Will propping up the flailing automotive industry save Detroit? Not likely. Any sustainable solution is going to have to center on fostering entrepreneurial activity which will generate new jobs. A new partnership between the Kauffman Foundation and the New Economy Initiative (NEI) for Southeast Michigan is focused on the hard-hit area -- aiming to create 400 new companies per year over three years.
The three-year economic recovery initiative will help the region transition to new industries through entrepreneurship counsel and proven programs such as FastTrac and the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership. The former is an intensive 3-to-10 week training program for unemployed or underemployed individuals seriously considering entrepreneurship instead of finding another job. It is estimated that 1500 persons will come to the explorative meetings in June and that 800 individuals will enter the Detroit FastTrac program annually. The Urban Entrepreneur Partnership (UEP) will target minority automotive suppliers, offering one-on-one, hands-on support to retool their businesses into other industries, such as aerospace, alternative energy, medical devices, and military and homeland security. Approximately 150 minority suppliers will be trained, coached and mentored.
In addition to the core entrepreneurial programs, the initiative will invest in and leverage other partnerships and resources, such as Detroit's TechTown. NEI and Shorebank Enterprises Detroit (SEB) will establish and manage the Detroit Business Innovation Development Fund to finance Detroit-based growth companies that employ local residents. In addition, an employee recruitment and support services program will link neighborhood residents with new job opportunities generated by SED-supported businesses and anchor institutions.
It sounds like Detroit is taking an important step in the direction of long-term prosperity.