Over the past seven weeks, I have been working with the Detroit Regional Chamber on a project around business attraction narratives in the city of Detroit. Currently, the Chamber and its partners have had great success bringing businesses to Downtown and Midtown, and have pretty comprehensive materials to market these areas to interested businesses. However, the Chamber recognized the need for similar materials for attracting businesses to the neighborhoods of Detroit.

The impact is to ideally use findings to bring more businesses to Detroit’s neighborhoods to boost their individual economies.

Rather than starting from scratch, we hatched a plan to reach out to organizations in the neighborhoods who we thought might already be doing this. By connecting and collaborating with partners, we thought we could minimize redundant work and also rely on the experts of a neighborhood for what types of businesses their residents even want. My project included talking to a variety of stakeholders, from the Chamber’s current public partners who are already working in the space to neighborhood organizations who are only dipping their toes in business attraction.

I was lucky enough to sit down with six individuals working at different organizations in various stages of economic development and business attraction. Here are a few of our key findings:

There is a strong desire to share best practices in business attraction, especially in real estate, but no consensus on the best way to collaborate. While “white box space” is pretty rare to find in Detroit’s commercial corridors, the available real estate in neighborhoods often is a space that needs renovation. Some organizations have great partnerships and incentives to pair businesses to these spaces, while others seek these types of relationships.

Strategic partnerships not only allow organizations like the Chamber to utilize the expertise of neighborhood organizations, but it also allows the neighborhoods to increase their visibility and access to resources for incoming businesses. There is considerable value to these types of partnerships for both parties.

Organizations are moving toward storytelling in marketing as a more holistic way of presenting themselves to residents, outsiders, interested businesses, etc. When asked, organizations said their story is more attractive than statistics, but often attracting businesses requires both. The ideal situation would be to find a way to capture the statistics of a neighborhood that retailers and other businesses require while sharing positive neighborhood narratives.

At this point in Detroit’s history, outsiders are looking in more than ever before. Across the city, organizations are thinking about the best fits in terms of new businesses and development for their neighborhoods and residents. Sharing best practices in business attraction, real estate matchmaking, and storytelling can result in a stronger, more accurate narrative of Detroit and the nuances of our neighborhoods out in the world, with the goal of improving the lives of those who already reside here.