Mayor Mike Duggan’s Motor City Match program – Detroit is Back Baby!

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Mayor Mike Duggan’s Motor City Match program

Detroit is Back Baby!

By John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press 8:03 p.m. EDT October 13, 2015

Detroit’s hopes of nurturing a small-business entrepreneurial ecosystem took a big step forward Tuesday with the first cash awards in Mayor Mike Duggan’s Motor City Match program.

The 10 winning businesses will receive grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 to expand their businesses. Winners included a variety of firms including a graphic design and printing firm called Hi Def Graphfxs to Mama Rita Foods, a restaurant and wholesale distributor of Mexican foods.

One of the cash winners, J&G Pallets, received a $100,000 grant to help the firm expand to a third location at 6500 Mack Avenue. The firm manufactures and refurbishes wood pallets used in shipping and warehousing.

“We were going to do this project with this or without this, but this makes it a lot easier,” said Geraldine Wooten, the firm’s president. “We’re very excited. We’ve been in the city all our lives, through all the ups and downs, and we’re not going no place. This is our home.”

Another winner, Jeff Adams of Artesian Farms, an indoor agriculture operation in northwest Detroit that uses vertical racks to grow vegetables in hydroponic trays, will used his $55,000 cash grant to greatly expand his operation.

“It’s got a lot of potential for the city because this is a movement that’s is not going to stop, vertical hydroponic growing in urban areas,” he said. “We can scale this up throughout the city and then we can start to get all of our food locally as opposed to bringing in it in from California, Arizona.”

Under the Motor City Match program, the city plays go-between to pair up entrepreneurs and small businesses that need space with property owners who have buildings that need new tenants. The program focuses on the city’s traditional neighborhood retail corridors. Besides the 10 firms winning cash awards, the city also announced several dozen more firms that will receive technical assistance from help writing business plans to help reapplying for cash in the next round of awards.

“These are companies that will be renovating neighborhood buildings for their businesses, creating jobs and serving the community,” Duggan said at the announcement ceremony in the city’s Old Redford district on the northwest side.

The Motor City Match program joins a growing list of entrepreneurial support here as Detroit attempts to grow its small business community through a network of business training programs like those at TechTown and the M@dison and with cash awards like those handed out by the Motor City Match, NEIdeas, and Hatch Detroit competitions. In early November, the NEIdeas program is expected to announce the next 30 winners of its $10,000 cash awards to small businesses in Detroit.

“This is part of a much bigger small-business ecosystem,” Rod Miller, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp., said of the Motor City Match awards. “We’re all working together to make this work.  We’ve got a lot of need in the city, but what’s beautiful, these programs aren’t one-off, they’re all coordinated. We’re really building what I would argue is the most robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in the country for businesses.”

David Egner, president of the Hudson-Webber Foundation and also executive director of the New Economy Initiative for Southeastern Michigan, echoed that.

“We’ve got an ecosystem developing for entrepreneurship in the Detroit region that rivals any in the world,” Egner said. He noted that J&G Pallets, one of the $100,000 recipients in the Motor City Match grants, also was a $100,000 winner in the inaugural NEIdeas contest last year, created by the New Economy Initiative to support existing small businesses in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park.

“The NEIdeas programs and Motor City Match feed off one another perfectly,” said Egner, not only in providing cash but also mentors and a range of business services to help small companies grow and create more jobs.

Detroit’s version of an entrepreneurial ecosystem is much different from that found in the Silicon Valley area of California, where venture capitalists pour billions of dollars into high-tech start-ups in hopes of creating the next Apple or Google. In Detroit, the variety of programs cater to a more diverse and neighborhood-based roster of businesses, including restaurants, construction firms, bicycle shops, dentist officers, clothing makers, and more.

It is with such small firms based in neighborhoods that the city hopes to revitalize Detroit’s hard-hit neighborhoods.

“The companies we’re announcing today are on the leading edge of Detroit’s growth,” Duggan said.

Funding for Motor City Match comes from several sources. The City of Detroit uses some of its federal Community Development Block Grant funds to support the program, and money also comes from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Erb Family Foundation, Kresge Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the New Economy Initiative of Southeastern Michigan, Bank of America, and Fifth Third Bank.

The 10 Detroit firms winning cash awards Tuesday were:

Detroit Training Center, a vocational education firm focused on education.

J&G Pallets, manufacturer of pallets from new and recycled wood.

Artesian Farms, indoor agriculture.

Mo’ Better Blues, a jazz-themed restaurant.

Pedicure & Shoes 2 Go, a nail and shoe salon.

Woodward Throwbacks, a manufacturer of reclaimed woodwork home goods.

Coffee and (__), a coffee shop and cafe

Sovereign AEC, construction management, architects, and civil engineering

Mama Rita Foods, public and wholesale food products

Hi Def Graphfxs and Media, design, printing, and marketing

Tom Walsh contributed to this story.

Contact John Gallagher: 313-222-5173 or Follow him on Twitter @jgallagherfreep.



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DETROIT, MI - FEBRUARY 26: New Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan delivers his first State of the City address at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center February 26, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Duggan, the first white mayor of Detroit in 40 years, addressed the issue of urban blight and announced an additional $20 million would be used to demolish fire-damaged abandoned buildings in the city. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI – FEBRUARY 26: New Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan delivers his first State of the City address at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center February 26, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Duggan, the first white mayor of Detroit in 40 years, addressed the issue of urban blight and announced an additional $20 million would be used to demolish fire-damaged abandoned buildings in the city. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

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