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OPINION

Letters: Thoughts on entrepreneurs, politics

Skills, resources both matter

Re: The Detroit News’s Jan. 31 editorial “Skills Gap Still Too Wide”: The commentary was right to call attention to both sides of the region’s economic coin: the ongoing recovery, particularly in areas downtown, and the skills gap that contributes to continued, high unemployment for residents across neighborhoods. Indeed, more and better job training, vocational programs and community college opportunities are key to an inclusive, strong economy.

Equally important as closing the skills gap, though, is our support of local entrepreneurs — of all backgrounds, regardless of education level. While some Detroiters may lack technical, on-the-job skills, we have no shortage of aspiring business owners, cutting-edge ideas and entrepreneurial spirit. As a community, we must do a better job tapping into and unleashing this potential. What many residents need in addition to an educational certificate, is a low-interest loan, business planning help, or real estate assistance to get their enterprise off the ground.

This has been a core focus of the New Economy Initiative’s work in the region. Through connecting entrepreneurs with more than 50 support organizations, funding, technical assistance and other resources, we are seeing the emergence of an ecosystem of support for small businesses in Detroit — from young deli owners to the 40-year-old barbershop. The results speak for themselves: NEI’s investments have helped support over 4,000 new and existing enterprises, including 1,600 newly formed companies, accounting for 17,000 — and counting — jobs in the region. Of the new businesses, 39 percent are minority owned — notable in a nation where only 21 percent of companies, on average, are minority-owned.

Much more work remains to strengthen and diversify our economy, ensuring it works for all area residents. But in our efforts to close the skills gap, we cannot overlook one of our greatest assets: our own entrepreneurs.

Pam Lewis, New Economy Initiative

Opposed to new election law

Re: The Jan. 30 letter to the editor in The Detroit News: “Furor on election law misplaced”: Terri Reid of the Michigan Freedom Fund supports what’s been referred to as a gag order on public officials.

The recently enacted election law says no publicly supported mailings or television ads within 60 days of an election.

I don’t usually think about how I’m going to vote until a few weeks before an election. I look at the mailings and listen to ads to help make my decision. If the only ads will be from someone rich enough to pay for ads (like the Koch brothers), then I will get only biased information that will be against any change for the better in our community.

Pat Kolar, Redford