DETROIT — TechTown President and CEO Leslie Smith Friday joined a delegation of 30 business leaders in Detroit to participate in a small business roundtable at the White House in Washington, D.C.

The half-day business leader discussion was organized by the White House Business Council and Business Forward.  Representatives from NextEnergy, Digerati, the Detroit Regional Chamber and other Detroit-based companies and non-for-profits were invited to attend. The purpose: to stimulate a meaningful dialogue about the challenges and opportunities associated with economic revitalization in Southeast Michigan and other urban areas nationwide.

“This roundtable sets the stage for Detroiters to demonstrate to federal officials that we have a cadre of committed professionals who are effectively collaborating to move the region’s economic agenda forward,” Smith said. “In seven short years, TechTown, along with its partners, has achieved a culture and paradigm shift toward economic independence through the lens of entrepreneurship. Over the next several years, TechTown will intentionally collaborate with these and other partners to change the face of Detroit’s economy in emerging industrial markets.”

Following an economic briefing, administration officials and business leaders discussed job creation and business expansion, specific policies and “partnering for action.”

In an interview on WWJ Saturday, Smith said Detroit may be known for making cars, but it’s making big moves in the high-tech world as well.

“Probably the most interesting were around micro-lending, and creative ways that we can find to get money out to small businesses. So, the SBA and  folks here locally, including Morgan Stanley and others were really engaged in ways to create funds for small businesses that don’t have all of the red tape and hoops of traditional bank lending,” said Smith.

“I think a high-tech world really aligns very uniquely with the automotive industry and innovation around manufacturing and the way we make cars in the city,  is going to spur a whole bunch of economic growth in new start-ups and existing companies that can innovate around car making,” Smith said.

According to Business Forward organizer Tim Ossowski, “This forum will build upon an important conversation: soliciting input and perspective from Detroit business and civic leaders on employment, the economy and job creation.”

Ossowski noted that senior administration officials will attend the forum to provide an overview of current efforts to spur economic growth. They will also shed light on Administration priorities, broadly speaking, for the metro Detroit business leaders in attendance. The roundtable, he explained, will cover a range of topics as they relate to the Detroit business community and the economy including: innovation and open government; access to capital; health care; energy; education and immigration.

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TechTown is an urban research and technology business park in midtown Detroit, founded by Wayne State University, that supports entrepreneurship. It operates a 125,000-square-foot business incubator, TechOne, that is home to 220 companies, and is looking for more space in the area between midtown and New Center.


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