News from Sugar Law Center

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Contact: Rashida Tlaib – 313-550-8222

Statewide Community Benefits Conference Focuses on Fair, Equitable Development

“Justice for Our Neighborhoods” happens when community members are at the table with mega-developers

DETROIT – Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones welcomed more than 100 Michiganians to a statewide conference on community benefits agreements hosted by Sugar Law Center, The Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan (EJAM) and The Equitable Detroit Coalition (EDC). The event focused on how residents can use community benefits as a tool to ensure fair and equitable development. The workshops and speakers all aimed to inform people about the impact of large, publically subsidized development projects and how to use community benefits agreements to shape and mitigate those impacts. Detroit has a Community Benefits Ordinance before City Council.

“This conference starts the process of equipping our block clubs, community groups and small businesses across the state with the information and tools they need to be at the table when huge corporations ask for huge public dollars for private development,” said Rev. Joan C. Ross of the North End Woodward Community Coalition and the Equitable Detroit Coalition. “The Community Benefits Ordinance currently being considered by Detroit City Council is a good model, a tool people can use to rise with multi-million dollar development that comes to their neighborhoods.”

Reverend Ross was one of three speakers at the event held at the Detroit Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank. Sugar Law Center’s Rashida Tlaib was the MC. Other speakers included Ken Harris of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce.

“The small business owners who have stuck it out through thick and thin deserve to be at the table when national and global companies decide to come to our communities, said Ken Harris, president, the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce. “We may be in a position to provide services and we certainly want the communities we serve to develop along with any large development that comes along. The involvement of families and small business means buy-in from the community and that benefits everyone involved.”



The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice is a national non-profit, public-interest law center. Sugar Law Center provides legal advocacy, representation, education and technical support to workers and communities seeking systemic change toward economic and social justice. Visit

The Equitable Detroit Coalition (EDC) was founded three years ago and evolved into a citywide coalition with the mission of addressing issues of equity, and accountability in economic development particularly when public dollars and benefits are used for private investment. We work to educate, raise awareness and organize stakeholders and decision makers around community benefit issues.

The Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan (EJAM) is a long-term collaboration of community organizations aiming to build the power and impact of low-income and working class communities across the state. The founding organizations of EJAM represent a wide and complementary set of constituents who have already begun to tip the scale toward progressive change in Michigan.