Larissa Carr sees the value of neighborhood job creation through a special lens.
In December she’ll celebrate one year as a resident of Detroit’s Grandmont Rosedale community, where she also works full-time promoting business opportunities, as manager of Grand River WorkPlace, through the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp. (GRDC).
Carr supervises the popular “pop-up” storefronts that give entrepreneurs low-rent space to develop their enterprises into marketable ventures. She also helps bring commercial activity into many of the subdivision’s vacant spaces. Although her work for Grandmont Rosedale is a labor of love, her residence there makes her performance crucial.
Like all Detroit communities, Carr’s depends on employment and business investment to increase its population and wealth.
“A part of that business attraction is to not only launch businesses in the neighborhood,” she says. “It’s also about bringing new businesses into the neighborhood.”
While large corporate chains tend to get the most attention for making their presence felt in the city, Carr says small companies like those she recruits tend to hire directly from the surrounding community.
Size is also a factor in GRDC business recruitment strategies. The average commercial space in Grandmont Rosedale is about 1,200-square-feet, limiting options for a supermarket or department store.
For example, Cutz Lounge: The Grooming Shop on Grand River fits right into the neighborhood landscape.
Grandmont Rosedale will welcome Detroit Vegan Soul in the coming weeks when it opens a location at the former Blue Moon ice cream shop at 19614 Grand River, in addition to its original West Village restaurant. The new jobs created and the rare, but increasingly popular, cuisine were among factors that motivated a GRDC courtship.
“When we heard they were interested in opening another location we were very proactive in trying to attract them to our neighborhood,” says Carr. “I’m sure they will be looking to hire some of the local residents.”
GRDC used Motor City Match to help provide Detroit Vegan Soul with startup funds that will help the restaurant open its doors by early 2017.
“Just kind of being a facilitator for small businesses has proven successful for us,” Carr says.
GRDC’s micro-approach to business and job creation is embodied in its “pop-ups,” the latest of which is Lush Yummies Pie Co., which opened at the GRDC WorkPlace’s storefront in October. The WorkPlace’s goal is to propel the bakery from its six-month incubator stage into a permanent company. It worked for the previous pop-up store, The Natural Market, which will soon set up long-term shop in Grandmont Rosedale.
“Neighborhoods are really the economic engine to the economy.” -Larissa Carr, Manager, Grand River WorkPlace
“A lot of the entrepreneurs I deal with here in the neighborhood also live here,” says Carr. “It’s a really important aspect to the growth of the community to have the connection between the businesses and the neighborhoods.”
Age is also a factor that influences job growth in particular communities, research shows.
Among cities described as “mid-size,” Detroit attracted the third most interest in popular industries, including automotive, information technology, and marketing, according to LinkedIn job searches during the past year. But General Motors, Ford, and Quicken Loans – the companies LinkedIn identified as most popular among millennials – draw most Detroiters away from their community base, since none are located in the heart of neighborhoods.
With the exception of Detroit’s numerous plants and factories, most of which are older, few new companies located outside downtown’s vicinity provide large numbers of jobs.
Training collaborations with independently owned businesses might be one solution for strengthening ties to neighborhoods, says Quincy Jones, executive director of Osborn Neighborhood Alliance.
“I think working with unique individuals who want to bring unique businesses to the community is key,” he says.
For the past three years Jones says Osborn Neighborhood Alliance has been developing a model for a career center that will provide residents with pharmaceutical training, under the guidance of Pharmacy For Less, located at Chene and Seven Mile Road. The ultimate plan for the initiative is to double the store’s staff by hiring trainees from the community.
While Pharmacy For Less is much smaller than major Detroit drug store chains, it presents opportunity corporate outlets seldom provide, Jones says.
“That’s the way I see neighborhoods getting business,” he adds, “by finding companies that are on the cusp.”
Job creation through unique businesses that help define the community’s identity might also be more crucial to the community’s long-term growth than work at corporate chains, says Jones.
Regardless of strategy, Jones and Carr agree innovation is the tool most consistently needed to leverage job growth where it’s most needed in the city.
“I think it’s really important,” Carr says, “because what we see in Detroit nowadays is that the neighborhoods are really the economic engine to the economy.”
Lead photo: An artist completes a mural promoting Grand River WorkPlace, Grandmont Rosedale Development Corp.’s incubator space for small businesses in the west side community. Photo courtesy of GRDC