President of Detroit Chamber talks citizenship

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Sandy Baruah speaking with Peter Secchia (right).
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Sandy Baruah speaking with Peter Secchia (right).
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“We can get our news like we get our coffee, tailored to how we like it,” said Sandy Baruah, president of the Detroit Regional Chamber and former member of the George W. Bush administration. Baruah was the featured speaker at a breakfast event November 28 at Grand Valley, sponsored by the Seidman College of Business.

Baruah focused his talk on corporate and individual citizenship and how it has changed over the past several decades. He emphasized that many people are on the extreme political right or left, but not many people are in the middle. He said there is value in being able to talk with one another without demonizing each other. He said corporate and individual citizenship is at serious risk, partly because there are fewer deep-pocket companies, and top CEOs are now less connected to their communities.

“If we can crack the code of what it means to be a good citizen, we will own the next century,” he said.

Speaking about Detroit, Baruah said it is helpful to have a governor who is committed to urban areas and a mayor like Dave Bing who has a strong vision for the city.

Baruah joined the Detroit Chamber in 2010 after a career in Washington, D.C. He served as President George W. Bush’s last administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. In this role, he was responsible for the SBA’s $18 billion small business loan portfolio. Baruah was one of the senior officials shaping the federal government’s response to the 2008 credit crisis and assistance to the U.S. automotive industry.