Blue Cross Blue Shield CEO Dan Loepp remains optimistic about Detroit's future

Posted on March 26, 2012

Dan Loepp is a glass-half-full kind of CEO.

It’s a good thing as he and other business leaders who will gather Tuesday at Downtown Detroit Partnership’s annual meeting charge ahead with investments worth millions in the Motor City while a battle for the future of the city plays out between political leaders.

As Gov. Rick Snyder returns from his European trade mission to address the fiscal woes of the state’s largest city, Mayor Dave Bing has crafted a counterproposal to Snyder’s first volley of a consent agreement over who runs the city and controls its finances.

The courts will be involved with a Thursday hearing set to determine legalities and protracted challenges to whatever is decided.

With all that taking place, perhaps it may not be the most prudent time to step up investment in the D.

But Loepp, president and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, who is also chairman of the executive committee of the Downtown Detroit Partnership board, is forging ahead anyway as he completes the move of 6,000 employees to BCBSM’s downtown campus by June.

“Obviously, Detroit has difficult circumstances to deal with, but Gov. Snyder and Mayor Bing are committed to making all of this work. When it comes to Detroit’s future, I remain confident about the investments Blue Cross has made and will continue to make in this city,” Loepp, born on the city’s east side, told me.

BCBSM, which provides insurance to nearly five million people in the state, is one of Michigan’s largest employers with 8,000 employees and economic impact of $22 billion, ranking it behind General Motors and Ford in revenue.

Loepp isn’t alone in his unwavering enthusiasm about the city.

DTE Energy CEO Gerard Anderson, also a DDP board member, is more optimistic about Detroit than at any time in his 18 years here.

“Three years ago, when I went to visit investors (about DTE ) I had a hard time getting interest,” Anderson told 500 people gathered at the Michigan Association of Broadcasters meeting last week in Lansing. “Today, there’s more good news and it’s a completely different experience. They want to hear our story.”

Which brings us back to politics and Loepp. Loepp was chief of staff to Democratic Co-Speaker Curtis Hertel when there was dual sharing of power in the 1990s with Republicans and Democrats each having 55 members — a potential nightmare scenario.

Instead of deteriorating into bickering where nothing got done, it worked. Loepp wrote a 183-page book “Sharing the Balance of Power” about it, which is a must-read for those into the legislative process and how to skillfully navigate divisive issues.

Loepp is convinced the stakeholders will ultimately work out a resolution for Detroit. In the meantime, maybe he has a few copies of his book he could send to Snyder, Bing and City Council for some inspiration.

Carol Cain, Detroit Free Press