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Detroit Community Forum: Building a Strong and More Equitable Future Transcript

This and other transcripts on this site have been provided by a third-party service. The video replay should be considered the definitive record of the event.

CHARLES EVANS: I'll make a few brief remarks. I'm Charlie Evans, President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. And then we'll have opening remarks from our panelists.

Today we're confronted with the twin challenges of dealing with the public health crises caused by COVID-19 and the economic consequences of our efforts to slow down the spread of the virus. We are all affected by these events, but some communities have been bearing the brunt more than others. Communities of color have faced higher infection and mortality rates than others.

Similarly, while some industries such as manufacturing have developed methods to adapt production in order to safely bring back workers into the factory, many consumer-facing businesses continue to be devastated. For instance, the restaurant, hotel, and entertainment industries all continue to struggle. This has led to an uneven economic recovery where tragically, the most affected people are our most vulnerable neighbors. Many of those who work in the hardest hit industries are fairly low paid and have little savings, so their economic well-being is particularly precarious when they lose their jobs.

Many consumer-facing sectors also employ more women and minorities who have been hit hard in other ways, such as by having to shoulder a disproportionate share of extra child care responsibilities or contracting the virus at a higher rate.

At the Federal Reserve we are committed to returning our economy to its full strength as quickly as the public health crisis allows. This is evidenced by the magnitude and breadth of our policy responses to the crisis since this spring. But recovering from the pandemic will require an unprecedented effort by all of us. Moreover, even in good times, racism and other barriers limit economic opportunities for too many people.

Overcoming these challenges to ensure that we grow sustainably and inclusively requires conversations at the community, city, state, and national level that produce bold and creative solutions to our challenges. At the Chicago Fed, we're committed to taking an active part in helping move these conversations and policy changes forward.

To this end, we launched a major initiative this year, Project Hometown, where we examine how our hometowns can recover from the pandemic, overcome longstanding inequities, grow stronger, and provide all people with the opportunity to thrive. To date we have convened eight virtual public forums featuring civic and business leaders along with researchers to explore and reimagine how health care, education, transportation, financial services, and the labor market can support communities' recovery from the pandemic.

Our forums feature diverse panelists with wide-ranging perspectives. Several themes have emerged from these discussions and our own research. Let me highlight two that are particularly relevant for our conversation today.

First, the pandemic is amplifying the longstanding economic disparities among individuals and communities according to income, race and ethnicity, gender, age, and geography. If we don't address these disparities and other challenges we face, we risk leaving long-lasting scars on the economic well-being of our communities.

Second, across our five state region of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, our district's challenges are as diverse and varied as our communities are. We all will need tailored approaches and solutions that address the unique challenges in each of our communities.

Today we have the pleasure of hearing from our distinguished panelists about their perspectives on how these and other issues are playing out in Detroit and Michigan, as well as what solutions we can provide to the challenges our communities face. As with our other forums, we're committed to following up today's program with future discussions focusing on specific issues impacting Detroit, such as the condition of minority businesses and the impact the pandemic has had on state and local government finances. I'm looking forward to hearing our panelists discuss their visions for the future of this important region, so let's get started.

We have a who's who of Michigan leaders with us today. I'll briefly introduce them, but please visit our event page for their complete bios. We have Lieutenant Governor Garlin Gilchrist. Garlin is a proud Detroit native whose background in computer science led him to previous work with Microsoft and as the city of Detroit's first Director of Innovation and Emerging Technology.

Also here with us is Wright Lassiter, the President and CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, a leading health care and medical services provider in the Detroit region and the fifth largest employer in metro Detroit. I'm honored to say that Wright is also a member of the Chicago Fed's board of directors.

Next, Tonya Allen, the President and CEO of the Skillman Foundation is here. The Skillman Foundation is a fierce champion for improving the lives and opportunities of Detroit's children. And finally, we have Gerard Anderson, the Executive Chairman of DTE Energy. DTE is a diversified energy company whose operations include an electric utility serving many Michigan customers. Gerry is also active in many Detroit area civic and business organizations.

I thank all of you for joining us, and I welcome your opening remarks before we begin addressing questions from the audience. And so let us start with the Lieutenant Governor, please.

GARLIN GILCHRIST: Charlie, thank you very much. And good afternoon, everybody. Again, proud to be here with everyone who is joining this event, and also proud to be here alongside my friends and fellow leaders here in Detroit and the state of Michigan, Wright Lassiter, Tonya Allen, and Gerry Anderson. This is a really critical discussion today about the city of Detroit, Southeast Michigan, the state as a whole, and the current challenges and opportunities that we face collectively.

As you mentioned, Detroit is my home. It is where I'm from. It is where I live now. It's where my wife and I are raising our three children I love this city and am here on purpose. Early in my career, I focused on doing several things after I left the software development industry to become one who was championing campaigns and really spearheading opportunities to expand equity equality and justice and harnessing technology to solve problems for people. I think this is something that we will continue to need to do to combine these two both values and approaches to make sure that we are effective and impactful.

My focus has always and will continue to be focused on just making sure that I'm able to get things done for people, and that government and public sector entities can work together not only on behalf of individuals, but on behalf of our private sector partners to make sure that we can, as communities, move forward.

This year has been the most challenging year that any of us have ever lived through or led through as we continue to combat COVID-19 here in the state of Michigan and around the world. We have experienced tremendous hardships and even personal losses. Every metric, every data point, every case, every death, this is about people. It's about people. And we have to remember that. People. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, co-workers, colleagues. Myself personally, I've lost 24 people in my life to COVID-19. So this is real. This is not theoretical. Something that we must take very seriously.

And as many of you are aware, or have at least observed if not experienced directly, the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan was hit disproportionately hard, especially early in the months of this pandemic when we go back to March and April. And we are seeing some of the same trends that we've seen across the country as cases and deaths continue on an upward trend.

This pandemic has also really highlighted the staggering inequities that have existed in our communities for generations, especially when it comes to the health and the economic well-being of people of color, especially Black people in Detroit and in the state of Michigan, where the health of our friends and family has been disproportionately impacted, as we are more likely to contract the virus and more likely to die from it early on.

So that's why our administration, Governor Gretchen Whitmer, my partner, why we took immediate action, and the most bold action, frankly, in the country, to assemble some of the greatest minds in our state, to deal with this issue of racial injustice directly for now and in the future. We formed the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities back in April, and that task force is one that I'm proud to chair. And I'd like to talk about a little bit of that task force's work.

We set out to accomplish two goals. The first was to reduce the disparities in the mortality rate of COVID-19 when comparing people of color to white Michiganders. And the second was to connect those interventions to our longer term efforts to reduce disparities in health and other areas of life. The task force, we looked at the causes of the racial disparities. Why was it that Black folks were more likely to contract the virus? Why was it that Black folks were more likely to have more severe cases? Why was it that people of color were more likely to pass away than our white counterparts?

And when we got to work to immediately respond to those things that we found, doing things like distributing large quantities-- six million masks were distributed for free to members of the public because masking continues to be the simplest and most effective way to slow the spread of the virus. We've launched strategic communications and social media campaigns to make sure that those who are most vulnerable knew what they had to do to try to protect themselves and their families and their loved ones from contracting the virus, and to know what to do to get tested, to know what to do to isolate safely, and the things that just had to be done.

We also collaborated with regional racial disparities task forces that sprung up in places like Flint and Battle Creek and other parts of the country to share data and recommendations for additional hyper local actions. We also increased access to coronavirus testing in communities of color. The real innovation-- we are the place that invented the automobile, so we were the first place to invent how you could get a coronavirus test in your car through drive-through testing. But we also have pop up testing in places. We have walk up testing. We have mobile testing sites through a special partnership with Ford Motor Company, where specialty outfitted vans could drive testing capacity literally to a place or a neighborhood or jail or a community center.

We are pleased to report that all of these interventions and state actions, working with partners across the state, we've been able to make significant progress in terms of actually flattening those racial disparities. To give you a sense of how this started, Black Michiganders, we make up about 14% of the population, 13.6% in our state. But in March and April, we accounted for 41% of people who passed away. We accounted for 38% of people who contracted COVID-19.

But as of the most recent available data for the several weeks-- we're talking the month of October and September and in August-- what we've seen is that now Black residents are only accounting for 8% of the cases and less than 10% of the deaths. That is significant improvement. And it shows the power of focus.

And I think as my panelists will share, as a leader, where you put your attention really matters. And you can make progress on what you focus on. And so the state of Michigan, uniquely amongst our counterparts, decided that we were going to strengthen our overall COVID-19 response by focusing directly and specifically on racial and ethnic minorities and their experience of this virus.

And doing so has made our state response one that has been lauded around the country. We're proud to say those racial disparity reductions are continuing to hold as cases tick up. But we still have to remain vigilant, both as individuals and as a collective. We've been able to provide rapid response grants through CARES Act dollars, to fund initiatives in communities across the state that will hopefully assure that these improvements and these protections for disparities, that they will hold throughout this pandemic, but also set a floor, frankly, for how we can engage on reducing and eliminating health disparities, how we can improve the social determinants of health for vulnerable communities across the board.

We're addressing things like food and housing insecurity, access to technology and the internet, and increasing things like flu vaccination rates. With all this progress, which we are right to take stock of, we have to make sure that we recognize that this is still an ongoing problem. Although we have had promising news about the prospect of a vaccine, we still do not have a widely available approved vaccine for the coronavirus. We still do not have a widely available approved antiviral treatment.

So we have to work to not only tackle the virus, but also tackle the generations of inequity and racial disparities so that every Michigander, whether you are Black, white, or some other race or ethnicity, that you are able to pursue your best self, to live your happiness, and to let your imagination run wild, frankly, here in the state of Michigan.

Now these injustices that I've been talking about that really underlie these disparities, they unfortunately are as old as America itself. This year, in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen a generational call for racial justice, for investment in Black communities and in cities and in other places. And we've seen that come to a head with the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.

But we've seen people of all walks of life step up and call the question on systemic racism and its impacts across the board in American life. This is something that is truly inspiring and that we should not run away from as a nation because we cannot confront things that we are not willing to face. To paraphrase the great James Baldwin, who said that although not everything that we face can be changed, nothing can be changed until it is faced.

So our administration, we have taken further steps, beyond the pandemic, to show that we take this very seriously. So we've declared racism a public health crisis, the only state to do so in the nation. And it's not simply, however, just a label. We're not labeling this injustice. We're actually taking steps to replace this injustice with justice by using the full force of state government to recognize and to examine how the policy, program, and practice decisions that may have been made over time may have had racist implications built into them at their design phase, and therefore have had impacts and outcomes that have led to inequities.

And how can we then roll back those challenges? How can we design new systems that work for everyone? In order to do that, we must make sure that more people have a seat at the table because frankly, when you don't have representation, when experiences are not understood at the design phase of solutions, those solutions are inherently inadequate. Our administration has worked hard to have representation be here.

Look, I'm the first Black Lieutenant governor and the highest ranking Black elected official in the history of our state. And because we have such a diverse leadership team, the most diverse leadership team, for example, responding to the coronavirus, we've prioritized racial disparities in a way that no other state has. Again, when you focus on what representation can deliver, you get results.

And so we're trying to build on that with, actually, an announcement that we just made earlier today with the creation of the Black Leadership Advisory Council. This will be a leading part of our effort as an administration and really, again, set a standard for state government in how it engages with the Black community going forward.

Black folks are the largest racial minority group in the state of Michigan, but to date, we have not been represented by a statewide commission or advisory council to look at issues and advocate for policy directly to the government. So this joins the other diverse ethnic commissions within state government in Michigan. d And now we'll build upon the work of the Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities and the Poverty Task Force and others to really address the disparities when it comes to health, generational economic opportunity, affordable access to housing, policing, education, environmental justice, greater opportunity overall for Black Michiganders.

When we have full and complete representation, we actually get policy that can address full and complete concerns. So we're one of the first states, for example, that show that we need to track information in terms of impact on policy on race and ethnicity. We did that in the coronavirus, and we're doing this, also, when it comes to policing because we were one of the first states, for example, to even establish a task force. We were one of the first states that will have full cooperation and coordination with our sheriffs associations, for example, to track data on policing and use of force, and especially lethal use of force.

And I think this really speaks to the fact that we are unafraid to step into this space and show that what you measure will get managed, and what you manage, you will make progress on.

Now shifting gears just a little bit as I close, managing this pandemic has understandably taken the majority of our administration's focus since before we had our first confirmed cases in March. But what it has had is a profound impact on, really, every element of governance, from how we manage our educational systems to how we provide support for our businesses, large and small, in our state, to also the impact on our state budget.

Now our budget was signed and went into effect on October 1 for this next fiscal year. And it's faced huge challenges. We were projecting that we thought we would have billions of shortfall, $6 billion. Now we had a $3 billion shortfall, but we still had to make some tough decisions. But nevertheless, we remained committed to putting Michiganders and people first. We recognize that our people are our strongest asset. Our people are our economy, and their health must come first in order for anything else to even work.

So our budget focused on caring for families and front line workers, continuing to invest in Michigan jobs and small business supports, and ensuring public safety and protecting our environmental health. We are one of the few states that signed a budget this year that made zero cuts to public education because parents and families across the state are frankly struggling trying to figure out how we can make this work.

I have twin seven-year-olds, and my kids are currently working hard to try their best to learn at a distance. So our schools, our education professionals, and our education leaders need support, and we were proud to not have to cut that support here from state government.

Every state is grappling with these kinds of revenue challenges. And frankly, this is why the governor and I have advocated since the spring, the beginning of this pandemic, for federal funds to help provide relief and aid to state and local governments. I want to echo the sentiments of Chairman Powell, who has been very concerned about the impact of what the pause on economic activity led to in Michigan and across the country in terms of exacerbating wealth disparities in the economy. And his leadership and talking about how dangerous the lack of federal aid has been is laudable, and I appreciate that dearly. And we join him in the continued call for federal assistance to make sure.

While momentum for this and Congress ground to a halt, we are hoping that very quickly, with a new administration in place, and we'll be able to partner with them to make sure that we have what we need to continue to serve people here in the state of Michigan.

So thank you, Charlie, for the opportunity to address everyone today, and I'm looking forward to the conversation.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you very much, Lieutenant Governor It was really great and inspiring to hear the progress that you've made so far. I'd like to turn it over to Wright Lassiter now for some opening comments, please.

WRIGHT LASSITER: Great. Thanks very much, Charlie. It's really great to be with you and our colleagues today. Certainly, Lieutenant Governor, thank you for your comments and your leadership and the work of you and the governor across the state.

As I listened to the Lieutenant Governor talk about the state's focus, his focus, the governor's focus on health and health equity and public health crises, I hearkened back to the role the Henry Ford Health System plays in health care on a day-to-day basis in supporting the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor's desires around reducing health equity and improving the health of communities we serve.

As was mentioned, and frankly, as will always be mentioned in any forum like this, 2020 was a challenging year for all of us in so many ways. As you heard earlier, this pandemic has taken a toll on the health care industry, and it's taking a toll on our communities at large.

During our first phase of the crisis, beginning back in March, Henry Ford Health System provided care for about 22% of the infected individuals for COVID-19 across state of Michigan through the first 150 days of the crisis. And we're proud to serve our communities and proud to be one of the leaders in the state in helping to solve this problem.

As I think about that time, we saw our first patient on March 14. At our peak, we had about 1,000 patients in our hospitals, and we had significant despair across our system in terms of the amount of morbidity and mortality that our staff and physicians were seeing on a day-to-day basis.

Since the beginning of the crisis, we've treated more than 6,000 patients in our hospitals and another 5,000 in our emergency departments. And we have seen 750 Michiganders die under our watch and in our care. And so it's certainly taken a toll on our organization as we try to fight this public health crisis and the coronavirus.

When I think about the biggest challenges that our organization has faced, happily, I would say that today, we don't have the challenges around personal protective equipment that we had back in March. And again, I want to thank the Governor and Lieutenant Governor for their efforts to ensure that Michigan hospitals had necessary supplies.

Our biggest challenge at this moment, I would tell you, is our human capital. If you think about the coronavirus like a marathon, or frankly, like a war, our nurses, physicians, pharmacists, social workers, housekeepers, nutritional support workers, our pharmacists, et cetera, they've been running this marathon since March. And is the case in any marathon, the runner, at some points in time, has peaks and valleys.

I think the biggest challenge that the coronavirus pandemic has had, the biggest effect it's had on the health care industry, has been the depletion of what you normally think of as a highly resilient set of individuals. Our essential workers come to work every day doing their best to provide highest quality and the safest care they can provide for Michiganders. But we placed our essential workers in positions that you'd like to not place anyone in.

At a point in time where visitation was not allowed in our hospitals to keep people safe, our essential workers were playing family member. Oftentimes they were holding iPads while our sickest patients said goodbye to a family that they could not see in person. And so the biggest challenge that I think the health care industry has faced and that our organization has faced has certainly been the draining of our health care workforce and a significant reduction in their ability to be at their best.

We continue to provide significant support for them in terms of employee assistance, counseling, obviously health care as necessary, and other spiritual support. But that is one of the most significant challenges that we face. And we frankly face scenarios now where there is becoming a significant health care worker shortage. We have individuals who, frankly, are choosing retirement because they are not sure they can continue.

We have workers in our less skilled portion of our workforce deciding that maybe health care isn't for them. The field that they love so much for the impact they made on the community, maybe now is the time to go find a different career that doesn't potentially expose me to the challenges of a invisible virus.

And so those are significant challenges for our industry. The governor talked a bit about the financial impact on the state. I would say that the health care industry and Henry Ford, certainly, were not immune to that. As we began this process, we projected $700 to $800 million in revenue that we would not receive this year as a result of the challenges to responding to the COVID crisis. As we look at our projections today, happily those have improved. But we still expect between $55 and $600 million in revenues that we will not receive this year as a result of the coronavirus impact, in addition to $50 to $75 million in additional expenses related to providing the kind of care that the community deserves.

And so clearly, the health care industry and Henry Ford has been damaged this year as it relates to our financial performance. The Lieutenant Governor spent a lot of time talking about one of his key focus points, and that was health care equity. He talked about the task force that he formed and led. I'm proud to say that one of our most senior executives has served on the Lieutenant Governor's task force to address issues around impact to communities of color, both our African-American community and Latinx communities, as well as others.

And we've seen those things firsthand. We've certainly seen that during the first phase of this pandemic, communities of color, African-Americans, Hispanics, indigenous people were certainly impacted more significantly. I would echo the governor's salute to progress around the reduction that we're seeing today in mortality for African-Americans in particular versus what we saw back in March, April, May, and June.

I would certainly say that that's due to the efforts of significant portions of the state, certainly the state government and the work that you heard from the Lieutenant Governor, local public health departments and health systems focusing very significantly on how we can reduce the disparities that were frankly running rampant in parts of Detroit and other parts of the state long before the coronavirus hit.

And so we continue to work very hard to ensure that we address issues of transportation, food insecurity, access to primary care, et cetera, so that we can reduce health care disparities and improve health equity across state of Michigan.

I would just also say that the Henry Ford Health System has been very focused not only on treating today, but planning for tomorrow. We served as an enrollment site for vaccine trials for two of the vaccines that are currently under study in our country. We have more than 100 clinical trials going on today related to treatments, some that you've heard about, monoclonal antibodies, hydroxychloroquine. And so we work very diligently in our organization not only to ensure that anyone who interacts with Henry Ford has an opportunity for the best possible health care they can receive, but frankly, working very hard to help determine the science and medicine for the future so we can get our arms around this going into 2021.

We've been working very aggressively both with the state and with the federal government around the potential for vaccine distribution. We stand ready, as a research institution, our organization has those freezers that some of the audience might hear about that keep things at 90 below zero centigrade. Presuming the Pfizer vaccine is approved, it has to be kept very cold to ensure its efficacy. And so we are making plans, again, both with the state and with the federal government to ensure that Henry Ford can be there for Detroit, Southeast Michigan, and Central Michigan residents to ensure that we can support you as you go forward.

Lastly, just say that it takes a village. We've heard that term for many years now. And it's no truer than in fighting a global pandemic. It takes a village. It takes individual businesses like Henry Ford Health System. It takes work of the local, state, and federal government. It takes work with community partners, the faith community, public health departments.

And then lastly, it takes the work of everyday citizens to help us combat what we're seeing. I look forward to having more conversation around this topic. Thank you.

CHARLES EVANS: Thanks very much, Wright. Our next speaker is Tonya Allen.

TONYA ALLEN: Well, thank you, Charlie. I really appreciate you having us today, and it's been great to hear from Wright and the Lieutenant Governor. And I'm sure that Gerry will bring great remarks as well.

So I really appreciate you listing the importance of children and schools as a part of Michigan's recovery from the COVID pandemic, and their essential contribution to Michigan in terms of it being a prosperous place for all of the residents, especially Black people.

So at the Skillman Foundation, we asked this question. How are the children? This question, which was asked by members of the Maasai tribe when they greeted each other, is basically a question that associates the importance of how children are faring as being equivalent to what a good and prosperous society means.

Essentially, the community isn't well if our children aren't well. Pre-pandemic, children in Detroit were living with the consequences of residing in neighborhoods where there are high concentrations of poverty. More than 80% of Detroit's children are subject to these conditions. So it's no surprise that the pandemic exacerbated these challenges and deepened inequities.

Today at the Skillman Foundation, we ask a additional and different question, which is where are the children? We see large numbers of children in our city and across the state who are disconnected from school without the adequate support at home to navigate remote teaching and learning. And they aren't being checked on, quite honestly, effectively by our public systems.

And the ramifications of this is going to last a long time. Essentially, our students missed out on 1/3 of this last school year. And they are encountering, particularly summer slide, from this summer and the coming summer. And they will also have uneven instruction this school year.

So when you add all of those things forward, we have significant challenges. So in reality, there will be some children in our state who may be a year and a half to two years behind. And at the best case, most of the children in our state are going to be six months behind. So this is a structural problem, and we need structural solutions to address these types of challenges.

Regrettably in Michigan, education is highly dispersed, with over 800 traditional and charter school districts serving only 1.5 million students. So that means there are over 800 administrators trying to determine how they are going to deal with this structural problem. And they're doing so, quite honestly, without proactive leadership and a proactive plan to navigate this. And when you combine this with the constraints of running schools during a pandemic, there are social and emotional trauma existing for our children and the school teachers. There's inadequate support for teaching and learning, particularly as we navigate remote, hybrid, and in person instruction.

And then we have administrators and school boards who are literally rewriting the rules and procedures of how schools work and operate under the relentless public eye. So our schools and their capacity is stretched during these challenges.

Now I just stated that this crisis is requiring us to rewrite the rules. And this is a time where we actually need to exploit that, especially when it comes to Black wealth. So during the Great Recession in 2008, Black families lost a large proportion of their wealth due to the mortgage crisis, so they lost their homes. And then the COVID recession of 2020 is set to take another significant part of Black wealth through our businesses.

The impacts of these recessions are basically just the ramifications of our systems in our society and how we essentially devalue Black assets. Black homes, if you hold all things equal, are valued at 20% less than white homes. And Black businesses are frequent less, even if they have the same level of quality products and services as their white counterparts. The response to Black assets is a cultural, structural, and economic challenge that we cannot ignore, especially as Black assets are what fuel Black wealth.

And it also funds Black schools. It supports the government that operates in Black cities and the ability of Black people to invest in growing their businesses or even sending their children to college.

So obviously, our greatest Black assets are our children. And while we're not valuing them, we're essentially allowing their brilliance and their potential to dim while we try and navigate this false narrative that we believe, or the false narrative that we promote, which is that our country believes that every American is created equal. And we have to actually move from that being a narrative to an actual practice.

The best way to value Black assets is to commit fully to becoming the most racially equitable city in America. And that's what we need to do in Detroit. And what I'm waiting to hear and waiting to work and waiting to act with other leaders in our region is that we are going to become extraordinarily serious about what it means to have economic inclusion, what it means to have Black wealth. And those things, if we deal with them effectively, that is how we actually build back better after COVID.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much, Tonya. OK. Gerry. I'm interested in your viewpoints.

GERARD ANDERSON: Thank you, Charlie. Can you hear me all right?


GERARD ANDERSON: OK, great. Well, look, I know we're running late, so I think maybe I'll abridge my comments a bit. You know, historically, I think we all know that we dealt in the state with just a wicked first bout with COVID and a similarly wicked broad economic shutdown of everything but a essential businesses that pushed a lot of our small business into or near the edge of bankruptcy. And that was a tough, tough experience that we hope to not have to revisit.

We have, step by step, recovered much of the economy. I've been surprised by the breadth of the recovery. But I must say nobody should confuse that with a full recovery. We still have many businesses, especially our consumer-facing businesses, as you mentioned, that are in very tough straits. We've learned a lot since the spring about how to protect our workers. And so the need for broad economic shutdown, I don't think, is there and it's probably low.

But I will say this. We have also learned since the spring just how persistent this virus is. And I think it's fair to say that we are squarely in the midst, again, of a full scale public health crisis in our state and in our region and in our city. Wright Lassiter and I were part of a press conference this morning with health care leaders across Michigan to talk about the fact that cases are increasing exponentially again across the state. Over the past five weeks cases have increased 40% per week, and cases are up more than five-fold over that period.

And hospitalizations are following the same track. We're now at 60% of the spring peak of hospitalizations, and the hospitalization doubling rate is every two weeks. In two weeks we will be back above the hospitalization peak that we set in the spring if we keep at this pace. So it's a sobering reality. And what our public health experts are telling us is the spread is occurring largely now in small community settings, friends and families. And then that's filtering its way back into the workplace.

And that's absolutely our experience at DTE. Our cases are rising, but as we trace them, we trace them back to home and small social settings. And I think what we all need to realize is that this has been a really tough health experience and a really tough economic experience. But the health of our economy is inextricably linked to the health of our community and how we fare with this virus. And we will not be healthy in either sense until we find ways to slow this spread and reverse it. But unfortunately, that is not the trend, and we are about to step back into some pretty tough terrain.

Now there are some positive notes that I'll quickly touch on. Wright and I both sit on the board of the Detroit Regional Partnership. That's the region's primary economic development vehicle. Economic development has been surprisingly resilient right through the heart of this crisis. In fact, we're going to exceed by a wide margin all of the Detroit Regional Partnership's economic development goals, employment goals, investment goals, and pathway job goals. Those are jobs for the people who most need them. And so I think as we deal with everything else, we can be encouraged that there are some healthy signs of life there.

Second thing I would say is that as crises always do, they bring good leaders to the fore, and we've seen that. The Detroit Means Business effort, which was an effort that sprang up organically in the business and nonprofit sectors to aid small Detroit businesses, was a great example of that, as was the Connected Futures effort, the effort to supply over 50,000 Detroit schoolchildren with the devices they needed to do the best they could with education. Again, that sprang up quickly as a broad community effort.

And so crises provide the opportunities for good people to step forward, and we've seen examples of that, which is positive. But I must say we're far from out of the woods on this. And with that, Charlie, I'll turn it back to you.

CHARLES EVANS: Well, thank you so much, Gerry. Those are great observations about partnership, collaborations, targeted initiatives, and big ideas that have been making a difference in Michigan. I know we had some technical difficulties getting started late. So I wonder if everybody could bear with us for a few extra minutes beyond the hour, maybe 10 minutes after the hour.

And everybody has a lot to talk about. So how about if I just sort of combine some of the questions that we talked about, and everybody can take what works best and they're thinking about.

Obviously, Detroit had been on a roll prior to the pandemic and was viewed as experiencing a Renaissance period. What's needed going forward to put the city and the region back on that trajectory? How important is trust going to be for everyone as we need households and individuals to take up vaccination and have faith in all of our leaders? What are some of the long term implications that are going to be coming out of this?

Tonya mentioned school age children and the reduction in hours. Gerry talked about how important it's been to provide additional resources as well for them. What are some of the things that we can do to mitigate that? And Detroit, Michigan has a number of great strengths. What is it that gives you hope for all of the challenges that we're facing going forward? Gerry, let me let you start since you were our last speaker.

GERARD ANDERSON: Well, thanks, Charlie. Yeah, I have to say it was painful to experience this at a time when it really felt like Detroit was beginning to get its legs under it and was perceived that way. That said, I would contrast the experience of 2009 versus our current experience. Back in 2009, our cit, and our region and our state, frankly, were just viewed broadly as broken, thoroughly broken. We were sort of the epicenter of that worldwide economic crisis. Our businesses were failing, literally. Our city was approaching bankruptcy. Our state was in financial trouble.

And I have to tell you, when I met with the investors for DTE back then, I spent half my time talking about the city and the state, not my company. That is not true now. Everybody understood that we were in a financial crisis, but nobody differentiated the crisis that the Michigan faced or Detroit faced from the one that other people did.

And so I think as you look back over a decade, we have to say that we've made progress, and that that perception of us being so markedly different just isn't there. So we're in a much better spot. But again, we shouldn't confuse that with where we need to be. We did a survey through the Detroit Regional Partnership recently of perceptions of Detroit in our city, and we still lag. After all we've done over the past decade, some of the after effects are still with us. And so we need to continue to help people understand the potential and the possibility the region has.

Now that said, I mentioned the economic development activity in the city and our ability to attract businesses here. That's encouraging to me. And I will also say that I find leaders are really clear on the need for that economic development to be broad, broad in the sense that it's got to create those pathway jobs, that we have to have a recovery for the people who most need recovery. And if Detroit is going to be successful where others have failed, that will be the critical thing, breadth of recovery, not simply scale of recovery. And Charlie, I'll, with that, turn it to others for their thoughts.

CHARLES EVANS: Thanks so much, Gerry. Lieutenant Governor, please.

GARLIN GILCHRIST: I think that what we've seen is frankly, while there was progress, and there has been, and that's thanks to the deep commitment of Detroiters and of our representative leaders, that progress has been fragile, and we need to invest in its resilience. And I think resilient is a word that comes to mind for many of us during this year as we think about what kinds of infrastructure needs to be built and invested in, whether it's in terms of literal infrastructure, in terms of infrastructure supports for people and businesses and projects.

Whether it's in terms of the health and opportunity, or the vitality of opportunities for our people, we need to invest in that resilience. And so certainly that is what is grounding our work in long-term public health interventions. But also, how can we do this for our economy as well? So we did see, in 2019, tremendous progress.

For example, talking about both in the city of Detroit and statewide, really, some of the largest investments, for example, in manufacturing jobs that we've seen in generations, whether it's the expansion of the Jefferson North plant or other investments from all of the Big Three. Our auto suppliers were continuing to make big investments. Michigan was recently ranked number one by Site Selection magazine for foreign direct investments.

So we've seen good indicators. But I think the challenge for us is to think about how can we build on this foundation. And also building on that foundation and increasing that resilience to the breadth of our potential, as Gerry described, is really about how we're making it clear to every person in our community that they have potential that is recognized, and that we will invest in it, that we will invest in economic opportunity for them in whatever realm makes sense for them and whatever they can imagine.

My personal story is one of thinking I needed to leave the state to go to another part of the country to be a software developer. I don't want anyone with any dream to feel like they have to do that in Michigan. And so as we are seeking to emerge from the economic challenges that we've faced, as a state, we're working on investing in the training and education and exposure opportunities, and the support for entrepreneurs and people with ideas who may not even consider themselves entrepreneurs, to see that those ideas can move and have a pathway here in Michigan.

And there is no time like the present to make those investments. And so we're going to continue to commit to that because I see, and what gives me hope, is the fact that so many people in Detroit continue to be wells of ideas and potential and imagination, whether it is our children, as Tonya has so eloquently stated, or whether it is the people who have been designed out of opportunity. We have a chance to design them into opportunity. And I think that's what we need to focus on. And then the successes that we've had will not be as fragile or as tenuous. Instead, they will be more robust and more available to more of us.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Those are excellent comments. Gerry's comments on the importance of pathway jobs, yours on the need for resiliency, every person having an opportunity. So important. Tonya, how about you?

TONYA ALLEN: Yeah, thanks, Charlie. So I was thinking about a James Baldwin quote, which basically is, because I love her, I can critique her. And he was talking about our country, of course.

And I feel that same way about Detroit I love this city. And so if I say things about what we need to improve, it's not because I am denigrating our progress. It's really because I think it's important for us to keep our eye on who we are trying to become. And so I would just say a couple of things.

So I love this formula. It's a trust equation, which basically is credibility plus reliability and intimacy over perceived self-interest is what equates to trust. And I think, as leaders, that we have to not just show up with our credible expertise, but we have to get close to people. And we need to be reliable in the way that we are showing up and making promises that we actually are able and capable of delivering them, and not just coming when it is in our self-interest, but when it is in the collective self-interest.

And I think that if we can do that well, that is the way Detroit will really be able to increase trust in the recovery, and how we begin to improve the systems. And as Lieutenant Governor said, and I love that, how do we design people into opportunities?

The last thing I would just say is that I am most hopeful about our young people. There has never been a point in our history when our country has turned without young people leading the charge. And this is so true today, as it was 40 years ago, 50 years ago, or even 120 years ago, when we were in the same state, where the country felt so isolated and so divided and so ununified, when we said more I's than we ever said we's.

And young people's led us out of that, and they will lead us out of this moment, too. So we have to make sure that one, as the kids would say, can put some respect on their names, which is basically that we're talking about racial equity in the way that we are with such openness and such force and fortitude is because we are standing on their shoulders of saying that this is enough, that we have to change the systems. And there is no better time than today.

And I would just say that we, as leaders, all of the ones that are listening and us on this panel, it is our responsibility to essentially become the leaders that they deserve by making sure that we rewrite the rules so that opportunity will be available to everyone.

In Detroit, we have a long way to go. We rank, like, number 12 in terms of racial inclusion as we look at big cities. But when it comes to economic inclusion, we're number 269 out of 274. So there is progress made, but there is significant growth required, and I'm ready for the fight. And I think we all have to be. We all have to be pushing and charging for this and be willing to be explicit about the issues that are challenging us.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much. Showing up, delivering every day, leading for everyone. Those are such important messages. Thank you.

Wright, what gives you hope? How do you think about this?

WRIGHT LASSITER: Thanks, Charlie. So closing out some comments given the august nature of this panel, let me just say a few quick things. What gives me hope is this. What gives me hope is faith in the spirit of humanity. I think that we have a society that acknowledges that we can be better, acknowledges that where we are in 2020-- take COVID out of our frame of reference for the moment-- where we are in 2020 is not our best, is not our best self, is not our best foot forward, is not our best vision for the United States.

And so what gives me hope is the energy that I think exists at this moment that we will do better, that our society is best when all segments of the society are able to achieve their potential. s And the acknowledgment that I think feels different today than maybe at any other point in my life gives me hope that the energy, the ingenuity, the innovation that's necessary, and frankly, the perseverance and will is necessary to change a couple of centuries of progress, yes, but not us being at our best-- that's what gives me hope.

And then, Charlie, the last thing I would just say on the trust issue is that it's really important, as leaders, that we understand that breaking trust in communities is like crumpling up a piece of paper. You can smooth it out, but it will never be the same. And so I think it's really important for us to acknowledge that the trust is a critical foundational element that must be present for us to make success and make progress.

CHARLES EVANS: Thanks, Wright. That's really terrific. I want to thank our panelists. Everybody's done a fabulous job. We got a late start. I think we got a lot of good commentary in today. I do really appreciate that.

Lieutenant Governor, I didn't see you. In the 30 seconds we have left, would you like to make a final comment?

GARLIN GILCHRIST: Well, Charlie, just thank you, and thank the entire Chicago Fed for this series of conversations that I think are really important to determining how we move forward together. And my co-panelists here all play a really important role in moving this region and this state forward. And it's just an honor for me to work alongside them.

We all have ideas to bring on the table, and this continues to be an all hands on deck and all ideas on the table moment for us. And when we work together, I am very confident that we will be able to design solutions, opportunities, and pathways for people to really fully participate in this future that will be more inclusive and more prosperous. So thank all of you for your leadership.

CHARLES EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Gilchrist, Wright Lassiter, Tonya Allen, and Gerry Anderson. We are just so pleased to have had this conversation.

At the Chicago Fed, we're going to work to continue bringing people together to talk about these important issues for Detroit, Michigan, and our entire district. And I look forward to seeing each of you again before too long, hopefully in person in the next year. So thanks very much.

GARLIN GILCHRIST: Thanks, Charlie.

WRIGHT LASSITER: Thanks, everyone.

TONYA ALLEN: Thank you.

GERARD ANDERSON: Thank you, Charlie.

WRIGHT LASSITER: Thank you, Lieutenant Governor.

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