The Five “Ps” of Detroit’s Economic Revitalization

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I believe that the best way to strengthen the quality of life, ensure long-term opportunities for our loved ones, and combat society’s ills is a solid economy with good jobs. It is why I’m an economic developer, and it’s why I’m in Detroit right now. This city has a rich history as an economic and cultural hub, and it is clearly on its way to a strong recovery. There is a palpable sense of excitement about Detroit’s turnaround.

 

The enthusiasm we feel is a great motivator, but it is not a final result. We have to keep channeling that enthusiasm in ways that improve lives in measurable ways. I think there are five key components to that effort — and I call them the Five Ps: Plan, Partnership, People, Publish, and Population.

Plan

 

Detroit needs a detailed strategic plan to drive our work generating new investment. Detroit Future City gave us a solid, overarching long-term framework, but we need more detailed strategies focused on building on our strengths and broadening investments in automotive, manufacturing, logistics, defense, information technology, food and renewable energy. To work, the strategies need support from the public and private sectors as well as our highly committed philanthropic community.

 

Partnership

 

Although my focus as the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation is growing the economic base of the city of Detroit, I am personally a strong proponent of regional collaboration. There are three million people in the region, and we all suffer if we continue to behave as though our actions don’t affect others. To become a consistent magnet for global investments, the region needs Detroit as a strong urban core, and Detroit needs thriving suburbs. We have strong leadership at every level of government in city, county, region and state, and I am proud to work in partnership with all of them to keep the economic momentum building.

 

People

 

As terrific as they are in their own right, Detroit’s economic successes in a few high-profile districts do emphasize the challenges we still face in our population as a whole. The Detroit unemployment rate hovers at 27 percent, the adult poverty level is 38 percent and among children it’s 58 percent. We should pursue development strategies that decrease the gap between the haves and have-nots. That means encouraging entrepreneurs and neighborhood businesses. It also means using the tools we have now to ensure that public investments in companies generate jobs and other benefits to make those investments worthwhile.

 

Publish (and Post)

 

In spite of some remarkably positive headlines around the world, most people still don’t recognize the progress we’ve made in Detroit. We are not trying to “go back” to recreate the Detroit of the 20th Century. We are building something new, but based on the strengths of our legacy as a center of manufacturing, culture and opportunities for everyone, regardless of their race, nationality or gender. That’s a good story and we need to own it, live it, and tell it to each other and the world through our personal communications, social media, and traditional press. For better or worse, our communications define us; we have to publish, post or perish.

 

Population

 

This is part two of “People.” Not only do we have to generate better opportunities for people who live in Detroit today, but we have to grow our population by convincing new people to move here. Let’s face it, we’ve got room for a lot more people, so let’s start recruiting them and welcoming them when they arrive. Across the world, young people are coming back to cities, and Detroit is in a perfect position to catch that wave. We have great talent graduating from our universities and colleges, and we have to include them in our strategies for development. Job opportunities attract people and a growing population generates economic activity and a growing tax base for city services, so let’s take advantage of that virtuous cycle.

 

In sum, Detroit can and should be a leader in the global next economy. Using the key building blocks of committed business leadership, political will, and community engagement, we can ensure the strong economy that the people of Detroit deserve. At DEGC we work hard every day recruiting new businesses and promoting the growth of existing businesses — not just for their own sake — but to create jobs and opportunities for Detroiters, increase City revenues, and improve the quality of City services and the quality of life for people who live, work or visit here.

Rod Miller

President and CEO

D2D Buyer Ready Business: GS Group LLC, Monica Starks Principal

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Monica Starks started her business in Detroit doing lead abatement, and has grown GS Group LLC since then to be the parent company of three businesses: Green Solutions Environmental Services, Myleadingtraining.com and Star Construction & Development. Among them, the three firms provide lead-related and other environmental and construction services and certified training in lead abatement.

What made you decide to have your headquarters in Detroit?

Personally, I’m from Chicago, which is a very hard market to break into for small businesses. Detroit always interested me because it’s a city that has so much growth; I’m thrilled to have our headquarters here. We purchased an office building, now known as CDG Preferred Properties in the city. We love being in Detroit.

How does having your headquarters in Detroit add to your success?

It’s been great to have a Detroit-based businesses doing work for and in Detroit. In fact, our largest client is the City of Detroit. We do a lot of environmental work for the Planning and Development Department – housing services division. We started out doing lead abatement, which was very gratifying to be able to ensure Detroit homes’ safety for residents. We also do work for the City’s planning and development team prior to demolitions regarding asbestos testing, in addition to the Phase I and Phase II Environmental Site Assessments. We take pride in making the community a better place and it certainly adds to our success.

What projects do you have going on that you are proud of?

Two of our bigger projects take place at the Letterkenny Army Depot and Fort Bragg. At the Letterkenny Army Depot so far we’ve completed lightning risk assessment. At Fort Bragg we’ve done asbestos surveys among other environmental testing.

How do you want to impact Detroit in the future?

Here at GS Group we really enjoy meeting the talent of our City through our training program, called Myleadtraining.com. It’s a pleasure providing training to those who are without work in a trade that can really change their life. Most go on to be successful at other companies after training, but on a few occasions we’ve hired some wonderful candidates.

What is your company culture?

For us, accuracy in reporting is very important. We truly value integrity and timeliness in getting projects completed on time, which comes from our construction background.

What do you find most exciting about the changing face of Detroit?

I used to walk along the Riverfront and look around the city and think ‘Detroit has such a rich history, this is a city that can’t go away’ – and it’s not going away. My GS Group partners C. Denise Griffith and Kathrine Davis and I feel that it’s a wonderful thing to be a part of Detroit’s resurgence.

What companies have you collaborated with in Detroit as customers or suppliers?

EKS Services, a Detroit-based company that we work with, participated in the D2D program with us. Our companies were selected as a member of the first D2D Capacity Building Cohort, and since the class the GS Group has experienced a significant amount of growth. This program allowed us to look at our company in a different manner and evaluate how we can increase our business by working with other Detroit businesses. As a result we’ve reached out to Rock Ventures and DTE to pursue partnerships.

When you can connect with another Detroit business, what benefits can that bring?

It’s great to work with other Detroit businesses because it creates a strong economic state. This allows us to have a strong foundation in knowing companies that offer services that differ from ours so we can collaborate and have a platform to benefit the city of Detroit.

Tiffini D. Smith

Communications Director

Gold Cash Gold the Finishing Touch

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Ryan Cooley, co-owner of Slow’s Bar BQ, opened Gold Cash Gold restaurant last month with six partners, completing the transformation of one entire block along Michigan Avenue in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood.

Why another restaurant in Corktown?

When my family and I moved to Corktown to open Slow’s, our idea was to develop an entire block and make the restaurant a neighborhood place, a destination. It did much better than we anticipated, so we decided to tackle a new project, another restaurant that would seat 60 to 80 people.

At this point in time in Detroit there is so much demand for new eating spaces I don’t think any restaurant is competing with another one. We just can’t keep up with the demand.

What opportunities do you see in Detroit for other businesses?

There’s plenty of room for more restaurants and bars. I’d also like to see more first floor retail opportunities. Our real estate office, O’Connor Realty, receives a lot of calls from people who want to open different types of retail operations, and I’m hopeful this demand will encourage landlords to put money into their buildings for these start-up businesses.

How important are organizations like Invest Detroit, Detroit Economic Growth Corporation and the Detroit Development Fund?

They are very important. In fact, our newest project would not have happened if not for those organizations. If you have a solid business plan these organizations are willing to meet with you, review it and fund it, unlike the large banks, which tend to be much more conservative.

What are you looking to accomplish next?

We have plans to expand Slows Bar BQ into Pontiac and Grand Rapids later this year. Depending upon how those openings go, we’ll start to explore other restaurant opportunities.

 

Tiffini D. Smith

Director of Communications

DEGC Sees Opportunities in Industrial Strategy Report

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A report commissioned by Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) says the significant amount of land in Detroit that is still set aside for industry may be an advantage in attracting new investment over the long term. As more manufacturers invest in the U.S., other cities that have converted industrial property to alternative uses may not have as many attractive locations to offer as Detroit. The study also points to the continuing strength of the automotive industry and the trend to re-shore manufacturing as factors that have added 3,000 industrial jobs in Detroit between 2010 and 2013.

The 177-page report, titled An Industrial Strategy for the City of Detroit, offers data from a comprehensive survey of the city’s 10,150 acres of industrial properties land in 2010, as well as recommendations to grow Detroit’s automotive, metal manufacturing, transportation, distribution and logistics, and construction clusters. It was conducted in association with the research that was incorporated into Detroit Future City. Based on the results the report affirmed, “a case can be made that it would be difficult to find another U.S. city that can match Detroit’s combination of industrial know-how and capability and innovation capacity.”

Teresa M. Lynch, principal at Mass Economics and a lead author of the report said, “Industrial activity is critical to healthy urban economies—it generates employment and revenue and contributes to broad-based opportunity in cities by providing middle-wage jobs to workers without four year degrees. It’s important to understand that the story of industrial activity is not one of inevitable decline—with the right business development, workforce, and land strategies, industrial jobs can contribute to economic growth and innovation in the city of Detroit.”

“This study reminds us that our long automotive heritage has built a strong core infrastructure to handle large-scale manufacturing supply chains,” said Rod Miller, president and CEO of DEGC. “You don’t just switch that back on after years of underuse, but we have been working strategically to market it as a real benefit to manufacturers, as well as build new assets.”

DEGC has been successful working with the City of Detroit and other partners to act on the information in the report, including a focused effort to develop a reinvestment strategy for the Mt. Elliott Employment District, the largest employment district identified in Detroit Future City. In addition, the State of Michigan is studingy opportunities to bring business investments in intermodal freight across the state, and DEGC expects that Detroit will feature strongly in its recommendations.

The report cites other studies that found centers of manufacturing also generate innovations, and in the last twelve months Detroit has been selected as the home of R&D centers for American Axle and the American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute.

DEGC is offering the report as a resource to anyone who is interested in understanding what it will take to advance Detroit’s industrial economy. It was funded by The Kresge Foundation and produced by the Institute for a Competitive Inner City, Interface Studio LLC and Mass Economics. It can be downloaded at:

https://app.box.com/s/5aneuotudxfb1ajbq8198k16utayg0v1

By

Olga Stella

Vice President, Business Development