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Detroit Startups: Low Costs, High Incentives

June 13–Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said Thursday that the second half of his first year in office will focus on attracting and supporting businesses and entrepreneurs to set up shop in a city suffering from decades of disinvestment.

“My first six months was focused on improving the city services, getting the buses to run on time, the ambulances on time, getting the lights on,” Duggan said. “My second six months is going to be focused on creating the atmosphere for entrepreneurs to believe this is the place to come.”

The mayor made the remarks at a news briefing at TechTown Detroit, the business innovation hub near Wayne State University. Duggan announced that Nancy Schlichting, CEO of the Henry Ford Health System, will head a new 17-member group exploring how to create an “innovation district” in downtown and Midtown to accelerate job growth and entrepreneurship.

Duggan was joined by City Council President Brenda Jones as Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy program, and David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative for southeast Michigan, spoke of bringing together resources to promote Detroit internationally as a low-cost area with strong support for business start-ups.

The aim of the innovation district, Katz said, is to capitalize on the interest among young people across North America and Europe to move back into core cities by providing a well-connected network of support systems for science, technology and other industries that can provide jobs for people who have vocational training and opportunities to learn skills.

“If you do this well, it’s really simple what’s going to happen: You’re going to grow more jobs,” Katz said, urging those involved to “send a message to the U.S. and the world: Something is happening in the city that needs to be understood and invested in.”

Duggan said his administration in the next month or two plans to announce a funding and loan program for entrepreneurial start-ups in targeted areas.

“We’re going to layer a whole bunch of pieces together,” Duggan said.

In addition to the city tapping banks, foundations and others to help fund the entrepreneurial efforts, Duggan said the city needs to adjust how it lures businesses, through more friendly zoning laws, faster permitting and other changes. He said the city also will partner with groups involved in the innovation districts that provide technical support to new small businesses, not just in downtown and Midtown, but in other neighborhoods.

Duggan and other district supporters touted as examples of successful partnerships two companies that received business and technical support from TechTown: Sweet Potato Sensations and the Motor City Java and Tea House, a cafe, art gallery and performance space. Both are on Lahser near Grand River in the city’s Old Redford neighborhood.

So far, “you’re seeing pieces of it,” Duggan said of the strategies to incubate small businesses in Detroit. “We’re just going to speed it up.”

Contact Matt Helms: 313-222-1450, [email protected] or on Twitter


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Source: (c)2014 the Detroit Free Press