Ford, Dow Execs to Announce National Summit in '09

DETROIT - Amid the turmoil on Wall Street, leaders from two global companies hard hit by economic and industrial upheavals are expected to unveil plans Monday for a national convention being held next year to discuss the future of manufacturing, technology, energy and the environment.

Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford and Dow Chemical Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Andrew Liveris were scheduled to announce The National Summit after the Detroit Economic Club meeting Monday. The nonpartisan, nonprofit group is convening the summit, which is set for June 15-17 at Ford Field, the home of the Detroit Lions.

Beth Chappell, the economic club's CEO, said the idea grew out of listening to leaders who have addressed the venerable speakers' forum during the past couple years.

"So many speakers from the platform have this call to action ... and the themes — technology, energy, environment and manufacturing — kept coming up over and over again," she said.

"This is not about Detroit, this is not about Michigan and this is not about automotive. It's cross-country and cross-industry."

Ford and Liveris will serve as the summit's co-chairmen. Ford is the economic club's outgoing chairman, and General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner succeeds him on Monday.

Organizers hope the first-of-its kind U.S. gathering, which they say has received sponsorship pledges of more than $2 million from more than 50 organizations, will draw as many as 5,000 leaders and others from business, government and academia.

The speaker lineup hasn't been announced, but companies planning to take part include GM, Chrysler LLC, IBM Corp., AT&T, Motorola Inc., Deloitte LLP and Masco Corp.

Liveris, who is scheduled to give Monday's keynote address to the economic club about the need for a national, comprehensive industrial policy, has been vocal about industry troubles and the effect on the Midland-based company he leads. Dow this year has announced two sets of wide-ranging price increases in an attempt to offset record costs for energy and raw materials.

In May, Liveris took the unusual step of directing blame at the nation's energy policy makers.

"For years, Washington has failed to address the issue of rising energy costs and, as a result, the country now faces a true energy crisis, one that is causing serious harm to America's manufacturing sector and all consumers of energy," he said at the time.

The Detroit Three automakers are lobbying Congress to fund a $25 billion loan program to help the companies modernize their plants, arguing that the sluggish U.S. economy could affect thousands of workers.

The auto executives have said they're committed to building more fuel-efficient vehicles, but the companies are going through the most difficult business environment in more than 30 years.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Council on Competitiveness have agreed to participate in the national summit, which includes concurrent town halls on each of the main topics, a "CEO Summit" for corporate leaders and an innovation exposition that incorporates technology displays and an effort to match entrepreneurs, researchers and venture capitalists.