The Downriver Community Conference (DCC) is the most visible example of a public-sector organization attempting to generate economic development in the area.

The DCC is an outgrowth of the Downriver Mutual Aid consortium, founded in 1969 to coordinate public safety activities during emergencies. The organization was founded in 1977 to serve as a common voice for Downriver communities, but has since developed programs in numerous other areas, including "employment and training, economic and community development, substance abuse, weatherization, (and) the arts." [57] The DCC has an annual budget of about $15 million mostly supplied by federal and state funds. In fact, sometimes it appears as though the DCC's major purpose is to lobby for federal and state funds. Dewitt Henry, the DCC's first executive director, described his job as "to go out and get a better share of taxpayer money."

Over the years, the DCC unsuccessfully fought efforts by the Reagan Administration to abolish or cut fraudulent and wasteful federal programs such as revenue sharing, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Urban Development Action Grant (UDAG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) programs. For example, the DCC in 1984 unsuccessfully opposed efforts to abolish the UDAG program. "Our position is that we are adamantly opposed," said Lincoln Park Mayor Frank Sall, author of the resolution. "Those are needed funds because this is the way we are attracting new business to the Downriver area." [58]

Perhaps no statement illustrates more the troubling welfare mentality prevalent among some Downriver economic development officials and community leaders. Economic growth does not result from securing more federal and state funds; it results from decreasing economic disincentives and providing opportunity for entrepreneurship.

It is not this study's purpose to analyze all facets of the DCC. However, it is worth noting that when some facets have been analyzed elsewhere, the results have been less than impressive. For example, a 1984 study for the U.S. Department of Labor by Abt Associates, Inc., of Cambridge, Mass., found that participants in a federally-funded DCC lob retraining program fared no better at finding new jobs than unemployed people who sought work on their own. The study examined 1,800 workers laid off from the Ford Motor Co.'s Flat Rock plant, and a Firestone Tire & Robber Co. plant in Riverview earlier this decade. [59]

More recently, new DCC Executive Director James Jones accused state Department of Labor officials of using "tortured logic and illogical justifications" in determining that the DCC does not have to repay $200,000 in federal and state grants. [60] Jones maintains the money was misspent by Henry's administration.

Melvindale Mayor Thomas Coogan has criticized the DCC's involvement in questionable government programs. Coogan has probably been the DCC's most vocal critic, describing the agency as an out-of-control bureaucracy. Coogan has been especially critical of the DCC's intervention in the venture-capital market through the state Department of Commerce's Michigan Investment Fund "We shouldn't be in capital investment. The original intent is not being carried out," Coogan said. [61]

Private economic development firms are able to bridge political boundaries to focus on regional areas in which economies are highly integrated. Such a development would be especially beneficial Downriver given the DCC's involvement and support of questionable programs. Examples of successful private economic development firms include Pueblo, Colo., where the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation began as two government agencies, but was later privatized. [62]