More than 400 young professionals are expected to come together for the first time at Detroit Harmonie on Oct. 9, 2010 at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center in Detroit. Detroit Harmonie is an evening of international entertainment that will showcase the regions rich diversity.

Detroit Harmonie is being organized by ComePlayDetroit, CommunityNEXT, and the Young Professional Leadership Council, and will showcase more than 10 cultures from around the world through ethnic food, drinks, art, and music. Attendees will also view the grand opening of a new photography exhibit at the Virgil H. Carr Cultural Arts Center entitled Paradise in the City: Through the Eye of the Camera- an exhibit that will counter the negative images of Detroit published in TIME Magazine earlier this year. 

“Beyond celebrating diversity in Detroit, Detroit Harmonie exists to bring several young professional groups together to network and ultimately create one unified, cohesive voice for the future leaders of the community,” said Jordan Wolfe, director of CommunityNEXT. “Due to the sprawling geography of metro Detroit, many circles of young professionals often do not know of or interact with their peers and we want to use this event to start the conversation between people in the city and suburbs.”

Metro Detroit truly is a melting pot of different cultures with more than 140 different languages spoken in this region alone. Among the cultures and regions involved are African, Asian, Brazilian, Caribbean, Greek, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Russian.

Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at www.detharmonie.com

For more information or for sponsorship packets, please contact Sara Bloomberg via email sara@communitynxt.com or by phone (248) 752-2542.



Thalia Mavros, Director & Producer, VBS.TV
CNN

Editor's note: The staff at CNN.com has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV  is Vice's broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our CNN.com readers.

In August 2009, Vice published a story called "Something, something, something, Detroit: Lazy journalists love pictures of abandoned stuff," about the roving gangs of photojournalists prowling the empty city and feasting on its highly photogenic carcass. Since then, some of the worst offenders have abashedly changed their approach to covering Michigan's largest city. But most outlets are still fixated on the all-you-can-click pageview buffet that is "misery porn" of the decaying Motor City.

Last month, we traveled to Detroit with co-creator and star of the "Jackass" empire Johnny Knoxville to explore what lies gasping beneath the rubble of over-indulged industry, frighteningly embarrassing municipal mismanagement, and decades' worth of social and economic imbalance. What we found is a burgeoning class of creative young folk intent on rebuilding their communities and the city, despite being faced with a world that has already phoned in their city's obituary.



Of course, not so much has changed on Detroit's surface: empty seven-lane streets, lots of abandoned stuff, fortified mansions beside charred remnants of neighborhoods, grasslands reclaiming entire city blocks, gaudy casinos in the deep ghettos. You've heard this all before. Even the BBC has filmed its requiem for the city, and NBC's "Dateline" has infuriated Detroiters with accounts of impoverished residents barely subsisting on freshly hunted raccoon meat. It amounts to a nihilistic sensationalism tinged with brittle, gauzy vestiges of hope and breathtaking visuals.

The fact of the matter is that the situation in Detroit is daunting. The city that so successfully realized the 1950s American dream is now a visual testament to its grandiose demise. But is that really news?

We like to think that the story is better told by identifying those who remain in Detroit and those who are moving back precisely because it is challenging. We set out to give the people of Detroit a platform to tell their story. The city has become a place where enterprising classes can find the space and time to do whatever they want, cheaply and hassle-free. It's a raw space where they can create community and start rebuilding their city from the inside out.

The people we talked to were all eager to discuss the reasons they love Detroit and, just as important, their vision for it. Everyone is doing something: buying and developing land, building businesses, making music, and laying the foundation for a new Detroit with a creative scene that reminded us of East Berlin after the Wall came down.

What we found there is a DIY paradise where people hustle to survive and use an anarchic sense of creativity to make things happen. It's a city primed for innovative solutions: How does a 20th-century city transition into the 21st, divesting itself of its outmoded industrial and economic models?

It's an exciting challenge that goes hand in hand with redefining the new American dream.

Click HERE to see more of the film.
Ron Leuty
San Francisco Business Times

If California wants to get its innovation game back, says venture capitalist Tom Baruch, it should look at Michigan.

That wasn't a misprint — much-maligned, Rust Belt-tagged Michigan.

We’re talking about my ancestral homeland here. I grew up in the southwest part of the state, where the recession and oil embargo of the 1970s drove unemployment in my little town above 40 percent.

I lived in funny-named places like Kalamazoo and Ypsilanti — both home to state universities and large auto plants — owned a home in one of the state’s innovation hubs, Ann Arbor, and worked in Oakland County, the biggest beneficiary of Detroit’s decline.

My dad, my brother, a sister, in-laws and a Facebook page full of friends — some of whom took me to task for recently leasing a Honda instead of buying from Fords — still call the Great Lakes State home.

Bottom line, I know my Soapy Williams from my Soupy Sales, my Benton Harbor from my Keego Harbor, my … well, you get the point.

So I had to ask Baruch again. “Which state?”

“Michigan,” the founder of San Francisco’s CMEA Capital repeated. “Now I’m not that close to it, but you see it more in programs and policies. They’re protecting small businesses, providing tax breaks — lots of breaks — and they’re providing worker training incentives.”

Also, Baruch noted, Michigan has a strong delegation in Congress that has helped funnel federal stimulus program cash in an effort to transform the world’s auto capital into a green-auto hub.

“(State government has) tends to be less antagonistic and more of what you might call ‘participatory’ in bringing together assets within the state, including the universities,” said Baruch, whose firm has bankrolled the likes of cleantech companies Codexis and Solyndra.

Maybe Meg Whitman should talk to Baruch. (See Detroit Free Press cartoonist/blogger Mike Thompson's take on Whitman's comments here.)

It is important to note that Michigan has a Democrat as governor, a split Legislature — a Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate — a general fund deficit of more than $300 million and a nearly $500 million shortfall written into the next fiscal year's budget. That combination of politics and budget problems would spell stalemate in Sacramento.

CMEA Capital's Tom Baruch.

“California’s tough,” Baruch said. “In California, getting support from the state government is challenging. The funds are just not there.”

Baruch heard a lot about Michigan and other states, like Arizona, earlier this month at the first meeting of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The group of heavy-hitters includes AOL co-founder Steve Case and University of Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman.

“There’s a lot going on in Michigan,” Baruch said, calling out A123 Systems Inc., which earlier this month opened North America’s largest lithium ion battery manufacturing plant near Detroit.

CMEA is an investor in A123.

It seems too good to be true, so I queried Stephen Rapundalo, president and CEO of the life sciences trade group MichBio. He outlined a handful of programs — from regional SmartZones that provide, for example, mentoring, incubator space or wet labs for startups to a pre-seed capital fund offering $250,000 alongside an investment partner and a pre-seed microloan program giving up to $50,000 to get companies ready for outside investment or customer sales.

There also is a tax credit that provides an incentive for large companies to invest in small, emerging tech companies' R&D projects. The large company can claim a credit against the state’s business tax equal to 30 percent of the contribution, up to $300,000.

“It seems to be working in multiple technology industries beyond just the biosciences, including alternative energy (batteries, wind, solar, biofuels), aerospace, defense mfg., etc.,” Rapundalo wrote in an email to me.

“I keep telling many people who muse about Michigan’s economic doldrums that they only need to look at some other states like New York, California to see state budgets that are in far worse shape than ours,” he continued.

In the end, policies and programs that support innovative startups comes down to leadership, Baruch said. California and the nation as a whole are failing to tap the cadre of experienced entrepreneurs, he said, who could lead a “Peace Corps of Innovation” and inspire a new generation of innovators.

“If you have leadership, you can have a big impact with very little money,” Baruch said.

And Baruch didn’t just fall off the pulp truck.
Garment districts have long been associated with New York and Los Angeles, but a garment district in Detroit? Joe Faris, a Project Runway alum and metro-Detroit designer, has taken a first step towards establishing an apparel industry in southeastern Michigan with his new line, Motor City Denim Co. by Joe Faris, made entirely in his home state.

The line for men and women will include jeans, skirts, dresses, western shirts, T-shirts, outerwear and accessories. Branded "Industrial Couture" by Faris, the collection will mix high-fashion elements with industrial edge, such as an evening dress made of denim. The line, which will be ready for wholesale October 1, will begin arriving in stores in early 2011.

By partnering with TDIC, Inc., the designer and manufacturer of protective robotic covers for more than 30 years, in Sterling Heights, all it took was minor retooling of existing machinery, plus a couple of jeans-specific machines, and the factory was ready for production. Faris added Taylor-based Arrow Uniform as his denim-wash facility, plus local screen printers and embroiderers to create an all-Michigan production team.

The partnership with TD Industrial Coverings, which took six months to establish, was the culmination of 10 years of planning for Faris, which switched into high gear when he landed on Season 5 of Project Runway, in 2008, finishing in the top 6 of 16 contestants, which ended with his collection on the runway at Bryant Park in New York.

Faris, who has designed for several brands, including Bugle Boy, Ralph Lauren, Pelle Pelle, Perry Ellis, Schott NYC and Made In Detroit, moved closer to his goal of a Detroit garment industry by co-founding Fashion In Detroit, a multi-show runway event, which made its debut last year.

"One of the goals for Fashion In Detroit was to put a spotlight on this area and get automotive companies to realize they can gear part of their business toward local fashion designers, giving them the ability to make their garments here," Faris says.
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