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New investment program aims to fill gaps for Detroit's small businesses

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

A Detroit program focused on boosting small business in the city’s neighborhoods has a year under its belt.

The Motor City Match program has awarded $2 million in grants so far. It awarded another $500,000 to 11 new or expanding ventures on Wednesday.

They include food and restaurant businesses, two child care centers, a beauty supply store, and a music center.

Lester Gouvia runs Norma G’s, a Caribbean food truck. He hopes his $60,000 grant will help that grow into a sit-down restaurant, located in the newly-revived Jefferson-Chalmers commercial corridor on Detroit’s east side.

“I’m really trying to create a destination. I think that neighborhood just lends itself to that,” Gouvia said. “I think the city really needs a lot of destinations. That’s really the concept behind that.”

Guadalajara #2, Inc. received $50,000. It’s a family-run butcher shop serving a largely Latino community in southwest Detroit.

Adriana Hernandez says the business has outgrown its current space in a convenience store, and this will help expand to a new location.

“It actually is helping us finish the building from the inside,” said Hernandez. “So hopefully opening our location will make my father’s dreams come true.”

In addition to cash grants awarded after a competitive application process, Motor City Match also offers technical assistance and other services to small businesses it believes show promise.

Mayor Mike Duggan and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation tout the programs as a way to boost economic development in Detroit neighborhoods, where many commercial corridors remain blighted and under-resourced despite a development boom in and around the city’s core.

That emerging sense of two diverging Detroits, where new investment bypasses most of the city’s longtime residents, helped spur the program, according to DEGC President Roderick Miller.

“We knew that there was a gap in the marketplace, and there was a conversation about lots of investment happening in downtown and midtown, but were there really opportunities for neighborhood entrepreneurs to plug into the growth of the economy?” Miller said.

Grant recipient Lester Gouvia said there are lots of resources out there for aspiring Detroit entrepreneurs—if they know where to look.

“They’re not as visible, or as well-known, as many entrepreneurs need,” he said. “We need to start talking to one another a lot more, and really share the information.”

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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