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NEI’s Dave Egner writes in Model D about Detroit’s entrepreneurial awakening.

Ten years ago, Michigan’s work in economic development, like many states, was about attracting “elephants,” otherwise known as the next big company. The auto makers were getting pummeled; Michigan, by some accounts, was on its way to losing half of all the jobs lost in the entire country between 2000 and 2010;* and the search was on for the next big manufacturers.

In economic development circles, “pursue what you know” was the mantra, and what we had known for the previous 70 years were large-employer companies. These were the type of companies that didn’t always demand innovation from most of their employees, but whom they took care of from cradle-to-grave nonetheless. As recently as 2008, if you wanted an on-ramp to commercialize ideas or start a company (or grow an existing company, for that matter), you basically had to be a dogged serial entrepreneur willing to go it alone or be lucky enough to have access to the technology transfer office at a major university. There were only about four or five entities that were tangentially helping entrepreneurs – in fact, the term “entrepreneur”  wasn’t really even in Michigan’s cultural lexicon for economic development. CONTINUE READING