ANN ARBOR — Some of Michigan’s greatest success stories are rooted in the state’s urban areas — places like Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids. So it’s no surprise that these areas are playing a major role in the economic growth and business development needed to accelerate Michigan beyond the hard times of years past.

This year’s Annual Collaboration for Entrepreneurship, ACE12, will hear from some of the urban experts at the program Jan. 31.

How are innovative entrepreneurs and economic development teams pushing ahead in Michigan’s urban areas? Find out in this panel of three urban development leaders whose credentials are included below. They will discuss the businesses and programs thriving in the region. Learn how you can capitalize on opportunities in your big-city backyard.

From not-so-typical incubator space to community building through real estate development, the approaches to growing the economy in urban Michigan are as creative as the people behind them. But creativity isn’t the only factor contributing to the growth of a region traditionally branded by manufacturing and the automobile industry. Organizations like the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. are bringing opportunity through partnerships with local government, access to development opportunities and knowledge of incentives and financing that can make the difference for startup businesses in the City of Detroit.

This panel is designed to trumpet successes in urban Michigan while informing and encouraging those looking to make their mark in the unique environment of an urban city.

Panelists include:

Olga Stella
Vice President for Business Development
Detroit Economic Growth Corp.
Stella helps lead DEGC’s business attraction, retention, and expansion efforts on behalf of the City of Detroit. Her team directly assists businesses looking to grow in the city of Detroit and works on strategic initiatives designed to increase tax base and employment opportunities and grow key economic clusters. Stella has previously held positions within DEGC that focused on policy development, special initiatives, strategic partnerships, and project management. Prior to rejoining the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. in 2007, Stella was chief of staff for State Rep. Steve Tobocman. After a short period as a business analyst at McKinsey and Company, Stella began working in economic development in Detroit in 2000, as Assistant to Mayor Dennis W. Archer for Economic Development. In this role, she worked directly with the City’s Group Executive for Economic Development on innovative strategies and programs to overcome critical economic challenges faced by the city and to revitalize Detroit neighborhoods. She held an instrumental role in managing and resolving issues associated with major city development projects.

Scott Griffin
Principal Ramscale Inc.
Griffin is an owner of 2051 Rosa Parks Boulevard in Corktown, one of Detroit’s hottest up-and-coming destinations for retail and community services. Known at one time as the Lincoln Brass Works Foundry, this space was home to bullet production efforts during World War II. Today, the building houses clients in a variety of industry areas, including Loveland Technologies, Curbed Detroit and the new Huffington Post Detroit office. Griffin, an experienced producer whose work with Arthur Miler and Robert Altman (among many others) has garnered international attention – is also a principal of Ramscale, Inc. in New York City, a real estate development firm with a focus on community building.

Chris Uhl
Green Garage
Uhl is a vice president of commercial banking for PNC. His clientele consists of privately held entrepreneurial companies ranging from $10 million to $50 million in revenues. These clients represent diverse industries from automotive suppliers and general contractors to food producers, distributors, and retailers. Uhl is a board member of the United Way for Southeastern Michigan. He is also the past Chair of United Way’s Leadership Next organization whose mission is to foster deep and impactful engagement amongst the region’s emerging leaders. Uhl has a passion for reinventing Detroit and believes that the two most important arenas in this effort are educational reform and enhancement of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Additional community involvement includes Hatch Detroit, Kiva Detroit, and the Cody High School Champions Council. In April of 2010, Uhl joined the Green Garage community. He is a member of the team that worked to form the Business Greenhouse. The Green Garage Business Greenhouse is a globally unique incubator that seeks to grow triple bottom line businesses naturally.

The fundamental DNA of these businesses includes both environmental and economic sustainability as well as strong ties to the communities they serve. We believe that by incorporating these dimensions from the earliest seed stage of the business, you can grow an enterprise that is a model for the 21st century and beyond.   ACE brings together entrepreneurs, innovators and business leaders from around the Great Lakes region to network, learn, and connect. Participants will have an opportunity to attend a variety of exciting panels highlighting lean startups, innovation in urban Michigan and financing strategies; consult 1-on-1 with industry experts; and watch Michigan’s most innovative startups pitch their ventures in an elevator pitch competition.

A new feature of ACE ’12 is “Ask an Expert” in which attendees may sign up for a free consulting session to get personalized guidance on their business ideas or startups.

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