Small Business Funneling Job Development in Detroit

According to a February 2023 report by the City of Detroit’s University Economic Analysis Partnership, expectations from the study found “Detroit’s resilience in recovering from the pandemic to date to translate into continued growth even amid a challenging national economy.”

“The past year featured primarily, but not uniformly, encouraging developments in Detroit’s economy. We estimate that employment at establishments located within the city had recovered roughly 86 percent of the initial pandemic losses by the first quarter of 2022,” according to the report.

In a time where small businesses are developing jobs, there is an entity playing an important role in providing the tools and technical assistance small businesses need in order to succeed.

“Our goal is to help close the racial wealth gap,” said Charity Dean, president and CEO of the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance (MDBBA). “We create programs and advocate for policies that advocate for Black-owned businesses. We are very engaged in programs that are designed to help business owners get technical assistance such as marketing, legal, accounting and programs designed around capital. Our Capital Connect program connects funders directly with Black businesses. “

Founded in 2021, it’s organizations like MDBBA that are playing an important role to help stabilize operations of small Black businesses in Detroit.

Dean touts other services such as its Black Business Resource Center which offers free co-working space with internet connectivity as it works to close the digital divide. The organization is also connecting businesses to interns who will learn entrepreneurship and participate in pitch competitions.

Despite its efforts to aid small Black business, Dean advocates for being informed about government policy which can help and sometimes harm business.

“We have a Truth to Power series where we invite politicians to talk with Black business owners. When ordinances at the city level, or policies at the state and federal level will have an impact, we make sure that we are advocating on behalf of our members to make sure they are not getting the short end of the stick.”

Further into the City of Detroit’s University Economic Analysis Partnership, the report finds “the decline in Detroit’s unemployment rate during 2022 was not all good news, as it came from a decline in the city’s labor force rather than from an increase in resident employment. Detroit’s seasonally adjusted resident employment count actually edged down by nearly 1,300 from December 2021 to October 2022.”

The report “estimates that employment within the city of Detroit increased by 8,000 jobs in 2022, nearly keeping pace with 2021’s 8,400 job gains. We expect growth to slow down to 2,200 job gains in 2023 amid a slowing national economy.”

For how small businesses overall funnel or facilitate job growth, Dean finds it must come with investment into training for specific industries.

“We have an opportunity in Detroit to really be forward thinking about where we’re investing in our training dollars. Small businesses employee 50 percent of Detroiters. The City of Detroit’s Workforce Development has an opportunity to ask itself, are we missing out on 50 percent of the jobs that exist?”

“Right now there isn’t a robust training program for retail or hospitality and yet the hospitality industry is huge and it’s huge in small business and in Black business.”

Dean is adamant in making sure that government programs as it relates to training and investment match the job needs in the market.

“There’s tons of manufacturing training, but I think we have the opportunity to include small business and the question is – will we do it?”

One of the ways the MDBBA tries to fill that gap is through its workforce development program and asking members what more can be done through its interactive meeting sessions.

“The ways in which our systems are set up across the country, they are not set up to support small businesses in the same way corporations are. They [corporations] have multiple options to get and keep talent from benefit packages and with lobbyists advocating at every level of government to make sure things like the rules are such that it’s easy for them to do that.”

“Most small businesses can’t afford to pay insurance. So small businesses have all these obstacles. They want to hire good talent but the structures and the systems aren’t built for us, they’re built for the most powerful.”

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