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ICIC recognizes Powerlink’s impact

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) is a nonprofit research organization that everyone here at Powerlink is proud to support—precisely because it’s an organization that has provided us with a great deal of guidance and support in the past. Founded in 1994 by Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter, ICIC is “the leading authority on U.S. inner city economies and the businesses that thrive there”. The group understands urban economies, and both educates and advocates for businesses looking to contribute to those communities. ICIC’s unmatched expertise in this arena is one of the reasons why I’m honored to announce that Powerlink was recently recognized by the organization for the positive impact we have had on inner city Detroit. The work that Powerlink has done continues to contribute to the resurgence of the Motor City, and it was exciting to hear that ICIC and its affiliates recognize what we’re accomplishing. We always like to feel that we are doing our part to make an impact on a local and regional level, but it’s still rewarding to get that validation and recognition on the national stage.

This acknowledgement is particularly special because of the important role that ICIC played in Powerlink’s growth. Several years ago, ICIC helped us secure critical capital to finance our expansion, identifying the weaknesses in our presentation and helping us understand exactly how to appeal to investors and present our value proposition in a way that would be more attractive for lending and investment. ICIC also helped us forge some important professional relationships, introducing us to people in the lending, equity, and investment businesses. Here at Powerlink, we believe in ICIC, because we are a living example of how impactful their work can be.

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Categories: Business Success, Corporate Social Responsibility
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YouthSpark: The Importance of Entrepreneurial Education in Detroit

I was honored to be invited by the Detroit Regional Chamber to speak at the Microsoft Youthspark STEM education event. The event took place on Tuesday, November 19th at Lawrence Tech in Southfield, and featured a number of  Detroit area civic and business leaders discussing ways we as a business community can help get more young people involved, active and interested in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. There are currently thousands of unfilled jobs in this country that require training and education in those subjects, and employers are having trouble finding qualified candidates to fill those positions. At a time when the job market remains poor and the American economy remains fairly fragile, that is a real shame.

I firmly believe that it’s critical to engage in meaningful dialogue and to partner with organizations that are working to make a difference in changing that deficit by educating students. Events like YouthSpark—which is a collaborative enterprise sponsored by Microsoft, the Brookings Institution and the Detroit Regional Chamber—and organizations such as Winning Futures are doing exactly that. The value of education is almost incalculable, both for society as a whole and for the business community in particular. This is the workforce of the future we are talking about—and what better investment can we make than to invest in that workforce right here in Detroit. We don’t want our brightest students to feel that they have to take their talent somewhere else. We want them to understand that the environment where they have grown up values them, that we appreciate their accomplishments and want to reward their initiative by providing them with opportunities to flourish and grow right here at home.

Categories: Corporate Social Responsibility
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EO #2: A Global Village

In my last blog entry, I talked a little bit about some of my experiences and impressions at a recent EO University even in Buenos Aires. My time in South America was really enjoyable: culturally, there’s plenty of curiosity about who you are and why you’re visiting, and, while the language barrier presents some challenges, Argentina is a country that celebrates good customer service and recognizes the importance of business travel. Aside from the specific ideas and entrepreneurial energy that was evident throughout the event—which was both personally and professional invigorating for me—my biggest takeaway was being reminded of the entrepreneurial value of literally and figuratively expanding our horizons through global networking and engagement. Whether you are talking to those looking to bring their products to the U.S. and forge new partnerships, or simply picking the brain of someone who sees things from a slightly different perspective than your own, sometimes the best way to understand your own business is through the eyes of someone else.

It’s clear to me that, no matter how many cultural differences there  may be between nations, business culture tends to have some core similarities: markets might be a little different, and the professional environment might be a little different, but basic entrepreneurial principles are pretty consistent around the world. The other side of engaging with other cultures and entrepreneurial perspectives is the opportunity to represent your own values and ideas in a positive light. For me, that meant talking quite a bit about Detroit. Detroit’s bankruptcy is a big deal in the news—not just nationally, but internationally—and you really get a sense of that at an international event like this. Everyone wanted to talk about Detroit, and I really enjoyed the chance to be an ambassador for the city, and to help folks understand that it’s not all doom and gloom. From a financial perspective, a lot of people around the world continue to face financial stresses and deal with similar challenges, and that made our conversations about the people, passion and possibilities involved in any successful business particularly interesting and enlightening.

Categories: Business Success
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EO#1: Bringing Entrepreneurs Together from Around the World

I had an opportunity recently to attend the EO University event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I came away impressed and inspired—both by the quality of the event and the thoughtful and thought-provoking presentations and exchanges between attendees. The event, which took place Wednesday November 13th through Sunday November 17th, was designed to bring together entrepreneurs from around the world to talk about trends, strategies, successes and opportunities. It was, as I discovered, an extraordinary opportunity for businessmen and women to network with and to learn from each other, to forge and strengthen relationships, and to hear some world class speakers and thought leaders talk about their experiences and explore topics on the cutting edge of businesses and entrepreneurial enterprise.

The international tenor of the event was especially interesting and enlightening, and I enjoyed learning about the differences between business conditions in different parts of the world, and about what strategies have been successful (and not-so successful) in other countries. The roster of speakers featured a diverse range of entrepreneurs from all walks of life, but I was particularly intrigued by the presentations given by Rick Kash and Ridgely Goldsborough (which, you have to admit, are two very fitting names for successful entrepreneurs). Rick is the founder and Chairman of The Cambridge Group, a prominent growth strategy consulting firm, and the author of The New Law of Demand and Supply: The Revolutionary New Demand Strategy for Faster Growth and Higher Profits. He spoke about the importance of being a demand-driven business instead of a supply-driven business, and outlined a six-step process of how to make that happen. He really got me thinking about the importance of understanding how demand for your product or service might evolve over time, about targeting the right customers, and about investing your resources accordingly. Ridgely is an author and internet marketing expert, whose session, What’s your WHY?, delved into the essentials about why we do what we do. It was a fascinating talk, and I plan on learning more about his globally successful WHY Marketing Formula, and to think about how some of the ideas he discussed might apply to the work we are doing right here at Powerlink.

Categories: Business Success
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Mike Duggan for Mayor

There’s no doubt about it, Detroit has had a tough year. The high-profile formal bankruptcy filing from the city we all know and love has left Detroit open to criticism in the media and the Motor City has been held up as an example of irresponsible civic spending and governance. The ongoing situation with the Emergency Financial Manager and threats to everything from city retiree pensions to DIA art have only told part of the story.

Many of the underlying problems that led to where we are today were decades in the making and few, if any, of them will be remedied overnight. There is, however, reason for optimism. In many ways, Detroit is on the upswing, and the silver lining in the city’s formal bankruptcy filing is that it gives everyone who lives in, works in, and loves Detroit a chance to believe that so much significant change in such a short time signifies an opportunity for new beginnings.

Along with the guidance and vision of a new mayoral administration, we will hopefully see a fresh start for Detroit. That is why Powerlink, along with many other businesses based in the city, supports Mike Duggan for mayor. We endorse Mike Duggan not only because of his history as a job creator and his clear understanding of the barriers that so many entrepreneurs face, but also because we know that a Duggan administration will work closely and constructively with the business community to break down the barriers that divide us and constrain us.

We firmly believe that he will help to create a new civic foundation that is far more welcoming to the forces that are shaping, and will continue to shape, Detroit’s recovery. We are excited by the potential presented by new leadership and a fresh perspective, and we look forward to doing everything we can as a corporate citizen to help Mike Duggan move the City of Detroit forward.

Categories: Business Success, Corporate Social Responsibility