TechTown Detroit announced today that it was awarded a one-year,
$180,000 grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation to support its Blocks Retail Boot Camp
and the expansion of its SWOT City program to Detroit’s historic University District.
The grant is part of the foundation’s $100 million investment in Detroit. Over the next five
years, its grants and loans will accelerate Detroit’s blight-removal efforts, strengthen
workforce development, fund urban redevelopment projects, train entrepreneurs and more.
“Support from the JP Morgan Chase Foundation will allow TechTown to breathe new energy
into its work – delivering, with urgency, a meaningful and efficient expansion of its existing
services,” said Leslie Smith, president and CEO of TechTown. “These strategies will help move
Detroit with purpose, commitment and intent toward a new economic and social reality.”
TechTown’s Blocks Retail Boot Camp is a competitive program that prepares serious
entrepreneurs with strong retail concepts for the successful launch of their brick-and-mortar
business in a core Detroit commercial district after program completion.
Weekly sessions facilitated by business development and retail experts are designed to be
Detroit-specific, with topics ranging from government regulations and processes, to taxes and
insurance and sound fiscal management. The program culminates with a showcase where the
top three performers are awarded prize funds that provide critical start-up capital, network
support to identify appropriate and affordable permanent retail space, and ongoing technical
business support delivered through TechTown’s SWOT City program. To receive these
services, the entrepreneurs are required to meet regularly with an assigned mentor and
achieve critical, tightly woven milestones.
Depending on the retail concept and market need, the storefront may be located in one of
TechTown’s SWOT City neighborhoods, Midtown or downtown. These districts are already the
focus of local density creation strategies, where efforts to create an enabling environment for
entrepreneurs are affected by the lack of start-up capital, affordable space and ongoing
technical business support.
Support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation for the Retail Boot Camp program, paired
with TechTown’s existing resources, will turn aspiring entrepreneurs into prepared and
supported business owners. The permanent retail businesses created as a result of this
program will help build density and vibrancy in our city’s neighborhoods.
Under the grant, TechTown will also expand its SWOT City program into the University
SWOT City combines economic development and start-up acceleration strategies to
transform historically underserved neighborhoods into vibrant and dense communities.
Rather than serving businesses alone, TechTown sees a broader obligation to create an
enabling environment for economic development — one that addresses five pillars of
neighborhood stability: Economy and Employment, Safety, Education, Housing and
Over the course of a three-year neighborhood engagement, TechTown assesses the current
state of each pillar, develops a comprehensive stabilization and growth strategy for
improvement, then works to transition neighborhood businesses into viable enterprises that
are contributors to, rather than detractors from, these strategic revitalization efforts.
Together, TechTown and its partners work to create a new economic reality — a liveable and
walkable community with the support infrastructure necessary for businesses and residents to
thrive in the place they call home.
TechTown launched SWOT City in Brightmoor through the generous local support of the New
Economy Initiative and Marjorie S. Fisher Endowment Fund of the Community Foundation for
Southeast Michigan. As a result of this investment and a strong partnership with the
Brightmoor Alliance, TechTown has made significant positive impacts and was able to fully
develop the program into a scalable and efficient concept. This progress led to a federal grant
in fall 2013 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to expand SWOT City into
East Jefferson, Grandmont Rosedale and Osborn, reaching a current total of 78,000 Detroit