From the Daily: Reigniting Detroit business

Wednesday, August 12, 2015 - 11:06pm

Announced earlier this year in Detroit Mayor Duggan’s State of the City address, Motor City Match — a proposed entrepreneurial initiative — seeks to reconstruct and revitalize Detroit’s struggling economy. The program, managed by the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., strives to bolster small business activity by providing venues for new and existing businesses in the area. Although the program is still in its introductory phase, its acknowledgement of the multi-faceted nature of the city’s debilitating economic situation offers an approach that will not only aid the growth of Detroit businesses, but may also spur other necessary developments within the city.

Motor City Match works to establish a network of communication between city property owners and entrepreneurs looking for spaces to start their businesses. The program analyzes vacant buildings and properties throughout the city and matches the properties with interested business owners. Once a business and a property are paired, the program is able to provide roughly $500,000 in grants and other technical assistance to help with renovations or other initial startup costs. Twenty-seven vacant buildings throughout Detroit were recently selected to be paired with startup firms looking for spaces to establish themselves.

By introducing a myriad of new small businesses, startups and other employment opportunities throughout various Detroit neighborhoods, Motor City Match will assist in alleviating the city’s staggering rates of poverty and unemployment. In addition to the fact that the city only possesses 200 jobs for every 1,000 people living there, the majority of jobs are concentrated within a small segment of the city that many residents without suitable modes of transportation find very difficult to travel to. A high concentration of jobs can be found within the Midtown-downtown area, but employment opportunities are far scarcer in surrounding neighborhoods. In fact, the vast majority of Detroit citizens, roughly 80 percent, reside more than 10 miles from a central business district
Therefore, it’s crucial that the program maintains a focus on ensuring these new businesses are cultivated in neighborhoods and areas that severely lack employment, making them more accessible for residents.

Motor City Match presents a mutually beneficial collaboration between entrepreneurs and the city. While business owners need the city’s available real estate, Detroit needs the resulting population and revenue influx. The program, in addition to poverty and unemployment, aids in tackling the issue of blight removal by utilizing the city’s existing infrastructure to develop new businesses. Renovating vacant properties will improve the general appearance and atmosphere of the city, making it more inviting to workers, residents, employers and tourists. The allocation of new employment opportunities through initiatives such as these will lead to the allocation of more young talent to fill newly created positions. As a result, more and more housing structures that currently stand empty may find new tenants.

The program provides a viable approach to improve both Detroit’s economic and physical environment, and possesses the capacity to initiate long-term progress. These 27 new potential businesses are certainly a step in the right direction. However, Motor City Match only offers an initial solution to a host of complex issues requiring remediation. Originally, 150 available properties applied to be included in the program, illustrating the need to expand the program or start similar initiatives in the future. While Motor City Match presents an avenue for productive change, it also highlights the vast amount of work still needed to correct issues surrounding transportation, poverty and job distribution, and to continue toward Detroit’s revitalization.