Community Foundation president attends D.C. auto conferenceWritten by Mary Petrides | | email@example.com
Keith Burwell, president of Toledo Community Foundation, said he had “no illusions that I’m walking into a meeting and in a day and a half I’m walking out with a suitcase of cash.”
He and about 200 other leaders from automotive communities attended a May 18 conference in Washington, D.C., hoping to find solutions for communities struggling with the changing automotive environment.
The conference, called “Auto Communities and the Next Economy: Partnerships in Innovation,” was sponsored by the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit think tank based in D.C.
Burwell was right — no suitcase of cash — but May 19 he said it was a “very good meeting.”
“The day’s effort was worth it,” Burwell said.
Frank Calzonetti, vice president for research and economic development at UT, also attended.
“It was good to have two Toledo folks in the same room,” Burwell said.
Detroit was the best-represented auto community at the summit, and Burwell acknowledged the reality of the city’s problems, but said Toledo’s issues also need to be addressed.
“Detroit’s not the only auto community in the country,” he said.
Burwell said he hopes Toledo’s size will encourage federal government agencies to consider the city for grants.
Detroit is so large its problems seem overwhelming, he said, and Toledo is smaller, but big enough that its problems and solutions to those problems will have an observable impact.
“We’re hoping to position Toledo as an ideal location for the federal government to look at” for economic development, Burwell said, “because our unique size positions us well.”
“It was critical for me to be there,” he said.
Calzonetti said UT is “very much committed to the diversification in the future of the economy,” and its presence at the conference was also important.
“We need to see what type of programs are out there [and] who we can partner with, form teams to address a very serious problem of the changes in cities affected by the restructuring of the automotive industry,” he said in a May 19 phone interview.
“There’s going to be a new normal,” said Rich Martinko, director of both the university transportation center and the intermodal transportation institute at UT, said in a May 19 phone interview. “That’s going to take cooperation between a number of partners: the government, the private sector, philanthropists … and, of course, research universities.”
Ed Montgomery, White House director of recovery for auto communities and workers, announced at the meeting that the Environmental Protection Agency will clean up 60 former General Motors sites in 19 communities, Burwell said.
Martinko said $800 million in federal money would go toward cleaning up and “retrofitting” old General Motors sites.
Burwell called this the “first big step” in revitalizing auto communities like Toledo.
He said Montgomery did not reveal locations and he didn’t know how many would be near Toledo.
Burwell said the Ford Foundation announced that it would put $200 million into auto communities for economic development.
“We are hoping that Toledo can benefit from these proposals,” Burwell said.
Burwell said the administration gave a clear message: first, that federal agencies are talking among each other, and second, that the administration is hoping to create partnership among public, private and philanthropic organizations.
“In the past, it was hard to get just public-private [partnerships],” Burwell said. He said the connection between all three was new.
Martinko said one speaker at the conference called for an “enlightened cooperation.”
“That means that everybody has to understand the other person’s point of view,” Martinko said. “You have to understand the situation and cooperate with each other.”
“The first real key to making progress is understanding the situation, and that was really the theme of the conference,” he said.
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