Many entrepreneurs don’t realize the many resources focused on small business development—at their fingertips. Metro Detroit has many local colleges and universities which provide resources for you as you think about starting or growing a business.
Michael Tidwell, dean of the College of Business, Eastern Michigan University, is relatively new to EMU. He’s been at EMU for approximately eight months. As dean, Tidwell’s job is to lead the College of Business as EMU expands to better serve the business educational needs of those living and/or working in Southeastern Michigan.
He believes EMU is at an important point in its history. In his opinion, he believes EMU has strong leadership and trusts the university is ripe for expansion and growth; therefore, it was an easy decision to join the university’s leadership team.
I recently asked him for his thoughts on EMU’s programs focused on small business and entrepreneurship development.
Please tell us about the entrepreneurship program at EMU.
The Center for Entrepreneurship has been in existence for over a number of years. Our singular goal is to help students understand that creativity and innovation can happen at any age, in any industry, at any time. We teach our students and clients to position themselves to take advantage of environmental circumstances by engaging in continuous learning and remaining open to new opportunities. We offer several programs including a major in entrepreneurship, an entrepreneurship concentration in our MBA program, a business plan competition, an elevator pitch competition, and much more.
Why is developing entrepreneurs critically important to Metro Detroit’s and the state’s economic recovery?
A lot of people cite international manufacturing competition as the primary reason why Detroit and Michigan should increase investment in entrepreneurial activity. While these are important reasons, competition from other states also present challenges for the Michigan economy. As states and locales increasingly offer attractive business opportunities (e.g. tax subsidies) Michigan must maintain its competitiveness by making the employment and economic environment attractive, and by growing its own entrepreneurial firms and industries. I recognize that growing entrepreneurial firms is a long term strategy, but it yields strong results. Large and small firms must innovate if they are to stabilize and grow. The state has a strong track record of investing resources into entrepreneurial activity via organizations like the MEDC, so I am confident that our future is bright.
It’s been widely reported that small businesses drive job growth and are a major factor in this country’s economic fabric. Thoughts?
The data to support these claims are readily available from both state and national data sources. Recent US Department of Commerce data finds that (1) small businesses make up over 95% of all businesses, (2) small businesses employ about half of all private sector employees, and (3) small businesses are generating well over 50 percent of all the new jobs in the marketplace. When considered in context, small businesses have a major economic impact on the average American household (1) because they likely employ someone in the typical household, and (2) they are an important portion of the tax base which supports local services like fire departments, police, and schools. As a result, small businesses play a major role in driving the local economy and national economy.
And, why has EMU decided to participate in small business development? How many small business owners are engaged in the program?
As a major institution of higher learning, EMU is chartered to provide the type of education that adds value to Michigan’s citizenry. Small businesses are one of the many groups we serve. We work with small businesses because we recognize the importance they play in Michigan’s economy and they tend to need ‘just in time’ education to help them address business problems critical to their success. Our team consults with dozens of small businesses throughout metro Detroit. Our faculty gets involved via consulting projects, our students take on projects specific to key firms, and we also house metro Detroit’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC). The SBTDC is charged to provide services to Michigan’s existing, growing, and technology-based and start-up companies.
You have four co-directors. What are the four areas of focus?
We have four major areas of focus within our College of Business. Zafar Khan heads up our accounting and finance department. Fraya Wager-Marsh leads our management department. Anne Balazs directs our marketing and supply chain teams. Hung-Lian Tang oversees our information systems unit. Each is charged with delivering a portion of our student’s core education and delivering specialized knowledge to students in that major.
How are businesses selected and, pending completion of the program, how is success defined?
On occasion, we solicit firms for specific consultative work, but the vast majority of our clients self-qualify. They seek the assistance of professionals who understand the challenges of small business ownership so this drive often leads them to our offices. The success of this relationship is defined by whether the client has achieved their goals.
The Eastern Michigan University College of Business exists to support the economic development of southeastern Michigan by preparing our graduates and clients to perform effectively in their chosen field of business.
You can get more information by visiting www.emich.edu/cob or calling (734) 487-4140.