Week of December 16, 2002
Snapshot from the Field
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Michigan's Rothwell Moving from ED Roleby JACK LYNE, Site Selection Executive Editor of Interactive Publishing
to GM Real Estate
DETROIT Michigan's Doug Rothwell, one of economic development's most conspicuously successful figures, is changing career caps as the clock rings in 2003: On Jan. 1, Rothwell, since 1993 president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC at www.michigan.org), will become director of General Motors' (www.gm.com) World Real Estate division.
In his new role, the 46-year-old Rothwell will report to another well-known name, only this time in corporate real estate: Matthew Cullen, general manager for GM Economic Development and Enterprise Services - who also chairs the executive committee of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
"Doug Rothwell has a proven track record," Cullen said in explaining his choice. "He brings with him a wealth of experience in the real estate development market and has made Michigan a leader in attracting and retaining businesses. That experience and his understanding of the economic development process make him a great addition to our team."
Michigan Makes Meteoric Rise in
Things changed in a major way, though, on Rothwell's watch. Along with Engler, the MEDC changed the face of Michigan's business climate, making aggressive, corporate-focused recruitment, tax cuts and incentives newly prominent features.
That new face proved to have potent business allure. Michigan's fortunes began a meteoric rise in Site Selection's annual Governor's Cup races. (Site Selection's upcoming March issue will profile 2002's top finishers for the Governor's Cup, the closely watched race for the highest annual totals of new corporate facilities and expansions.)
Totally off the radar in 1993's top-tier Governor's Cup rankings, Michigan's corporate-expansion tallies began to multiply like so many bricks-and-mortar rabbits. The state's 1995 expansion tally ranked No. 6. Then, from 1997-2000, Michigan's performance won four consecutive Governor's Cups.
Engler, lionized by some observers for turning around the state's business appeal, deflected considerable praise to the MEDC's main man: "Whether it's attracting new businesses to the state or convincing other employers to expand their operations here, Doug Rothwell has played a pivotal role in Michigan's economic success," he said.
(First elected as Michigan's top elected official in 1990, Engler will also leave office on Dec. 31, prevented by state term limits from seeking a fourth term.)
His work history includes a stint as executive vice president of MBNA America Bank, a role he left to become chief of staff to the Delaware governor's office - the latter the job from which Michigan lured him.
With GM, Rothwell will oversee a global real estate portfolio spanning 350 million sq. ft. (3.2 million sq. m.).
Economic development, though, will also be part of Rothwell's purview in his new role. He will focus on the economic development of communities that GM considers important in its overall operational scheme, Cullen explained.
Detroit, GM's headquarters city, is one of those important communities in which Rothwell has considerable experience. Many Motown observers, in fact, first expected him to sign on with Detroit's Greater Downtown Partnership (www.detroitdowntowninc.org).
MEDC Facilitated GM's $1-Billion
His involvement with GM was probably most highly visible in the MEDC's role in facilitating the automaker's decision to build two manufacturing facilities outside Lansing. That announcement in September of 2000 involved a US$1-billion investment that will create 2,800 jobs.
GM received $284.6 million in state and local project incentives. Rothwell was a major player in convincing the Michigan Legislature to allow the Michigan Economic Growth Authority to extend tax credits to existing employers creating new jobs in brownfields areas. (At the time, brownfields tax credits could only be granted to new employers.) That legislative amendment gave GM a job-creation tax credit worth some $61.8 million over 20 years.
The incentives for the Lansing projects came only a few years after GM announced that it would tear down most of its mid-Michigan plants to build more modern facilities - with no guarantee that the new plants would be sited in Michigan.
During Rothwell's term in heading the MEDC, the state also enlarged its tax-free Renaissance Zones to include downtown Detroit's Renaissance Center Tower 500 - part of GM's headquarters complex.
Rothwell Responds to Critics Such historic links between GM and the MEDC have spurred some criticism of Rothwell's new role with the automaker.
Rothwell has responded by pointing out - correctly - that state boards make final decisions on Michigan's incentives, as well as its Renaissance Zone designations. And the incentives that GM qualified for during his MEDC tenure were similarly provided for hundreds of other Michigan expansion projects, he added.
Rothwell will, however, retain one facet of his life as head of the MEDC: his home. The 2001 winner of the "Outstanding Economic Developer of the Year" award from the American Economic Development Council (now the International Economic Development Council at www.iedconline.org) will maintain his residence in Ann Arbor, commuting to GM's Detroit offices.
Wife Sharon - Engler's former chief of staff - is also moving over to the private sector. She will become director of civic affairs for Masco Corp., the prominent Taylor, Mich.-based manufacturer of home improvement and building products.
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