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."
 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
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."
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.
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.
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
 Jones maintains the money was misspent by Henry's
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.
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.