By Hannah Oh Originally posted by State Budget Solutions on July 9, 2014
Detroit, America’s underdog city, is quickly rising as it becomes one of the top destinations for savvy entrepreneurs and business-minded individuals around the country. Since the city’s recent financial downturn, citizens of Detroit have swiftly mobilized to support new entrepreneurs and businesses, catalyzing what has been called a “startup revolutionary recovery.” Several community members and supporting organizations, such as the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, have successfully advocated for revitalizing downtown Detroit through a variety of new investments and initiatives. Through a combination of private investments and citizen-led startups, Detroit has experienced unprecedented progress in fueling two key areas of growth: innovation and talent.
To spur innovation, investors have started the transformation of Detroit into an entrepreneurial hotspot.The Detroit-based New Economy Initiative is investing $1 billion to support 1,000 new entreprises, create over 20,000 jobs, and build a booming Urban Innovation District that attracts diverse resources and capital. Startup accelerators and venture capital firms like Bizdom and Detroit Venture Partners are also helping Detroit entrepreneurs gain access to funding and services. Successful ventures include Detroit Labs, a mobile-app building company; Detroit Lives!, a local film production service; and Benzinga, a financial news provider. Combined, these new companies have generated millions of dollars in revenue in just four years.
In an effort to encourage more innovative projects to stimulate the state’s economy, Michigan Corps, along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, announced its second annual Michigan Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in March 2014. As part of the competition, individuals present startup ideas that address social issues in their communities related to chronic unemployment, health, urban revitalization, or education. Each startup then competes for more than $60,000 in prizes, including cash grants, admission to Michigan Corps’ Social Impact Investment Fellowship, and business consultation services. Detroit-based startups––Wheels for Workers, Welding Artisan Center, On The Rise, and City Girl Soap––took home four of the top six prizes, dominating this year’s competition.
Next, Detroit has developed innovative solutions to attract and retain young talent. Challenge Detroit, a leadership development and training program, selects approximately 30 fellows each year to work for local host companies, volunteer in community service projects, and experience the culture of Detroit. Host companies for the 2014-2015 fellowship class include General Motors, CBS Detroit Radio, and the Detroit Lions. Challenge Detroit already has made tremendous gains, with 50 percent of fellows receiving full-time offers from their host companies and 90 percent of fellows choosing to stay and work in Detroit after the program. Other organizations, such as LiveWorkDetroit!, Detroit Wants You, and Intern in Michigan, actively work to connect college students to local Detroit businesses for potential internship and employment opportunities.
By combining efforts to incentivize innovation and cultivate talent, Detroit is rapidly expanding its entrepreneurial ecosystem. With renewed energy and excitement, the citizens of Detroit have worked tirelessly to restore their city and stimulate their local economy. The city’s growing startup community has created a vibrant and diverse business environment that has drawn attention from young entrepreneurs and investors from all over the country. Through the unwavering support of its citizens, the city of Detroit is giving Americans an underdog worth rooting for.