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People, place and potential: Midtown business keeps money in the neighborhood


While Midtown Detroit is famous for its nightlife and restaurants, the new Whole Foods, hospitals and students, it should also be recognized as hotbed of job creation by its plethora of small businesses.

In the last year Midtown has seen the creation of over 90 jobs from the location of nine new or relocated businesses. These businesses include: Little Asian Market, Detroit Social Club, Slow's to Go, Peoples Records, Nest, Green Garage, Great Lakes Coffee and the Bottom Line Coffee House. All represent a diverse range of businesses from grocers to a sustainable real estate development firm.

It is this type of business diversity in a concentrated area that creates an exciting atmosphere for not only the small businesses, but the residents, area visitors and day time workers.
 
It is this same type of diversity that spurred the economic development of Brooklyn, Washington D.C., Cleveland and Milwaukee over the last 10 years. The current atmosphere in Midtown is not only supporting the development of the current businesses, it is also creating a confluence of factors that is spurring on an unprecedented level of interest, both locally and nationally, by entrepreneurs who see the strong business potential in Midtown. 

We now have a situation where the small business are able to support a significant portion of not only the entertainment, retail and grocery needs of Midtown residents and the adjacent communities, but now are able to employ a significant number of residents within the Midtown area. We are reaching a point where Midtown is able to keep money within the community longer and support the local businesses that provide the same services as large big box retailers, but need to see high inventory turns on their merchandise, because they have smaller profit margins, in order to stay competitive.
 
This type of urban ecosystem is key to sustaining a community and keeping it viable for new businesses. At the most basic level, when you buy local more money stays in the community.

The New Economics Foundation, an independent economic think tank based in London, compared what happens when people buy products at a regional mall vs. a local retailer and found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally. "That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive," says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. "Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," noting that when money is spent elsewhere  -- at non-locally-owned retailers, including online retailers -- "it flows out, like a wound."

By shopping at the corner store instead of the big box, consumers keep their communities from becoming what the NEF calls "ghost towns" (areas devoid of neighborhood shops and services) or "clone towns," where Main Street now looks like every other Main Street with the same fast-food and retail chains.

Scott Benson is small business development manager for Midtown Detroit Inc.
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