Mackinac Policy Conference: David Egner on how philanthropy can benefit southeast Michigan

You have to “let the play unfold and fill the gap,” according to the president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr Foundation.

Last month, city officials broke ground on the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Centennial Park along the riverfront in Detroit. This installation is part of a series of investments in southeast Michigan being made by The Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Wilson, who passed away in 2014, was a Detroit-native who owned and founded the Buffalo Bills. The foundation must spend down its $1.2 billion in Southeast Michigan and Western New York by 2035.

“If you’re in the city of Detroit, 13% of our children are getting the amount of exercise recommended by the Center for Disease Control. That’s a pending health crisis.” — David Egner, president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Listen: What philanthropy must do to maximize its impact in southeast Michigan.



David Egner is the president and CEO of the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation. He says youth sports and recreation, investing in new and existing businesses for wealth building, and creating a regional workforce that can do many things are important areas of focus.

“(Philanthropy) can do damage when it steps out of its zone,” says Egner. “So, it’s finding that space between the public sector responsibility and market forces to stimulate and to create infrastructure. How do you keep moving to meet the need and fill the gap?”

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