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Howes: Ford and the Foundation mend broken relationship, economic boon for Southwest Michigan

Jun 4, 2015

Ford headquarters
Credit Ford Motor Company

It's never too late for fence-mending.

That's certainly the case with the Ford family and the foundation that bears its name.

Detroit News business columnist Daniel Howes has been speaking with Ford Foundation CEO Darren Walker.

Ford and the Ford Foundation had been at odds for years until they fell out completely in 1976. Henry Ford II claimed that the people running the board had no understanding of capitalism and how the fruits of it funded the foundation.

Instead of spending money on Detroit and southwest Michigan, as had been intended by Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, the foundation was more interested in the developing world. So much so that the foundation with $12.3 billion in assets dwindled its contributions to Detroit to a handful of millions by the mid-1990s.

But in 2006, Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox went after the foundation and reminded it of its obligation to the area in which they were incorporated.

Within a year, after a series of administrative subpoenas, the foundation upped its donations in Michigan, starting with a $25 million commitment to what became the "New Economy Initiative."

The Ford Foundation continued its investment on Detroit with a yearly contribution of $12-15 million until the "Grand Bargain."

And now, for the first time since 1948, the trustees of the foundation will be holding a meeting in Detroit.

Martha Ford, owner of the Detroit Lions, will be hosting a dinner at The Henry Ford Museum. The foundation’s trustees will be in Detroit to meet with Mayor Mike Duggan and Gov. Rick Snyder, among others, to learn more about the city.

"I think it’s very emblematic of what’s happening in Detroit, in general. I think you now have both political and business leadership that understands what has happened in the past but is less encumbered by the past,"  says Howes. 

To read the full column: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/columnists/daniel-howes/2015/06/03/howes-ford-foundation-homecoming-renews-ties-founding-family/28451243/