• Dan Stechow

Encouraging Economic Development in Michigan: An interview with the Michigan Small Business Developm

You don’t have to look far to find news coverage about the comeback of Detroit. While many Michiganders know the ins and outs of the cooperative efforts that have taken place, as an outsider, the level of commitment to economic development here in Michigan continues to surprise me.

A great example of this collaboration and commitment is the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MI-SBDC), an organization that provides counseling, training and research for new ventures, existing small businesses and advanced technology companies in the state of Michigan.

Recently, I sat down with Jennifer Deamud, COO/Associate State Director of the MI-SBDC and Executive Director of Michigan Celebrates Small Business to learn more about the organization, and how it’s making a difference in our state. Here’s what I learned:

So, what is Michigan Celebrates?

Michigan Celebrates is annual event that puts a spotlight on small businesses throughout the State of Michigan. It’s been around for 13 years and culminates with several awards, including Michigan’s 50 Companies to Watch. About 850 people attend this event each year; the program has been so successful that many other states have followed suit with similar programs.

How did the program start?

Fourteen years ago, six different organizations in Michigan came together with the goal of elevating small businesses. Each organization was running its own awards program, so we joined forces in order to host a reception at which all the awards would be given out.

Why is this program so important?

In Michigan 98.2% of businesses are categorized as “small” (500 employees or less). That’s a percentage that’s pretty consistent across the nation. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy.

Recognizing, and continuing to recognize, successful small businesses encourages these companies to grow and continue to build their team here in Michigan. This event makes a clear statement that Michigan is a state that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Michigan Celebrates provides awardees with news to share and the added momentum that comes from recognition.

How can a state without a program like this get started?

1. Look at the small business ecosystem in your state. What organizations already exist that support, encourage, and provide resources to small businesses?

2. Bring the associations and organizations already working to support small businesses together, under one umbrella.

3. Check out the Michigan Celebrates website

4. Feel free to reach out to Jennifer, she’s happy to help you get a better understanding of logistics, cost, etc.

5. The MI-SBDC uses InfoReady Review to automate many aspects of this program. Finding an online tool to automate award nominations, applications and judging will help standardize processes and save time.

What’s your biggest piece of advice for those trying to establish similar programs?

Collaboration. Our success is absolutely due to successful collaboration between entrepreneurial service organizations, chambers, and the state.