From Michael Rafferty, Vice President of Small Business Services
Our Small Business Team is constantly analyzing Detroit’s business environment to see where gaps exist and to learn how better to service the city’s entrepreneurs. I am proud of their dynamism and determination. I’m glad to report that the programs we’ve developed are measurably improving the landscape for small-business owners. Motor City Match, Motor City Re-Store and D2D are providing vital information, resources, connections and educational workshops to help business owners build their skills and find sustainable success.
Because our group is determined to accelerate small-business growth in the city, we’re always adding new tools to our development toolbox. Most recently, we’ve launched two new efforts to help with the retention and attraction of small businesses in Detroit’s commercial corridors.
First, DEGC has hired a team of District Business Liaisons. Under the leadership of Director Lily Hamburger, this group of focused business advocates will work in their respective council districts to help business owners prosper city wide.
Lily has been with the DEGC for two years. She comes from a background in both social work and business, and brings experience working with neighborhood business owners as well as city agencies.
“This initiative is about making sure neighborhood businesses have a stake in Detroit’s growth and prosperity,” she said. “It’s about neighborhood vitality and making sure everyone has access to the growing number of resources that exist for small businesses to thrive in our city.”
The DBLs will develop relationships with business owners, solve problems, and provide access to services and resources that will retain Detroit businesses and support their growth. This includes helping business owners navigate City processes, and also connecting them to funding sources, grants, technical assistance and networking opportunities. The DBLs will also connect business owners to programs that will help them grow, such as Motor City Match and the Motor City Re-Store façade improvement program.
Because the project is a high priority with the Mayor and his staff, the team will establish a pipeline to expedite communication with the City to resolve outstanding issues, and provide feedback on resolution.
The second new DEGC initiative is the appointment of a Small Business Attraction Manager to bring more retailers into Detroit neighborhoods.
The Neighborhood Retail Opportunity Study, spearheaded by DEGC in 2017, confirmed what many of us already knew – that too many Detroiters are shopping outside the city limits for basic goods and services. The focus of the attraction manager is to work with local, regional and national businesses that provide the goods and services residents need, and bring them to the neighborhoods where they are in demand, thereby filling commercial vacancy.
Because of the prescriptive findings of the retail study, the new attraction manager can drill down to specifically match the type of business with the particular need of a neighborhood. The result is a win-win-win: new businesses succeed because they are matched with an existing customer base; Detroiters win because they can procure their shopping, entertainment, dining and other spending needs close to home; and Detroit wins because it retains a portion of the $2.6B in spending that leaves the city annually in suburban spending.
Detroit is putting all of its collective resources behind neighborhood success. The Mayor’s dedication to infrastructure improvements will help with lighting, streets, sidewalks and overall beautification. The city and its partners are expanding the Strategic Neighborhood Fund to seven additional neighborhoods. This fund will raise $130 million to build vibrant, inclusive areas throughout the city, touching more than 60 individual neighborhoods over the next five years.
With new businesses opening daily, the city continues to attract new entrepreneurial investments. According to the latest U.S. Census figures, Detroit is a powerhouse when it comes to the total number of small businesses, ranking fourth among cities nationally. And now we are doing it at the neighborhood level, as well as in greater downtown.
Healthy, sustainable small businesses are essential to a growing economy. In fact, small businesses continue to be an economic driver nationally and locally. As reported by the Small Business Administration, these businesses accounted for 63.3 percent of all new jobs created between 1992 and 2013.
A recent study of more than 150 Michigan small businesses by PNC Bank found that:
- 29 percent of survey respondents expect to increase their hiring over the next six months.
- 63 percent expect an increase in sales over the next six months.
- 88 percent are optimistic or moderately optimistic about the national economy, while 89 percent are optimistic or moderately optimistic about the local economy
DEGC’s Small Business team will continue developing programming that creates an inclusive and accessible ecosystem for all entrepreneurs. Assisting established businesses and attracting new businesses into the city is the key to revitalize Detroit’s neighborhood retail, and ensure residents have the goods and services they deserve nearby.