Kresge Board Chair, Elaine Rosen, Speaks to Detroit’s Civic Leaders about Partnership, Investing in the City
Rosen pledges to Detroit the support of the foundation; sets expectations for results.
DETROIT, MICHIGAN – The Kresge Foundation's Board of Trustees met with members of the public, private and nonprofit leadership of the City of Detroit recently at a reception held at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Elaine D. Rosen, chair of the board, addressed the group of 150 or so, recalling the foundation's historic support to the city and pledging heightened assistance for the comprehensive revitalization plan, Re-Imagining Detroit 2020.
"It is absolutely fitting, given our history and our grantmaking focus, that we as a foundation would be earnestly committed to the current and future health and prosperity of the City of Detroit and surrounding region," she said.
Rosen recognized Mayor David Bing and his wife Yvette who were in attendance. And she saluted Rip Rapson, Kresge's president, for his conception of the nine-part Re-Imagining Detroit plan. The plan builds on the mayor's six municipal priorities – fiscal stability, job creation, effective administration, public safety, rebuilt neighborhoods and education reform – and is proving to unite all sectors in a common purpose.
"Like all good investors, we have done our due diligence," Rosen explained. "We are well aware of the intractable challenges that face the city.... We have calculated this is a wise bet, a sound and moral commitment that will pay dividends for the people and the region – for Kresge's home town – for decades to come."
Following a brief introduction by Rip Rapson, president of the Kresge Foundation, Elaine Rosen delivered the following remarks:
The Kresge Foundation Trustees: Our Commitment, Hope and Expectations for Detroit
I want to thank all of you for coming out tonight to meet me and my fellow members of the Kresge Foundation Board of Trustees. I'm especially pleased to have you here, Mayor Bing, and your wife Yvette Bing.
In the few minutes I have, I want to tell you a bit about myself and the Kresge board, explain our commitment to the city, and convey our expectations for our grantmaking.
I am a retired insurance executive from Falmouth, Maine, a suburb of Portland. Like so many of you, I first encountered the Kresge Foundation as a grantseeker. Throughout my professional career, I had been involved in helping Portland-based nonprofit organizations gain a solid and sustainable financial footing. In 2001, I came to Kresge seeking a challenge grant on behalf of Preble Street, an effective, results-oriented organization that serves the city's homeless population.
Two years later, I was approached by Kresge to join its Board of Trustees. The invitation represented a high honor and a considerable responsibility. It is one I readily accepted. Since 2007, I have served as its chair. That is how I came to Detroit and it is through the Kresge Foundation that I have come to know Detroit.
I am one member of a 13-member board. We are diverse in race and gender and professional experience. We hail from the east, west, north and south. Each of us brings a distinct perspective and knowledge base to the Kresge board room.
Four members reside here – Nancy Schlichting, Steve Hamp, Paul Hillegonds, Rip Rapson and Susan Drewes. Susan is the great granddaughter of Sebastian S. Kresge, the man who launched his chain of S.S. Kresge stores in Detroit in the late 1800s and established the foundation here in 1924. I am proud to say we have had continual family representation on the board ever since.
What binds the 13 of us is a shared commitment to perpetuating the humble and generous legacy of Sebastian Kresge, particularly by advancing our values of creating opportunity for the poor and disadvantaged and the communities in which they live.
It is absolutely fitting, given our history and our grantmaking focus, that we as a foundation would be earnestly committed to the current and future health and prosperity of the City of Detroit and surrounding region. For 86 years, we have supported individual organizations and large, multi-partner undertakings like the RiverWalk, TechTown, the Eastern Market and the city's world-class medical, educational and arts institutions. Most recently, we invested in M-1 Rail.
We are very proud of these investments. But, all the while, I will admit that we as a board have been searching for a comprehensive vision and approach for the city, one that would enable us to make a coordinated, far-reaching and results-oriented set of investments. For us, Re-Imagining Detroit presents exactly that practical, well-designed opportunity.
When Rip and Laura Trudeau shared the plan for re-imagining Detroit, we were solidly supportive. This is what we had been searching for. Like many other national foundations, we know the impact of our dollars can be much greater when we partner with other foundations, with civic and community groups, and with local governments. For Kresge, this philosophy and value is most reflected in our Detroit work. We are so pleased our CEO embodies this value. Rip has the ability to work with other organizations, to form partnerships, to be an engaged participant. He has strategic vision and creativity in abundance – not to mention quite elaborate artistic skills. I suspect most of you here tonight have seen Rip's elaborate, nine-module illustration.
It is that drawing and all that it represents that, ultimately, has us here tonight. We decided last fall to dedicate our June board meeting to experiencing firsthand the fabric and pulse of the city. Here we are. We had a tremendous day today. We visited Midtown, the RiverWalk and the Sugar Hill Arts District. Omar Blaik of U3 Ventures described his efforts to drive economic development by fostering connections between the city's medical and educational institutions and the residential neighborhoods surrounding them. Dave Egner of the New Economy Initiative and Randal Charlton, head of TechTown, described their impressive advances – and ours – to ignite an entrepreneurial culture and infrastructure in the city. I know all of you who are here tonight have your sleeves rolled up in some form or fashion on behalf of these and other essential efforts. I commend each and every one of you.
Like all good investors, we have done our due diligence. We are well aware of the intractable challenges that face the city. Rip and Laura and the Kresge staff keep us well informed on the state of the city, socially, economically, politically and culturally. The energy and promise is palpable – we felt it today; we know it is real. We also know, with heart-wrenching clarity, that for the people of this historic city there is too much struggle, too much tragedy, too many young lives thwarted by circumstance far beyond family or neighborhood control.
Now is the time to change that trajectory once and for all. The Kresge Foundation believes in the people of Detroit. We believe in the city's leadership. We believe in its institutions. We are pleased with our vast and varied partnerships with the Mayor's office, civic and community leaders, residents, nonprofit organizations, and foundations. Our investment in Re-Imagining Detroit represents the single largest, most integrated grantmaking effort Kresge has ever undertaken in its 86-year history.
We have calculated this is a wise bet – a sound and moral commitment that will pay dividends for the people and the region – for Kresge's hometown – for decades to come. We expect to see results. The legacy of Sebastian Kresge mandates that we hold all our investments to the same standard of fiscal discipline and measurable results. As your partner and investor, we expect to work hand-in-hand over the long term and, together, achieve equitable and enduring results.