Category: Business - Original Written by Patrick Keating, Chronicle Staff Writer
Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) President George Jackson said that if he were talking to someone from out of town about Detroit’s economic development, he’d do so from the standpoint of Detroit being a good business climate and a great place to locate their company.
“I guarantee that we would be a pleasant surprise to any perceptions you may have had beforehand once you come here,” Jackson said. “I say that because on so many occasions when people finally come to the city it by far surpasses their expectations.”
He attributes that to Detroit’s many recent success stories.
“And even over the years, actually,” he added.
Jackson also noted that this exceeding of expectations isn’t just from a business climate sense, but in general.
“It’s definitely a good place to do business,” he said. “But also the quality of life is much better, more robust than in some cases people anticipate it to be.
“And what I mean by business climate is that we have excellent options in regards to locations, be they industrial, commercial or retail,” he said. “We also have a great deal of business to business opportunities. Because we have so many businesses that are already here, not only do direct consumer opportunities exist, but business to business opportunities are really outstanding in the city of Detroit and in southeastern Michigan.”
Asked what he would consider the most exciting activity going on in Detroit right now, Jackson said it’s the fact that in certain areas of the city, there seems to be a resurgence in the residential market.
“The fact is that we have more people moving into the city in various areas, downtown, Midtown, riverfront, but also in some of the neighborhoods,” Jackson said. “We’re getting a lot more young, college-educated professionals. And also baby boomers who want an urban living experience. So the pent-up demand for urban living has finally hit the city of Detroit, as it has in other cities across the nation.”
When Jackson spoke to the Chronicle in 2011, he said things were progressing well in terms of bringing in “big box” stores. He still believes that is the case.
“We have two big box stores,” he said. “One is under construction and the other is about to be built. Those are the Meijer at Eight Mile and Woodward and we have a Meijer in northwest Detroit on the former site of Redford High School. I would say that’s progress. Both of those stores will employ hundreds of people and also bring much needed shopping options that are now national and regional to Detroiters, without them having to drive to a suburb to enjoy that level of retail.”
Jackson added that Detroit also has Whole Foods, which he said many people had stated would never come to the city.
Since 2002, when he started at his job, the two things he’s heard people say they wanted the most have been more national retail options; and that Whole Foods was at the top of most people’s lists.
During the 2011 interview Jackson also said that when he’d visit Whole Foods stores in other cities in the metro area, most customers were from Detroit.
“Detroiters are spending hundreds of millions of dollars outside the city of Detroit for groceries,” he said.
“That’s not a put-down of the stores that we have here, but it just shows that there is a demand for national retailers by city residents.”
He added that the national retailers could definitely complement the independent retailers.
The DEGC is involved in various “development districts.”
Jackson said if he were speaking to an out-of-towner about Detroit, he’d emphasize whichever district would relate most to what that person might be looking for.
“We can accommodate all,” he said. “As I said before, whether it’s retail, whether it’s commercial, whether it’s industrial, whether it’s downtown or they want to be in a neighborhood. We have all those options available, and I think that we also have some very good demographic information to back up where we would end up taking them.”
The development districts in which DEGC is involved include Capitol Park, which involves the redevelopment of the Capitol Park Building, the former United Way Headquarters and the Farwell Building, all located on Griswold. The expected investment is $41 million, and the DEGC’s 2012 progress report describes the district as a prime location for residences, offices and retail stores.
Another district, the Paradise Valley Cultural and Entertainment District, held the three-day inaugural Detroit Paradise Valley Music Festival last year, with more than 15,000 people attending each day.
The Gateway Marketplace, at the southeast corner of Eight Mile Road and Woodward, will not only feature the 197,000 square foot Meijer as its anchor tenant, but will also generate an expected $10.75 million in taxes from the property’s increased value.
As head of the DEGC, Jackson has a lot on his plate, but one thing that doesn’t concern him is the presence of the emergency financial manager.
“We mainly work with business people and the business climate is good,” he said.
“And they feel that the political climate and the governmental process will eventually be resolved.”
He added that he’s not seen a slowdown from a business standpoint.
“Business is good, it’s really on an upswing,” he pointed out.
According to Jackson, one misconception people have about the DEGC is that it only does “the big stuff.” He wants people to know that most DEGC loans go to small businesses.
“By far,” he said. “And we call on 250 to 300 existing Detroit businesses every year. Not them calling us first. We go after them, and most of those, by far, are small businesses.”
Jackson emphasized that, in totality, small businesses are going to create more jobs than large ones.
“We want to make sure we grow the small business community but also retain them in the city of Detroit,” he said.
“So we make what we call these retention calls on between 250 to 300 businesses per year in the city of Detroit.”
Jackson said the one overall thing he wants people to understand abut the DEGC and its role is that it’s not a political organization.
“We’re a business organization that makes business decisions to grow the economy of the city of Detroit,” he said.
Other developments in Detroit include those headed up by Midtown Detroit, Inc., which is led by Susan Mosey.
Midtown developments include the Midtown Greenway, currently under construction.
This non-motorized pedestrian and bike trail will be part of a 10 mile greenway connecting the New Center to downtown.
According to the Midtown Detroit website, the greenway will, among other things, reclaim right-of-way for pedestrians, create an environment to help build a strong sense of community and help the community reintroduce needed green space.
Other Midtown Detroit projects have included new commercial tenants on the Wayne State campus and the renovation of a historic home at 295 E. Ferry into nine one-bedroom rental units.
Other developments are being heralded by Dan Gilbert, whose Bedrock Real Estate Services is working on developing the Central Business District. These include the Z Site on Library Street, with 33,000 square feet of street-level retail and office space, and The Shops at Woodward Center, located between Grand Circus and Capitol parks, and more than a dozen more.
In all, Gilbert has invested nearly $1 billion in the purchase of approximately three million square feet of real estate.
Gilbert, Jackson and Mosey will all be speaking at the Pancakes & Politics forum at the DAC April 25.
For more information about the DEGC, call (313) 963-2940.
To learn more about Midtown Detroit, Inc. visit www.midtowndetroitinc.org
Bedrock Real Estate Services can be reached at (888) 300-9833.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 April 2013 00:17
Category: Business - Original Written by Robin Kinnie
From left to right Christian Dorsey (partner) and Jason Johnson, Owner
Bob’s Classic Kicks, located in Midtown Detroit, has been an intended destiny for owner Jason Johnson. From the beginning, Johnson has always bought sneakers. As a young boy, his mother knew that a trip to the mall would end with her buying him a new pair of shoes. By his early twenties, Johnson had accumulated enough gym shoes to open a store, so that became his goal.
It seemed as if help had an eye out for Johnson; a chance meeting with an investor and a business consultant while working as a valet for Henry Ford Hospital, led him to writing a business plan and selecting a location. Although painted over now, he wrote his name on the building where he wanted to house his business. Call it divine providence. He simply says, “The Lord has shown me favor and continues to show me favor.” With no financing in sight, he turned to his father for as his first investor.
Armed with a vision, Johnson created Bob’s Classic Kicks. He wanted the name of the store to be timeless and faceless. He wanted a name that would cater to everyone regardless of ethnicity. “Bob” is not trendy or restrictive, much like the business itself.
Upon receiving his first bank loan, Johnson was persistent in his pursuit of big name contracts, including Nike, Adidas, Reebok and others. After the business was up and running, he found the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development (CEED) online and received a loan for working capital. CEED is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower women and minorities economically through business development training, supplier certification, business-to-business networking and accessible capital assistance programs.
Johnson took advantage of the technical assistance that CEED provides. He says, “Anything that I asked of CEED, they helped in some way.” To reach more customers, Johnson turned to social media. You can “like” Bob’s Classic Kicks on Facebook, “follow” them on Twitter or simply stop by in during one of their many in-store events. Also, the retailer takes on community projects.
Recently, Bob’s Classic Kicks partnered with Detroit Public Schools and agreed to give a pair of sneakers to all public high school students who attended school on Count Day. Johnson explains that the intent wasn’t to bribe the children, but encourage them. Schools are awarded funding by the state based on the number of students who attended, specifically on Count Day. Johnson understands that the more money schools get from the state, the better the school system becomes. The proud graduate of Martin Luther King Jr. High School is committed to doing his part to make Detroit a better place. While free sneakers may not fix the school system’s shortcomings, Johnson is using his gift and passion to be a part of the solution.
Johnson is not done pursing destiny, stating that Bob’s is “a work in progress.” He may expand the product line or expand the territory. Either way, Jason Johnson and Bob’s Classic Kicks are on the move.
For more information and to check out the new inventory and upcoming events, follow Bob’s Classic Kicks on Twitter @BCK_Detroit or visit their website: bobsclassickicks.com
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 April 2013 13:27
Category: Business - Original Written by Britney Spear, Regional Content Editor
Yesterday, cell phones turned 40! After years of becoming increasingly reliant on them, where would we be without our trusty gadgets?
How long could you go without a cellphone? Some say they can barely last an hour, let alone a day. Others have given up their gadgets, and say it's made them much more stress-free. Could you take the challenge, if you had to? What would be the outcome?
Our world has become completely reliant on technology. It's created a distance between us that some feel threatens real, interpersonal relationships. At the same time, we've used it to enter the everyday lives of people we barely know. Thanks to social media, we're free to show off nearly every detail of our personal lives. Most of us are guilty, at least by association.
Cell phones are a part of that technological reliance that now appears completely ingrained in our reality. Today's gizmos allow you to check your email, scroll through networking sites, and "Google" nearly anything you could imagine. The list goes alone. After all that technology has made of our cell phones, it's nearly unimaginable what would happen if we had to give up our gadgets. They've virtually become another body part, and one that serves a tremendous utility.
Move over, sparky! It now seems "man's best friend" is his cell phone. That notion might be disturbing considering these so-called trust companions haven't at least a heartbeat. But, is there anything wrong with the fact that we rely so heavily on inanimate objects? Opinions may differ. Perhaps as long as we don't lose our pulses, we must just accept we now live in a world where we wouldn't have it any other way.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @MissBritneySp
Last Updated on Thursday, 04 April 2013 11:38
Category: Business - Original Written by Michigan Chronicle
Eleven months after shovels hit the ground on a nearly 3-acre property in Detroit’s Midtown, doctors and researchers have begun moving into the Medical Office Building at Tolan Park, an $18.4-million medical facility in Detroit.
The zinc-paneled building, designed by Hamilton Anderson Associates and built by Jenkins Construction, is nestled between Tolan Park and Children’s Hospital on Beaubien near Mack and I-75. It provides modern space for employees of the building’s sole tenant, the Wayne State University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. The project created more than 300 jobs and is the first initiative of the Queen Lillian Development team that includes developers Jim Jenkins and Chris Jackson. The project was financed with the assistance of Talmer Bank and Trust of Troy, Mesirow Financial, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.
“It is very rewarding to see the project open its doors, but it’s just as exciting to be involved in helping with the city’s revitalization,” said Jackson.
The five-story, 63,000-square-foot building’s subtle exterior has an opposite interior: Bright green and yellow walls and modern furniture welcome visitors. Every floor offers a striking view of Midtown and the building is LEED certified.
“With this building, our Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences has a new, state-of-the-art home, with a physical presence on the campus of the medical school and on Midtown’s medical campus,” said Valerie M. Parisi, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., and dean of the WSU School of Medicine. “This new building will be more convenient for our patients, who often are first seen at one of the hospitals in the Detroit Medical Center system. This is a beautiful new edifice that further complements the growing Midtown area and adds to the revitalization of Detroit.”
The project’s completion makes way for a second nearby initiative by Queen Lillian Development. Construction will begin in August on the Midtown Professional Building, a 75,000-square-foot Class A medical office facility near the corner of Mack and Woodward Avenue.
Already a retail tenant, a medical practice and a dental practice have expressed interest in locating in the site, which will include a dedicated 280-car parking garage. The $30 million, five-story building will be the area’s only Class A office space and the building will be LEED certified.
It is also located three blocks from the future transit site — the M-1 Rail — and is part of ongoing revitalization taking place in Midtown, one of Detroit’s fastest growing neighborhoods. Midtown is home to the largest concentration of cultural, educational and medical institutions in Southeast Michigan and is one of the most walkable communities in Southeast Michigan.
“The reason this site was chosen is because we recognized a need for Class A office space in Midtown,” Jackson said. “We envision these projects as the start of many to come.”
Founded in 2008, Queen Lillian, LLC is a partnership between Jenkins and Jackson which pays homage to each of the developers’ mothers, respectively. Both projects have utilized 100 percent, African American development teams.
Over the last 15 years, Jenkins and Jackson have developed and/ or built some of the most high profile projects in the city of Detroit. In addition to the WSU building, those include Greektown Casino, Cass Technical High School, Westin Book Cadillac, Presbyterian Village, Martin Luther King Jr., High School and Ford Field.
For more information, go to www.midtownbldg.com.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 10 April 2013 10:37
Category: Business - Original Written by Britney Spear, Regional Content Editor
The Michigan Chronicle is the latest company to join D2D.
Expanding business in Detroit is a collaborative effort, and one that requires the input of an entire community. It's important that companies, organizations and other profit-based entities create and sustain strong connections to foster growth and development. One new initiative aims at improving the local economy through meeting such goals.
In an effort to get city businesses to purchase more goods from one another, the Detroit Economic Growth Corp has secured agreements from 15 large Detroit-based companies and universities. Their latest venture, the D2D database aims to serve as a liaison between purchasers and suppliers of goods and services.
Olga Stella, Vice President of Business Development for the DEGC, said the initiative is one that she believes will increase job opportunities in the city and save buyers money.
"If we really focus our efforts on this local B2B economy, it will lead to increased contracts, and companies would be able to hire more people and serve the increased demand."
The new program already looks promising with an impressive roster. Companies that have signed on include DTE Energy Co., the Detroit Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Quicken Loans Inc., Comerica Bank, Urban Science Inc., Wayne State University, Skidmore Inc., Strategic Staffing Solutions Inc., the University of Detroit-Mercy, the Henry Ford Health System, the Greektown Casino-Hotel, the Detroit Lions, Ernst & Young LLP and Compuware Corp.
Funded by a New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan grant, D2D will be free for businesses to register. It is modeled after the Pure Michigan Business Connect, a state-level database that is currently under the management of the Michigan Economic Development Corp.
D2D provides an array of resources related to advertising and promotions, legal services, equipment, building maintenance and janitorial services. Many of the businesses currently using the program boast significant spending in the city. The new venture is sure to improve those numbers.VP Stella said her organization will ultimately use D2D as a business recruitment tool.
The new initiative looks to prove to prospective investors that coming to Detroit is worth their while. Tempting incentives are what's needed to help them see the benefits of doing business in the city.
For more information on D2D, click here.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @MissBritneySp
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 April 2013 16:09
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