TechTown launches $250K fund to help Detroit businesses amid coronavirus shutdown

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

A city entrepreneurship hub has launched an emergency fund for small businesses in Detroit impacted by a state-imposed shutdown sparked by the coronavirus.

TechTown on Wednesday announced it is raising $250,000 to support the newly created Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund, which will provide capital grants of up to $5,000 for vulnerable businesses in the city that qualify.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday ordered restaurants, bars, libraries and other venues to temporarily shut down as cases of the coronavirus continued to climb in Michigan. 

“We all know what very real threat lies ahead for our local neighborhood businesses as in-person customer traffic vanishes,” TechTown CEO Ned Staebler said in a statement. “Grants of up to $5,000 will provide a critical life-line for a business community just starting to see real gains following the great recession. This support for operational costs like payroll can prevent the loss of a family’s livelihood.”

TechTown will administer the grant program and process applications for the effort, which also includes the nonprofit Invest Detroit, the city and Detroit Economic Growth Corp., as partners. 

Officials said the fund is part of a support strategy being rolled out in the city that's modeled after a similar initiative in Seattle.

To qualify, a business owner's personal income must be low to moderate and less than or equal to 80% of the area median income, have 10 employees or less and a physical building. They also must have experienced a loss of income due to COVID-19.

The Quicken Loans Community Fund is investing $100,000 into the stabilization fund as part of a donation the Quicken Loans Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation announced Monday to address the ongoing impact of coronavirus in Detroit.

“Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the cornerstone of Detroit, and we want to ensure they are set up for success to weather the uncertain times ahead,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Quicken Loans Community Fund.

“We are grateful for TechTown’s leadership in establishing the Detroit Small Business Stabilization Fund, and are proud to stand alongside the organizations providing support to Detroiters who are vulnerable to the effects of this ongoing pandemic.”

Officials said small businesses with low-income owners in neighborhoods at high risk for displacement will get priority and the grants may be used to cover day-to-day operating expenses, such as payroll or losses.

Application instructions will be made available later this week at and donations to the fund also are being accepted on TechTown's website.