Startup New: TechTown joins regional economic development partnership

TechTown is helping take the lead when it comes to economic development in Metro Detroit now that it is one of the four principal business accelerators behind the Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan.

The new initiative is a regional effort that combines the talent and resources of southeast Michigan's premier economic development agencies into one strong force to be reckoned with. Ann Arbor SPARK, Macomb-OU INCubator and Automation Alley are the other business accelerator agencies teaming up with TechTown for the initiative, which being funded with a $3 million grant from the New Economy Initiative over the next three years.

"We can link the best of the best across the resion," says David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative. "I think that is incredibly powerful."

The Business Accelerator Network for Southeast Michigan will focus on helping the four business accelerator collaborate on a number of different issues, such as benchmarking, hosting events, business plan development and leveraging funding. It's a strategy that has been used successfully in other major metropolitan regions that have reinvented their economies and images. For instance, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance harnesses the economic strengths of the entire 10 county area in the southwest section of the state to help diversify its economy and continually create new businesses and jobs.

"Without the support and strategic thinking from the New Economy Initiative we would still be in the heart of downtown Detroit," says Judy Johncox, director of business services for TechTown. "But because of this we are ready to be part of a powerful force in southeast Michigan."

She points out that each of the business accelerators has its own strengths and specializes resources, such as TechTown's ability to harness large numbers of entrepreneurs and point them in the right direction to create successful businesses. However, this alliance will allow each business accelerator to share in the specialties of its partners without going to the trouble of building its own.

"If each of us had to build our own it would take 15 years," Johncox says.

The four business accelerators have invested $18 million in 338 start-ups that have helped create more than 1,000 jobs. They have also helped those new businesses secure $101.2 million in additional capital, and that's in a down economy. The leaders of the business accelerators are expecting those numbers to go up significantly when the national economic recovery begins to take hold.

"This is something of great importance," says U.S. Rep Sander Levin (D-Royal Oak), who has been instrumental in helping bring these partners together and supply the business accelerators with government resources. "It shows how some seed money can blossom."

Source: David Egner, executive director of the New Economy Initiative; Judy Johncox, director of business services for TechTown and Sander Levin, democratic congressman from Royal Oak
Writer: Jon Zemke