University president touts Detroit ties at Amazon press conference

Monday, September 28, 2015 - 12:56pm

University President Mark Schlissel was on hand in Detroit Monday as online retailer Amazon announced plans to expand their presence in the city.

At a press conference at Cobo Center, Amazon officials said the company plans to build a “technology hub” in downtown Detroit. Their current office, located on West Jefferson Avenue, will be expanded to multiple floors early next year. It is not immediately clear how many employees will be hired with the expansion.

In remarks at the announcement, Schlissel said Amazon has a strong relationship with the University, providing recruitment and internship opportunities to students. Amazon is the technology sector’s top recruiter for business students.

“I am thrilled that Amazon's investment will create more opportunities for U-M students and graduates to contribute to the resurgence of Michigan's economy,” he said, according to a copy of the remarks as prepared for delivery.

During his comments, Schlissel touted the work of University students in Detroit as interns and volunteers, including the annual student-led Detroit Partnership Day, which engages 1,500 student volunteers participating in projects across the city.

He said Amazon’s expansion will likely play a role in encouraging some students to stay in Detroit post-graduation.

“Over the last several months, I have had the wonderful opportunity to talk to groups of these students,” he said. “Many tell me that the work they do here is inspiring them to live and work in Detroit after they graduate. When companies like Amazon make a lasting commitment to the city, those dreams become reality. We have a great partnership to build on.”

During his first year in office, Schlissel made several efforts to engage members of the University community with Detroit. In August, he hosted an event for University students interning in the city. When Schlissel first moved to Michigan, the first stop on his tour of the state was Detroit. The president has also emphasized efforts to encourage high school students in Detroit to apply to the University and in May, he visited with students at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School.

“I look forwarding to building on this energy as we continue to engage in Detroit — because Detroit is essential to our campus and its future,” he said. “And to the state of Michigan and our collective future.”

Lou Anna Simon, Michigan State University president, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Dan Gilbert, the founder of Bedrock Real Estate Services and chairman of Quicken Loans, also attended the press conference.

Amazon also said the company would donate $10,000 and 30 Amazon Fire tablets to the Carver STEM Academy program in the Detroit Public Schools. Amazon was not the only company to announce Detroit investment plans on Monday. Lear Corp., a Southfield-based auto supplier, will purchase a building in the historic Capitol Park neighborhood. The company will buy the building from Gilbert’s Bedrock Real Estate Services, with plans to convert the building into a design studio.