By Sherri Begin Welch/ Crain’s Detroit

David Egner
President, Hudson Webber Foundation and Executive director, New Economy Initiative

Under David Egner’s direction, the $100 million New Economy Initiative — the largest foundation-led economic development initiative in the country — stepped up its grant making in 2009.

Egner also has been the driving force behind an effort to attract 15,000 young professionals to live, work and play in the Detroit area by 2015 in his role as president of the Hudson-Webber Foundation.

At the core of both efforts is Egner’s belief in collaboration.

With Egner at the helm, NEI in May announced $9.25 million in grants to fund an initiative to spur entrepreneurship with the Kansas City, Mo.-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which is providing programming and staff.

The goal is to create hundreds of new companies over the next three years through a condensed “FastTrac” entrepreneur training program at business incubator TechTown.

NEI also is supporting the nonprofit Urban Entrepreneurial Partnership to help 150 minority automotive suppliers in metro Detroit diversify their customers.

The program is working with groups such as the Michigan Minority Business Development Council, the Michigan Economic Development Council, county economic groups and regional business accelerator organizations.

Among NEI’s other grants are those that include:

  • Creating neighborhood-based businesses in Detroit that employ residents.
  • Developing Detroit’s New Center as a global center for arts and design.
  • Developing a system to place 25,000 students in internships while they attend college in Michigan in the hopes of keeping them in the state.
  • Accelerating research at Michigan’s public universities.

To date, NEI has made grants totaling just under $25 million, and is working to accelerate the payouts even more, Egner said in November.

As president of Hudson-Webber, Egner also has been the convening force behind an initiative to spur economic development in Midtown and in downtown Detroit.

The effort is the first nationally to put a stake in the ground and set some measurable markers around its goal to attract young people.