Modified: March 04, 2013 1:00 PM
Penske is a go-to guy for Detroit projects
The name Roger Penske is synonymous with Detroit cleanup and security.
Penske, chairman of Penske Automotive Group Inc., is the go-to guy for many tangible downtown improvements.
He also is the person who can rally regional leaders to support the city.
Penske launched his contribution to Detroit in 2002 when he headed the Super Bowl XL host committee. The game was played in February 2006.
"What certainly started making a difference for Detroit was when Roger agreed to help with the Super Bowl," says Cindy Pasky, CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions and chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, a partnership of corporate and civic leaders dedicated to keeping Detroit clean, safe and inviting.
To help the city prepare for the big game, Penske created the Clean Program -- which still exists, and uses 66 to 75 workers regularly to pick up trash, get rid of graffiti and do basic landscaping in downtown Detroit.
Penske donated trucks and organized volunteers to pick up trash around the central business district prior to the Super Bowl.
"He felt that part of the event would be judged by how clean and safe the city was," says Christina Lovio-George, CEO of Lovio George Communications and Design in Detroit. She worked with Penske when he chaired the Super Bowl host committee.
After the Super Bowl, Penske became chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. He made sure the Clean Program was funded, Pasky says.
"All of the workers that are involved in the Clean Program are brought to us from programs at the Goodwill and Mariners Inn," a substance-abuse treatment center in Detroit, Pasky says.
"They've been homeless people and been through treatment programs. They are people who need those jobs."
After the Super Bowl, Penske became chairman of the Detroit Downtown Partnership.
Penske also was integral in bringing back the Grand Prix race to Detroit in 2007 and 2008. The race stalled in 2009, 2010 and 2011 after the region's foundering economy tanked sponsorships. But recent record earnings for metro Detroit companies put the Grand Prix back on Belle Isle last year.
Penske helped line up sponsors for the 2012 race. Chevrolet signed a three-year agreement to be the title sponsor of the Grand Prix, which operates as a subsidiary of the Downtown Detroit Partnership. Another major sponsor is the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers.
Penske Corp. also dedicated $6 million to make improvements to Belle Isle.
In 2010, Penske created the $4 million Roger Penske Detroit Fund to help fund an effort to get Detroit's homeless population assistance to get off the streets permanently. That program is called "2-1-1 on the Go.''
He also was chairman of the board of the M1 Rail project. He contributed $3 million to help fund a 3.3-mile light rail project scheduled for Detroit.
Pasky calls the rail project a "game changer" because it will spur retail business and attract young people to the live in the city.
And last year Penske Corp. was among the companies that contributed a total of more than $2.5 million to help reopen the Michigan Science Center in Detroit in December.
"What Roger did was recognize the city has to be clean, safe and inviting for it to work," Pasky says. "As chair of the DDP, he laid the groundwork for that to become his mission and work on it every day."
Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
Service: Penske is a “go-to guy” for making improvements to Detroit. He helped clean up the city in preparation for the Super Bowl in 2006, then helped revive the Grand Prix race. He is also one of several supporters who worked for approval of a light rail line in the city.