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Grant backs "micro-enterprise" in Detroit

Some small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs in Detroit could get a boost from a$2.4 million Kellogg Foundation grant.

The grant will help establish the Global Detroit Neighborhood Development Collaborative, a micro-enterprise lending and training programs in three city neighborhoods for three years.

Former Detroit State Representative Steve Tobocman runs the larger Global Detroit initiative, which will oversee the program.

Tobocman says “micro-entrepreneurs” run informal small businesses—like restaurants or auto repair shops—in low-income, often immigrant-heavy, communities.

“Some of the really incredible, fastest-growing stores and restaurants sometimes are in these low-income communities,” Tobocman said. “And it’s not obvious to those who look at traditional market analyses.”

The program will be intensely localized, targeting three distinct communities in Detroit—southwest Detroit, Cody-Rouge, and the North End. The first two have substantial immigrant populations; North End is predominantly African-American.

Tobocman says the idea is to harness the power of this “underground economy” by giving loans and training to existing and aspiring entrepreneurs.

“And that’s a path that can create jobs and economic impact in these communities,” Tobocman said.

The initiative is based on a long-running program in Minneapolis-St. Paul that has helped create jobs and build tax revenues there.

The program is set to roll out over the next several months.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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