Automotive

Ford Foundation Opens Detroit Office for First Time in 64 Years

by: , sourced from Autonews.com

The Ford Foundation left Detroit in 1953. Now it’s back home as it begins to invest in affordable housing for a this once thriving city. The Ford Foundation was founded in the Motor City 81 years ago by Edsel Ford.

The New York-based international foundation has hired a new program officer who will be based in Detroit later this year, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker said.

Ford Foundation President Darren Walker. Photo credit: Photo by Buck Ennis/Crain’s New York Business

“They will be working from Detroit and working with grantee partners there so we don’t have to have staff parachute in and out,” Walker told Crain’s Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News. “I think it’s important because having someone close to the ground, someone working in the city, is a more effective way to do our work.”

The Ford Foundation president plans to detail the foundation’s work in Detroit in a speech Thursday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference on Mackinac Island.

Walker’s decision to plant an employee in Detroit is the latest effort he’s made to rebuild the foundation’s ties to the city where its endowment was first generated from the estates of Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, who chartered the foundation in 1936.

In June 2015, Walker brought the foundation’s annual board meeting to Detroit, the first since 1948, following the Ford Foundation’s unprecedented $125 million contribution to the “grand bargain” deal that settled Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and shielded the city’s art collection from creditors.

The Ford Foundation’s Detroit program officer will be charged with overseeing the $15 million in grants the foundation is making in Detroit annually, the most of any U.S. city, Walker said.

That total is in addition to its $8.5 million yearly payment to the bankruptcy “grand bargain” fund used to boost Detroit’s municipal pension funds and shield assets of the Detroit Institute of Arts from ever being sold.

Robert Collier, CEO of the Council of Michigan Foundations, said he and others in the state’s philanthropic foundation circles have been encouraging Walker to re-establish a physical presence in the city since the “momentous” 2015 board meeting.

“Having someone who is here is certainly strategically very important as opposed to having someone drop in once a month for a couple of days or having an endless stream of consultants,” Collier said.

 

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