Wayne State’s Economic Engine

What does TechTown Detroit’s new CEO say about Detroit’s image, economy and future?

Stephen Henderson speaks with Ned Staebler, the new president and CEO of TechTown Detroit and vice president for Economic Development at Wayne State.  They discuss the revitalization of Detroit’s economy, how the business accelerator and incubator helps, and what role Wayne State plays.  

  • All types of small businesses.  Staebler says that TechTown Detroit serves all kinds of businesses, not just tech. TechTown Detroit has helped start 110 businesses since 2007 and 21 in the last year.
  • Diverse Entrepreneurs.  Staebler says that TechTown Detroit does not reflect the stereotypical image of a young, white, male entrepreneur.   He says approximately half of TechTown’s entrepreneurs are non-white, half are female, and half are over the age of fifty.  They also reach out to diverse entrepreneurs in local neighborhoods with the SWOT City program.  Staebler says that 94% of SWOT city participants are African American.  
  • Wayne State’s Role.  Wayne State University is an important part of the Midtown landscape and economy.  It has adopted a strategic approach to improving Detroit and its public image. Its office of economic development, the porous borders initiative, and plans to increase student housing all influence Midtown’s economy. 
  • Safety in Midtown.   Staebler claims that Midtown is very safe, due to Wayne State Police.  He says that WSU Police now spend 2/3 of their time acting as a regular police force off campus and crime is down 51% since 2009, making Midtown safer than Troy or Ann Arbor.   
  • Place Making.  Staebler believes that one of the main challenges now is changing Detroit and Midtown’s image. He says that more Wayne State students now cite Detroit as a positive reason they chose to attend WSU than as a drawback.  This is a flip from their previous perception.  

Hear the full conversation by clicking the audio link above.