Mark H. Clevey, MPA, 3/8/2013 – History shows that Michigan’s 20th century industrial prowess came at a price – entrepreneurship lost its momentum as an engine of economic development.
Seeds of Innovation
Global economic challenges, however, have led to a rethinking of entrepreneurship. While the seeds of Michigan’s current economic reinvention were sown by Gov. Milliken’s 1975 High Technology Task Force, Michigan’s journey towards a more robust entrepreneurial economy achieved a significant milestone in 2010 when Michigan citizens elected an entrepreneur to be governor of the state. Based on this renewed momentum, many thought leaders now pose that punctuated entrepreneurship – accelerating the formation and growth of entrepreneurial ventures – can be a viable way to foster sound community and economic reinvention. Green Garage is one such thought leader that is working to foster punctuated green entrepreneurship in Detroit.
Located in Detroit, Green Garage opened in the fall of 2011 and is located in a reclaimed building that dates back to 1920, when it was a showroom for Model T-based automobiles. Showcased in an article in the New York Times, the venture is much more than a simple physical reclamation project as it also seeks to reclaim an entrepreneurial culture and legacy, but with a green twist. The building received a green historic renovation and now serves as a location for a social entrepreneurship initiative whose principal focus is helping Detroit-based green businesses form and grow. Taken as a whole, Green Garage embodies three ventures in one: a building reclamation project; a social entrepreneurship venture; and, a community of people dedicated to Detroit’s sustainable future.
Though Detroit already has several business incubators, the Green Garage owners, Tom and Peggy Brennan, say their goal is to enable the formation and growth of “deep” sustainability-related enterprises that define success by social and environmental measures as well as by financial profit. “Deep” sustainability is different from traditional “sustainability” in that each venture that Green Garage supports has a Triple Bottom Line – related symbiotic relationship with other ventures in their supply/stakeholder chain (each of which also operate according to the same deep sustainability principles). For example, the outputs and byproducts of one venture serve as a feedstock to other ventures and vice versa.
By definition, deep sustainability creates supply/stakeholder ecosystems that operate as “virtuous cycles”. These cycles, in turn, enable the formation of a deep sustainability-related entrepreneurial culture which fosters the formation and growth of triple bottom line-related high-growth potential ventures. Lastly, deep-sustainability ventures lower their venture risks by leveraging captured capital (e.g., building reclamation project) and a local community of people (dedicated to Detroit’s sustainable future) to develop their capacity for growth (i.e., talent, capital, collaboration, innovation, etc.).
So far, the 11,500-square-foot space has attracted over 30 one to five-person companies that lease work spaces at rates ranging from $50 a month for an open chair at one of the room’s shared tables to $1,000 for an office-size area that fits four – five people. A host of traditional incubator services are also available including brainstorming sessions, shared services, business planning/formation/acceleration assistance along with other unique features including a special “break-the-bread” gathering with visitors from the community at large each Friday. For more information please contact: Peggy and Tom Brennan, Green Garage, 4444 Second Avenue, Detroit, MI 48201, www.greengaragedcetroit.com.
About the Author
Mark H. Clevey is the Co-Author of the Annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card and has over 35 years of experience in green business development and related community/economic reinvention. He is a co-founder of the Michigan Interfaith Power and Light, LLC, and has won numerous awards and recognitions for his work. Mark can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.