I work in Techtown, a nonprofit organization that aims to accelerate economic growth in Detroit by growing businesses and driving regional collaboration. A vital part of Techtown is the SWOT city program, which combines economic development and start-up acceleration strategies to transform historically underserved neighborhoods into vibrant and dense communities. Currently, Techtown works with Brightmoor, Grandmont Rosedale, Osborn and East Jefferson. At the macro level, the SWOT city program has three development phases: retain, grow, and sustain. Now the program is in the first phase that aims to help the existing businesses retain revenue and grow sustainable. In the near future, the SWOT program will move to next phase that tries to bring the right business to the vacant real estate properties in the communities, and fundamentally change the underserved situation of neighborhoods. My project is to explore how TechTown can accelerate business revitalization in Grandmont Rosedale and Osborn neighborhoods through commercial real estate acquisition.
At the first I received my project, I thought this project is a good chance to learn skills, a good chance to build my resume and a good chance to improve network. However, my thought was changed after the first day of work. In the first day at Techtown, in order to deepen my understanding of communities I am going to work with, Katie brought me to Brightmoor and Grandmont Rosedale, and Philip and Regina took me to Osborn and East Jefferson. It was the first time I truly understood what poverty means and the meaning of my project. I knew the vacancy rate, crime rate before I went to the neighborhood. At least I thought I knew them. However, when I was walking in the Brightmoor, I started to understand what those rates mean. I saw houses were vacant, and roads are in poor condition, but people there still optimistic. I saw smiles on their faces, and when I talked to them, I could feel their spirits and love of this city. I was touched. I really want to do something for these strong and kind people because they deserve more than this. The meaning of my project is simple and straightforward: bring grocery store to neighborhood so that children can have healthy food everyday; bring restaurant to neighborhood so that residents can have a place to enjoy their meal; bring hope to the neighborhood so that people can have a better place to live. My work is humble and just a start. Maybe my project alone cannot change the situation, but anything great all has a humble start. I believe put all these small contributions together can make a big difference.