Detroit, and the State of Michigan, have often been a harbinger of the world’s economy. In moving Michigan Forward, it is vital that our elected leaders support an agenda that is conducive to fostering innovation, creating new lines of business in new industries and ultimately creating new jobs or nurturing start ups that will lead to more jobs. 

While we have seen an increase in new companies move to or start in Detroit, we need more policies focused on the entrepreneur.  Today it is all about innovation and creating something that has never been created before  It is time for Detroit to unveil a city-wide innovation strategy.

At the same time, with Detroit soon to emerge from bankruptcy, the city needs to work at changing the conversation about Detroit and start global conversations to promote Detroit competitiveness, new innovation, culture, our start up society and how our core businesses are stronger than before.  The Mayor should tap our business leaders and organizations that are hosting trade missions, to make Detroit front and center of those trips and appoint ambassadors to help carry that message.

However, as we work to strengthen our focus on entrepreneurs, job diversification and image, we need to continue to work to support the established businesses in Detroit.  This includes:

  • Attracting, cultivating, and retaining young entrepreneurs, innovators, and talented employees who are all essential to improving companies and communities.
  • End restrictive immigration and visa policies that are serious impediments for innovative industries, particularly small businesses.
  • End counterfeiting, piracy, and other efforts by foreign governments to devalue intellectual property.
  • Help expand access to capital, particularly for small business and entrepreneurs to help American businesses expand and hire new workers.

Detroit is already attracting talented entrepreneurs, but we need to attract more. Immigration is now an issue companies and the public are addressing and trying to resolve, including the status of foreign students and entrepreneurs.

While those areas are being addressed, the Mayor should partner with the Engineering Society of Detroit (of which I am a former Board Member) and other science, math and technical based organizations to encourage the pursuit of math and science careers by local students – No matter what school they are enrolled in.   When children start seeing the Mayor and Governor speak more about the importance of this field, then they will begin to notice.

There are some issues that are beyond local control. Issues such as trade and protecting intellectual capital.  However, there are others that the Mayor and other city leaders can make a priority when Detroit emerges from bankruptcy.  This includes working with financial institutions to improve access to capital, particularly for innovative small businesses and entrepreneurs; identify incentives designed to expand access to credit markets, attract investment in research and development and lower barriers to entry for businesses seeking to do business in and with the city.

Any business today, whether it is General Motors or the El Guapo Grill food truck often found in Eastern Market, businesses need stability to operate and families need stability to live. Although entrepreneurs, thrive on risk, they also want to know that where they invest will invest in them. As Detroit emerges from bankruptcy, it is time to bring stability back and drive innovation forward.

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