Lack of leadership may have caused Amazon to reject Detroit, speaker says

A lack of talent -- that's what Amazon pointed to when they passed on Detroit for a second headquarters. However, one motivational business speaker says it's not the talent lacking here, but leadership.

Shawn Fair is an international motivational speaker and a Detroiter who says we should all be thinking hard about what happened to Detroit in January. Amazon rejected the city because of a lack of talent.

That changed the way Fair, a business man himself, looked at what's happening in his hometown. He started studying why Detroit didn't make the list -- looking closely at companies in our region.
"What we found is that most organizations, they don't have a leadership program that teaches managers how to develop their employees," he said.
Fair, who does 70 motivational talks a year to the business community, argues the talent is here - it's motivating and managing the talent that is lacking.  

"Understanding how to manage people, understanding how people operate and conforming the leadership style to the employees is a critical component to expanding their abilities so that one thing that's not really happening here in Detroit and abroad," he said.

So what is the city doing? A deep dive into the talent pool brings us to the northwest activities center on Tuesday morning, where the city is looking to connect talent with the right industries.  

"We were doing a lot around to get Detroiters ready for opportunities well before the Amazon bid. But what you see now is an explosion in our focus on getting into neighborhoods and getting Detroiters directly connected to opportunities," said Nicole Sherard-Freeman, CEO of Detroit Employment Solutions Corp.

The focus is on data jobs, IT and health care -- entry level jobs that many men and women are eligible for. 

"This is this is not just about connecting Detroiters to jobs, it is about connecting them to pathways and careers that lead to middle skill opportunities. So we got to focus on five high growth high demand areas, all data driven and we are focusing on getting people ready to go to work," Sherard-Freeman said.

Fair says the city's Detroit At Work event Tuesday is a monumental step in making the region attractive to a future bid as big as Amazon.  

He's got a message for them:

"They need to pay attention to Detroit. Because as we expand our leaders and we expand the community of leaders here in Detroit they need to watch out and pay attention because there is something we have to offer. Don't cast off because we are going in the right direction," he said.