New Detroit Regional chamber president and CEO Sandy K. Baruah gave the TiECon Midwest entrepreneurship several points to talk over in a keynote address Thursday.
First, partnerships. “Partnerships will be so much more critical in the 21st Century than they were in any other century,” he said, especially public-private partnerships.
He said the public sector needs to take advantage of the private sector’s creativity and lower operating costs. Also, he said there need to be better partnerships between large and small businsses because small business is where the job growth is. And he said there need to be better partnerships between government at all levels, arguing that the reason Volkswagen put a new plant in Tennessee rather than Michigan because of “a sesne of lack of cohesion among the government.”
Second, Baruah said the characteristic of the modern global economy is speed. It took 55 years for the auto industry to reach a quarter of the American population, 35 years for telephones, 16 years for PCs and seven years for the Internet. “Cycle times for everything are faster today,” Baruah said, including public patience with politicians.
Baruah’s third word was “act.” “We have an opportunity with a new governor … if we don’t take this opportunity and right our ship we may not get another opportunity where everything is new,” he said.
The fourth word was “international.” Baruah said Michigan can no longer afford to be insular when 95 percent of the globe’s customers are not American.
The fifth word was “innovation.” He said Michigan lost its entrepreneurial spirit due to auto prosperity, but is slowly getting it back — “we’re better than we were five years ago.”
Baruah also offered words for the local business community — well, more like phrases.
First, honor the past while pursuing the future: “There are still people who think we are one great Chevy away from reliving the glories of our past,” Baruah said. “Our future will look radically different from our past. That’s not a good thing, it’s not a bad thing, it’s just a thing, called reality. I believe there’s a glorious future ahead for southeast Michigan. I just think that it will look different from our glorious past.”
Baruah also said metro Detroit must “capitalize on what we have,” meaning the auto industry. He said the auto industry “can still lead this region out of its funk,” and that “|I still think that manufacturing matters greatly. Research and development follows manufacturing. Financial services make money, but they do not make wealth.”
Next, Baruah said, “make the whole more than the sum of its parts. We have amazing parts” — great companies, world-class talent, great universities, infrastructure and more.
Also, he said, “We cannot have prosperity shaped like a donut. The city of Detroit must be in on the path to becoming a robust urban core. There is no such thing as a suburban-led economic growth zone, there’s simply not.”
Finally, Baruah said, “Good enough is no longer good enough,” not with organized global competition.
TiECon Midwest continues Friday at the Henry Hotel in Dearborn, formerly the Ritz-Carlton, with a wide variety of panels and keynotes on fostering entrepreneurship in the region.
Baruah has been boss at the chamber for seven months. A native of Oregon, he is a graduate of the University of Oregon and has an MBA from Willamette University. He interned for former President George H.W. Bush and was a staffer for former Oregon Sen. Bob Packwood. Later, Baruah worked as a business consultant with Portland, Ore.-based Performance Consulting Group. According to the Washington Business Journal, his clients included Walt Disney World, Intel, Key Bank and Citizens Bank. He joined President George W. Bush’s Commerce Department in 2001, eventually leading the federal Economic Development Administration. Bush Jr. named him to head the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2008.