Lansing headquarters of Accident Fund takes starring role in ‘Under the Radar Michigan’

A screen capture from the “Under the Radar Michigan” episode.

Accident Fund Holdings, a workers compensation company and wholly owned subsidiary of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, has added new vitality to downtown Lansing since opening its headquarters in a former abandoned power plant in 2011. The company’s efforts to renovate the massive building and breathe life into the city of Lansing are showcased in a recent episode of “Under the Radar Michigan.”

In the episode, BCBSM President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp explains the combined effort it took to make the project come together. “When we first started looking at an older power plant and turning it into business use, everybody thought we were crazy,” said Loepp. “[The building] has had a phenomenally positive impact on the city and the region.”

Now in its second season, the 30-minute “Under the Radar Michigan” episodes air on public television stations across the state and feature weekly episodes to connect people to their home state.

“We are honored to have Accident Fund national headquarters featured in an Under the Radar Michigan episode,” said Liz Haar, president and CEO of Accident Fund Holdings. “The show truly exemplified the importance of economic development in Michigan’s core cities and Accident Fund is proud to be a big part of that effort in downtown Lansing.”

Find out when the full episode airs here, or watch it on the Under the Radar Michigan website.

BluesWeek: Michigan Supreme Court Order Allows Continued Growth For Accident Fund

The Accident Fund headquarters in Lansing.

On April 6, the Michigan Supreme Court ended an appeal filed by former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox in a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

The Supreme Court’s order affirms decisions of the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals that Accident Fund Holdings — a for-profit, workers compensation company and wholly-owned subsidiary of BCBSM — may own and operate its own subsidiary insurance companies, including those based outside the state of Michigan.

The Value of Accident Fund

This outcome is important to BCBSM. Blues’ ownership of Accident Fund returns significant long-term value to Blues’ health insurance ratepayers. BCBSM uses profits generated by Accident Fund to offset revenue that otherwise would have to be generated by health insurance lines of business.

Accident Fund also generates significant contributions for the state’s economy, and Lansing’s growing reputation as a national hub for insurance companies. Accident Fund is the 10th-largest workers compensation insurer in the nation, and owning subsidiaries based in other states allows the company to compete and grow its business outside Michigan. Accident Fund is headquartered in Lansing, where it employs 617 people, and last year opened a new national headquarters in a restored power plant in the heart of the city’s downtown. This new headquarters allowed BCBSM to bring hundreds of its own suburban Lansing workers into downtown Lansing to occupy Accident Fund’s former headquarters building. Accident Fund’s headquarters was constructed for growth, and it plans to remain and increase its workforce in mid-Michigan as it continues to grow its national customer base.

A separate count in the lawsuit regarding the ability of BCBSM to make capital contributions to Accident Fund is still pending in the Circuit Court, after being remanded from the Court of Appeals. We are confident the Circuit Court will follow the previous decision of the Commissioner of Insurance and rule in BCBSM’s favor, that the transfer of capital to Accident Fund from BCBSM was lawful.

If you have any questions about this ruling, please contact our newsroom at 313-549-9884.

Upcoming Event Reminder

Blue Cross and several partnering health care providers will make a major announcement about four statewide Collaborative Quality Initiatives on Tuesday, April 17 at the Blues’ Bricktown Auditorium in Detroit. The media is invited and encouraged to attend. The CQI program enlists hospitals and other providers across Michigan in comprehensive efforts to improve patient safety and clinical quality while reining in health care costs.

BluesWeek is a weekly snapshot of initiatives, events and other newsworthy tidbits under way at BCBSM

Embracing Diversity Makes Michigan Stronger

Blues President and CEO Daniel J. Loepp.

Diversity is good business.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan this week hosted its annual Supplier Diversity Achievement Awards program, a combination awards ceremony and networking event that gives the company a chance to say “thank you” to the vendors that help it succeed.

The company gave out awards to seven women- and minority-owned businesses whose services have been invaluable to the success of the Blues and its subsidiaries — Blue Care Network, Accident Fund Holdings, Inc., and LifeSecure. Another four awards went to Blues’ staff members and departments for excellence in achieving corporate supplier diversity achievement goals.

It’s the seventh consecutive year of celebrating partnerships with companies that reflect the makeup of the communities we serve and share the Blues’ focus on operational excellence.

In 2011, BCBSM spent $175 million with 182 women- and minority-owned suppliers. These business help the company strengthen its information technology and compliance capabilities, lower administrative costs, reduce risk and focus on its mission of providing access to quality health care to anyone who needs it.

Forging ties with diverse, homegrown businesses is one example of how Blue Cross is committed to strengthening Michigan and its core cities. Another is our ongoing move to the Renaissance Center, which will conclude in June when our downtown Detroit workforce will stand at 6,300 people.

In moving 3,000 employees to the RenCen, and including the Accident Fund’s move into a former power plant in Lansing, Blue Cross spent more than $22.5 million with nine different women- or minority-owned businesses last year. Several of them, including Wireless Resources Inc. of Madison Heights and Alliance Technology Solutions LLC of Lake Orion, received awards Wednesday.

It’s all a reflection of the Blues’ commitment to Michigan, which has now stood for 73 years.

“I think it’s a real partnership that we have,” Daniel J. Loepp, the Blues’ president and CEO, told attendees at the awards program. “It is part of our fiber, part of our culture at Blue Cross to be part of the community and I am proud of that.”

Check out a slideshow from the awards program below.

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Building a Stronger Michigan Starts at the Core

Editor’s note: This piece was originally published in the Mackinac Policy Conference edition of the Michigan Chronicle.

Building a stronger body starts with developing the core muscles at the center of the body. The same holds true for building stronger metropolitan regions — developing the core urban center allows for stronger, more sustainable regional economies.

At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, we believe that one of the keys to Michigan’s economic recovery is doing what we can to strengthen our cities.  By making our cities places of prosperity, we make the regions around them more competitive and hospitable to future growth.

Our company’s relocation of nearly 3,000 workers from the Detroit suburbs into the Renaissance Center is one of the ways we are seeking to strengthen not just the City of Detroit, but the region as well. With nearly 6,000 Blue Cross workers in the downtown business district by 2012, we hope to create the critical mass that attracts other companies to Metro Detroit from outside the region and the state.

Other companies — notably Compuware and Quicken Loans — were early leaders in moving workforces into downtown Detroit.  As more companies follow, we hope other businesses take notice that Detroit is, in fact, open for business.

The urbanization of Blue Cross’s workforce has been accelerating recently. In fact, by 2013, 97 percent of our statewide workforce will be located within the downtown cores of Michigan’s largest cities — Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids. This has many strategic benefits to the Blue Cross enterprise. It will help us run our business better and realize significant cost savings at a time when both the competitive climate is more complex than ever and the cost of health care remains a leading concern for all our stakeholders. Our efforts also have major positive impacts for the cities in which we are investing.

Earlier this spring, Accident Fund Holdings, Inc., a BCBSM subsidiary, moved 620 employees into a gleaming new headquarters along the Grand River in downtown Lansing. This move came as a result of renovating a historic, but dilapidated power station in the heart of the city. It was a massive undertaking fueled by partnership across the public and private sectors. It gave Accident Fund room to grow by a projected 500 employees over the next decade.

As a result, Accident Fund’s downtown Lansing office building became vacant — so Blue Cross is moving in our workers from the suburbs. By the end of these moves, BCBSM will have more than 260 of our employees in downtown Lansing. Added to Accident Fund’s employee base, the BCBSM enterprise will eventually total more than 1,300 workers in Lansing’s central business district.

Our ability to make these investments in Detroit and Lansing began seven years ago when BCBSM renovated the old Steketee’s Department Store in downtown Grand Rapids and made it our West Michigan headquarters. Again, we moved our workers into the city center from suburban locations — and strengthened a key part of downtown Grand Rapids just as it was turning a corner. The area is now thriving.

Consolidation of our workforce in Michigan’s core cities will bring thousands of additional full-time jobs to those cities, while also adding millions of dollars in wages as well as property and income tax revenues. Our most recent action in Detroit, for example, will bring $180 million in BCBSM annual payroll into the city and add more than $3 million to the city tax rolls. In our renovation efforts alone, we are bringing $25 million in wages to Detroit and a significant portion of that will go to minority suppliers.

As the Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing regions market themselves as viable destinations for companies looking to establish a presence in Michigan, they can now point to their downtowns as more vibrant, more enticing places.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan runs its business with a Michigan conscience. We want our state to grow and succeed, and we are proud to join other Michigan-based companies that believe vibrant urban centers are key to the growth and prosperity we all seek.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and chairman of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association national board, which represents 39 Blue plans covering nearly 100 million Americans.

Photos by ifmuth and stevendepolo.

The Long Road to Renaissance and the Evolution of Our Commitment to Michigan’s Core Cities

As I witness the completion of newly renovated Renaissance Center offices, the unfurling of banners and months of intensive planning become reality, I realize that I’ve never been more proud of what we’ve accomplished during my five years here as chief executive. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan has officially opened its Renaissance Center offices for business, extending our downtown Detroit campus from Lafayette Boulevard to Detroit’s riverfront.

This week marks the beginning of a finale of a long and exciting journey for us here at BCBSM as we move the first of 3,000 employees from Southfield to Detroit. Coupled with the recent move of Accident Fund Holdings into its new Lansing headquarters, the journey feels especially symbolic, speaking both to Michigan’s past and its future.

The author cuts the ribbon on BCBSM's move to the Renaissance Center Monday. Loepp was joined at the event by (from left): Greg Sudderth, chairman of the BCBSM board of directors; Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano; Detroit Mayor Dave Bing; and George Jackson, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp.

As a native Detroiter who spent many years in Lansing, I confess that the gratification over developments these past few months has a personal side as well. As I’ve written before, I strongly believe that Detroit is on the path to a new prosperity.

Our plan to centralize operations in downtown Detroit is just the latest focus of a years-long process to consolidate our business enterprise in core cities across Michigan. The process, which includes renovating the vacant Steketees Building in downtown Grand Rapids as office space in 2004, reached a crescendo in March, when Accident Fund, our workers compensation subsidiary, unveiled its impressive 330,000 square-foot headquarters in a renovated, abandoned power plant along the Grand River in downtown Lansing.

While different in nature, the Renaissance Center and the Ottawa Street Power Station both hold powerful symbolism for their respective cities.

True to its name, the Renaissance Center was hailed as a way to revitalize Detroit, a “city within a city,” when it opened in 1977. Yet the complex was sometimes criticized as resembling a fortress, walled off from the greater city at large, and its occupancy dwindled over the years as the city continued its painful economic decline. General Motors, which has owned the RenCen since 1996, was considering pulling its corporate headquarters from the building just two short years ago, a move that would have been devastating to the city of Detroit.

Flash ahead to today, when GM has redoubled its commitment to staying put. Our own consolidation of workers in Towers 500 and 600, once completed, will push the complex’s occupancy rate to around 93 percent. Today’s RenCen benefits from GM’s $500 million renovation in 2004 and the subsequent development of the picturesque Detroit RiverWalk, which opened up the once-neglected riverfront to public access and summer festivals.

Opening up public access to the riverfront is also part of the equation at the Accident Fund’s gleaming new headquarters in downtown Lansing, a city that has also seen its share of hard times.

I can remember when the Ottawa Street Power Station was decommissioned in the early ‘90s and how the Art Deco building cut an impressive, if dispiriting, silhouette on the city’s skyline. The massive building in those years seemed like a symbol of a disappearing industrial era. Its gradual abandonment dovetailed with the steady de-industrialization of Lansing itself, as the iconic Oldsmobile brand that defined the city dissolved.

Today, the power plant is giving rise to a new knowledge-economy era in Michigan’s capital city, having undergone an ambitious renovation. And yes, people can now walk along the riverfront behind it.

Certainly neither Blue Cross nor Accident Fund can take all the credit for these projects or all the subsequent development that we believe they will set in motion. But they speak to the power of conviction and making strategic investment in places. There are examples all around.

GM’s investment in 2004 helped physically re-orient the RenCen to the city, introduced a new retail component to the complex and helped set the stage for the RiverWalk.

Compuware gave the former J.L. Hudson’s department store site its first tenant and brought thousands of workers downtown, which eventually begat Campus Martius, recognized as one of the nation’s finest urban green spaces.

One wonders what’s in store as Quicken Loans prepares plans to move employees into the Chase Tower just across from the park.

You hear a lot of talk nowadays about economic stimulus, and there’s little doubt that Michigan could use a hefty dose of it right about now. We think that stimulus should focus on rebuilding our great cities, and we welcome our friends and business partners to join us.

It promises to be an exciting ride.

Daniel J. Loepp is president and chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Photo by the Detroit Regional News Hub.

New Downtown Lansing Accident Fund HQ Reflects Commitment to Michigan’s Cities

On Tuesday in Michigan’s capital city, a brawny relic that once powered Lansing’s industrial age roared back to life as a magnet for the knowledge-based economy many in Michigan say is key to the state’s future.

Appearing at a ribbon cutting ceremony March 29 at Accident Fund's new downtown Lansing headquarters were (L-R): James Agee, chairman of the Accident Fund board of directors; Steven Roznowski, chairman and CEO of Christman Co.; Daniel J. Loepp, president and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; Elizabeth Haar, CEO of Accident Fund Holdings; and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero.

In transforming the Ottawa Street Power Station from abandoned urban brownfield to state-of-the-art offices for its expanding national worker’s compensation business, Accident Fund Holdings delivered a statement that will echo around the country. Accident Fund and its owner — Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan — have given people who care about redevelopment, urban revitalization, environmentally sustainable construction and historic preservation architecture a reason to come to Lansing.

I lived in Lansing for six years in the late 1990s. Anyone who has called mid-Michigan home knows why the restoration of the Ottawa Street Power Station is a really big deal. Nestled along the west bank of the Grand River, the power station sat idle and decaying since 1992, its monolithic smokestack harkening back to this community’s 20th century industrial prominence as the place where Oldsmobile was born. The plant blocked pedestrian use of the Grand River’s west bank. It sits squarely between the beautiful Lugnuts baseball park and convention center on the river’s east side, and the one major downtown hotel on the west side of the river.

Both in substance and in symbolism, the new Accident Fund headquarters transforms an aging relic of Lansing’s past into a state-of-the-art catalyst for the region’s growth and future prosperity.

Preserving the Art Deco masterpiece and moving in 650 workers now and up to 500 more over the next 10 years gives another boost to mid-Michigan as a magnet for insurance and financial services jobs. Companies like Jackson National Life Insurance Company, Delta Dental Plan of Michigan, Auto-Owners Insurance and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan have headquarters and major operations in the mid-Michigan region. Blue Cross, in fact, is moving its mid-Michigan workforce of approximately 300 into the former headquarters of Accident Fund on Capitol Avenue, ensuring a stronger workforce presence for Lansing and boosting the downtown’s vitality and quality of life.

The construction team – supervised by Christman, with architecture partner HOK – employed environmentally sustainable practices, ensuring that more than 98 percent of the scrap from the project avoided landfills. Most of the construction crews were hired from Michigan companies, 106 Michigan-based suppliers and companies were involved and the permanent furniture and furnishings were bought from Michigan firms.

On March 30, the Lansing City Pulse dedicated a special section to the project. Headlined “Phoenix Risen,” the articles provide a community view of how this project came to be, and what it means for Lansing’s future.

Blue Cross is proud to add the Ottawa Street Station to our growing list of investments in Michigan’s core cities. BCBSM renovated the vacant Steketee’s department store in downtown Grand Rapids for our West Michigan operations. As mentioned previously, we are moving 300 Blues employees into downtown Lansing. And in May, the Blues will begin moving 3,000 workers into downtown Detroit’s GM Renaissance Center from the suburbs.

These investments in Michigan’s urban cores are more than feel-good storylines – they are good for our business and save us many millions of dollars in costs down the road. But they also do feel good – because cities that buzz with workers are cities that attract more companies and more jobs for the regions around them.

Blue Cross and its Accident Fund subsidiary are here in Michigan to stay – and yeah, we feel pretty good about helping bring Michigan’s cities back.

Andrew Hetzel is vice president for Corporate Communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.