How Collaborative Commitment is Changing My Detroit For the Better
For Adrienne Bennett, plumbing is a passion.
She worked hard to become the nation’s first African-American female licensed master plumber, and currently serves as President and CEO of Benkari Mechanical—providing plumbing and other specialty services in Detroit.
Despite her credentials, the Great Recession was tough on Adrienne's family-owned business, as it was on so many other businesses in Detroit. As she puts it, she struggled to compete "with the big boys" for major projects. That is where the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund came in to help.
Launched in 2015 by JPMorgan Chase, W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Detroit Development Fund, the $6.5 million Entrepreneurs of Color Fund was created to provide financing to Detroit's minority-owned businesses.
Adrienne told the Detroit News that the loan "teleported us to a new level." And she wasn’t alone. In its first year, the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund awarded $2.75 million in capital to nearly 30 minority-owned businesses, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs across Detroit.
The Fund is just one part of JPMorgan Chase's investment in Detroit, which today we are announcing is expected to reach $150 million by 2019. As a native Detroiter, I'm proud that my firm's support has helped advance the city's revitalization. I'm also proud of the partnership of Detroit's local government, business and community leaders, which has been key to the city's comeback.
The collaborative commitment to rebuild this dynamic city is unique. We are seeing progress from our collective efforts to put Detroit on the path to long-term economic recovery. The city is out of bankruptcy, population decline is leveling off, employment is increasing and small business spending is growing.
Although there is more work to be done, partnerships with local community leaders have enabled us to put our investment to work in ways that achieve the greatest impact.
One example is our collaboration with the city to apply a data-driven approach to rebuilding Detroit's workforce system. Research provided by JPMorgan Chase empowered the Mayor's Workforce Investment Board to strengthen workforce investments and programs, preparing more Detroiters for good-paying jobs in growing local industries.
Another example is the Motor City Mapping project, which surveys and digitally catalogues blighted properties in Detroit's neighborhoods. City officials and private investors rely on this data to map, track and return blighted properties to productive use, restoring the city's vibrancy and making neighborhoods safer one plot of land at a time.
Many of these efforts have been so successful they are being replicated elsewhere, including applying the Motor City Mapping strategy in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, and sharing lessons from the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund to create similar programs in cities across the country.
A few years ago, people were looking for reasons to write off Detroit. Critics were admonishing the city for failing to keep its street lights on, questioning the local government's capacity to revitalize its neighborhoods and predicting that employment opportunities would continue to dwindle. But the city and its business and community leaders have refused to give up. Instead, we’re rebuilding and driving inclusive growth for all Detroiters.
There is still more progress to be made here, but I am proud as ever to be a lifelong Detroiter. Stories like Adrienne's are a testament to the great strides our city has made. Thanks to partnerships between businesses, city government and community leaders, Detroit is on the move. These partnerships will continue to ensure Detroit's revitalization reflects this city's vibrancy, diversity and resiliency.
About the Author:
Tosha Tabron is Vice President and Relationship Manager for Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. A native of Detroit, Tabron has served as JPMorgan Chase's local philanthropy manager throughout its partnership with the city.