When Eric Thomas resigned from his role as Detroit’s Chief Storyteller in May of this year, he couldn’t believe how quickly the news spread and how many people cared. It was met with hundreds of likes, tons of shares, and even a few running jokes when he broke the news on social media. Many pondered the reason behind his departure and were saddened by the potential void in the city’s storytelling landscape, which had been uniquely shaped by Eric Thomas’s style from a foundation laid by his predecessor Aaron Foley. Throughout the summer, the city was abuzz with curiosity about what the charismatic and beloved Detroit Spokesperson would do next.
In an exclusive interview with the Michigan Chronicle, Thomas made a surprise announcement during Finally Friday. As of Monday, September 18th, Eric Thomas has taken on the role of Senior Vice President of External Relations for Invest Detroit.
Eric Thomas, with his trademark wit, quipped during the interview, “That’s a big title for a college dropout.” But it’s clear that he’s well-equipped to take on this new role, given his extensive experience as a storyteller and his deep connections within the Detroit community. His personal journey as a successful entrepreneur, highlighted by the establishment of the distinctive “storytelling agency” known as Saga, which has generated over $1.4 million in revenue while serving municipalities, museums, cultural institutions, and national corporations, underscores his expertise in economic growth, capital utilization, and audience engagement.
Invest Detroit is renowned for being a leading source of private sector gap financing, leveraging a variety of funding mechanisms through both for-profit and nonprofit targeted funds. These funds are utilized to support economic development opportunities, primarily in underserved communities, with a strong focus on the City of Detroit. The organization’s primary objectives are to promote job creation, expand the tax base, and enhance the overall quality of life for the communities it serves.
“Invest Detroit is really focused on creating loan and investment opportunities in neighborhoods, often for people of color,” Thomas explained. He expressed enthusiasm for the small business sector, stating, “The small business side really excites me because I’ve been an entrepreneur for so long. Over the last year, 91% of the businesses Invest Detroit has provided capital for have been owned by people of color, women, and immigrants. That is something that really excites me. I remember being a small business owner and wondering where to get the money.”
Thomas’s excitement extends to the prospect of engaging with the Black and Brown communities in Detroit. He intends to have conversations about how to strategically layer different types of capital to fuel entrepreneurship and economic growth.
“Invest Detroit is a different type of organization that really works to empower communities and provide opportunities where they are needed most,” Thomas emphasized.
As Eric Thomas transitions into his role as Senior Vice President of External Relations at Invest Detroit, it is evident that he brings not only his storytelling prowess but also a passionate commitment to fostering economic development and equity in the City of Detroit. His journey from Chief Storyteller to a key role in a venture capital firm showcases the power of passion, community, and determination in creating a brighter future for Detroit and its residents.
Be sure to tune into finally Friday each and every Friday at 11am on Michigan Chronicle’s YouTube and Facebook accounts.