The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) made important advances this year in its historic shift of Michigan’s economic development strategy, which began in 2011. This year, the MEDC was recognized by the Urban Land Institute with a Real Estate Achievement Award for “being a real catalyst in the state” and was identified as one of the top five economic development organizations overall in the country. 

Carsten Hohnke, MEDC senior vice president of Strategy and Policy discusses MEDC’s progress over the past three years and what’s planned for 2015.

Three years ago, Michigan began emphasizing the importance of improving its economic business climate and focusing on keeping and growing businesses already located in the state.  The result was a more competitive tax system, fewer regulations, and a more responsive economic development agency that offers a wider array of business services, more help to increase community vitality, and better ways to connect talent with great jobs.

Michigan’s expanded its economic development toolkit, combined with the strong foundation of Pure Michigan branding and communications, supported significant 2014 results for the MEDC, its partners, and the people of Michigan.  In particular:

  • We leveraged nearly $900 million of investment of non-state funds in redeveloping buildings and public spaces in our downtowns—5 million square feet of newly reactivated space in the core of our communities.
  • We increased the deployment of our “Redevelopment Ready Communities” program that supports communities in adopting innovative redevelopment strategies and efficient processes that build confidence among businesses and developers.
  • We helped to complete the financing packages that are bringing light rail and a new entertainment district to Detroit.
  • We helped small and medium-sized businesses in the state win more than $2 billion of new sales through export and procurement services.
  • And we drove $1.2 billion in out-of-state visitor spending in Michigan’s communities through the Pure Michigan advertising campaign.
  • Finally, we leveraged an additional $4.8 billion in private investment for business expansion that’s likely to create over 37,000 new jobs in Michigan to add to the over 1 million jobs that were posted on the state’s new labor exchange,

MEDC CEO Michael Finney shares more accomplishments in the video below.

What’s Next

Our focus in 2015 will be to continue advancing our strategic shift:  We will expand the delivery of our services and become even more responsive to the needs of our communities, businesses and job seekers.  In particular, the coming year will see accelerated execution of a comprehensive plan for talent development that supplements the vital work of the Michigan Works! Agencies.  Through the new $50 million Community College Skilled Trades Equipment Program, community college students will benefit from increased training capacity in high-wage, high-demand occupations.

In 2015, the MEDC will also focus on leveraging the strengths and assets of Michigan’s automotive industry to sustain intellectual and manufacturing global leadership—an effort that also benefits the revitalization of our communities.  The new American Lightweight Materials Manufacturing Innovation Institute will locate in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, thanks in part to a $10 million investment by the MEDC.  The establishment of ALMMII will contribute significantly to new energy in the community.

Read the MEDC’s full annual report.

We’re excited by the potential of the coming year and the results we’ll be able to help drive with the support of the legislature, local economic development partners and all of the stakeholders that collaborate to facilitate economic growth in Michigan.  To learn more about how the MEDC spurs economic development, visit

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What a difference a year makes.

Just over a year ago, the scene in Detroit portrayed by the media was anything but rosy – our city was in a state of financial emergency and had filed for the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. It’s no secret that Motown is telling a different story today, and last week’s Techstars announcement served as yet another reminder of how far we’ve come.

Last Thursday, Techstars, a world-renowned startup accelerator that provides seed money, mentorship and equity capital to tech startups, announced it will be expanding its program to Detroit. The program, Techstars Mobility, will be led by a noted local venture capitalist, Ted Serbinski, and as the name suggests, will focus on next-generation transportation and mobility startups. The program will partner with Ford Motor Company, Magna International and Verizon Telematics, each of which will bring an important perspective on the mobility industry.

Here’s a quick rundown on how the program works. Each year, hundreds of companies apply, of which ten will be accepted to the three month program. Each of the accepted companies receives $18,000 in seed funding, intensive mentorship and free hosting, among other benefits. At the end of the three months, “graduates” have the opportunity to pitch for funding to angel investors and VCs at a so-called Demo Day. The program is slated to run for three years, with a new class of startups each year. The average company has $1.9 million in funding coming out of the program.

Techstars’ new home in Detroit speaks volumes about the growth and viability of the city and the state as a hub for technology and mobility. While the entrepreneurial renaissance has been clear for some time now to those in the Greater Detroit Area, major announcements like this one convey loudly and clearly that Michigan can no longer be regarded as a “fly-over state” for investors traveling from coast-to-coast. It sends the message that new and existing businesses should set up shop and have faith in Detroit’s long-term future—that there are huge opportunities for VCs in America’s fastest growing city.

In addition to the Techstars announcement, Michigan’s entrepreneurial community made great strides last week with the launch of Automation Alley’s “7C’s” program, which will help boost ten advanced manufacturing startups in the coming year. As we continue to transform Detroit into one of the nation’s most highly regarded startup hubs, the funding and business support from a worldwide leader like Techstars further validates our booming entrepreneurial community. With the program set to kick off in June 2015 and the first Demo Day planned for September, I am excited to see how this program helps show to the nation and the world the true colors of Detroit’s startup ecosystem.

Paula Sorrell is the vice president of entrepreneurship, innovation, & venture capital at the MEDC.

Looking to start your own business? Visit for more information.

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Ten years ago, the Woodward Garden Block in Midtown Detroit was one of the most blighted sections of Woodward Ave.

Today it is home to establishment such as Great Lakes Coffee, the Kresge Foundation and a new restaurant and theatre venue. Much of this progress can be attributed Midtown Detroit, Inc. (MDI).

Sue Mosey, president of MDI, offers her take on how the Garden Block and other parts of Midtown went from bleak to bustling and what she sees for the future.

MDI was created in 1976 – it was initially called the University Cultural Center Association – by leaders from Wayne State University, College for Creative Studies, the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Engineering Society of Detroit to spur economic growth in Midtown Detroit. It is a nonprofit planning and economic development organization representing Midtown stakeholders.

Over the years, MDI has addressed and overcome barriers to growth by taking on new initiatives that have significantly developed and improved the community. These changes have sparked tremendous growth and heightened visibility making the Midtown community a prime destination for visitors and residents.

The Woodward Garden Block has made a particularly impressive transformation over the past decade, but other Midtown partners have also used unique tactics to create and fund projects in the neighborhood.

Recipe for Revitalization

Take one part passionate community member with a vision and add an organization like MDI or MEDC to assist with resources.

The Woodward Garden Block was the worst section of Woodward until George Stewart purchased all the property about a decade ago.

Through his tireless efforts we now have a model block of mixed-use development with respected important historic properties while introducing appropriate new development as infill. It even houses MDI’s offices.

Take a look at the block over the years.

September 2007 





June 2009 






June 2011





October 2014






Watch a full time lapse of the revitalization on Google Time Machine.

The Midtown Green Alley also came to fruition through the commitment of community members. Midtown partnered with the MEDC to conduct a crowd funding campaign of up to $100,000 generated in part by donations from residents, business owners and stakeholders. The funding was then matched with a grant from the MEDC. The space utilizes green infrastructure, reducing the storm water burned on the city’s sewer system while improving visual aspects of the alley.

What’s Next on the Menu

Our current residential occupancy levels in Midtown are very high and I see continued growth in that area over the next five to seven years.

Perhaps most exciting are the new retail venues and restaurants which will be opening up in the next two years in anticipation of continued growth and the completion of the M1 rail project.

MDI is involved in more than 30 collaborative projects and programs that address the challenges and opportunities of the greater Midtown Detroit community.

We work on a wide variety of initiatives including real estate developments; the Live Midtown residential incentive program; infrastructure development such as green alleys, greenways and dog parks; major arts events such as Dlectricity, Noel Night and the Art X Festival; small business development and public space maintenance.

MEDC offers grants and loans to redevelop Michigan’s downtowns and foster historic preservation. Learn more about its focus on creating vibrant, sustainable and unique places and how your community can get involved.

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By now it’s no secret that innovation and entrepreneurship have yielded great success for the state of Michigan. In fact, by luring top talent to set up shop in Michigan, the state has experienced an unprecedented economic revival. Not only has our growth plan resulted in the best year for economic activity in a decade, Michigan is also ranked first in economic recovery since the Great Recession.

With so much attention on this so-called renaissance, it’s important to understand the impetus for our state’s rapid economic growth. Why is it that innovators, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists alike are planting their roots in Michigan? Access to capital.

From early stage all the way through commercialization and stable revenue, Michigan offers a myriad of resources that enable innovative thinkers grow their businesses in a strong statewide ecosystem. In addition to Michigan’s network of public and private incubators and accelerators, companies can leverage public services to earn federal funding and matching state incentives for federal grants.

Here are a few of the programs in place that MEDC offers to help increase access to capital for Michigan companies throughout every stage of development:

  • Capital locator tool – This tool will help find and connect you with active capital providers in your company’s stage and industry.
  • Debt funding programs –These programs, which provide companies with debt capital needs, include but are not limited to:
    • Capital Access Program (CAP) – CAP uses small amounts of public resources to generate private lender financing for small businesses.
    • Collateral Support Program – This program supplies cash collateral accounts to lending institutions to enhance the collateral coverage of borrowers.
  • Accelerator Fund Program– This program supports the growth of the VC and private equity ecosystem in the state, and has seeded two early stage venture funds.

The capital programs put in place by MEDC have played a key role in the state’s growth as an entrepreneurial hub. Ten years ago, there were merely 50 tech companies, four venture firms and $200 million under management in Michigan. Today, there are 3,000 tech companies, 32 venture firms and $4 billion under management statewide. With public and private incubators, venture capital fund-to-funds and statewide grants at the ready, Michigan’s entrepreneurs and investors aren’t alone in pursuing capital, and the state’s booming entrepreneurial ecosystem proves it.

Paula Sorrell is the vice president of entrepreneurship, innovation, & venture capital at the MEDC.

Looking to start your own business? Visit for more information.

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Medical Innovation Expands with State-of-the-Art Phase 1 Clinical Trial Facility at Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center

December 4, 2014 Business Growth

By David Sahner, M.D., senior director of clinical translation in SRI Biosciences‘ Pharmaceutical Development Section Last month, SRI International launched a new, state-of-the-art, Phase 1 clinical trial facility in the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center (MLSIC) in Plymouth. We’re thrilled for this new facility to bring even more medical innovation to Michigan; the fully-equipped, 13-bed [...]

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Before and After: These Six Projects Are Helping to Revitalize Michigan Communities

November 26, 2014 Community Development

People want to live in communities that are walkable with open and green space, a variety of housing options, commercial space and things to do. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation Community Development team is contributing to projects across the state to make Michigan communities an attractive place to live. Here are six projects that are [...]

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The House That Entrepreneurs Built

November 21, 2014 Community Development

How four Venture for America Fellows are turning a once-abandoned Detroit house into an entrepreneurial hub of their own. What’s the logical next step for four members of the inaugural class of Venture for America (VFA) fellows in Detroit? Many would expect these young innovators to move out to the coasts and nurture their entrepreneurial [...]

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America Recycles Day Brings Benefits to Michigan’s Environment and Economy

November 13, 2014 Community Development

In an effort to double Michigan’s recycling rate, which currently stands at 14.5 percent, Governor Snyder has mandated a statewide plan to improve recycling in the state. To many people, recycling means returning cans and bottles to local grocery stores for a few extra dollars. But to Kerrin O’Brien, the executive director at the Michigan Recycling [...]

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Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition Displays State’s Talent, Diversity

November 12, 2014 Access to Capital

Last week marked the 5th annual Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition, where Michigan’s top entrepreneurs and startups compete for $1 million in prizes. Every year I’m blown away by the startups’ innovative technologies and the level of competition, but what impressed me most this year was the outstanding diversity present throughout the competition. This year’s Accelerate [...]

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Why Hiring Veterans Starts with Understanding Military Skills

November 11, 2014 Talent Enhancement

Veterans have sought-after skills and qualifications that employers are looking for, yet the unemployment rate for veterans is still high. In 2013, the unemployment rate for veterans who served since 2001 was at 9 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  And for veterans aged 18 – 24, that rate more than doubled at [...]

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