand Prix racing education program reflects our strong corporate commitment to education in Detroit and throughout the PNC footprint,” DeVore said.

PNC apparently launched a three-year Grow Up Great program in science and the arts for DPS preschool students in 2010 with a $2.1 million commitment, and extended the program for two additional years and another $950,000 in 2014.

Officials from Grand Prix said the 700 DPS students who are expected to participate in the May 28 activities on Belle Isle include 450 students representing 16 schools in the Grow Up Great initiative and 250 fifth graders from 10 schools through the Fifth Gear program ready to broaden their knowledge through racing at the Grand Prix. The Detroit Public Schools Foundation is helping to lead this effort of the students’ participation.

Also participating will be Cass Technical High School robotics team, which will bring robots they have created to display on-site while helping to serve as mentors to younger students.

Bankole Thompson is the editor of the Michigan Chronicle. He is the host of “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” on WDET-101.9FM (Detroit Public Radio), which airs live every Thursday 11am-12noon. He is the author of two books on President Obama, the culmination of a series of sit-down interviews with Obama. E-mail bthompson@michronicle.com or bankole@bankolethompson.com

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