Report: Infrastructure, Amenities Are Keys to Attracting, Retaining Business in Detroit

National and local business leaders hold a favorable view of metro Detroit and say quality infrastructure and amenities are key when looking for a city in which to invest, according to the results of the Detroit Reinvestment Index 2022 by Detroit Future City (DFC).
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National and local business leaders hold a favorable view of metro Detroit and say quality infrastructure is key when looking for a city in which to invest. // Stock Photo
National and local business leaders hold a favorable view of metro Detroit and say quality infrastructure is key when looking for a city in which to invest. // Stock Photo

National and local business leaders hold a favorable view of metro Detroit and say quality infrastructure and amenities are key when looking for a city in which to invest, according to the results of the Detroit Reinvestment Index 2022 by Detroit Future City (DFC).

DFC has been tracking national and local perceptions of Detroit since its 2013 bankruptcy. This is the first report since 2019.

The Detroit Reinvestment Index surveyed metro Detroit entrepreneurs and national business leaders about shifts in perception in relation to the pandemic and opinions about Detroit as an investment and business opportunity, with a focus on the role infrastructure and amenities play in their decision-making.

The results revealed the following insights:

  • Views of Detroit continue to be positive despite COVID, with 82 percent of national business leaders and 78 percent of metro Detroit entrepreneurs having a favorable view of the city as a good investment opportunity.
  • Quality infrastructure is key when national business leaders are looking for a city to invest in. National business leaders were asked to rank city features that would provide the best environment to run their business and seven of the top eight were related to infrastructure.
  • Metro Detroit entrepreneurs face a complex set of challenges to running a business, with 44 percent citing lack of an adequately trained workforce, 44 percent citing limited resources or help to start a business, and 36 percent citing lack of customers with spending power.
  • Metro Detroit entrepreneurs need additional support to grow their businesses. In addition to more skilled workers, more than 40 percent are seeking opportunity to network with potential partners and customers, access to mentorship and training, as well as access to marketing and advertising resources.

“We have seen the needs of the business community dramatically shift in the last two years, while at the same time a historic opportunity to invest government funds into catalytic projects has emerged,” says Anika Goss, president and CEO of Detroit Future City. “It’s important that we keep the pulse on the needs of global companies as well as local entrepreneurs, so we continue to prioritize how we attract and retain business and talent.”

In addition to having favorable perceptions of the Detroit, local entrepreneurs noted an enduring commitment to operating their businesses in the city, citing proximity to suppliers, good tax and regulatory environment, and low cost of living as top reasons they stay.

Additionally, respondents said they saw Detroit’s scale and growth, quality of placemaking and livability, and fewer barriers as reasons for starting a business in the city. Minority- and women-owned companies and small businesses, in particular, noted that incentives and equal economic opportunity are of great importance. Metro Detroit entrepreneurs also rated Detroit as a city that provides the resources and infrastructure they need.

With Detroit vying for national businesses to locate their operations in the city, the Detroit Reinvestment Index shows that these businesses would prioritize a location with more amenities even if it meant a higher cost of living for employees. National business leaders also noted that while Detroit’s amenities and infrastructure are improving, there is room for further enhancements. These business leaders’ top infrastructure priorities are broadband/internet access, dependable utilities, uninterrupted access to quality water, and infrastructure being in good working order.

While metro Detroit entrepreneurs are increasingly positive about operating a business in Detroit, they feel that Detroit lacks an adequately trained work force and that there are limited resources to help start a business. They also are seeking solutions that will help them start and grow their businesses such as more tax incentives, more access to mentorship and training opportunities, more incentives for small businesses to operate sustainably and help preserve the environment, and better networking with partners and customers.

“We are starting from a strong position in Detroit,” Gross says. “Confidence in Detroit as a good business decision has increased year over year locally and nationally. We have an opportunity to leverage perception, build upon our assets, and direct investments to address challenges so that Detroit is a place where not only business can grow in our city but where Detroiters also have the opportunity to prosper from their successes.”

The Kresge Foundation led the creation of the Detroit Reinvestment Index in 2016, and in 2019 began funding DFC to produce the report.

The full report is available for review here.

DFC is hosting a webinar at noon on Nov. 9 at noon to present its findings. Click here to register.

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