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TechTown today announced it has expanded its SWOT City program to Detroit’s East Jefferson commercial corridor through a new engagement with the Jefferson East Business Association (JEBA). SWOT City works to strengthen Detroit’s small business districts by offering acceleration services through partnerships with local community or economic development organizations.
The seven-month engagement will enable TechTown to serve businesses that reside along the East Jefferson commercial corridor, from I-375 to Alter Road, through business workshops, Tune-Up sessions, one-on-one coaching and objective assessments of each business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). Each of the businesses coached through the SWOT process are hand selected by JEBA – all must be integral to the long-term viability of the neighborhood.
Since launching SWOT City in August 2011, TechTown has supported the neighborhoods of Midtown, New Center and most recently, Brightmoor. The latter is backed by a $150,000 grant from the Marjorie S. Fisher Endowment Fund of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, as well as a partnership with the Brightmoor Alliance.
In just the first six months, SWOT City delivered more than 400 hours of assistance in Brightmoor, which resulted in the creation of four new jobs; the retention of 53 jobs; and the launch of one company, with six more in the pipeline. Seventy-one percent of the clients served are African American; 66 percent are women.
“The SWOT City program provides critical technical assistance to existing businesses, while placing new businesses to fill neighborhood gaps through a socially and economically inclusive platform created to support our most at-risk entrepreneurs.” said Leslie Smith, president and CEO of TechTown. “We credit the expansion of our SWOT City program to the results of our work. We are proud of the outcomes we’ve achieved and expect nothing less from our new partnership with JEBA. Together we will work to create economic vibrancy and opportunities for the citizens of the city we both serve.”
Rather than serving businesses independent of community demand, SWOT City aims to serve a neighborhood, providing business expertise through a community cluster approach. Each engagement requires a stable community or economic development organization that can better identify struggling businesses of local importance. Together, TechTown and its partner organizations also work to identify community-specific needs then seek out entrepreneurs to fill those voids.
TechTown found an ideal partner in JEBA, an association founded to foster economic development on Detroit’s lower east side. Its programs work to create an environment that’s conducive to business and residential growth, addressing community needs such as investment, safety and beautification.
In 2008, manufacturing made up roughly 70 percent of all jobs in the corridor. Just a few years later, manufacturing accounted for approximately 40 percent of its job losses. Fortunately, start-up activity among retail and services saw an uptick – now there are more than 1,000 businesses in this sector. TechTown is uniquely positioned to assist in the stabilization or growth of these existing businesses, while preparing potential entrepreneurs to eventually occupy the many vacant storefronts.
“The partnership with TechTown is a great opportunity for JEBA to further its vision of growing and sustaining businesses on East Jefferson,” said Ritchie Harrison, JEBA’s economic and policy director. “Through the years, JEBA has maintained a firm commitment to the idea that entrepreneurship is essential to economic and community development. Our staff and leadership have sought to implement programs and initiatives that are grounded in that understanding. When I reached out to TechTown about the potential of forming a partnership, I found that it shares our vision – their staff has worked in communities with challenges similar to those seen on East Jefferson and has found success.”