Downtown Detroit Businesses Partner in Project Lighthouse to Help Ensure Safety to All Who Visit the City

Banners indicate Project Lighthouse locations that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

As more of our employees begin working in downtown Detroit, the changes to the city’s skyline are readily apparent. The company logo at the top of Tower 500 and the new façade of the building is a symbol that approximately 6,000 BCBSM employees are now working in downtown Detroit. Our Jefferson Avenue building has been given a 21st-century facelift to help accommodate the influx of Blues employees.

For those city enthusiasts who want to work and live in downtown Detroit, the Live Downtown incentives provide the financial backing needed to make that move. And they will be greeted by improved public lighting in the Central Business District of Detroit.

Still, safety is a concern for many visitors to downtown, which is why we are proud to participate in an innovative new program called Project Lighthouse. The premise for the program is simple: If you’re lost, having a safety concern or vehicle trouble, look for one of the 30 downtown businesses that display the Project Lighthouse banner. Those businesses have volunteered to be safe havens for those in need. And, if you can’t find a banner, call 313-471-6490.

“This creates a neighborhood feel for downtown Detroit and shows what is possible for Detroit. It creates a different environment and feel. This is the kind of community we are building,” said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee in Dig Downtown Detroit.

Tip: add Project Lighthouse to your mobile phone contacts: 313-471-6490

Project Lighthouse is not a replacement for 9-1-1 for emergency situations, but gives local businesses a way to help ensure that downtown Detroit is a safe place to work, live and play.

Photo by Dig Downtown Detroit

BluesWeek: Employees Begin Relocating to RenCen Tower 600 in Detroit

The Blues have begun moving employees into renovated offices in Tower 600 of the GM Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit. The first 281 employees moved into newly renovated offices in Tower 600 earlier this week, and another 306 will arrive Monday from Southfield. Blue Cross’ downtown Detroit campus will have more than 6,000 employees when the final moves wrap up this summer.

The submission period for the “Make the Play for Healthy Habits” kid video contest is now closed, with dozens of entries submitted from across the state. Readers can vote for their favorite finalists for two weeks starting April 11 on A Healthier Michigan. The winner, to be announced in early May, gets a school assembly with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford and an opportunity to be a featured guest blogger.

Grace Derocha, a blogger on A Healthier Michigan and Blue Cross registered dietitian, takes her portion-control suitcase to the airwaves Friday to talk serving sizes and how to “live green” with fruits and vegetables. She touts health benefits including reduced blood pressure, weight loss and maintenance and more on Fox 2 News Friday during the 10 a.m. hour.

The April installment of The Healthier Michigan Radio Show examines the simple yet effective health benefits of walking. Host Ann Thomas interviews guests Jodi Davis, BCBSM’s walking advocate and blogger, and Blues health coach and blogger Angela Jenkins. The episode airs at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 on both WJR-AM and WJIM-AM in Lansing. It’s also available for listening online or as a podcast.

In Case You Missed It…

BCBSM is sponsoring an encore season of “Ernie” the play May 3 through July 28 at City Theater in Detroit. Written by media personality Mitch Albom, the play celebrates the life of legendary former Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who also served as a health and fitness advocate for the Blues.

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

Photo by tukanuk

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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Entrance to RenCen Towers to Get New Look, Improved Pedestrian Access

You may have noticed construction under way at the foot of Towers 500 and 600 at the Renaissance Center, where crews have been busy demolishing concrete, moving dirt and hoisting steel. Blue Cross is making improvements to the entrance for the two towers and an underground parking garage as part of its ongoing project to move 3,000 employees from the suburbs to the city.

Crews have been working since May to create a more welcoming entrance that opens up pedestrian access to East Jefferson Avenue.

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Michigan Blue Cross VP Tricia Keith Discusses Urban Revitalization at ‘Transformation Detroit’

Tricia Keith, BCBSM's VP of Corporate Secretary and Services

With about half of its 3,000 workers slated to move downtown already working in the Renaissance Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is playing an active role in efforts to revitalize Detroit. This relocation of 3,000 workers from a suburban Southfield location will bring the company’s total workforce to approximately 6,000 total once the move is completed later this year.

Tricia Keith, vice president, Corporate Secretary and Services at BCBSM, spoke about the effort she is spearheading to transfer employees from Southfield to downtown Detroit at Transformation Detroit, a three-day briefing with local and national journalists and bloggers hosted by the Detroit Regional News Hub. Keith appeared on a panel discussing efforts to revitalize the city with Allan Gilmour, president of Wayne State University, and Robert Riney, president and chief operating officer of Henry Ford Health System.

Keith recounted how, during a senior leadership meeting in 2008, with the economy souring and uncertainty over Detroit’s auto industry mounting, CEO Daniel J. Loepp asked her to look into the idea of relocating the company’s Southfield campus to the RenCen, where General Motors had made a number of improvements.

“We had a beautiful corporate campus headquarters-style campus there but spent a lot of time going back and forth and that’s a lot of lost productivity and time,” Keith said. “We also had two very distinct corporate cultures between the headquarters and the Southfield campus.”

Keith said the company faced “major hurdles” in announcing the move to Southfield-based employees, some of whom had avoided setting foot in Detroit for years. So officials decided to approach the move from a socialization and change-management perspective.

“We took a really wide view of what we were going to do. It wasn’t about showing them what their new cubicle was going to look like — although we did that — but it was about re-introducing them to the city. We sought fun, safe family friendly environments in which to introduce them to the city.”

In addition to winning positive reviews from employees who toured their soon-to-be-new workplace, vendors embraced the news enthusiastically. BCBSM shared demographic data freely with developers, Keith said. A gourmet deli located in the RenCen Towers 500 and 600 “was ready to leave” until learning of Blue Cross’ plans to move in, she said.

Instead, the Blues move will push the RenCen’s occupancy to 92 percent and add $180 million in incremental tax revenue for Detroit when completed in April 2012, Keith said.

“Every day now, we’re going to have the opportunity to put 6,000 employees on the streets in a three-block radius in Detroit, and think about how that will fundamentally transform the opportunities in retail, in so many things in terms of public perceptions of safety and everything else,” she said.

Gilmour spoke about the importance of major universities and partnering health care institutions to the recoveries of major U.S. cities. He said Wayne State benefits from having “good neighbors” in many of the city’s cultural institutions as well as Henry Ford and the Detroit Medical Center and noted the Midtown neighborhood it calls home has given rise to new businesses open and renovated lofts and apartments.

“Despite what you hear the politicians are doing and the mayor is doing, I would argue that we are making progress,” he said.

Meanwhile, Henry Ford is moving aggressively in its efforts to redevelop 300 acres near its anchor hospital campus on West Grand Boulevard, Riney said. The health system has identified Detroit’s economic transformation as one of its top five goals and has an ambitious plan to transform the blighted area into retail, housing and medical office development.

Henry Ford, Wayne State and the DMC are also offering financial incentives to encourage employees to move to Midtown.

“I’m a big believer in the tipping point and I believe we are hitting a tipping point,” Riney said.

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.

Renaissance Center Merchants Visit Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Offices in Detroit and Southfield

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan employees from the Metro Service Center in Southfield will be relocating to the Renaissance Center in downtown Detroit this spring. The Michigan Blues are committed to downtown, urban areas. To prepare our 3,000 employees and get them excited about the upcoming move, Renaissance Center vendors will be swinging by the Detroit and Southfield offices so that employees can learn more about the exciting array of restaurants, shops and services available in Detroit.

Participating businesses include 15 companies. Menus from many of the dining establishments in the Renaissance Center will be available.

Downtown Detroit businesses outside of the Renaissance Center will introduce employees to the services they offer. In addition, transportation organizations – including SEMCOG, MichiVan, SMART and Royal Transportation – will be featured at the fair with information for employees who are interested in commuter options.

What Detroit restaurants and shops would recommend to our employees who are making the move to the city?


Participants Climb 70 Flights of Stairs in Detroit to Raise $175,000 for the American Lung Association

Members of Team Climbatize: Trish Hubbell, Kristie Stocker, Joe Lieblang, Shannon McCarthy and Autumn Molnar (left to right).

Burning quads and searing lungs helped raise $174,764.50 for the American Lung Association during its annual Fight For Air Climb stair race in Detroit. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sent three teams up the 70-floor Renaissance Center to help raise money to fight lung disease.

The Fight For Air Climb attracted individual competitors and teams from across Michigan, neighboring states and Ontario to raise money and climb a total of 1,035 steps for charity. Some 543 climbers finished the event, and the final tally easily surpassed the $138,000 fundraising goal.

Each participant had to meet a $100 fundraising minimum by the morning of the climb March 6. Three BCBSM teams participated in the climb: Team Climbatize, Team Ascent 2011 and Stairway2Health.

“When I saw this was for the American Lung Association, I thought it was a great way to help fund a great organization and grab a lot of other people to spread some awareness of the issue,” said Kristie Stocker, a co-Captain of Team Climbatize. “I feel very touched by this event because I’ve had a close family member pass from lung disease.”

Not only was it an opportunity to support a great cause, it also gave participants motivation to train in preparation for the climb. Team Climbatize prepared by walking up the stairs of Blue Cross’ 21-story Detroit headquarters, by climbing the 29-story Westin Book Cadillac Hotel and hitting the gym.

When her team reached the top of the Renaissance Center, Stocker said, “Everybody had a smile on their face, they all agreed it was a challenge and they were happy they did it.”

Each BCBSM team raised thousands of dollars for lung disease:

  • Team Climbatize $6,962.00
  • Team Stairway2Health $2,345.00
  • Team Ascent 2011 $2,022.25

Top five companies for Fight For Air Climb fundraising:

  1. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan $11,392.25
  2. Henry Ford Health System $10,855.00
  3. Macro Connect $2,414.99
  4. ImageSoft Inc. $2,170.00
  5. Moosejaw Mountaineering $2,161.11

Top five teams for Fight For Air Climb:

  1. Solar Stair Stars/Henry Ford Health Systems $10,855.00
  2. Climbatize $6,961.00
  3. Rockstairs $5,842.00
  4. ProQuest Pacers $4,809.00
  5. Rencensationals $4,531.01

For more information on the 2011 Fight For Air Climb, visit