Detroit attracts national attention for Urban Innovation Districts

June 12, 2014

LANSING – Detroit is one of several key U.S. cities attracting national attention for cultivating “urban innovation districts” in what is cited as a groundbreaking approach to economic development, according to a white paper report released this week by the Brookings Institution, an independent Washington, D.C.-based think tank. sky with cars

The report presents a timely confidence boost and objective affirmation to ongoing efforts by the state of Michigan to assist in the development of the Detroit economy through support of a confluence of start-ups, business incubators, mass transit and university-based research that targets the commercial market.

“This report compiled by independent researchers tells us we’re on the right course, and presents a defining moment in the economic reinvention of Detroit,” said Michael Finney, president of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the state’s marketing and economic development agency. “Investors and anyone working – or thinking about working – in Detroit should be encouraged about the possibilities of a city and state on the rise.”

Development around and along Detroit’s “main street,” Woodward Avenue, is a strategic blend of new projects from the New Center area to the north through Midtown to the entertainment/stadium district and central downtown business district, approximately a three-mile stretch and future route of the M1 Rail transit, expected to open in mid 2016.

In contrast to isolated suburban corridors of corporate technology campus such as the archetypal environs of Silicon Valley, urban innovation districts bring together knowledge-intensive companies in close proximity to foster a sharing of ideas and an open culture whereby creativity is encouraged in the search for inventions, new markets and cutting-edge solutions.

A region known as the global automotive industry capital, the Detroit area has a long history of innovation. The state is home to 375 automotive research-and-design centers, and Detroit leads the U.S. in 38 patent classes and is 10th in the nation with more than 25,000 patents issued between 2000 and 2011. In April, Inc. magazine named Detroit as among the top 20 most innovative U.S. cities.

In the past several years, MEDC has provided a range of grants and incentives for businesses – including incubators and accelerators – aimed at developing the innovation district and attracting workers, visitors and residents to the innovation district. Meanwhile, the ongoing development of Wayne State University, Detroit Medical Center and growing presence of global corporations such as Quicken Loans have serve to anchor the district.

Paula Sorrell, managing director of entrepreneurial services at MEDC will join civic, business, philanthropic leaders who will meet today in Detroit with Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings metropolitan policy program, to discuss the findings in the 30-page report, “The Rise of Innovation Districts: A New Geography of Innovation in America.”

The report cites innovation districts in Detroit, Atlanta, Cleveland, Seattle and San Diego as creating a “new geography in America.” Katz has stated publicly that Detroit is one of the few places to get ahead of the trend.

Also today, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expected to announce a new working group to find ways to build on the success of the city’s innovation district and further attract entrepreneurship and job growth.

MEDC’s entrepreneurship and venture capital outreach has been a catalyst fort noteworthy growth throughout Michigan. In the last three years, MEDC has invested more than $100 million into the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Last year, 350 new technology companies were created in the state. In total, MEDC entrepreneurship and innovation efforts assisted 158 high-tech companies, and created 1,108 high-tech jobs.

Metro Detroit has the highest concentration of tech jobs in the Midwest and is second nationally to Silicon Valley. IT jobs in the state are expected to increase on average by nearly 17 percent this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.




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