A Conversation on Igniting Equitable Economic Growth in Michigan

Courtney Overbey

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Supporting small businesses of all backgrounds is a crucial component that will drive Michigan's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

As Michigan’s economy continues to grow, it is important that the ecosystem is equipped to support small businesses entrepreneurs from all backgrounds. Chris Cook, director of Capital Access for the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), and Keona Cowan, executive vice president of Invest Detroit, sit down for a conversation on how their two organizations work together to connect small businesses with the capital they need to grow and thrive. The pair also sheds light on the importance of promoting diversity and ensuring equitable opportunities in Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

See below for experts and key insights from the conversation and watch the full 30-minute livestream to learn more.

Lenders remain supportive with their funding despite the impacts of the pandemic.

Keona: Over the last year, the challenge has been figuring out how to go from pre-COVID to post-COVID and what that looks like. Right now, at Invest Detroit, we’re spending a lot of time talking with businesses about their marketing strategy and the role having multiple streams of income can play when looking to pivot and expand online. We want to make sure people know we are here and ready to help. Our mission, focus, resources and capital are no different than they were pre-COVID.

Chris: At the MEDC, we’re also seeing a lot of new programming and federal money coming in to support businesses, which may or may not be available for several months. With that in mind, Invest Detroit is still working and making loans and so is the Capital Access program. We’re simultaneously supporting businesses that are being affected now by COVID while appropriately planning for growth moving forward.

Elevating and supporting entrepreneurs of color in Detroit and the region.

Keona: Invest Detroit is a mission-driven lender, investor and partner that supports businesses and real estate projects. Our goal is to ignite economic growth in the city of Detroit and its region. Invest Detroit focuses on improving the quality of life for Detroiters while creating inclusive housing, resources, neighborhoods, job opportunities and business growth. We recognize that in order to have thriving neighborhoods, we also need to be supportive of small businesses.

Chris: When you talk about small business lending, what are you talking about in terms of types of businesses and sizes of loans that are provided?

Keona: Invest Detroit lends anywhere from $50,000 to $2.5 million dollars for small businesses. We’re looking at businesses in any industry that might have two employees, a brick-and-mortar location and up to 200 employees. We are especially focused on promoting diversity and combatting systemic racism in the Detroit community, so many of the entrepreneurs we support are minorities or immigrants.

Invest Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Initiative seeks to increase density and commercial corridor potentional in Detroit communities.

Keona: The Strategic Neighborhood Initiative is a public-private-philanthropic partnership developed with the City of Detroit and a number of corporate and philanthropic funders to focus on 10 strategic neighborhoods in Detroit that have strong bones but need additional capital to thrive. For example, one aspect is to focus on a parks and recreation initiative to create parks where families have access to an outdoor place to play, congregate and collaborate. In commercial corridors, we’re financing real estate developments that create an opportunity for small businesses to operate and provide the products and goods residents have voiced needing or wanting.

Chris: At the MEDC, ensuring equity in Michigan’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is a statewide priority. While the economy has improved over the last 10 years, it did not improve equally. Focusing on particular areas in our state, such as Detroit, is important to the bigger picture.

Connecting with a lender in Detroit and beyond.

Chris: If any business owners or prospective business owners, specifically in the Detroit market, want to reach out for support, how should they get started?

Keona: First I want to say this — for those who don’t know, the MEDC and the Capital Access team are critical community-based lenders. The support we receive from the state, the city and key partners is critical in how Invest Detroit is able to deliver support. I like to equate community development to “it takes a village.” I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that the MEDC has been really supportive over the years in creating capital for small business in the city of Detroit.

There are a number of ways small business owners or prospective small business owners can reach Invest Detroit. All our information is listed on our website at investdetroit.com. You can also reach us via the phone at (313) 259-6368. We’ll be glad to talk through your business model, business plan and your need for access to capital.

For more information about the programs and resources available to entrepreneurs and small businesses, please visit michiganbusiness.org/access-capital.

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