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The Michigan Chronicle concluded the 12th season of Pancakes and Politics with Forum IV – CEO Outlook Thursday with an all-star panel of leading corporate executives offering perspectives on Detroit’s economic forecast. To date, it’s been a phenomenal year for Detroit and Michigan’s southeast region and corporate leaders are principal players in the city’s economic revival, which is noted for the influx of private capital, public incentives, and residential and mixed-use developments along with historical renovations.

Held at the Detroit Athletic Club, Pancakes and Politics Forum VI – CEO Outlook gauged the climate for business growth and development in Detroit as the panel of experts engaged P&P guests in dynamic dialogue, bringing business interests and expectations into focus with particular attention to business growth and the challenges of identifying strategies to chart organizational success.

Panel guests for P&P’s CEO Outlook forum included:

Dr. William Pickard – founder and chairman, Global Automotive Alliance. Pickard heads one of the largest African American-owned businesses in the nation, with 1,600 national and international employees. GAA is a global provider of contract logistics, procurement, quality containment, warehousing, freight forwarding and contract assembly services. In 2015, the City of Detroit awarded VITEC LLC, one of GAA’s member companies, an $11.53 million vehicle parts inventory management contract, making it one of the largest awarded to any minority firm by the city. In May of this year, GAA and the City of Detroit celebrated the official opening of the new GAA national headquarters in Southwest Detroit.

Matthew J. Simoncini – president and CEO, Lear Corporation. Simoncini has been the chief executive officer and president of Lear Corp. since September 01, 2011, where he is responsible for the strategic direction and operational leadership of the company. Lear is an international front runner in the engineering and design of automotive seating and e-systems, and is ranked #151 on Forbes Fortune 500. With its corporate headquarters in Southfield, Lear maintains 243 locations in 37 countries around the globe and employs approximately 150,000 employees and serves every major automaker in the world. In May of this year, Lear also hosted a groundbreaking ceremony for its future Asia headquarters in Shanghai, China.

Cindy Pasky – founder, president and CEO, Strategic Staffing Solutions. Pasky founded Strategic Staffing Solutions in 1990 with four benchmarks: set the bar high for what a corporation should do; create jobs; offer people an opportunity to succeed and change their station in life; and, make community and charity work a core part of the company’s business. The company ranks among the largest staffing firms in the U.S. with a database of more than 500,000 resources with industry specific knowledge across all IT disciplines.

S3, headquartered in Detroit, provides services to Fortune 500 companies and FTSE100 customers around with 2,700 team members at 31 branch locations in the U.S. and Europe.

(Note: It was Cindy Pasky who suggested at a 2013 Pancakes and Politics forum discussion that Mike Duggan wage a write-in campaign to become mayor of Detroit.)

Gerard M. Anderson – chairman and CEO, DTE Energy. Anderson was named CEO of the Detroit‐based diversified energy company in 2010 and chairman in 2011. He directs the development and management of DTE’s energy‐related businesses and services nationwide.  The company’s operating units include an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan and a natural gas utility serving 1.2 million customers in Michigan. The DTE Energy portfolio also includes non‐utility energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, natural gas pipelines, gathering and storage, and energy marketing and trading. DTE serves 450 Michigan communities in a variety of ways, including philanthropy, volunteerism and economic progress.

“We are especially proud that people from all across the region, from all walks and even across the state, will be here to enjoy and participate in what promises to be a robust dialogue with these world=class business leaders. This is going to be a dynamic event,” said Michigan Chronicle publisher and P&P creator, Hiram Jackson.

Forum four came just three days after 150 CEO’s from over 50 industries, including Gerard Anderson, made a commitment to advance diversity and inclusion within their respective corporations. To fulfill this commitment, the 150 corporate leaders joined CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion ™, the largest CEO-driven effort of its kind.

“It’s [diversity and inclusion] not a business agenda. When I considered joining the initiative, I made sure that was not the case,” said Anderson on joining CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion ™.

Simoncini added, “We need to find a way to come together and collaborate. People believe in the spirit of diversity.” Corporate responsibility, he said, must also include investing in the future of the city’s children, the future workforce. “The neighborhoods will not come back if we do not solve the riddle of that of public education. There needs to be more accountability. We need to stop treating kids like a $7,500 price tag,” Simoncini said.

“We need to create a culture that says children can achieve,” added Dr. Pickard.

Detroit’s demography makes diversity and inclusive efforts at the executive level for the future of the city and states economy. Dr. Pickard believes if leaders were to take an honest look at the historic contributions made by African Americans in Detroit, many would be more invested in creating opportunities.

“The inclusion factor affects my company a lot. All of us have to find new ways to be creative. The problems are so massive. They didn’t happen yesterday. They didn’t happen in 1967,” said Dr. Pickard. “The black community of Detroit, up until 1986, had the most home ownership in black America. We had the strongest savings accounts of black America. This community has not always been the “Lord Have Mercy” community. I think there are a lot of things that are responsible, but I believe if the job situation provided more opportunities we would see a shift.”

By creating opportunity, Pasky said, it opens the door for more Detroiters to be included and to benefit from development in the city. A part of that, she said, involves changing the way companies seek out employees. “I think we have to find a way to level the playing field. We have to realize that talent acquisition is different than HR. There is so much talent available. You just have to change how they are found,” said Pasky.

Event moderators included Dennis Archer Jr. , president of Archer Corporate Services and CEO of Ignition Media Group and Carol Cain, Emmy-Award Winning producer and host of “Michigan Matters.” talk show.

Special guest Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press shared Pancakes and Politics highlights in real time via Twitter.

Created in 2006, Pancakes and Politics will return in the spring of 2018 for its 13th discussion series with leading policy makers and influencers addressing the most important urban issues facing Detroit and Michigan businesses and residents.


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