One year. One city. Endless opportunities.

Lotsa Locals Making Big News

Great reads abound about local folks -- many who are Friends of the Blog (Ha!).

* The New York Times gives Detroit entrepreneurs a huge PR boost. Included are the Burton Theatre, Good Girls Go to Paris, Leopold's Books and Bureau of Urban Living. If I had a nickel for each time the national press talks to these folks, I'd be able to afford some Ford stock right about now.


Michigan, which has the highest unemployment rate of any state, has been aggressive in offering support for start-up companies, particularly in Detroit. The Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Center, which offers support and counseling, counts 20 small businesses, and 400 new jobs, created last year in the three-county area around Detroit, and the center expects that tally to grow as it completes its accounting in the coming weeks. That was down from 41 new businesses in 2008, but on par with the 23 such start-ups in 2007 and 24 in 2006.

At Wayne State University's business incubator, TechTown, housed in a former auto plant, 150 companies jostle for space — up from one when the building opened five years ago.

“I find it inspiring,” Peter Bregman, the chief executive of Bregman Partners, a New York management consulting firm, said of what is happening in Detroit. “There's something about that feeling — ‘Maybe America abandoned us, but we're not going to abandon us.' ”

Analysts say the entrepreneurs have tapped into buyers' penchants for spending locally in a bad economy, along with a longstanding void in the service industry.

Some business owners are also capitalizing on a newly energized nostalgia for the vibrant Detroit that used to be, and the more general trend toward urban living.

* Ice House Detroit guys put up a new blog post, emphasizing their time and commitment to Detroit. I'm starting to feel some soft, fuzzy feelings about these guys.


Gregory and I have been in Detroit since before New Years, and will be in Detroit for the rest of the month working on this project. We've been doing some work on the house in the last few days boarding up the windows and doors, cleaning the trash left in the yard, and scraping snow off the roof from the last snowstorm. ...

We have a lot of volunteers who will be working with us next week, but so far it's only been Gregory and I on site getting everything ready, which has been really nice. Next week, we will be providing soup and chili on site for people that are volunteering and those that are curious or hungry in the neighborhood, provided by United Peace Relief Detroit, and Greg's Mom and Aunt.

* All-around cool guy Philip Lauri has a film to show you. Detroit Lives! just finished "The Farmer and the Philosopher," and there will be an open reception from 6-8pm at Ladybug Gallery Thursday, Jan. 14. The film will screen at 8 p.m. and the Q+A will follow. For all the gritty details, go here.

It's going to serve as the official screening for the DL! film with Toby Barlow (NYTimes, Team Detroit) and Mark Covington (Georgia Street Community Collective). But there's a lot more to the exhibit. Vanessa Miller's photo essay "Making it Happen" -- simple, expressive portraits of young people that are revolutionizing the face of Detroit -- will be on display. Jerry Paffendorf, the brain behind "Loveland" -- the project selling off inches of land in Detroit that has already had hundreds of people "move" to the city -- will have an installment. Alan Scheurmanm, the Detroit musician that did the soundtrack for the film, will also be there to perform.

* Speaking of Toby Barlow, another big FOB...He had a great piece/idea in the Huffington Post recently. He recommends someone buy Detroit.


So, as we enter into the new year I would like to present a simple plan that will make anyone in the top .00001 income bracket an appallingly huge amount of money:

Buy Detroit.

No, not in the metaphorical sense, you wouldn't want to follow Daimler, Cerberus, and Fiat down the old nasty Chrysler rabbit hole. I mean it in the literal sense.

What you do is very quietly, so as not to inflate any prices, buy up all the available real estate in the Motor City; the skyscrapers, the housing, the vacant lots, as much as you can possibly embrace in those little seersucker arms of yours.

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big News – The Detroit Blog – [...]

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    The NY Times mentioned Curl up and Dye too. Feel free to add them to your tag list too. :)

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big News – The Detroit Blog – [...]

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    It's great to see NYT highlight the particular businesses that they highlighted because they are all great additions to the city and operated by dedicated Detroiters.

    With that said, the existence and fledgling success of Bureau, Good Girls, Curl Up and Dye, Leopold's, etc don't herald a renaissance of entrepreneurial activity in Detroit. They are aberrations. They've proven independent start-up retail can work in Detroit, true, but it is a lesson almost wholly ignored by Detroit's economic development gurus. And a bang-up job they've done over these last 50-odd years, I might add.

    Perhaps, instead of pouring on finite development dollars into luring Quicken from existing office space in Livonia to existing office space in Detroit or large scale urban farming (which I'm convinced will be little more than a massive - and expensive for the taxpayer - land grab by the kleptocracy), resources would be better spent seeding a few hundred tiny entrepreneurial start-ups all across the city.

    These start-ups provide the kind of character and value to a city that makes it attractive to residents and large employers. Even if Detroit matches, say, Cleveland dollar for dollar on tax breaks, which city would you locate your business in if you wish to attract blue chip talent from across the nation?

    Of course a Claire Nelson or a Torya Blanchard won't buy as many fundraising tickets as a Frank Taylor. Even if Nelson and Blanchard's businesses succeed while Taylor's go into bankruptcy, clearly he is the better economic development bet for the DDA, DEGC, etc.

    Often it's said off-hand that Detroit is a third world city. Fair or not, Detroit could benefit from at least one third world solution to poverty and economic hopelessness... micro-finance. Give Detroit a Grameen Bank, scaled to the local economic realities, and let the creativity and enterprise of everyday Detroiters rebuild from the ground-up.

    Every top-down "renaissance" has pretty much failed Detroit over the last half century. Is it really so radical to say we need to try the other way?

    Woodward's Friend

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big News - The Detroit Blog - [...]

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big <b>News</b> – The Detroit Blog – [...]

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big <b>News</b> - The Detroit Blog - [...]

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    [...] Lotsa Locals Making Big News – The Detroit Blog – [...]

  • 9

    How about a "nickel" instead, Karen? (Oh, how I twitch when unedited copy is what journalism has come to. I's the medium, etc. But would it kill to proofread?) Rant over. Good posting otherwise.

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