This is the year that Detroit started thinking small to grow big.

Small business and entrepreneurs were the focus of the region’s economic development efforts, from the city of Detroit hiring Jill Ford to lead efforts to foster entrepreneurship in the Motor City, or Automation Alley building a new accelerator for advanced manufacturing companies. (See story.) And, of course, Goldman Sachs came to town with its 10,000 Small Businesses program to help those poised for growth.

And the Detroit Regional Chamber and Detroit Economic Growth Corp., two groups known for thinking about big business, started advocating loudly for the city’s small businesses.

Here are three ways the region focused on small business this year.

  1. #NEIdeas. The New Economy Initiative served up $500,000 in much-needed assistance to Detroit small-business owners this year. The nonprofit doled out $10,000 each to 30 local businesses, allowingCity Bird to expand its retail shop in Midtown; Café con Leche to bring coffee roasting in house at its Southwest Detroit café; and Gleeor Inc. to buy a skid steer and expand its New Center-based construction and landscaping business, among others.
  2. Detroit Microloan CollaborativeHuntington Bank extended a $5 million line of credit to theDetroit Development Fund to create a microlending program for small businesses traditionally considered unbankable. But the DDF went a step further, partnering with the Michigan Women’s FoundationDetroit Micro-Enterprise Fund and Lifeline Business Consulting Services to target minority-owned businesses and ensure they get the money, coaching and development skills they need to succeed.
  3. D:Hive grows up. For the past three years D:Hive has acted as both a welcome center to the city and a small-business development organization. But starting in 2015 it will split into two: Build Instituteand Detroit Experience Factory. That means Build Institute can train more people with ideas on how to make them into businesses.

So as I think about my New Year’s resolutions, I toast the many small-business support organizations out there, including FoodLab DetroitDetroit Food AcademyHatch Detroit and its partnership with theDetroit LionsTechTown DetroitInvest DetroitFocus: Hope, the Center for Empowerment & Economic DevelopmentDetroit Creative Corridor CenterSCORE Detroit and all those I have yet to meet and know.

Amy Haimerl
Small Business