‘TechTown 2.0’ Expands Focus

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the Southwest, North End, and predominantly Middle Eastern Cody/Rouge neighborhoods. The training program, which will last 20 weeks and have 10 to 15 participants each session, will be taught by a neighborhood stakeholder who shares the same cultural identity as class participants.

“The training program prepares people for the world of small business,” Tobocman says. “There’s actually an element of discouragement—we let them know that business owners tend to lose money and work 80 to 100 hours a week. It’s not a pathway to instant success.”

What owning a small business is a pathway to, Tobocman says, is community development and economic empowerment. In Minnesota, a lot of program participants are people running part-time, home-based businesses.

“We want to take the underground economy above ground,” Tobocman adds.

In addition to offering nine training sessions a year for three years, the program will include ongoing technical assistance as well as a microlending component, which Tobocman says will offer smaller, riskier loans than other Detroit entities.

“We’re turning the conventional wisdom on its head—the riskier the candidate for the loan, the more generous the terms,” Tobocman says. “There’s a greater tolerance for failure.”

Graduates of the classes who “really grow” will move on to TechTown’s FastTrac and Thrive programs.

“For us, the [neighborhood training] program is about creating job opportunities for all Detroiters,” Tobocman says.

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