Fast Company: James Canning of Canning Communications

Detroiters may know James Canning from his days as mayoral spokesman for Kwame Kilpatrick, but it's starting to discover James Canning, entrepreneur.

The Warrendale resident started Canning Communications last year and worked for a number of recognizable organizations in the city, such as Vision IT and Paxahau, as an independent consultant.

The 29-year-old Detroit native and Wayne State University graduate regularly works with a team of graphic designers, web designers, writers, editors and event planners. Canning hopes to hire a part-time employee next year and is in ongoing discussions with another Metro Detroit communications and event planning company about forming a collaborative partnership.
 
Describe your business in two sentences or less?
Canning Communications is a full-service communications firm that specializes in media relations, event planning and management, crisis communications, government relations, community and social media outreach. We develop specialized communications strategies to help our clients share their story with targeted stakeholders.   
 
Why did you decide to set up shop in Detroit?
I am a Detroiter through and through. I have lived in the city limits my entire life. While in high school I realized my passion for Detroit. Ever since then I have taken a career path and community involvement route that have been focused on making a positive impact on the city, which made it an even easier decision for me to start my business here.

It is important for me to work on things and for people that are contributing to the greater good of the city. I believe by having Canning Communications located in the city, I will be able to connect with like-minded people and organizations that need assistance communicating their story to the residents of our community.

What are some of the advantages to doing business here?
Access to existing leadership. Decision makers in Detroit are always willing to listen to your idea; especially if it fills a void in the community.

Detroit has a great entrepreneur support network. Entrepreneurs here are always willing to help each other out because they understand they need one another to become successful. And the city is ripe for new ideas, products and services.                     

What do you see in Detroit that other people who live outside the city don't?
If you strip away Detroit’s poor public image and the rough exterior of its landscape to take a close look at those who live in its neighborhoods, you will find good people. That is why I choose to stay in the city.         

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about opening a business in Detroit?
Get to understand the Detroit community. If you prove to have a genuine interest in Detroit stakeholders; then the community will embrace your organization and it will become successful.  

If you could change one thing about Detroit, what would it be?
If I had a magic wand to wave over the city, I would change the negative attitude that exists in our community.

Here are two attitudes I would want people who live and work here to adopt:

1. Acknowledge the problems and work to address them, but don't dwell on them.
2. News stories such as the changes in the auto industry and recent developments with our elected officials dominate the headlines, but they don't define the people.

If everyone in our community thought this way, I believe it would help to change the way we portray ourselves and our city to others.

Source: James Canning, founder of Canning Communications
Writer: Jon Zemke
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