John Tolley, January 28, 2018

The fate of Detroit has long been tied to the strength of American industry, the automotive industry in particular. And in the Motor City, one name stands above the rest: Ford.

It evokes the manufacturing might and ingenuity and savvy. There was a time when tens of thousands of workers across Detroit punched in to work at Ford plants; bolting on bumpers, dropping in engine blocks and spraying clearcoat.

But, we all know how the story goes. Competition from abroad sapped capital, plants closed and moved overseas taking jobs with them and blight spread across large parts of the city.

Today, though, signs of an economic and social recovery are beginning to show. Reinvestment in underserved communities is on the rise, and Ford is doing their part to sow seeds of change in the city that has given them so much.

For the first time in 64 years, the Ford Foundation will have a permanent presence in Detroit, and heading up their efforts is University of Michigan alum Kevin Ryan.

Ryan, the Program Officer for the foundation?s Equitable Development team, will oversee efforts ?focusing on housing and community development, civic engagement, and youth opportunities,? according to his bio.

It?s a challenge the native Detroiter and former community organizer acknowledges is immense, but one he is ready to tackle.

?I?m in learning mode,? says Ryan, in a recent profile on the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts website. ?I?m trying to find out what is really happening in neighborhoods, to hear the concerns and ideas from community-based organizations and residents, and to see where the Ford Foundation might be able to support work that ensures these communities are at the table when decisions about their future are made.?

Given the Ford Foundation?s 2014 pledge of $125 million to help fund projects across Detroit, Ryan has no small amount of resources at his disposal. His stated goal is to promote mindful growth within the city, growth that is beneficial to all residents, regardless of socio-economic status, race or age.

To learn more about Kevin Ryan, his vision for helping Detroit rebuild and how one class at the University of Michigan in particular changed his life, follow the link above or here.