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Program Seeks To Boost Detroit’s Creative Corridor

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DETROIT (AP) - Patrick Thompson owns a building near Detroit’s growing Midtown area and one day hopes to move his two-year-old design and consulting firm there as part of a growing creative corridor in the reshaping Rust Belt city.
  
Patrick Thompson Design is one of 17 local companies accepted into the Creative Ventures Acceleration Program, which gives businesses access to resources, services, strategic counseling, and developmental support.
  
The pilot program is designed to help develop creative sector businesses in Detroit. A grand opening is scheduled Tuesday at the A. Alfred Taubman Center for Design Education.
  
It is among a number of efforts to assist companies in Detroit, which has lost thousands of jobs over the past decade as the once-strong manufacturing industry did all but go belly-up.
  
“I lived away for quite some time,” said Thompson, who grew up north of Detroit in Oakland County. “I came back because I saw things happening in Detroit. It’s always been artistic, but I think that might have under the radar because it had the reputation of being a manufacturing town.”
  
The city’s economy, once dominated by General Motors Co., Chrysler and Ford Motor Co., nosedived over the past few years as the fortunes of the carmakers stumbled.
  
Matthew Clayson, director of the Detroit Creative Corridor Center, believes creative sector businesses in film and video production, digital animation, apparel and architectural design industries can help fill the gap created by thousands of job losses in manufacturing and autos. The center is one of six initiatives identified in 2006 to help grow southeast Michigan’s economy.
  
“Detroit is busting at the seams with creative practitioners and business owners that need targeted and sector specific support to achieve their full growth potential,” Clayson said in a release.
  
Companies selected for the Creative Ventures accelerator have “their own distinct set of qualities and services that cannot be cultivated using a cookie cutter approach,” he added.
  
Thompson and other business owners in the program will participate in a 12-month curriculum developed in partnership with the TechTown business incubator at Wayne State University.
  
TechTown, the urban school’s research and technology park, has been at the forefront of retraining and small business development in Detroit. Its 100,000-square-foot building houses about 70 growing companies.
  
Last month, a group of former auto executives completed the Michigan Shifting Gears program that leverages their knowledge of business for jobs in fields outside the auto industry. The program boasts that more than half of the people finishing it land new jobs within six months.
  
Participants were assigned a volunteer mentor from the business community and were required to complete an 80-hour pro bono internship with a start-up business.
  
Michigan Shifting Gears “helps them find the jobs in our new economy and gives them powerful career development tools,” said organizer Faris Alami.
  
Right now, Thompson has one intern and two contract employees. He recently designed four floors of office space for an out-of-state advertising agency, which moved into downtown Detroit.
  
“I hope to continue to grow my business, focusing more on commercial retail and hospitality design in the city of Detroit,” he said. “In the next three to five years, I see it becoming a six- to 12-person firm.”

 
  
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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