The Role of Entrepreneurs in Detroit’s Comeback – A Mayoral Candidate’s Perspective

Detroit Mayoral candidate, Lisa Howze shared with me her thoughts on the role of entrepreneurship in the city’s redevelopment efforts.

Howze, is a CPA who attended U-M. She was an entrepreneur at 19 and states it taught her self motivation and the value of understanding business tax deductions for investment, growth and sustainability.

However, when it comes to starting a business, she believes there’s a “general sense of fear and access to capital” among those interested taking the leap. She believes it’s important for people to strip away their fears and “get back to basics” when it comes to starting, running and sustaining a business.

Back to Howze’s thoughts on tax deductions supporting small business growth.

She believes tax deductions can have an integral role in growing the the local economy. For example, if you’re a sole proprietor or a small business owner, it’s important you understand the tax laws, leverage deductions and invest back into the business.

She said, “You can transfer wealth from the government to the local economy by reinvesting the tax benefits (deductions). Howze continues, “generating capital now allows a small business owner to be be the bank versus going to the bank.”

So, this lack of knowledge hinders their ability to invest in or successfully start a business.

When the conversation turned towards Detroit specifically, Howze states her administration will develop a specific plan to address critical barriers and identify strategies for making it easier to deal with the city.

Howze suggests there are three critical barriers preventing more start-ups:

1. Permit process. For example, she believes the process is cumbersome and drives away people as opposed to encouraging and engaging prospective business owners.

2. Bureaucracy: It takes too long for things to consideration and proposals to get approved. As a result, potential start-ups become frustrated and feel overwhelmed.

3. Lack of departmental communications. Howze says, “work is still manual and computer systems don’t talk to each other.” Additionally, departments don’t interact with each other which further creates the lack of communication.

When asked for specifics to address these challenges, Howze proposes to “take the guesswork out of the work”. In other words, help people understand exactly what the process is so there are no surprises.

She proposes the following:

-Hire and train business friendly advocates who would be responsible for providing support and education to those unfamiliar with the process.

-Develop a systematic process for applicants and not a myriad of documents and for vendors, reduce the amount of time invoices are paid–specifically, less than 30 days. She believes this will simplify and reduce bureaucracy.

-Dedicate resources focused on safety and encourage residents to patronize local businesses.

-Find a balance of attracting large and small businesses across the city and partner with banks to make capital available to those who are next level down business owners. In her opinion, small business development for job creation and investment is just at important as attracting large businesses to settle here.

– Look for best practices in the areas of licensing and permitting, determine costs for implementation and develop a plan for implementation.

She believes Detroit is prime for small business development. Howze cite because “opportunities exist to buy property low and sell high.”

She continues, “Attracting business based on innovation and energy and sets a path for others to follow. It’s a trend and at the same time, we want a start up to fill parts of the void versus having entrepreneurs on the outside of looking in.”

For more information, please visit the Lisa Howze for Mayor website.