2023 Was a Big Year for Detroit’s Black Entrepreneurs

For Black entrepreneurs in Detroit and beyond, 2023 was challenging, complete with positive and not-so-positive news stories and developments to ponder. Here are eight stories from the Michigan Chronicle in 2023 that were of interest to Black entrepreneurs as they looked for opportunities and ways to prosper.

City Council Greenlights District Detroit’s Community Benefits Deal

Detroit City Council approved a $167 million Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) on March 28. The CBA is tied to Olympia Development of Michigan and The Related Company’s joint endeavor to develop the $1.5 billion District Detroit. The approval came after hours of public comments and discussions that resulted in the Council voting 8-1 to advance the request of the two partnering companies. The 11-page CBA outlining the community benefits obligations associated with the District Detroit project includes but is not limited to spending a minimum of $100 million with disadvantaged businesses in Detroit, creating a physical space to connect Detroiters to the developers for housing, employment, and business opportunities, acceptance of tenants utilizing Section 8 Vouchers in all affordable units with tenants having the Right to Renew, offering 20% of residential units at rates no more than 50% of the Area Median Income, creating a Tenant Improvement Fund for disadvantaged and emerging entrepreneurs renting space in District Detroit properties, and developers’ commitments to partner with local emerging developers on three projects in District Detroit.

Walker–Miller Energy Services, Real Times Media Host Inaugural RECESS Summit

There’s a clean energy transition afoot, created to develop clean, renewable energy sources across America and beyond to combat the rise and threat of climate change. The future of the growing clean energy transition will be explored at the first-ever Resilience and Equity in the Clean Energy Sector Summit (RECESS23) held in the Motor City from Oct 30 to Nov. 1. The summit will present an empowering platform for Black and Brown leaders to spearhead positive changes and open gateways for those aspiring to join an industry where Black people and other minorities are significantly underrepresented across its broad sectors. “Detroit is rightfully best positioned to establish itself as the leader in clean energy equity,” Hiram E. Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media, said before the summit. “This clean energy industry is growing rapidly, offering tremendous opportunities to create a vast number of jobs, build wealth, and help establish pathways to a sustainable future to stop the ravages of climate change.”

Black Developers Are Catalysts of Change in the City’s Reawakening

It’s almost impossible to drive on any main street in Detroit or through any neighborhood without seeing development or redevelopment projects, either in their early stages, nearly finished, or recently completed. Unbeknownst to some people, many of the projects – rehabilitation, new construction, mixed-use, or single/multifamily housing developments – are spearheaded by Black developers. While the exact number of Black developers is unknown, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan celebrated 33 Black developers in his State of the City addresses in 2022 and 2023. Roderick Hardamon, CEO of URGE Development Group, believes Black developers account for 25% to 35% of the total developer population in Motor City. Nevertheless, the list and the contributions of Black developers continue to grow in the city.

Minding My Black-Owned Business Showcases Success in Detroit’s Business Community

Real Times Media, Pitch Black, and the Michigan Chronicle, in partnership with the Detroit Regional Chamber, presented the second installment of “Minding My Black-Owned Business.”  The powerful networking event in late November delivered on its goals and objectives to convene seasoned entrepreneurs, business leaders, executives, movers, and shakers to network and share knowledge with other Black entrepreneurs to grow and prosper.

The first event was moderated by Nate Wallace, Head of Civic Partnerships at Michigan Central, while panelists included Sonya Mays, President & CEO of Develop Detroit, and Greg Jackson, Chairman, President, & CEO of Prestige Automotive Group. The segment also featured Roderick Hardamon, CEO and chief Strategist of URGE Imprint, and Lisa Lunsford, Co-Founder & CEO of GS3 Global.

The second segment featured Leon Richardson, Founder, President, and CEO of the Chemico Group; Candice Matthews Brackeen, Founder and CEO of the Lightship Foundation; and Mark Wilson, Chief Impact Officer for VXI Global Solutions.

Two Black Eastern Market Business Owners Continue to Raise Funds After Building Collapses

Two of Detroit’s favorite sons of Black entrepreneurship – Armond Rashad, owner of Jabs Gym Eastern Market, and Tommey Walker, owner of Detroit Vs. Everybody – was determined to recover from the unfortunate collapse of a 115-year-old building wall in the Eastern Market in mid-September, where Rashad and Walker operated their respective businesses. The two entrepreneurs contemplated their next move after the City of Detroit initially deemed the building hazardous and needed to be demolished. While Rashad and Walker looked for answers, the community, as reported by the Michigan Chronicle, has been overwhelmingly supportive of the two entrepreneurs on social media and financially. Rashad continues to host his fitness classes on location throughout the city, while Walker celebrated the opening of his new flagship store in downtown Detroit in the District Detroit strip off of Woodward Avenue.

JPMorgan Chase Marks 90 Years in Detroit, Celebrates a Decade of $200 Million Investment in Motor City’s Revival.

Last September, JPMorgan Chase celebrated 90 years of providing banking services in Detroit. It also touted its commitment to the comeback of Detroit over the last ten years. Since Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013, JPMorgan has committed more than $200 million in philanthropic capital, low-cost loans, and equity investments to support Detroit’s economic recovery. “Looking back, we see the returns on our investment in the strength of our customers and communities ― their ability to build wealth, create lasting careers, plan for their financial futures, and achieve their dreams,” said Jamie Dimon, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of JPMorgan Chase.

Hudson-Webber Foundation Trustees Unveil $2,3 Million Grant Package for Eight Detroit Nonprofits

In December, the Hudson-Webber Foundation Board of Trustees announced $2.3 million in new grants to be distributed to eight local nonprofit organizations. The grants’ aim is to receive entities to enhance local communities that are overwhelmingly Black. The nonprofits receiving the grants are Black Leaders of Detroit, the Center for Michigan, the Citizens Research Council, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Justice Center, the Detroit Parks Coalition, the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, and the Michigan League for Public Policy.

The State of Black Detroit is Key to the City’s Economy

For African Americans in Detroit, the nation’s “biggest and blackest” municipality, the economic engine is powering forward as high employment rates in communities across the city dropped significantly. The National Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report in March 2023 stating Detroit’s unemployment rate fell to 5.8%, the lowest in 23 years. In its effort to create jobs locally, one of the leaders in linking Detroiters with jobs and employers is Detroit At Work, a city agency offering training and employment opportunities. Detroit At Work has been intricate in preparing Detroiters for jobs in-demand fields such as healthcare, information technology, advanced manufacturing, construction & skilled trades, and the expanding automotive sector, with the mindset that a robust and fulfilled job market significantly drives the local economy.

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