Michigan Central is investing $500,000 in grants, low interest loans, mentorship opportunities and training for small businesses in the Corktown area near Michigan Central Station.

In its first major small business investment in Detroit, Michigan Central has pledged $500,000 in grants, loans, training and mentorship opportunities for companies in Corktown.

The Advancing Community Businesses initiative, being done in partnership with the Build Institute and Prosper Us Detroit, will help 25 southwest Detroit businesses. Any business in or near the Michigan Central impact area with one to 10 years of operating history, two or more employees, and annual revenue of less than $500,000 can apply here to be considered for the program.

Clarinda Barnett-Harrison is the Community Impact Lead with Michigan Central. Barnett-Harrison said the Advancing Community Businesses program is all about giving small businesses development opportunities and start-up capital.

Clarinda Barnett-Harrison, the community impact lead with Michigan Central, said this program was designed to help small businesses gain development opportunities and build capital. 

“This is support that underrepresented groups often don’t have access to,” Barnett-Harrison said. “That’s why we were very careful in choosing Build Institute and Prosper Us as our two local partners, because they have a methodology for how to support Black and Brown businesses.”

Those selected, she said, will get business development support and also have opportunities to apply for grants and loans to support their ideas for growth. 

Advancing Community Businesses was developed based on community input, survey results, and Michigan Central’s “defined deliverables” within the Community Benefits Ordinance, according to Gabrielle Poshadlo, a spokeswoman for Ford Land. The program will utilize the $500,000 in 2021 CBO funding intended for entrepreneurship growth and expansion within the Michigan Central Impact Zone, which sits between the Lodge freeway, Clark Street, Grand River, and Fort Street. 

Regina Ann Campbell is the President and CEO of Build Institute. Campbell helped craft the Advancing Community Businesses program after talking with entrepreneurs about their needs and business goals.

President and CEO of Build Institute Regina Ann Campbell helped frame the program after talking with entrepreneurs in the area and looking at business data from the New Economy Initiative. Campbell said she noticed gaps in support for community-based small businesses in Detroit. 

Campbell said this program is designed to help “micro businesses,” which she said represents about 70% of the business market in the city. She said the investment from Michigan Central is huge in helping the businesses “launch, sustain and grow.”

“It’s helping us rebuild and connect the communities of North Corktown and southwest, which are some of the most diverse areas we have missed,” she said. 

Advancing Community Businesses is the first in a series of community development programs coming from Michigan Central. Officials say future programs will support the local workforce, housing development and education.

Michigan Central Station is located in the city’s District 6, an area where nearly 42% of residents lived in poverty as of 2018, according to Data Driven Detroit. The city in partnership with Ford Motor Co. is also designing a new streetscape project to make the district more walkable and aesthetically pleasing. 

Barnett-Harrison said the hope is that Michigan Central will eventually expand its investments to other parts of the city. 

“While we don’t necessarily have direct initiatives formulated around that yet, we are going to start initiating engagement citywide with community members and businesses,” she said. “Residents can stay tuned for other programming and efforts both from an engagement standpoint and really getting them involved in the future of Michigan Central as a whole.”

Applications for Advancing Community Businesses are being accepted through June 30.

Bryce Huffman is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. He was formerly a reporter for Michigan Radio, and host of the podcast, Same Same Different.

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