As businesses and organizations develop exit strategies from the COVID-19 pandemic, the spirit of helping employees and those less fortunate through unprecedented times can be channeled in new, holistic directions.
Consider the $4.2-billion plan to transform the neighborhood around Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit into a mixed-use community of enhanced residential areas, stores, art galleries, restaurants, sustainable industrial operations, new educational opportunities (including the hospital’s recent partnership with Michigan State University), multiple parks and open spaces, and multifaceted streetscapes.
Henry Ford Health System, which owns and operates Henry Ford Hospital, is under no obligation to improve the aging neighborhood that surrounds the health care center. But for an organization with a stated mission of improving “people’s lives through excellence in the science and art of health care and healing,” it’s difficult to ignore the level of poverty in its midst.
According to U.S. Census data, of the nearly 6,800 people who live around the hospital, the median household income ranges from $9,600 to $26,900. By comparison, the median household income of the entire city is $27,800. Put more simply, 48.2 percent of the residents around the institution are living below the poverty level, as compared to 33.4 percent overall in Detroit.
To reverse the tide — the area saw a 31-percent drop in population since the 2010 Census — Henry Ford Hospital is working with partners such as Midtown Detroit, Premier Group Associates, Thomas Roberts Architects, SME, Kirco, and city and state officials. With the recent development of a large medical supply distribution facility for Cardinal Health, the Henry Ford Cancer Institute and Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion, the Holden Block which includes Rebel Nell, York Project, and Soft Goods Detroit, the goal is to build off the investments and forge new partnerships to accelerate
Henry Ford Hospital isn’t alone in driving positive change in the city and region. Ford Motor Co.’s $740-million redevelopment of the former Michigan Central train station into a mobility innovation district offers multiple programs, including recent partnerships with Newlab, Google, and city and state departments, to support a culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and sustainable community development in Corktown, Mexicantown, and beyond.
It doesn’t stop there. Middle market companies like Strategic Staffing Solutions in Detroit, one of the winners of our inaugural Top Corporate Culture Awards featured in this issue, have been driving positive change for years. Since its founding in 1990, the workforce team has supported multiple nonprofit endeavors, including military veterans, the Detroit Mounted Police, Eastern Market, the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, the Michigan Humane Society, and many more.
Numerous small businesses give back, as well. Temeria Heard, president and CEO of Corporate 52 Marketing Group in Detroit, whose business was featured in our last issue, started a second company called Swaggles that sells paw-branded apparel and gift items that she designed. Each month, Heard donates part of the proceeds to support local and national animal shelters.
From small, medium, and large companies to multiple benevolent organizations and causes, philanthropy comes in many forms. The quest, though, is to create even more contributions to advance education, job creation, health care, and humanitarianism.
Or better put, consider the words of auto pioneer Henry Ford: “The highest use of capital is not to make more money, but to make money do more for the betterment of life.”
– R.J. King