Monday, May 18, 2009

Cause for cautious optimism

Detroit's economy may be moribund, but thanks to some new initiatives, it may not remain that way forever. To start with, the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan, a consortium of ten foundations formed last year, is putting $5 million behind a new training program for entrepreneurs that will lead to 400 new start-ups a year. The sessions will be hosted at Wayne State's TechTown and run by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the nation's leading foundation on entrepreneurship.

Three smaller initiatives are also getting great press. TechTown itself has been exceptionally successful, attracting eighty businesses and a long waiting list to its New Center location. Open City, a monthly meeting of Detroit business owners, was recently profiled by CNN for the remarkable collaboration and community it has sparked. Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert's Bizdom U has also gotten recognition for its free, two-year training program for select entrepreneurs. None of these are quick fixes for the ailing economy, but by focusing on the fundamentals, they should spark more job growth in the long run than ineffective tax incentives or the usual splashy projects, like stadiums and casinos, ever could.

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