Economic Development News…. and the Fall of the Packard Plant

Some interesting– not necessarily new– actions around business growth and economic development:

1) The Detroit Creative Corridor Center released their year-end report, which examines the steps they have taken to accelerate growth of the creative economy in Detroit. Some of the highlights after just one year of operation: 200 creative sector jobs were provided through their business attraction efforts. And get this– five more companies and 1,200 jobs are in the pipeline. These are businesses that they have attracted to locate in the city and are bringing jobs with them. Aside from that, over $1M has been raised through their efforts to support investment in the creative sector locally. This means more support for early to mid stage companies through the Creative Ventures program, and more resources to put on thoughtful events showcasing the creative community like the Detroit Design Festival. Two thumbs up. See the DC3’s report here. Moving on–

2) Josh Linkner, one part of the Detroit Venture Partners gang, penned a somewhat interesting article in INC magazine. The message: Detroit isn’t a blank canvas, it’s just a place where “we have the once-in-a-lifetime chance to make a noticeable brushstroke on a canvas whose final version affects us all. Let’s seize it.” Sure, can’t argue with that sentiment and feel-good sorta stuff. I guess the more significant aspect of all this dialogue is that they are creating tangible actions from this genuine opportunity. DVP is investing in mid-stage tech companies, and headquartering them in the nearly three million square feet of office space that Dan Gilbert is ferociously snatching up in the downtown area. Hate ‘em or love ‘em, it’s damn nice to see these guys walking the walk.

Unrelated to all this, but quite interesting nonetheless: the owner of the Packard Plant says that sucka is coming down, with a team that is reportedly just “days away from starting to barricade and fence off the 3.5-million-square-foot eyesore” as part of a larger scheme to demolish the building. Building owner Dominic Cristini claims it is part of an effort to “do the right and responsible thing.” Let’s see if this guy walks the walk, too. (Read the whole article here)

Downtown Developments Sprucing Up the City

All kinds of chatter circulating around town about renovations/activations happening in the downtown area.

The Free Press reported this morning that Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Detroit Venture Partners fame has purchased the Dime Building (a beauty designed by Daniel Burnham). The Free Press has not reported too many details in terms of what Gilbert is planning to do with the Dime, but you can bet it probably has something to do with the work Detroit Venture Partners is doing– the venture capital firm that Gilbert, Josh Linkner and Brian Hermelin started last year. In speaking engagements throughout last year, both Gilbert and Linkner have said repeatedly that the plan is to create a Silicon Valley in Detroit by supporting the startup of early to mid-stage tech companies. In doing so, they invest in the companies, house them in the incubation space at the Madison Building (adjacent to the Broderick Tower) and then move the companies to larger space as they begin to grow. It seems reasonable that the space purchased in the Dime Building could support that movement. But, again, nothing has been confirmed. Just throwing out some thoughts here.

Separately, just up the street at the David Whitney Building, there were reports at the end of May that Roxbury Group, a local development firm, is working with another investment firm in Farmington Hills to get an $80m project off the ground that would have it renovated as a boutique hotel. Reports show that other similar hotels in Detroit like the Book-Cadillac and DoubleTree are doing well financially, which makes a strong case for the development of the David Whitney Building.

Investor confidence is up. Buildings are being rehabbed. Businesses are being cultivated. Bring it on, Detroit.

Josh Linkner on biz startup and the future of Detroit

Josh Linker has become a household name in Detroit these days. He is a partner in the venture capital group Detroit Venture Partners (DVP) along with Dan Gilbert and Brian Hermelin. They are looking to make offers on as many as six early stage tech companies in the next thirty days to get the ball rolling on DVP’s efforts in Detroit. Linker will also be a speaker at the Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference that commences tomorrow and goes until Thursday at the Taubman Center.

Let’s back up.

Linker’s a local guy. He’s been based in Metro-Detroit for a while now having launched another company, ePrize, from the region as well. With DVP, Linker is planning to create a Silicon Valley in Detroit based out of the Madison Building downtown. Businesses will be incubated there and with success and the need for expansion will then be moved to a permanent location within the city.

So, what is an “early stage tech company”? Who are these companies that they are funding? Mostly online tech-related companies– mobile phone applications development, websites that serve a national audience like, say, Monster.com and other companies related to things like social media.

Given that many of these companies are “faceless,” that is, without a storefront or shop where people can congregate, it remains a question how they will effect and contribute to the city’s development. This is where Linkner gets excited, explaining that with the bolster of activity downtown associated with these companies, things like the local bagel shop or coffee joint will be popping up left and right to cater to an increase of demand for goods like that in the area. As it is already, development is no stranger to that part of town. The Broderick Tower, adjacent to DVP’s offices in the Madison Building, is already getting a historical rehab. The retail strip along Woodward not far from the Madison Building also seems a likely candidate for a face lift if DVP brings the activity it predicts, all of which is exciting to watch unfold.

Stay tuned to DVP’s website for approaching news about their activity downtown and don’t forget to check out Josh speaking at this year’s Rust Belt to Artist Belt Conference (tickets are still available!) at the Taubman Center.

Detroit Venture Partners Bringing Growth to the D?

Lots of business’y talk lately, but geez, that’s kind of what’s going on. Last week I was talking abotu the state-wide tax incentive that the Senate passed for angel investors (groups kind of like venture capitalists) where those who invest would get a 25% tax rebate once the company turns a profit. Chapter two to that discussion is all this new talk about Detroit Venture Partners– a new venture capital fund that has formed with specific interests in Detroit.

“We are firmly committed to the city of Detroit,” says Josh Linkner, CEO & managing principal of Detroit Venture Partners. “We want to invest in companies in Detroit and recruit them to downtown.”

Linnker has teamed up with Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans and Brian Hermelin of Rockbridge Growth Equity to form the new VC fund. According to Model D, these guys are looking to invest most heavily in Internet startups, digital media, marketing technology, direct-to-consumer, sports & entertainment, social media, e-commerce and software.

And here’s the better news:

Detroit Venture Partners expects to make 6-8 investments in 2011 and 10-20 the year after . . . Linkner believes a firm like Detroit Venture Partners will help downtown reach a critical mass for startups based in the new economy, creating an exponential economic impact in the city.”