Native Detroiters earn state’s top environmental awards

Michigan Environmental Council to honor Matt Cullen & Mark Covington for their contributions to a vibrant, sustainable Detroit Sep 18, 2017 

Matt Cullen, principal at Rock Ventures, CEO of JACK Entertainment and former GM executive, has been named the recipient of Michigan's highest environmental award in recognition of his instrumental role in the sustainable revitalization of downtown Detroit.

Cullen is joined by Mark Covington, founder of the Georgia Street Community Collective, who will receive Michigan Environmental Council’s citizen volunteer award for his work providing fresh food, youth mentorship, and renewed hope to his northeast Detroit neighborhood.

The pair will be recognized at the Michigan Environmental Council’s 19th Annual Environmental Awards Celebration on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at the Rattlesnake Club in Detroit. To purchase tickets or to find more information about the event, please see: Join us September 27 to celebrate two Detroit champions.

Matt Cullen -- Winner of the 2017 Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award

The Milliken Award is presented annually and recognizes an individual’s outstanding leadership, enduring commitment and extraordinary public service in the pursuit of sustainability. Cullen will receive the award for his essential role in the rebirth of downtown Detroit, including efforts to expand the city’s network of mass transit and greenways.

As a former executive at General Motors, Cullen was instrumental in bringing the company’s headquarters back downtown to its present location at the RenCen. In his current role at Rock Ventures, Cullen has invested over $2.2 billion promoting sustainable, mixed-use development which has encouraged residents and businesses to move downtown.

“When people talk about downtown Detroit’s resurgence, Matt Cullen’s name is the common thread,” said Chris Kolb, MEC president. “He has led many of the initiatives that are making downtown a better place to live, work and play, and he’s doing it in a way that promotes sustainability and shifts the city away from its legacy of sprawl and auto dependence.”

Cullen serves as the voluntary CEO of the QLINE, where he shepherded the streetcar project through the city’s economic and political turbulence to completion. Since opening this May, the QLINE boasts approximately 5,000 trips per day, but has also introduced the Motor City to the potential of mass transportation and set the stage for a comprehensive regional system.

As the founding chairman of the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Cullen spearheaded the billion dollar redevelopment of the riverfront which has transformed the area into a thriving ribbon of parks, plazas, pavilions, and greenways that attracts over 3 million visitors annually.

In addition, Cullen is also the chairman of Invest Detroit; vice chairman of the Downtown Detroit Partnership; Detroit Zoological Society executive committee member; board member of the Detroit Regional Chamber, St. John Health Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, and Tech Town; and is a trustee of the College of Creative Studies and the University of Detroit Mercy.

Mark Covington - Winner of the Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership

Mark Covington knows that great cities are built block-by-block through thriving neighborhoods. A lifelong resident of his northeast Detroit neighborhood, Covington refused to let vacancy and blight define his community. Instead, he launched a grassroots effort to nourish and rebuild his neighborhood.

“Mark Covington’s work pushes back against the idea that some Detroit neighborhoods are beyond repair,” said Kolb. “His efforts demonstrate that smart, dedicated individuals can make transformative change, instilling hope and pride in a neighborhood that many had deemed forgotten.”

MEC’s Petoskey Prize for Environmental Leadership is awarded to volunteers like Covington whose environmental activism is marked by extraordinary courage, commitment, and creativity.

After losing his job in 2007, Covington began clearing garbage from abandoned lots in his neighborhood but knew that the illegal dumping would continue unless he got creative. In response, he planted a garden, believing that no one would dump trash on top of food. In the ten years since, Covington’s garden has blossomed into the Georgia Street Community Collective, a 13-lot urban farm and community center. The organization provides fresh food, youth mentorship, coat and school supply drives, and invaluable advocacy defending the neighborhood from the expansion of facilities that threaten to pollute the air and harm public health.

Past winners of the Milliken Award are Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, Andy Buchsbaum, Rich Vander Veen, Dave Dempsey, Rosina Bierbaum, Becky Humphries, Faye Alexander Nelson, Lana Pollack, Bunyan Bryant, PhD, Mary C. Brown, Congressman Vernon Ehlers, Congressman John Dingell, Peter Karmanos, Jr., Marty Fluharty, Peter Wege, Peter Stroh, and Steve Hamp.

Past winners of the Petoskey Prize are Pam Taylor, Bill Craig, Steve Hamilton, Bob Andrus, Blair Miller, Ken Smith, Margaret Weber, Rusty Gates, Carol Drake, Lynn Henning, Don A. Griffin, Michelle Hurd Riddick, Terry Swier, Diane Hebert, Alison & David Swan, and Debbie Romak.

This year’s major sponsors include JACK Entertainment, DTE Energy Foundation, Olson Bzdok & Howard, PC, Lana and Henry Pollack, TOMRA and Schupan Recycling, and TruGreen.


Michigan Environmental Council is a coalition of more than 65 organizations created in 1980 to lead Michigan’s environmental movement in achieving positive change through the political process. MEC combines deep environmental policy expertise with close connections to key state and federal decision-makers, decades of experience getting things done in the political process, and an ability to rally broad and powerful alliances in support of reforms. With our member groups and partners in the public health, conservation, and faith-based communities, MEC promotes public policies to ensure that Michigan families will enjoy clear waters, clean beaches, beautiful landscapes and healthy communities for years to come.

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