Tom Gores discusses Pistons move, MLS bid and Flint water crisis

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DETROIT — Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores was honored with the Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year award for 2016. The ceremony was held on Tuesday afternoon inside the Sound Board at the MotorCity Casino Hotel. Gores and KC Crain of Crain Communications discussed several topics including the Pistons move to downtown Detroit, the major league soccer bid and the Flint water crisis.

In addition to owning the NBA basketball team, Gores also serves as founder, chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity. He still lives in Los Angeles, but frequently flies to Detroit to keep an eye on developments here. Gores also admitted that he has coached 20 youth soccer teams.

“I was uncomfortable taking this award,” the Pistons Owner explained. “I have so much to be thankful for. I have to accept this with Arn Tellem [vice chairman of Palace Sports & Entertainment]. Arn has really come in as a quality person. Taking a problem and flipping it into an opportunity. I’m pretty excited about the difference we can make.”

Back on Nov. 22, 2016, the Detroit Pistons officially announced their move to join the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena. The press conference featured Gores, Christopher Ilitch of Ilitch Holdings and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

“The last thing I wanted is another sports team,” Gores explained.I didn’t anticipate buying a sports team. The ability to impact the community was huge. We just got to keep doing what we’re doing. I met the Davidsons and I dug in and realized this is a quite a venue to impact a lot of people. They cared about the next steward of the business. There’s so much opportunity here. I feel good about spending the resources here.

KC Crain asked the Pistons owner how difficult of a decision it was to make.

“The first thinking was emotional…geez we’re going to move out of our house,” Gores answered. “In business, sometimes you have to put your emotions inside. Our players and fans were excited. I had 200 texts with Chris and realized we could really partner well on this. I want to get more aggressive on business. Michigan has 21 Fortune 500 companies. There’s so much opportunity. Diving into downtown. Chris and I are looking at many things.”

Last April, the Pistons owner and businessman Dan Gilbert teamed up to announce plans for a Major League Soccer (MLS) expansion team for Detroit. They selected the failed Wayne County jail project site as the location for the new stadium. Arn Tellem will meet with the MLS committee in May or June.

“It’s up to Dan..he really is the expert in real estate,” Gores said. “I’m not that involved in that. He’s very passionate about it. I wouldn’t doubt that he’s not going to get it done. The demographics are there for a sports team. Having coached my kids in soccer, it’s such a family sport. It’s just another opportunity to impact the community.”

The businessman was one of the first individuals to help the residents of Flint during the water crisis. Gores launched FlintNOW and rallied support from business and civic leaders with the goal of raising $10 million. However, Huntington Bank joined the cause and $25 million was raised.

“We grew up in Flint,” the Pistons owner explained. “It’s one thing to give money and it’s another to give opportunity. This is a big job. The reaction has been way too slow. I want to make sure they are good for their future. I would like to find one major corporation to move to Flint. I want to find a business partner to relocate there and give them a lot of hope.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha is the director of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. She is credited as the first whistle-blower to alert the State of Michigan about lead-poisoning in Flint’s water system. Originally, her findings were dismissed, but later they were appreciated.

“Every level of government failed the people of Flint,” Hanna-Attisha said. “What we’ve learned is that government’s role in public health needs to be strong. Public health needs to be a part of all decisions whether it be a water decision, a new field that’s going to be built or an arena. I think we’re at a very anxious time where we could see the role of public health be diminished with weakened regulations with underfunding or defunding of public health agencies like the EPA. We frightened about the possibility of more Flints and the opposite direction of where we need to be going.”

Former Detroit Mayor Dave Bing currently serves as the founder and chairman of the Bing Youth Institute. The organization supports programs and activities that are designed to improve the academic, behavioral, and social wellness of our young men of color.

“Having them comeback downtown is so important for the kids in the city,” Bing said about the Pistons returning to Detroit. “A lot of them could not get out to the Palace. I really look forward to it. There’s an excitement in the city right now.”

Also during the ceremony, the Presbyterian Villages of Michigan (PVM) received the Crain’s Best-Managed Nonprofit award. PVM operates 30 senior communities around the state, but didn’t have a presence in Detroit until the mid-90’s. Since then, it has invested over $100 million to open 10 senior communities in the city.

Beitra Shahollari received the Crain’s Newsmaker Scholarship award. She is a finance major, minoring in accounting at Oakland University. Shahollari has maintained a 3.93 GPA and served as vice president of the Albanian American Student Organization.

For more information about the Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year, visit http://www.crainsdetroit.com/event/crains/3434375/2016-crains-newsmaker-of-the-year

The special event was held inside the MotorCity Casino Hotel’s Sound Board Theatre. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

 

Live entertainment by Fifth and Main (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

 

Panel discussion: “How today’s local philanthropic leaders are influencing Detroit’s big comeback” (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

 

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative is widely considered the whistle-blower for the Flint water crisis. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

 

Detroit Pistons Owner Tom Gores is the Crain’s Newsmaker of the Year for 2016. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

 

Tom Gores currently resides in Los Angeles, but flies to Detroit to keep an eye on the progress here. (Jason Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

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