Grant program expands to foster Detroit businesses

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — The city Wednesday announced the launch of a competitive grant program aimed at connecting building owners with prospective small business tenants to get them off the ground in Detroit.

Motor City Match was unveiled by Mayor Mike Duggan in February as a mechanism to provide seed money — $500,000 every quarter in federal grant and foundation monies — for entrepreneurs looking to start a business.

This year, the program will also provide an additional $1 million in small business and renovation loans and $1 million in support services.

Duggan says the initiative will serve as a sustainable program in Detroit on which entrepreneurs can count.

“We wanted to have something that you know every single quarter $500,000 is available,” Duggan said during a news conference inside a vacant building being redeveloped in the Avenue of Fashion on Livernois.

April Anderson, co-owner of Good Cakes and Bakes, moved into her space in the Avenue of Fashion about 18 months ago. She says the process was challenging and she could have — and still may — benefit from the technical assistance offered under the program.

“I’m hoping it will give other entrepreneurs the spark to want to open in the city and to branch out into a neighborhood,” she said.

The program’s building owner track is for Detroit property owners with a vacant space who are looking for new tenants. The business owner track is for small companies, within the city and beyond, who are looking to start or expand in Detroit.

Applications for qualified building owners opened Wednesday and runs through May 1. The first decisions should be made in July, officials said.

A second round of business owner applications will open Aug. 1 and close Sept. 1. Those who qualify will have their property listed as available on the Motor City Match website.

For businesses, the application process will run from June 1 to July 1, with a second round running from Sept. 1 to Oct. 1.

“It’s really about bringing together this entire ecosystem of space, support and startup funding together so that small businesses can be successful in the city,” said Detroit Economic Growth Corporation CEO Rodrick Miller, adding that the grant program will also bring buildings back to life citywide.

Funding for technical support services come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants. The grants have been allocated by Detroit to the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which will administer the program and is staffed by DEGC.

Philanthropic partners range from Bank of America to the Ford Foundation, JP Morgan Chase, the Kresge and Kellogg foundations and others. The program also features six lending partners to help facilitate small business and construction loans, officials said.

Duggan expects officials will know if the program is catching on by the second half of this year, but businesses won’t likely be in the spaces before 2016. Measuring success, he added, will be a longer-term process.

“Five years from now, that’s when we’ll know if we have really taken root,” he said.