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July 2011

However You Feel About Brussel Sprouts, Make Sure You Hype Them for Your Kids!

g_ask_kurt_bustWhile this may not be your typical data column, it does feature a Top 10 list and it is certainly related to the declining health status and increasing obesity of our children.

Men’s Fitness Magazine released a new report this week which ranks the foods adults hate the most, stating that  “most people develop their food phobias during childhood but can provide essential nutrients for adult bodies.”  (the sentence reads a little choppy but it is a direct quote)

Recent articles about food desserts, Whole Foods coming to Midtown, and findings that access to fresh fruit and vegetables does not necessarily translate into good health (a topic for a future blog), all led me to think this list deserved a blog.  I have seen these phobias in myself and in my children, thus driving home the importance of parents introducing their children to a wide variety of healthy eating alternatives.  While President Reagan called ketchup a vegetable,  we need to teach children that their bodies require more than french fries with lots of ketchup to be healthy.

Here are the 10 foods adults hate most.

1. Brussel Sprouts

2. Broccoli

3. Fish

4. Turnips

5. Beets

6. Liver

7. Spinach

8. Avocado

9. Cottage Cheese

10. Eggplant

I must say that I totally understand where this list is coming from and, with the exception of fish, spent my childhood trying to avoid each and every one.  I have worked hard in my adult life to try to “get to know” each but have decided a couple (I have made great strides) will just have to reside on plates other than my own.

It May Come From Troy, But Let’s Support It In Detroit!

g_ask_kurt_bust Beginning tomorrow, Thursday the 28th, Somerset CityLoft, inside Merchants Row at 1441 Woodward in Detroit, between Campus Martius and Grand Circus Park, will open with mini versions of more than 30 stores from the Somerset Collection in Troy.  It will be open the last Thursday, Friday and Saturday of the month through at least September. In addition to shopping, the loft will also feature food and entertainment.  Organizers say they want it to have a party vibe.   Quoting from a recent Detroit Free Press article, “With its dark purple walls, rustic chandeliers, marble tile and fitting rooms, CityLoft represents hope and promise in a downtown that is becoming more lively as companies transfer workers downtown.”

I am writing this blog because I want to encourage all residents and workers in the Downtown, and nearby neighborhoods, to come out and support this effort.  It is certainly not because of a love for Somerset – nor a desire to denigrate businesses that have already discovered the importance of locating in the city.  Rather, it comes from my desire to show that retail in downtown will be supported!  I remember former Mayor Archer saying that he finally realized, after attending a number of International Shopping Center conferences, that retail attraction can only come with employment and residential density downtown.  Well – we appear to be on the cusp of that – with the recent moves of companies downtown, the tremendous development in Midtown, and the wonderful live local campaigns that have come under the umbrella of Midtown Inc. and Sue Mosey.

I need to take a moment to applaud those who have come first and are the vanguard of business – the salon pictured above that is at Merchant’s Row; Avalon Bakery; Bureau of urban Living; City Bird; Canine-to-Five; and many more.  Let us build upon that throughout our city.  While shopping is not one of my favorite pastimes, I will buy something this weekend and encourage my staff to do so as well.

As I was quoted in that same Free Press article, “A true downtown is defined by high concentrations of employment, a strong element of residential, restaurants, services and a reasonable mix of retail. To be a major city you need more than just a lot of residents, you need a downtown.”  Many of us truly believe  Detroit is a major city – we just need to fill in a few gaps.

Data Driven Detroit Contributes to the Creative Technology Core of Detroit

g_ask_kurt_bustData Driven Detroit (D3) opened shop in the Barden Building on Madison in Detroit in 2009 with philanthropic funding supporting a plan that identified 5 staff positions.  The summer of 2011 finds us in same location, but with expanded office space and a current staff that numbers 28!  We are comprised of full-timers, part-timers, AmeriCorps students from UM, interns from California and Montreal, work-study students and a repetitive of the Detroit Summer Youth Employment program, and our national exposure brings us daily employment requests from young people graduating from local universities, as well as ex-pats and others who want to come back.  We represent a variety of generations – from teens to seniors – and backgrounds.  We have degrees in psychology, sociology, criminal justice, urban planning, public policy, graphic arts, and more.  What unites us is our LOVE FOR DETROIT and our belief that better information can truly help drive the city’s “rebirth.”   Technology and creativity are the drivers behind D3’s work.  The work we do to utilize visualization techniques for transmitting information readily qualifies us for membership in the “creative community.” The statistical and mapping software we utilize to do our work, and the hardware that is needed to run them, makes our case to be included as part of Dan Gilbert’s “Webward,” even though we are situated a block to the east.

We know that the data business is creative and cutting edge and that the staff of Data Driven Detroit reflects the most current and innovative thinking across a variety of domains.  We have a great story to tell and we invite you to come and listen.

Visit us in the new edition of ModelD

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back

g_ask_kurt_bustThe Michigan League for Human Services released their latest report on Maternal and Infant Well-Being in Michigan – The Right Start in Michigan and Its Counties 2011 – and the results are mixed at both the statewide and local level.  While Data Driven Detroit (D3) will be selecting out the SE MI-specific information for greater discussion on our website, I thought it important to briefly highlight trends in Detroit.

Since the report compares 2 points in time – 2000 (representing the 1998-2000 3-year average) and 2009 (representing the 2007-2009 3-year average), that is what will be reported here.  The report analyzes trends across 8 maternal and infant well-being indicators.  Three of these factors – mother’s education, late or no prenatal care, and smoking during pregnancy – have changed their definitions over the years such that comparisons are not possible.  While comparisons are not possible, it can be reported that over one-third (34.9 percent) of new mothers in Detroit had not completed high school; 16.9 percent reported smoking during pregnancy; and, 4.9 percent reported receiving late or no prenatal care.

Improvement occurred in the percentage of births to teenagers that were repeat births – down from 26.0 to 19.6 percent of all births.  The share of newborns classified as low birthweight decreased from 14.0 to 13.0 percent, and the incidence of preterm births (less than 37 weeks gestation) dropped from 17.1 to 14.6 percent.

A negative trend occurred in two areas that are highly correlated with poor outcomes stemming from low socioeconomic status – teen births and births to unmarried women.  The percentage of Detroit births attributable to teens increased from 18.2 to 20.8 percent.  Data Driven Detroit’s previous research, which you can find on our website, reported that Detroit appeared to be bucking the trend of decreasing births to teens that has been seen nationally.  In some neighborhoods teen births account for well over 1 of every 4 births.  The trend of unmarried mothers accounting for an increasing share of births is a national phenomenon. However, in Detroit unmarried mothers now account for more than 3 of every 4 births (77.8 percent), up from 70.0 percent in 2000.  Single parent households are much more likely than two-parent families to be in poverty and too many  children are growing up in households, and communities, with few, if any, positive male role models.

While indicator results vary across the state and other areas in SE Michigan, it is the “unmarried mother” variable that appears to be increasing in all areas of the State.  Michigan, as a whole, saw births to unmarried women increase from 33.7 to 40.5 percent.  Locally, Macomb County experienced the greatest increase (up 55% from 19.7 to 30.4 percent), while Oakland (up 39% from 18.6 to 25.8 percent) and out-Wayne (up 34% from 25.0 to 33.5 percent) were close behind.

D3 is in the process of receiving and analyzing Michigan birth data for 2008 and 2009.  We will be able to analyze birth outcomes at the neighborhood level in Detroit and across all communities in SE Michigan.  Please visit our website,, to keep up to date on that release and to review our previous Right Start reports for Detroit.

We Older Workers Have Much to Give

g_ask_kurt_bustAnyone who has read my resume could do the age calculations, based on educational background and work history.  Hopefully, anyone who has seen me might see it a little differently.  What is that you ask?  Well, it is the fact that I can easily be called an “older worker.”

As such I am a little sensitive when I read stories of the younger workers complaining about the lack of jobs and advancement opportunities due to the fact that those older baby boomers will just not move on!  Many can’t leave because the economy of the last 5 years wiped out their retirement nest eggs, but many still have the energy and drive they had when they were many years younger.  Hopefully, my staff – most in my kids’ age group – is not quite ready for me to leave.

All this as prelude to say that positive stories about the benefit of older workers are always “music to my ears.”  Such a story appeared several days ago and I thought I would restate some of its findings just to remind my young staff and younger blog followers that there is value in the “wisdom that comes with longevity.”

According to a study, based on interviews with 650 company executives and benefit administrators and conducted for the Bank of America Corporation, “employers are sprucing up benefits such as flexible work schedules and retirement planning to retain older workers.  About 94 percent of employers said they think it’s important to keep older workers because the companies need their skills. Employers are offering customized schedules, education on retirement and health care, and the ability to work from home.   They believe that older workers are essential to the company’s success.”

“If programs and strategies aren’t in place you’re going to let all that talent and knowledge out the door,” said Chasity Miller, managing director of compensation and benefits for AGL Resources Inc. (AGL), a natural gas distribution company based in Atlanta. “We want to make sure that we retain talent and have time to transfer the knowledge to younger workers.”  Workers have been remaining in the labor force longer before retiring since the 1990s.  The shift from traditional pensions to 401(k) savings plans means employees may not have enough income at age 62 or age 65 to replace their earnings during retirement.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of people age 55 and older participating in the labor force, which means they are either working or looking for employment, was 40.3 percent in May, compared with 29.2 percent in 1993. The chart below shows the increase in labor force participation for older workers between 1990 and 2010.  Workers 65 years and over experienced an increase over this period from 11.9 percent to 17.4 percent.

While the thought of waking up in the morning, taking a nice long walk, and then stretching out with a good book in the sun – summers here and winters somewhere warm – is more appealing with each passing year (and sometimes every passing day), I think I am going to stay around for a little while longer.  While I know my retirement savings certainly can use every dollar it can get from my continued employment, it is the excitement of what we have accomplished at Data Driven Detroit in our short history and what we still have to accomplish that keeps me going.  It is the bright, creative staff that arrives each day with new ideas that pushes me to drive D3

Percent of Persons 55 Years and Over in the Labor Force, 1990 – 2010



forward.  We have spent the last 4 months putting together a strategic plan for Data Driven Detroit.  An important component of this plan is “succession planning.”  While I am sure the staff appreciates the skills and experience I bring to D3, the technology and skills that will drive us into the future belong to them.  When the time comes (and, once again let me say that it is not soon), my departure will come with some sadness but a great deal more confidence in a great future for both me and the organization.