Low rent prices, public-private-nonprofit partnerships, and hip incubators are converging to create an ideal environment in Detroit for social entrepreneurs, leading forward-thinking startups to increasingly reject the saturated and cutthroat environments of Silicon Valley and New York City for a bit of Midwestern Nice. As the city emerges from the ashes of its Chapter 9 filing last year, here are 5 startups revitalizing Detroit while pursuing the triple bottom line.
Hantz Woodlands is transforming blight to beauty as vacant, abandoned properties are converted to fields for new agricultural production. Their dream is an ambitious one: create the world’s largest urban farm, in Detroit. They plan to purchase 200 acres of land this year from the city of Detroit. This would generate tax revenue from land that was a liability for the city, create local jobs, strengthen the local food system, and improve quality of life for residents.
Winner of the 2013 Comercia Hatch Detroit contest, Batch Brewing Company will be Detroit's first nanobrewery. Producing beer in smaller quantities than a microbrewery, Batch is bringing a national trend and proven business model--not to mention a huge selection of beer--back to Detroit. Batch will also give back to the community through its monthly rotating "Feel Good Tap," featuring a unique beer and new charity partner each month. To celebrate the launch of the Feel Good beer, Batch will host a monthly event featuring local music and artists. The art will remain on installation for the subsequent month available for sale with 100 percent of the profits going back to the artist.
Fresh Corner Café L3C is a mission-driven fresh food delivery and catering service formed in response to the troubling lack of access to high-quality healthy foods in Detroit. They connect an expansive network of neighborhood stores with a burgeoning local food supply in order to ensure that all Detroiters — including the 70,000 households that do not own a private vehicle — can easily and always access a Good Meal.
Founders of Rebel Nell, Amy Peterson and Diana Russell, are using pieces of broken graffiti — or paint flaking off old murals — to create pendants, earrings and cufflinks. As part of its mission, the company is dedicated to hiring disadvantaged women to help them move from a life of dependence to one of self-reliance, overcoming barriers to employment through the fruits of their own labor — and creating beautiful art at the same time.
Dave Stenson has made a career in the auto industry with nearly three decades working in engineering and product development for General Motors. Today, he is pushing forward a cleantech automotive startup focused on hybrid electric commercial trucks. With idling diesel trucks costing America billions each year in fuel, workers’ health, and harmful CO2 and NOx emissions, the emergence of high-performing electric commercial vehicles has the potential for far-reaching impacts. In addition, trucks outfitted with the Inventev system are able to supply temporary mobile, and clean, energy for accessory equipment, like bucket trucks at job sites, or homes experiencing temporary power outages during emergencies. Such technology will enable partner Pacific Gas & Electric to keep homes and businesses powered during maintenance and repair work. Inventev is based in Detroit's TechTown business accelerator.