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Marketplace Scratch Pad

The other Detroit

Scott Jagow May 27, 2009

Not everything about business in Detroit is as bleak as GM and Chrysler. I just read about a program launched in inner city Detroit this year that helps small businesses succeed. It’s a national program from the Small Business Administration called the Emerging 200 initiative.

Here are the guidelines for the program (from CNN Money):

Each participating E200 business must be headquartered in an inner city, generate $400,000 or more in annual revenue, and be at least three years old. The group’s business owners attend classes every other week, which are hosted by officials from local SBA branches or by partner organizations such as chambers of commerce. On the off weeks, the attendees gather for peer-group sessions, at which smaller groups of four or five participants collaborate on class homework and discuss the ups and downs that their businesses face.

E200’s first year was 2008, and 10 cities participated: Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Atlanta, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Memphis, Albuquerque and Des Moines. Five more joined in this year: Detroit; Dallas; Denver; Jacksonville, Fla., and Portland, Ore.
Plus, there was enough interest this year to include 215 companies, instead of 200.

The program is small potatoes ($1 million) compared to the gigantic government initiatives for the carmakers and financial companies, but the attitude is in the right place. The idea is to help entrepreneurs grow their companies and create jobs, especially in areas where that’s harder to do:

“These businesses have persevered despite being located in neighborhoods where the challenge is higher-than-average unemployment and poverty,” says Constance Logan, senior manager for the Small Business Administration’s Detroit office.

Hopefully, E200, which was a Bush Administration program, will continue next year and get bigger as well. You can read about how 5 of the businesses are faring in different cities here.

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