Former NBA Player and GM Exec. Cheer Pontiac On During Chamber Lunch

Former NBA Player and GM Exec. Cheer Pontiac On During Chamber Lunch

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Jan. 25, 2017)

Pontiac, MI – “There is no doubt that we’re building something beautiful in Pontiac,” said Vickie Brent-Touray as she addressed dozens of business people at the Pontiac Regional Chamber Annual Meeting and lunch on Wednesday.  “We have the opportunity to bring along those who don’t see how beautiful this is.  If you see the vision, share it with someone else.  A lot of people in Pontiac feel like it’s dying, and for good reason after all this city has been through, but they need to see this vision.  And they need to hear it from you.”

The Pontiac Regional Chamber has experienced a growth spurt in the past year under the leadership of Damany Head, who considered Jeff Fohey to be a mentor in that process. Fohey was presented with a service award.  “Damany let me play in the Chamber, and whoever has the most fun wins.  And if we all play, we can all win,” Fohey said.

Mayor Deidre Waterman spoke about several of Pontiac’s accomplishments and upcoming developments, including the Strand Theater and Slow’s BBQ, the sale of the Phoenix Center, and the new Auch headquarters that will be built downtown.  She also talked about a collaboration with Oakland University to have more student involvement in the community.   “We are improving the quality of life,” she said.  “We had a blight problem in Pontiac. We have conquered that.  We are promoting development, diversity in development so it’s not just automotive.”

Rodney Black, Director of Engineering Operations for GM Global Propulsion System and former NBA player Greg Kelser were the keynote speakers for the luncheon.

Black talked about GM’s footprint in Pontiac.  “When we came out of bankruptcy we knew we had a larger vision to be part of our communities,” he said.  “We’ve got 4,000 people on our campus, with splintered activities and interests. We wanted to coordinate, and think about where could we focus our people and our efforts.”

Among the initiatives there have been a manufacturing day for girls in 7,8 and 9 grade, a “World in Motion Day” in Pontiac Schools to promote engineering, participation in the back to school rally, helping homeless Veterans, volunteering at Grace Centers of Hope, and raising money to turn the former Lincoln middle school into a school for engineering. “We’re trying to make sure we’re a good partner in the community, to help the kids and raise up the city.”

Kelser, who went from professional basketball to a career at Fox Sports Detroit, is active in running youth sports camps in the area.  He also wrote a book called “Greg Kelser’s Tales from Michigan State University.”

He spoke to the audience, including students from Mr. Bowlan’s high school class, about the importance of being able to handle change, and of sticking with situations even when they seem challenging.

After his first year at Michigan State, his coach was let go and a new coach came in.  “I was shocked, dismayed and saddened by the news,” he said.  “As an 18 year old I thought I wanted to leave.  If the coach isn’t there I don’t want to be there.”

He recalled going to the coach’s office and watching him sadly packing his belongings.  “While he was packing up, I’ll never forget what he said.  ‘Whether I am here or not, this is where you belong.’ 

“He thought enough about me to put his disappointment aside and to say the right thing.  That is something that really meant a lot to me,” Kelser said.

After the coach left, Kelser was being recruited by schools from all over the country.  He said that his parents would be supportive no matter what school he chose, but that his father often had given him the advice “If you run, you’ll run always.”  So he decided to stay at Michigan State.  And he decided to stay in the Detroit area in spite of many challenges and other attractive places.

“I don’t know what would have happened if I had gone to any of those other schools, but I do know I would not have gotten to have the memories that I had at my school.  I am glad I stayed.”

Kelser’s story resonated with people in Pontiac and SE Michigan who have stayed and remained part of the community, and who are now investing in the community’s future.

“This city is made of amazing people doing something amazing,” Brent-Touray said.  “I have heard people say that Pontiac is like a phoenix that is rising.  We are all part of that.”

Learn more about the Pontiac Regional Chamber of Commerce at

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