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Detroit Bus Co's Eight & Sand in Hamtramck will be an entertainment complex and business incubator

The Detroit Bus Company has officially made the move to Detroit after purchasing a 90,000-square-foot building at 3901 Christopher St. in Hamtramck that they are calling Eight & Sand, a term used in the 19th century to wish a steam locomotive conductors safe travels.
 
"The methodology around here, to borrow from Daniel Burnham, is make no small plans," says Andy Didorosi, founder and president of Detroit Bus Company. And 90,000 square feet of space certainly isn't small.
 
Eight & Sand will be used as a sort of business incubator meets entertainment complex. The industrial building was built in 1920 by the Gear Grinding Company and was turned over into a constant-velocity joints production facility in 1940. Cranes and other heavy machinery still remain from its days as a factory, and they're leaving it that way for the certain "ambiance" it gives to the place.
 
While there is still PLENTY of space to lease out, Eight & Sand already has several tenants. First is the Detroit Bus Company, which should go without saying. All DBC operations have been moved inside, including the vehicle fleet. "I always thought DBC needed to be in Detroit," Didorosi says. "Hamtramck is close enough! (It's) perfect; it's right in the middle of everything. We'll be successful here."  
 
He also says that the building, along with its five acres of parking, was affordable and they are able to provide affordable space to tenants because of it. "We can cut through the red tape when renting space to people because it's ours." He wants the Eight & Sand businesses to be able to "get things done and hire the sh*t out of people," instead of wasting time and money dealing with corporate bureaucracy. "Immediately available space is pretty finite. Here we are going to make it easy." He jokes that if you wanted to open an industrial-scale bike manufacturing facility, you could do it tomorrow.
 
Eight & Sand is perfect for small businesses looking for big spaces. Pot & Box, a semifinalist in the 2011 Hatch Detroit competition, will have a 4,000-square-foot event space inside (the Corktown retail storefront is still planned). Fowling Warehouse will be the anchor tenant, occupying 40,000 square feet in the center of the building complete with a full bar and concert stage (with hopes of drawing in some big-name talent). Fowling Warehouse is nearly doubling its space from its previous location at 17501 Van Dyke St. (which the business moved out of earlier this year) and will have 30 lanes of "fowling" – football plus bowling. 
 
Eight & Sand also houses a processing and storage space for Reclaim Detroit and is providing free space to Sit On It Detroit, a completely DIY effort to build and install benches for bus stops. Didorosi says they will provide free space for one tenant at a time that needs some help starting up. There is no limit on the amount of time the business can occupy the space. Didorosi says of Charles Molnar, founder of Sit On It Detroit, "Once he's big fish he'll move out (to somewhere bigger) and we'll give the space to someone else." Both of these tenants came with the building and are staying.
 
Eight & Sand will also have seven bays for food trucks to come and dock that come with power hookups, a wash bay, and an on-site commissary kitchen. Didorosi's long-term plan is to enable these trucks to vend indoors so they can continue running their businesses in the winter, which is a real challenge for mobile food vendors.
 
Space is still available for tenants with needs for large and slightly less large spaces. "We've got pretty specific requirements for the kind of businesses we want. We want to foster growth in terms of businesses that are going to grow the city."
 
Source: Andy Didorosi, founder and president of Detroit Bus Company
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

BoostUp scores venture capital investment led by DVP

BoostUp has secured a seed round of investment, led by Detroit Venture Partners, shortly after making the move from Chicago to downtown Detroit this year.

The 1-year-old financial-savings startup was spun out of Synergy Marketing Partners, the marketing agency that belongs to BoostUp's founder & CEO, John Morgan. Morgan moved the company to Detroit in August. He has since grown it to a staff of eight people now based in the [email protected] Building.

BoostUp, formerly Motozuma, started out creating software that helps people save for a down payment on a car. The technology lets people set their savings goal and tell their friends and family through social media. That way when birthdays or graduations come around the users friends and family can donate a dollar amount toward their savings goal. The new twist on crowd funding started with car down payments but has since grown to a number of different big purchases.

"Any of those things that you can set a goal for, a car, a house, a wedding or a trip," Morgan says. "It makes it very easy for people to see those goals."

BoostUp is launching the public Beta of its technology this week. One of its first campaigns BoostUp is hoping to leverage is the dollar-for-dollar match program (up to $500) Hyundai is doing to help its customer build up a down payment for a new Hyundai automobile.

Source: John Morgan, founder & CEO of BoostUp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

Eastern Market lands $100K for small biz microloans

One hundred thousand dollars worth of microloans for small businesses are coming to Eastern Market, thanks to some help from Charter One Bank and the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Charter One Bank's Growing Communities program is donating the money for the microloans, which are loans made to fledgling businesses in need of a few thousand dollars to reach their next milestones. In the case of the small food-based vendors working through Eastern Market Corp, these are businesses that need a few thousand dollars to buy a new piece of equipment or acquire land to expand.

"We have seen a huge surge of interest in locally-sourced food and both locally grown and locally made products," says Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp, which manages Eastern Market.

The $100,000 in microloans are expected to help 125 businesses. Charter One Bank gave $30,000 last summer toward the same microloan program last year, which helped 16 local food vendors. For instance, a microloan worth $2,500 helped J&M Farm, a small hog producer that sells its wares at Eastern Market, buy a special saw that helped them chop up large pig bones into small enough chunks to be used as large dog treats.

"So far we have had nice successes in helping these vendors grow their businesses," Carmody says.

Source: Dan Carmody, president of Eastern Market Corp
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

TechTown receives $800,000 federal grant to bring SWOT City to three new Detroit neighborhoods

TechTown's SWOT City has received an $800,000 federal grant to expand the economic development program into three new neighborhoods: Grandmont Rosedale, East Jefferson Corridor, and Osborn.
 
"When I read the email (last week) I had tears in my eyes," says Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown. "What a huge boost of confidence and energy this has injected into TechTown!"
 
As we've previously reported, SWOT City places new businesses to fill community voids and promote entrepreneurship, connects neighborhood businesses with key resources and provides personal coaching and information sessions to address a business's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT).
 
The grant itself came from an unlikely source: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for Community Economics. While there are many grant programs available to technology clusters and business incubators like TechTown, they are extremely competitive. This three-year grant comes from a different federal agency, one not focused on economic development so much as on poverty elimination.
 
Smith says that SWOT City's goals of economic development and community stabilization combined with its education programs is all part of poverty elimination and submitted a "provocative" proposal spinning it thus. TechTown applied for the grant late in the summer and was awarded it last Monday.
 
The grant will allow for a full-scale engagement in the three target neighborhoods. They will first start by creating a plan for the neighborhoods that combines all the elements of TechTown and its partners to stabilize the area's economy, then the next three years will be spent fully engaged in delivering the resources to make it happen.
 
This is the first federal grant that TechTown has ever received.
 
Source: Leslie Smith, President and CEO of TechTown
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg

Got a Development News story to share? Email Nicole here.

Google joins tech crowd at the [email protected] Building/Block

Add Google's brand name to the growing tech hub in and around the [email protected] Building in downtown Detroit.

Two years ago, the Quicken Loans family of companies, owned by Dan Gilbert, opened the [email protected] Building overlooking Grand Circus Park with the idea of it becoming the center of a hub for tech startups and investors. Today there are 25 startups in the building and a number of its initial tenants have grown so much that they have established their own offices in nearby buildings.

Detroit Labs, a mobile app firm, now has two floors of space in 1520 Woodward to accomodate its growing workforce. Stik, a startup that helps confirm online reviews of businesses are written by real people through Facebook activity, is now taking space in 1528 Woodward a floor below where Bizdom and its startups now call home.

"They're growing," Gilbert says. "When you’re out of space you’re out of space so we needed to look around the corner."

That sort of growth attracted Google, the latest of Silicon Valley's big names to take notice of Detroit. Twitter opened an office in the [email protected] Building last year. The search engine giant recognized the block of Woodward between the [email protected] and 1500 Woodward, now being rebranded as the [email protected] Block, as a member of the new Google for Entrepreneurs Tech Hub Network. There are seven of these hubs, designated by Google, across North America. The network is meant to support entrepreneurs in Detroit by providing greater access to Google experts, products and a number of specialized Google events.

"They have created a nexus of entrepreneurship and activity here," says Michael Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office.

Source: Dan Gilbert, founder & chairman of Quicken Loans and Michael Miller, head of Google’s Ann Arbor office
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

DragAroundMe aims to simplify file-sharing software

DragAroundMe is looking to make it easy for people to share large files online. The TechTown-based startup is creating software that will enable its users to share large documents in a more efficient manner.

"The idea is to simplify file-sharing ability," says Kum Wang, founder of DragAroundMe.

Wang was inspired to start the company six months ago to help make it easier for college researchers to share large files. What makes DragAroundMe's technology unique is that its users can drag and drop its files in a place that will make them easily accessible to all of its users in the group and erase them after 24 hours unless the users designate them to remain.

"After 24 hours everything is gone," Wang says.

DragAroundMe has participated in TechTown's accelerator programs this summer and is a semi-finalist in the Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition. The startup's team of five people is still developing the technology, Wang says its development is nearly complete, with an eye on the higher-education market.

Source: Kum Wang, founder of DragAroundMe
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

TEDxDetroit: 5 Smart Things I Learned from the Smart People of Detroit

Excerpt:

I’ll admit, I am not a resident of Detroit nor do I work in the city. I venture into the city of Detroit for the things that bring most metro-Detroiters to The Motor City: music, food, sporting events, and occasionally to be regaled with a tall tale on a crushed green velvet chair at Café D’Mongo’s. I don’t pretend to have the types of insights that those walking ,biking, and hiking the streets of Detroit on a daily basis have when it comes to understanding the challenges that the city and its people face.

Read more. 

Detroit ranked among America's top 10 downtowns

Excerpt:

Known around the country and even the globe as a city full of grit, crime, corruption and financial problems, Detroit is finally making a top 10 list that looks beyond that

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Cities with the biggest pay hikes

Excerpt:

Detroit's economy has long hinged on the fortunes of the Big Three auto makers. And recently things are looking up.

Total auto sales rose 11% year-over-year in August to their highest level since the recession.

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Open City Detroit's season 7 schedule unveiled

Excerpt: 

The seventh season of D:hive's Open City Detroit forums are upon us. I have a soft spot for this program because it not only brings together small business owners — both existing and dream-stage — for conversations about issues such as growth, popping up, hiring and more, it's actually how I found the house my husband and I are renovating in the West Village.

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Detroit Is a Bright Spot on the Map of Urban Outflux

Excerpt:

Here in the U.S. we move a lot. But while most of us consider a “move” as going from one town or city to another, mapmaker Stephen Von Worley is more interested in how we move within cities themselves. And, as it turns out, while folks in many cities are fleeing to the suburbs – one town sprung a tiny crop of growth: Detroit.

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Google Adopts 7 New Tech Hubs in North America

Excerpt:

Google is adopting a number of tech hubs across North America, and the locations may surprise you.

As part of the company's two-year-old Google for Entrepreneurs effort to empower startups and their founders worldwide, Google announced a new Tech Hub Network on Wednesday in an effort to connect entrepreneurs across the continent.
 

Why Detroit is the perfect place to kickoff our crowdfunding web series

Excerpt: 

Although I’ve been visiting my sister in Lansing, Michigan for over seven years, I only got a good look at Detroit for the first time one year ago. I had been invited by MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito to be part of a four-day innovation hackathon involving the Lab, IDEO, and various Detroit community leaders.

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New ad says 'everything you've heard about Detroit is true'

Excerpt:

“Everything you’ve heard about Detroit is true” screams the headline in the most recent ad from the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Risky? Not so much. Under that headline are some truths about the city. Here’s the rest of the copy.

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What Can Detroit Tell Us About 'Comebacks'?

Excerpt:

We've all seen and read the endless stream of news stories about the demise of Detroit. How does a city go from being the Paris of the West in the 1920s to the first major U.S. city to declare bankruptcy in 2013? It's true that Detroit finds itself saddled with a number of very complicated issues, as are many U.S. cities. It's easy to sit back and shake one's head and join the chorus of doom. But how many of us have actually seen Detroit firsthand lately?

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