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Jan. 25, 2022

Reviving Rust Belt Flint with Phil Hagerman

Reviving Rust Belt Flint with Phil Hagerman
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Philip Hagerman started a real estate and venture investment firm, Sky Point Ventures, headquartered in Flint, Michigan. He discusses his $50 million investment in reviving downtown Flint including the historic Capitol Theatre.

Philip R. Hagerman co-founded Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy with his father, Dale Hagerman, in 1975. Diplomat grew to be the nation's largest independent specialty pharmacy, with revenue growing from $25 million in 2005 to over $4 Billion in 2015, recognized as one of the fastest-growing companies in healthcare.

The start-up specialty pharmacy, located at the Great Lakes Technology Center, employs over 1,000 in the City of Flint.   Phillip started a real estate and venture investment firm headquartered in the historic Dryden Building in Downtown Flint, Michigan. The Dryden building, constructed in 1901, was home to the original offices of General Motors, formed by  Billy Durant in 1908.

The Fenton, Michigan native has taken a large part in the redevelopment of downtown Flint. Phil has invested an estimated $50 million in Flint, reviving downtown businesses and real estate. Phil played a major role in restoring the historic Capitol Theatre in downtown Flint. During the podcast, he discusses his motivation and vision for Flint's urban spaces and economy. #RustBelt #Flint #HistoricRestoration #Hagerman


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00:00:26 Arthur A. Busch

This is Arthur Busch.

00:00:33 Arthur A. Busch

Welcome to Radio Free Flint.

00:00:34 Arthur A. Busch

We have Phil Hagerman who is an entrepreneur and philanthropist.

00:00:39 Arthur A. Busch

Your personal story dates back to working in a pharmacy with your father.

00:00:45 Arthur A. Busch


00:00:46 Phil Hagerman

That's right, Art. Yeah, I got out of College in 1975, and kind of an old guy but still enjoying life and still working.

00:00:53 Phil Hagerman

But my dad called me out two weeks before I graduated from college and said son, I sold my company.

00:00:58 Phil Hagerman

He was small.

00:00:59 Phil Hagerman

He was a partner in a small chain of four drugstores, and his next in his next comment, he said, but I just bought it back.

00:01:05 Phil Hagerman

I said, dad, I have no idea what you're doing.

00:01:06 Phil Hagerman

He came out, and he said, well, I swapped my share of the four drug stores for the one new store that you and I are going to come on so.

00:01:12 Phil Hagerman

Get your **** out of school and come help and.

00:01:13 Arthur A. Busch

Where was that store?

00:01:15 Phil Hagerman

Was on beach Rd. Excuse me, it was on Flushing Rd. Originally our original locations were on Flushing Road, and they built the store in 1973. It wasn't doing very well. 75 was a serious economic decline

00:01:28 Phil Hagerman

Long-term and his partner wanted to close the store.

00:01:31 Phil Hagerman

Dad felt like he had a kid graduating college and his son auto just take it over, so that's what we did.

00:01:37 Arthur A. Busch

And you went to College in Michigan?

00:01:40 Phil Hagerman

Yeah, I went to Ferris, which was a very well-known small school, but a very well-known pharmacy school.

00:01:45 Arthur A. Busch

And you raised your family in Fenton or.

00:01:47 Phil Hagerman

I did absolutely in the Fenton area.

00:01:49 Phil Hagerman

I lived.

00:01:49 Phil Hagerman

I've lived in the Fenton area most of my life, and again, I just commute back and forth.

00:01:53 Phil Hagerman

You know, the 15 to 20 miles or minutes.

00:01:56 Arthur A. Busch

To Flint, did you grow up in the city at all, or did you ever live in the city?

00:02:01 Phil Hagerman

Now we kind.

00:02:02 Phil Hagerman

Of lake, people aren't, you know, when I was really little my dad, so the original location was in Davison other than Davison, and our dad's original drugstore was Davison Rd pharmacy and then Fenton drug was original.

00:02:14 Phil Hagerman

Davison Rollers first.

00:02:15 Phil Hagerman

When my dad ran, we moved to Fenton when I was young, and I grew up in Fenton Lake Fenton schools around the country.

00:02:21 Phil Hagerman

For a little bit, you know, living on the lakes out in the center.

00:02:24 Arthur A. Busch

Some people have described you as the trifecta man. You're somebody who not just has donated money but also gives time and talent and your treasure to the city.

00:02:39 Arthur A. Busch

And seeing it redeveloped?

00:02:40 Arthur A. Busch

And how did that come about?

00:02:42 Phil Hagerman

Well, it's an interesting Art, and you know.

00:02:44 Phil Hagerman

I appreciate those nice comments. I do think sometimes it takes more than you know.

00:02:49 Phil Hagerman

It takes more than money, and those take, you know, kind of intensity and activity and things.

00:02:54 Phil Hagerman

And all that came about as you know, my business was in Flint Township, for most of my career again, you said on Flushing Road and then moved it to Beecher Road, and so I was engaged with the city of Flint, but not actively involved in downtown.

00:03:09 Phil Hagerman

You know, kind of living in Fenton and going back and forth to work.

00:03:11 Phil Hagerman

But as we started to grow, the company and I started to buy and move my business into larger locations, we moved into a large location on Corona Rd where there were four buildings.

00:03:21 Phil Hagerman

We bought a couple of buildings, and then very quickly we realized we're going to outgrow that, and in 2009 the Great Lakes Tech Center, you know went up for.

00:03:29 Phil Hagerman

Auction and we got involved, and we acquired a major chunk of it. About half of it and at the end of 2010 we had renovated.

00:03:36 Phil Hagerman

And we moved, you know, 295 people in there and from their art. I think maybe my love for Flint and my involvement.

00:03:43 Phil Hagerman

But you know those you know. Time, talent, and treasure probably accelerated a lot. You think about 2010, right?

You couldn't have asked for a worst economic downturn. The entire country. The automotive industry turned down in the late 90s early 2000s, and so did Flint.

00:03:57 Phil Hagerman

I was getting decimated by that, then in 2008 you had the financial crisis on top of that General Motors nobody got beat up even worse, and so it was a hard time for the city. All of a sudden we had a company that......It was growing like a rocket ship.

00:04:11 Phil Hagerman

You know, we moved 295 people into the building in 2010, and I committed to the governor to get some tax breaks that we met that we could hire 1000 people in five years.

00:04:22 Phil Hagerman

And so, you know, in Flint in 2010, when everything was going downhill, that was news that we had done, heard in a long time, and accomplished that. We did that and met all our goals.

00:04:32 Phil Hagerman

And so I think the city embraced what we were doing so powerfully art it almost scared me.

00:04:38 Phil Hagerman

I'm like, well, we're just one company, and we're just one group.

00:04:41 Phil Hagerman

But they embraced us with such open arms that we started to give back and you know, we created a win-win art, right?

00:04:48 Phil Hagerman

We created an opportunity for Diplomat to thrive in a city looking for a chance. We had the opportunity to hire 1000 displaced automotive workers, move them into healthcare, and retrain them. The city gave back to us and embraced us at every level.

00:05:03 Phil Hagerman

The city and the state both, and it was just a really exciting ride.

00:05:07 Arthur A. Busch

Now your pharmacy has been described as one of the largest specialty pharmacies in the country.

00:05:12 Arthur A. Busch

I'm not sure I understand that business.

00:05:14 Arthur A. Busch

Model, could you explain it a little bit?


Yeah, I can.

00:05:17 Phil Hagerman

The real short version of that art, especially pharmacy, really started in the late 90s and the early 2000s, and what happened is more and more complex drugs for everybody.

00:05:27 Phil Hagerman

Everybody understands the model is going to Walgreen or going to CVS or going into a corner drugstore.

00:05:32 Phil Hagerman

But more and more drugs started to come to market that was incredibly expensive.

00:05:36 Phil Hagerman

And oftentimes very toxic.

00:05:38 Phil Hagerman

And then rules came out that made pharmacy, in general, more common.

00:05:42 Phil Hagerman

Stated the Medicare Part B Part D program.

00:05:45 Phil Hagerman

I mean, the donut hole or people's drugs were covered, and then they weren't covered, and then certain parts of them were covered, and pharmacy as an industry got complicated. The drugs themselves coming out got incredibly expensive and what that required it required pharmacies to start acting differently.

00:06:02 Phil Hagerman

And a group of pharmacies started adding services and capabilities different from the standard Walgreen or the standard corner drugstore.

00:06:09 Phil Hagerman

We started being able to sell drugs that no other drug stores didn't have. At one point, 70% of diplomats' sales were coming from drugs that only 20 or 30 pharmacies in the United States had access to. Specialty pharmacy became the management of complex illnesses and patients with serious health problems and managing expensive.

00:06:30 Phil Hagerman

And highly toxic drugs and Diplomat moved quickly from the year 2002 or three aggressively into that, and that's what grew our sales so astronomically.

00:06:40 Phil Hagerman

And we grew our 25 million sales. You know we were at $10 million sales pharmacy in 2000.

In 2005, we'd grown to 25 million in sales, but then all the changes came, and we went from 25 million to 35 million to 65 million to 175,000,000 to 350 million in five years. And then we went in 2011. I think we hit late 2010.

00:07:06 Phil Hagerman

I think we hit a billion in sales, and in 2013 we hit 2 billion in sales. We grew by a billion dollars in sales in 24 months.

00:07:14 Arthur A. Busch

Why locate in Flint of all the places in the United States or the world?

00:07:23 Phil Hagerman
 Well, you know we started here, and my headquarters at Diplomat was here, and so it made. The philosophical difference there, but also you know at that time you know we had to hire a lot of people in Michigan and Flint, Flint, MI, in particular, had one of the highest unemployment rates I remember at that time that we were looking to hire these people in late 2009 and 2010, the country's unemployment rate had climbed to close to 14%, and I think Las Vegas and Flint were the highest cities at close to 25%, so I needed to hire a lot of people.

00:07:49 Phil Hagerman

I had a lot of people, good, hardworking, Midwesterners that were willing to do, you know, a great task and a good job, and so we hired people for call centers, married people in the medical space.

00:08:00 Phil Hagerman

We hired people to be patient care coordinators.

00:08:02 Phil Hagerman

There's, you know, we trained people who had not worked in healthcare to be healthcare workers, and it was part of what was powerful to me.

00:08:09 Phil Hagerman

Is this community embraced us, and people stepped up?

00:08:11 Phil Hagerman

We were in amazing hyper growth, but we were able to hire people to keep.

00:08:15 Arthur A. Busch

Us out of the curve now.

00:08:16 Arthur A. Busch

The management of that operation must have been pretty complicated from a little pharmacy on Beecher Rd.

00:08:22 Arthur A. Busch

How did you make that transition?

00:08:25 Phil Hagerman

You know you're right Art.

00:08:26 Phil Hagerman

It was A wild, crazy time. I always learned a long time ago.

There were a lot of people smarter than me.

I just needed to surround myself with them.

00:08:35 Phil Hagerman

And so as we started to grow rapidly, we were growing so quickly that I had the luxury of being able to hire good people, and we hired many people at a leadership level from around the country.

00:08:46 Phil Hagerman

Three, you know, they had a Hewlett-Packard, you know, sales. Who'd gone to work for Walmart and was running Walmart A1 800 contacts from walmart.com came on board or to manage a portion for me.

00:08:56 Phil Hagerman

A guy moved from California, that was running a $100 million specialty pharmacy out there and moved to Fenton and Flint to be my head of operations. So we brought leadership that understood the industry from around the nation.

00:09:08 Phil Hagerman

And then we've filled in with people with skill sets.

00:09:11 Phil Hagerman

You know, from the local community, because in the local community of Flint and Genesee County, even in Michigan.

00:09:16 Phil Hagerman

And we didn't have the leadership skill sets, but we had a great working mentality and great workers.

00:09:22 Phil Hagerman

So we just stayed ahead of the curve, Art.

00:09:24 Arthur A. Busch

Eventually, you sold Diplomat Pharmacy, 

00:09:27 Phil Hagerman

That's right, well, we took it public. First, we went public in 2014. Did an IPO. That was an exciting time, and I had never really wished to be a, you know, public CEO, but it was a very exciting time. And it's kind of powerful, you know.

00:09:40 Phil Hagerman

As a CEO, you get to stand in front of investors and talk about the company you love, and so that was a pretty fun time for me, but I retired in 2018, and the company was up for sale in early 2020.

00:09:53 Phil Hagerman

That sale was consummated.

00:09:54 Phil Hagerman

You know they sold the company to United Health Care, it is a top five Fortune 500 company. I think they were a healthcare company in the United States and a Fortune 5 or 10 company altogether.

00:10:05 Arthur A. Busch

This company hasn't moved out of town right?

00:10:08 Phil Hagerman

No, they haven't. Of course, COVID has created a situation where you know that facility has mostly been working remotely. Knock on wood I hope they keep a strong presence here.

00:10:17 Phil Hagerman

I don't, you know, since they bought in. I'm not on the board. I'm not involved, but you're correct. You know the Diplomat entity is still operating in the same location as the Great Lakes Tech Center, but again mostly. Totally and as we wait for COVID to finish, we had Diplomat grew and expanded from a traditional drug store.

Filling prescriptions, we added the whole patient care side where we started.

00:10:39 Phil Hagerman

I mean, at one point, you know, I think we had almost 100 nurses that the company employed.

00:10:44 Phil Hagerman

We started adding home infusion services, and that became a service we acquired about 20 locations across the nation. At the end of my reign, I think Diplomat had 26 locations in 21 States, so we acquired the specialty infusion space and we acquired in the Patient care and patient services space.

00:11:03 Phil Hagerman

And the company that bought us United Health Care has a division called Optum. And that's exactly what they've done.

They've created, you know, a multi-faceted healthcare company with lots of levers.

00:11:13 Arthur A. Busch

Now you went off it and weren't content to just go to the beach. You started another company, and I see.

00:11:20 Phil Hagerman

Well, I started another company ahead of time.

00:11:23 Phil Hagerman

I have always loved the entrepreneurship side of things, and it was exhilarating and exciting to run diplomat as a large pump.

00:11:30 Phil Hagerman

I always did like early-stage entrepreneurship, and so in 2014, I created Skypoint ventures which were small venture capital.

00:11:38 Phil Hagerman

And real estate.

00:11:39 Phil Hagerman

The development firm and we did a couple of projects.

00:11:42 Phil Hagerman

You know, I bought the Dryden building, which was the original office of General Motors built in 1901 by William Paterson. You know from Patterson Coach Company.

00:11:49 Phil Hagerman

And I bought the building next door, which was the Ferris wheel. The old Ferris furs building that building had been dark for 36 years, and so throughout my last few years at Diplomat, we were renovating and creating some work in Flint as kind of a.

00:12:01 Phil Hagerman

Sidebar with my company Skypoint Ventures.

00:12:04 Phil Hagerman

So what happened when I retired from diplomatic?

00:12:06 Phil Hagerman

I put my stuff in a box, got in my car, drove 3 miles down the road and my new office was there.

00:12:12 Phil Hagerman

I never stopped.

00:12:13 Phil Hagerman

And I always say I kind of tried to.

00:12:14 Phil Hagerman

Retire, but I didn't.

00:12:16 Phil Hagerman

I just moved.

00:12:17 Phil Hagerman

I moved locations in the.

00:12:19 Arthur A. Busch

This new company Forum Health enterprise is that telemedicine.

00:12:24 Phil Hagerman

Yeah, we're probably excited about Forum Health.

00:12:26 Phil Hagerman

We're making a lot of progress.

00:12:27 Phil Hagerman

It is a telemedicine company, but it's based on brick-and-mortar as well.

00:12:31 Phil Hagerman

It's interesting because Telehealth, you know, telemedicine.

00:12:34 Phil Hagerman

The term they're using now is Telehealth has probably been moved forward ten years in the last 18 months because of COVID.

00:12:42 Phil Hagerman

COVID has created the need for people to be able to see their health care providers in a safe and in-home environment just like it has with zoom.

00:12:50 Phil Hagerman

Just like you and I right now, right?

00:12:52 Phil Hagerman

I mean, you know, you might have done a little bit of this before, but now it's everybody's life where we're talking remotely, but we are a brick-and-mortar location. We have 12 clinics across the United States.

We're in the process of buying another 15 or 20 this year. You know our goal by the end of five years is to have 150 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States, but we do a lot of unique types of medicine, and so all of our doctors already do Telehealth like we've got a specialist on Lyme disease and things. Salt Lake City has seen patients across the United States, and you know several of our doctors have patients from foreign countries.

00:13:28 Arthur A. Busch

Come in till we've done a lot downtown that it's been reported, and I don't know if it's true, that you've put perhaps as much as $50 million in downtown developments, either by way of philanthropy or for direct investment.

Renovation of the Capitol Theater and other charitable donations such as gifts to the University of Michigan.

You must feel good about Flint to do that. You must feel that your money is well spent.

00:13:59 Phil Hagerman

You know it, it's a great question, and the absolute answer is that I do.

00:14:03 Phil Hagerman

And again, I always had a dice.

00:14:05 Phil Hagerman

Affinity for Flint?

00:14:06 Phil Hagerman

I mean, again, I grew up as a kid in Fenton, MI, and I remember I remember, you know, seeing the Sound of Music at the Capitol Theater, right?

00:14:13 Phil Hagerman

I remember taking a date downtown Flint and seeing Gone with the Wind,  and the beautiful downtown.

Back in the day, my mother took me to Smith, Bridgman, you know, and so I had a lot of great historic feelings for the company, and then Flint Township was a great place to build.

00:14:29 Phil Hagerman

But it's just the last ten years since we bought the Tech Center that we got deeply involved in the community, and I understood the hard work and the grit and the strength of the people in the community.

00:14:42 Phil Hagerman

And so it was easy to give back, and we did.

00:14:44 Phil Hagerman

We had the Hagerman Foundation that gave a lot of money to a number of causes, and then we got involved and excited about buying buildings again.

00:14:51 Phil Hagerman

I bought three buildings downtown, and I renovated two of them, and we donated the third one to the Greater Fund Health Coalition, which has gone live now with a dramatically expanded.

00:15:00 Phil Hagerman

You know Health Network in the building that we were able to donate to them, so I do feel good about it.

00:15:05 Phil Hagerman

But I also feel like we've been able to make a difference.

00:15:08 Phil Hagerman

One thing about Flint.

00:15:09 Phil Hagerman

It's got lots and lots of problems, but the problems in Flint are similar to the size of the city, right?

00:15:14 Phil Hagerman

They're somewhat bite-size; you know Flint isn't Detroit.

It doesn't have the size of the problems Detroit has. Our problems are big, and our problems are challenging.

00:15:24 Phil Hagerman

But if you have a group of a concentrated group of people like Flint has always had Uptown development and a great chamber and some other people that led the way long before me, you know, I felt like we could make a difference with our money and our resources, and I think we have.

00:15:38 Arthur A. Busch

I agree with you 100% on that and have been involved in some of that, so there are a lot of people who have done a lot of things that form the basis of a city.

00:15:47 Arthur A. Busch

And I understand that it's not always easy in Flint. Having been raised here, I wanted to ask you about Flint itself.

00:15:54 Arthur A. Busch

Maybe finish up our interview with that.

00:15:56 Arthur A. Busch

What I've learned over the past year in talking to so many people about the city and looking to see as you have how it can be improved when it seems to come back to is this identity of Flint.

00:16:11 Arthur A. Busch

You referenced it a little bit, talking about the city's character. If you will. The city has a cultural identity that is emerged.

00:16:22 Arthur A. Busch

From this century I mean, it seems to me and talking to people. That there has become a shared identity around this concept of every of people being Flintstones, and never heard that word except in cartoons. Before you know it, until about the turn of the century, here about 2000.


Yeah, I think.

00:16:41 Phil Hagerman

Yep, I think it's great, and I think part of that, you know, Flintstones kind of came.

00:16:46 Phil Hagerman

We had expertise coming out of the city and things, and but I think the answer to your question is Flint has, you know, kind of re-emerged with a personality and persona that I've I'm certainly proud of, you know when you think about it. You know, some people have articulated this.

00:17:01 Phil Hagerman

I'm not the first person articulated this, but many people believe that the middle class in the United States was born in Flint, MI, and cities just like it.

00:17:09 Phil Hagerman

You know, General Motors and things suddenly gave people, you know, serious jobs that they could work hard and make a lot of money at.

00:17:17 Phil Hagerman

And take care of their families and create generational opportunities where you had, you know, a father would work at General Motors, and his son would work at General Motors, and the Son's Son would work at General Motors.

00:17:27 Phil Hagerman

And there was a culture over, you know 50 years.

00:17:31 Phil Hagerman

You know, as General Motors started to build this presence in Flint in the 20s thirties, 40s and that remained strong until, you know, the 80s or so, it was a thriving community.

00:17:41 Phil Hagerman

And it was a tough, hard-working community and probably kind of a richer feeling Community that it was.

00:17:47 Phil Hagerman

Because a lot of the jobs were more blue-collar, you might have a husband and a wife or family members all working.

00:17:53 Phil Hagerman

You know, extra overtime and things and the cost of.

00:17:57 Phil Hagerman

The cost of living was fairly low, and the overall household income in Genesee County, Michigan, was one of the higher ones in the United States.

00:18:03 Phil Hagerman

Because of the success of General Motors, but you know, as everything got beat up badly, you know Flint people didn't go away.

00:18:10 Phil Hagerman

They just really showed their grit, and I  do believe that over the last ten years, both through the, maybe the last 20 years through the decline of the automotive industry and then through the water crisis this Community has shown itself to be tough and resilient.

00:18:25 Phil Hagerman

And while you can kick them down, they won't stay down, they'll keep.

00:18:28 Phil Hagerman

They'll keep popping up and pushing forward, and I think you know we're seeing that now we have a thriving downtown, even as we came out of the water crisis, we got hit with COVID, right?

00:18:38 Phil Hagerman

And yet downtown is still thriving.

00:18:39 Phil Hagerman

People are.

00:18:40 Phil Hagerman

They're still waiting lists for people to move into.

00:18:42 Arthur A. Busch

Apartments downtown.

00:18:42 Arthur A. Busch

Some people identify themselves as Flintstones.

00:18:46 Arthur A. Busch

I'm sure you've come across it.

00:18:48 Arthur A. Busch

In your work in Flint, I'm not sure exactly what a Flintstone is, but I think you just described it.

00:18:54 Arthur A. Busch

I've talked to 100 people, and 99% of 99 out of 100 said Flint was a resilient place.

00:19:01 Arthur A. Busch

Now the question I want to ask you is, is this in other cities around the country, particularly if you look at Cleveland and Akron?

00:19:08 Arthur A. Busch

In Youngstown and that area they've had many of the same problems, and they have experienced a bit of a Renaissance, especially Pittsburgh.

00:19:19 Arthur A. Busch

You know, there are some experts who say that when you see what you've been involved in, which is very dynamic, very fast-paced, it's changed that.

00:19:29 Arthur A. Busch

So my question is.

00:19:30 Arthur A. Busch

Is the collective memory of Flint a problem for somebody like you who wants to take Flint in a new direction?

00:19:36 Phil Hagerman

Well, know you said a couple of things I want to circle back a little bit to the Flintstone thing and then talk about the reinvention.

00:19:42 Phil Hagerman

You know,  when you ask what kind of water flintstone is, there's a great T-shirt you can buy in Flint.

00:19:47 Phil Hagerman

And I actually sell them in our shop downstairs, and it says Flint, and then it describes it in Flint is one of the hardest stones you know of all kind, right?

00:19:55 Phil Hagerman

It's one of the hardest, most resilient stones.

00:19:58 Phil Hagerman

Think about Flint with a lighter and stuff.

00:19:59 Phil Hagerman

It can generate sparks, and it.

00:20:01 Phil Hagerman

And create fire, and so that's part of this whole name of Flintstone is it's the strength of the Flint as a type of stone.

00:20:08 Phil Hagerman

The strength, resilience, and sparks of that stone in terms of reinvention and things.

00:20:14 Phil Hagerman

I think there are some challenges.

00:20:16 Phil Hagerman

You know, we have to.

00:20:17 Phil Hagerman

You know if if if we're going to be a collective group of people, you know we.

00:20:21 Phil Hagerman

We have to.

00:20:22 Phil Hagerman

Recognize the good and the bad things that have happened, but I don't think we always have to embrace the bad things over time, right?

00:20:29 Phil Hagerman

I don't ever want to say anything about it.

00:20:30 Phil Hagerman

The water crisis.

00:20:31 Phil Hagerman

To diminish the challenges it created for.

00:20:33 Phil Hagerman

The people that were involved in it.

00:20:35 Phil Hagerman

But I think we have to recognize that a lot of challenges and things were done and the city has worked hard to move beyond that; almost all the pipes are replaced now and we're probably over the next two to three years.

00:20:46 Phil Hagerman

We'll have some of the best water integrity of any older city in the United States, so Flint was considered the Canary in the coal mine regarding water risk and things.

00:20:55 Phil Hagerman

But now we're going to be considered, you know, a path of other cities to be able to move forward.

00:21:00 Phil Hagerman

So I don't think we forget the bad things that happened, but I think in the process of reinvention, we have to grab on to what our strength was in the past, which was the strength of our people and our hard-working Midwest mentality.

00:21:13 Phil Hagerman

And we have to look at resilience as part of the reinvention.

00:21:16 Phil Hagerman

And so I, I believe that we don't have to leave our paths.

00:21:20 Phil Hagerman

Behind, I'm not a believer that to reinvent Flint, we must become something new and different.

00:21:26 Phil Hagerman

I think we have to embrace the hard-working maker space ethic that we have.

00:21:30 Phil Hagerman

We made things right.

00:21:31 Phil Hagerman

We did things with our hands, and we.

00:21:33 Phil Hagerman

Did a lot of that.

00:21:34 Phil Hagerman

We have to diversify this city.

00:21:36 Phil Hagerman

We can't just be an automotive company, and we're not now.

00:21:38 Phil Hagerman

We're becoming a healthcare community or becoming a technology community.

00:21:42 Phil Hagerman

We're becoming a more diverse community.

00:21:45 Phil Hagerman

But that work ethic still carries on, so I just think the reinvention needs to embrace what was great about your community and not hide the fact that we had our challenges.

00:21:55 Arthur A. Busch

As part of its cultural identity as a city, it has become well known through decades, maybe more than 100 years. At this point, almost.

00:22:05 Arthur A. Busch

Labor rights, human rights. The city even celebrates a strike over the years. Like you, I've been involved in economic development activities as a chairman of the County Board's Economic Development Committee for six years. I've served on the Planning Commission for the county some. Some of the marketing people that we've come across over those years.

00:22:25 Arthur A. Busch

Of my 2 decades in government, some of these professionals wanted Flint to forget about its long history of activism and civil rights and fighting for things such as housing equality.

00:22:38 Arthur A. Busch

When you look at the Flint water crisis.

00:22:41 Arthur A. Busch

And you look at the legacy of activism in the city of Flint and in the in the area itself.

00:22:47 Arthur A. Busch

It's that activism that has brought the water crisis to the far.

00:22:52 Arthur A. Busch

I mean, there.

00:22:53 Arthur A. Busch

Probably we probably wouldn't be talking about a water crisis if it hadn't been for the unwillingness to take no to the answer.

00:23:01 Arthur A. Busch

My water.

00:23:01 Arthur A. Busch

Most, you know, bad, and it tastes like turpentine and you know it's when people don't go get lost.

00:23:09 Arthur A. Busch

That's not the spirit of Flint.

00:23:11 Arthur A. Busch

They don't just go get lost.

00:23:13 Arthur A. Busch

I mean, that was kind of dumb on on their part.

00:23:16 Arthur A. Busch

But when you look at what what I'm trying to say here, Phil is, you're not constrained by any of this.

00:23:22 Arthur A. Busch

Is there room in your vision for Flint to incorporate those kinds of things that give enough room in the long term?

00:23:30 Arthur A. Busch

Or I?

00:23:31 Arthur A. Busch

I guess not just you specifically, but the city itself and and how.

00:23:36 Arthur A. Busch

People are trying to change it.

00:23:38 Arthur A. Busch

Is there enough room to incorporate those kinds of things so that we don't lose?

00:23:43 Arthur A. Busch

We don't lose the energy as a collective.

00:23:46 Arthur A. Busch

We don't lose the Flintstones.

00:23:47 Phil Hagerman

Yeah, I absolutely think there is, and, instead of being constrained, I think there's an opportunity to be able to feel empowered by it.

00:23:54 Phil Hagerman

You know, again, if you've got good, hard working people who want to take care of their families.

00:23:59 Phil Hagerman

Feel again this whole idea of the birthplace of the middle class.

00:24:03 Phil Hagerman

It was.

00:24:03 Phil Hagerman

It was a great place for parents to raise children, you know.

00:24:07 Phil Hagerman

With good schools and with you know with good jobs.

00:24:12 Phil Hagerman

And with you know a level of fluency that the middle class you know, kind of subscribe to it.

00:24:16 Phil Hagerman

I don't think you ever need to lose any of that, and because we had our own challenges and problems, that's empowering the the idea of coming back from a challenge.

00:24:26 Phil Hagerman

You know if if everything is always easy and good all the time, it's hard to grow, right?

00:24:30 Phil Hagerman

But when you have significant challenges.

00:24:33 Phil Hagerman

Those are the opportunities in the times for people to separate and step up and grow, whether they're activists or in the dust.

00:24:40 Phil Hagerman

Trilhos, regardless of who they are, and I think that's where Flint's at right now, so I feel empowered by the past history and, you know, supported by others in the community. And you know, anything I've ever wanted to do in this community to improve it.

00:24:53 Phil Hagerman

I have never lacked people standing next to me and say, where's my role, right?

00:24:58 Phil Hagerman

I I don't have to leave this charge.

00:24:59 Phil Hagerman

I just have to be part of the.

00:25:01 Phil Hagerman

You know the front line, and there's a strong front line here that's been driving this, many of them long before me.

00:25:06 Phil Hagerman

Most of them still here guys like Phil Schultz and.

00:25:09 Phil Hagerman

You know Tim Herman?

00:25:11 Phil Hagerman

You know in Ridgeway and and the Mott Foundation, you know many, many more people that have been in this community for a long time.

00:25:17 Phil Hagerman

Building things and creating opportunities.

00:25:20 Arthur A. Busch

There's a couple things that worry me about Flint today.

00:25:23 Arthur A. Busch

I don't know if they're what worry you, but I'll share it with you.

00:25:26 Arthur A. Busch

One of the things I'm worried about is there there's.

00:25:29 Arthur A. Busch

Been a significant change in the region, in other words, Flint's adopted. This flintstone thing is not just the city of Flint thing; it's a regional identity that's emerged.

00:25:39 Arthur A. Busch

It's a; it's a point of pride.

00:25:40 Arthur A. Busch

You know those basketball players were champions people have taken that to their own, 'cause they've taken the toughness there is.

00:25:48 Arthur A. Busch

Billions, they've taken this on to their own, and I talked to an expert the other day in Germany.

00:25:54 Arthur A. Busch

A professor who studies these kinds of things and he says, you know, it has it's it's birth in in sort of a populism that's emerged throughout the world, not just in industrial places.

00:26:08 Arthur A. Busch

Like Nuremberg, Germany, where he did a study but also in Flint, and we talked.

00:26:14 Arthur A. Busch

Some of the political people they've seen significant shifts in the way people view.

00:26:22 Arthur A. Busch

Not just politics, but development and so forth.

00:26:25 Arthur A. Busch

So the the flintstone thing may have some limitations, and it could be.

00:26:30 Arthur A. Busch

It could get it.

00:26:31 Arthur A. Busch

It could get to a point where if the Flintstones.

00:26:34 Arthur A. Busch

Get frustrated that that might be, you know, it's a.

00:26:37 Arthur A. Busch

It's a point of great strength and could also be a point of problems as maybe their picture of the city and how to redesign the urban.

00:26:48 Arthur A. Busch

space, it gets done and they feel alienated by that.

00:26:53 Arthur A. Busch

There are 2 approaches.

00:26:55 Arthur A. Busch

One is to raise it or move away and give up.

00:26:58 Arthur A. Busch

Given that's one worry I have, and from a public safety point of view, that worried me a lot for quite a few years.

00:27:06 Arthur A. Busch

I'm interested in what you worry about, 'cause I'm sure your worries.

00:27:09 Arthur A. Busch

They're a lot different focus than mine.

00:27:11 Arthur A. Busch

That is about the city itself or and when I say the city, I mean the whole place.

00:27:15 Arthur A. Busch

I mean just the region itself.

00:27:17 Phil Hagerman

Yeah, we are doing business form health.

00:27:18 Phil Hagerman

As you know, creating a business you know nationally, and yet we moved the headquarters of Form Health in the last the year the headquarters of Form Health were split between Chicago and Salt Lake City, and we moved it up.

00:27:29 Phil Hagerman

Here we moved our call center to the fifth floor of the Dryden Building, where now I've got.

00:27:33 Phil Hagerman

A dozen employees?

00:27:34 Phil Hagerman

You know, on the phones answering calls from all across.

00:27:37 Phil Hagerman

The country and again part of that is because we believe in the work ethic and we believe in the in the workforce in this.

00:27:43 Phil Hagerman

Unity, but I mean from from my point of view it's a case of, and I love the, you know, kind of that, that cultural feel of the Flintstones.

00:27:51 Phil Hagerman

But it's more than that.

00:27:52 Phil Hagerman

I don't think that's just what it is.

00:27:54 Phil Hagerman

I think it's really about a resilient community that was, you know, people that were, you know, hard worked and proud and tool and die and make.

00:28:03 Phil Hagerman

For space and trying to, you know, get kind of reinvent themselves and and reinvent the city in several different ways.

00:28:10 Phil Hagerman

I don't think it's I don't think it's single faceted art.

00:28:12 Phil Hagerman

I think it's multi.

00:28:13 Phil Hagerman

Faceted, and we've been blessed to have such strong organizations like the Charles Stewart Mott and the Ruth Mott Foundation, and what we've tried to do here are with downtown is, you know, his downtown kind of led, the redevelopment that did create some fractioning because you know you've got the North End.

00:28:29 Phil Hagerman

Flint and the east side of Flint still have some of their struggles and crime.

00:28:33 Phil Hagerman

Higher in those areas, you know, they reached the point where the downtown crime was low and in the periphery.

00:28:39 Phil Hagerman

Like a lot of communities, crime and great gang activity are high.

00:28:42 Phil Hagerman

I don't think anybody in this community, particularly philanthropic groups around here, gave up on the periphery of Flint.

00:28:49 Phil Hagerman

And so it's two things I think we've done a good job in the last five.

00:28:52 Phil Hagerman

Five years strengthening the North End.

00:28:55 Phil Hagerman

Bernstein Fieldhouse.

00:28:57 Phil Hagerman

Other programs like that through support from Mott through support from even the Hagerman Foundation.

00:29:03 Phil Hagerman

But then the other thing art that I think was important to Flint to help strengthen its identity was to win the suburbs back; right when I was young, everybody came to Flint.

00:29:13 Phil Hagerman

It was the city, but then after some time, if you lived by Linden and Fenton and everything, you went down to Ann Arbor or Brighton, and if you lived up north, you went to, you know.

00:29:25 Phil Hagerman

You know, some of the cities up North Bridgeport or where the malls were up there and so.

00:29:31 Phil Hagerman

What we've done in Flint?

00:29:32 Phil Hagerman

I think by bringing the Capitol theater back, having one of the top farmer's markets in the country back by having U of M Flint thriving so much in the last few years.

00:29:40 Phil Hagerman

As we've also worked to bring the suburbs back right, and you know, when the Capitol Theater was running before COVID, I heard people say, Oh my gosh, that was an incredible concert.

00:29:52 Phil Hagerman

I haven't been, you know, JJ Grey is here, right?

00:29:54 Phil Hagerman

I haven't been to downtown Flint in 20 years.

00:29:56 Phil Hagerman

I went to dinner.

00:29:57 Phil Hagerman

I went to a concert. I can't believe how great Flint is now.

00:30:00 Phil Hagerman

So it's really a case of using all of the capabilities Flint has to go beyond just a single personality of Flintstones and emerge as a cultural city in the small Midwestern city that people love to enjoy.

00:30:15 Arthur A. Busch

Right now, that brings me to the next notion because Flint is more than its downtown.

00:30:21 Arthur A. Busch

And you will know that its infrastructure is underutilized, inefficient, and expensive.

00:30:28 Arthur A. Busch

Uh, so it's sort of like owning a, you know, a 20,000 square foot house when you only have you and your wife.

00:30:35 Arthur A. Busch

I mean, it doesn't make sense, so the city asked to at some point.

00:30:39 Arthur A. Busch

Shrink, I mean.

00:30:40 Arthur A. Busch

I know that's a naughty word in some parts of town or this country. Still, the reality is we've got about 600 miles of water lines and other storm sewer lines and so forth, and the best guess of some of the experts say is a city at its current population or even less would only need about 300 miles of those lines. Some people claim the cost of repairing that's 300,000,000.

00:31:09 Arthur A. Busch

Dollars, do you have any opinions about Flint's efforts to the right size?

00:31:15 Arthur A. Busch

And so.

00:31:16 Phil Hagerman

Yeah, I do.

00:31:16 Phil Hagerman

I  don't.

00:31:17 Phil Hagerman

It's not an easy answer and not a one-time solution, right?

00:31:21 Phil Hagerman

It's a process that takes place over time, and I think you know a couple of things that are happening.

00:31:26 Phil Hagerman

The most important thing is to stabilize the city, so it's not continuing to lose population.

00:31:31 Phil Hagerman

I think stabilization has happened, and we're losing a lot fewer people.

00:31:35 Phil Hagerman

Then we did before.

00:31:36 Phil Hagerman

I think the next thing is how do you bring people back into the downtowns?

00:31:40 Phil Hagerman

You know, there's a lot of interest.

00:31:41 Phil Hagerman

There was a tremendous amount of interest in moving downtown.

00:31:45 Phil Hagerman

COVID has changed that a little bit.

00:31:47 Phil Hagerman

You know.

00:31:47 Phil Hagerman

People kind of fled from downtowns because of the traffic.

00:31:49 Phil Hagerman

I think that's going to reverse itself fairly quickly, so art.

00:31:52 Phil Hagerman

I think it is.

00:31:53 Phil Hagerman

You know those are elephant-sized problems and the way you fix them.

00:31:56 Phil Hagerman

One bite at a time.

00:31:57 Phil Hagerman

I'm right; we aren't going to fix, you know, 600 miles right away, but I think what you've got to do is you've got to put your time and effort and money where it makes the most amount of difference.

00:32:08 Phil Hagerman

And I think in Flint, they've done that by stabilizing communities like the North End with strong programs like BURNSTONE with stabilizing the downtown traffic.

00:32:18 Phil Hagerman

And bring it as a draw with things like the farmers market and the capital and then one by one.

00:32:24 Phil Hagerman

You know downtown, for example, less than a year ago, we opened a brand new hotel six months ago.

00:32:28 Phil Hagerman

Let's try.

00:32:28 Phil Hagerman

Driving, and so I think that it's a case of, you know, not being afraid of the problems, not burying your head in the ground, and not recognizing.

00:32:37 Phil Hagerman

Recognizing that we can't fix malls overnight, right, and just take them on as we can. Even it's even the challenges of COVID have created some financial opportunities for cities like ours to.

00:32:41 Arthur A. Busch


00:32:48 Phil Hagerman

Be able to.

00:32:49 Phil Hagerman

Taking advantage of the water crisis is damaging as it was created.

00:32:53 Phil Hagerman

A lot of capital inflow into Flint allowed us to do some of that infrastructure change.

00:32:59 Phil Hagerman

You know COVID will create some infrastructure opportunities for cities and some of the new money comes to the city.

00:33:05 Phil Hagerman

To help them be, you know, reinvigorated, we just have to be smart with what we do, and we have to learn from past mistakes, Art, and you know, try and make a difference in the future.

00:33:13 Arthur A. Busch

Can't can Flint ultimately be saved as a viable, efficient?

00:33:18 Arthur A. Busch

You know working place?

00:33:19 Arthur A. Busch

I mean it.

00:33:20 Arthur A. Busch

I understand what you've done downtown, that I'm not diminishing, that I'm asking a more serious question.

00:33:28 Arthur A. Busch

Flint has to be a viable entity in a lot of spheres, and have to be able to deliver Public Utilities and to do it safely, to have public roads that you know are maintained and and and have some ability and to have a government that functions.

00:33:48 Arthur A. Busch

My opinion at this point is that government is dysfunctional at many levels.

00:33:54 Arthur A. Busch

Is it possible to fix these problems?

00:33:57 Arthur A. Busch

In your opinion?

00:33:58 Arthur A. Busch

You're not being a Mystic guy yet, but I'd like to hear your opinion about it.



00:34:04 Phil Hagerman

Well, I'm going to.

00:34:04 Phil Hagerman

I'm going to couch my opinion to start with my heart and tell you that I'm an internal optimist.


I say the.

00:34:11 Phil Hagerman

The glass is half full, and I usually think of champagne, so you know those are big challenges.

00:34:17 Phil Hagerman

But first of all, I think from a philosophical national.

00:34:20 Phil Hagerman

The trouble we have to have our cities like Flint, MI strengthened and to your point, cities like Flint and other cities like us.

00:34:28 Phil Hagerman

I was in Youngstown recently; they added a technology Incubator where we were doing a pitch contest that was one of the judges in a pitch contest a year ago just before COVID.

00:34:41 Phil Hagerman

You know Pittsburgh is a good example.

00:34:43 Phil Hagerman

Cleveland is an incredible example.

00:34:45 Phil Hagerman

Even Grand Rapids.

00:34:46 Phil Hagerman

When you look at how thriving grand Rapids is today.

00:34:49 Phil Hagerman

In the 80s, in the early 90s, Grand Rapids had its challenges as well, but that downtown just turned around in July, and it was so far ahead.

00:34:58 Phil Hagerman

Look at Detroit and what Dan Gilbert and his group did.

00:35:01 Phil Hagerman

Detroit is probably 5 to 8 years ahead.

00:35:04 Phil Hagerman

Of where we're.

00:35:04 Phil Hagerman

At and so.

00:35:05 Phil Hagerman

Again, none of those cities turned around overnight.

00:35:08 Phil Hagerman

Most of them took the resilience of the people.

00:35:11 Phil Hagerman

One bite, one step at a time.

00:35:13 Phil Hagerman

So I think in cities like Flint,  we have to get enough support from the federal government.

00:35:18 Phil Hagerman

But we have to be smart.

00:35:19 Phil Hagerman

Internally, too, you know.

00:35:20 Phil Hagerman

Our mayor is doing a great job, and it's not easy.

00:35:23 Phil Hagerman

Our dysfunctional government is less dysfunctional now than it used to be.

00:35:28 Phil Hagerman

I think that there's better alignment in the community than there's been before.

00:35:31 Phil Hagerman

Is it all good yet?

00:35:32 Phil Hagerman

Art, probably.

00:35:33 Phil Hagerman

Not, and probably some people may think we're less aligned now than we used to be, but I see less of the fight between downtown and the suburbs, and I see more people.

00:35:44 Phil Hagerman

Maybe we don't have all the answers, but more people are working together to try and find them than we have had in the past, so I see an optimistic path that requires a hell of a lot of work.

00:35:54 Arthur A. Busch

Phil Hagerman, thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

00:35:57 Arthur A. Busch

I appreciate it.

00:35:58 Arthur A. Busch

It's nice to meet you, and I like your optimism, to be honest with you.

00:36:02 Arthur A. Busch

 thanks for joining me.

00:36:03 Phil Hagerman

I appreciate our thanks for the chance to talk a little bit about a city I love.