How the Motor City Got Its Groove Back

Home to a burgeoning concentration of tech start-ups and incubators, Detroit's "Webward Avenue" is not just a street--it's also a movement. Can it transform Detroit?

Crumbling cities aren't supposed to be this popular.

For the most recent Startup Weekend in Detroit in mid-February, organizer Brandon Chesnutt cap attendance at 120, and still had people banging down his door.

"We literally just ran out of space," Chesnutt says. "I can't go an hour without getting e-mail from somebody wanting to attend."

The most popular Startup Weekend in the city's history took place inside the M@dison building, a modern five-story start-up Mecca that—as home to several VC firms and many of their portfolio companies—is part of the groundwork for a tech-centered rebirth of Detroit. The building is the brainchild of Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, who has been making it his crusade to reignite Detroit's downtown by buying property, seeding ventures, and moving thousands of Quicken employees into the area.

The M@dison is located on a stretch of Woodward Avenue that is poised to become Detroit's own Silicon Alley: Gilbert has dubbed it "Webward Avenue" for its burgeoning concentration of tech businesses and incubators. And with the neighborhood's surge in restaurants, bars, and entertainment options, Webward just might become the movement that is key to transforming Detroit back into a great American city.

"Regardless of what you call it, there is something really special happening," says Paul Glomski, CEO and co-founder of Detroit Labs, a year-old mobile app maker based in the M@dison. "A city that people consider down on its luck in terms of manufacturing, when you come here, you see a vibrant work force driven by innovation and technology. It's something that is exciting to be a part of."

"A Run" at Downtown Detroit

There's no doubt that Gilbert is leading the charge to spark the Webward Avenue movement: Not only is he encouraging downtown revitalization by buying up abandoned or under-used buildings to turn into office space, but he's also connected to several other major players in the neighborhood. He's a general partner in Detroit Venture Partners, the VC group seeding many of the hot prospects in the city.

The M@dison is a $12-million renovation of a century-old building that alone contains a several start-ups that have begun to get some notoriety, including the tech newcomer Detroit Labs, which gained national notoriety for working with Chevrolet on a Super Bowl promotion. In contrast, there's Skidmore Studios, a 53-year old company that started as a Detroit illustration house, moved in to the building after a long exile in the suburbs, and the proximity to the action has already increased business enough to hire more employees.

"If we were going to make a run at the city, we're going to do it downtown," president Tim Smith says. "Moving it back to its roots, where it started, was a big priority of mine. Emotionally, I think there was an uptick in our own personal pride being part of a creative resurgence."

It must be considered that Webward Avenue isn't an entirely new phenomenon. The neighborhood has its own breed of anchors tenants, which have been laying the groundwork for the movement since the first dot-com boom. Compuware built its 1.1 million square-foot headquarters off the southern hub of Woodward Avenue in 2002. Last year, the company started C-Power Compuware Ventures to fund early-stage technology start-ups with a Michigan connection.

According to Paul Czarnik, a Detroit native who is executive vice president and chief technology officer at Compuware and oversees the company's venture arm, one of the first pioneers to try to reclaim downtown was the Ilitch family. It owns the Detroit Red Wings, the Detroit Tigers, and Little Caesar's pizza chain, and which invested heavily in renovating buildings and venues downtown in the '80s and '90s. That ripple of renovation downtown seems to have lured big tech firms to start testing the waters. Compuware's move downtown was a monumental one.

"When they made the decision, we were all kind of floored," Czarnik says. "It was not good times in the area we were moving to. It's been almost nine years and we love it."

After Gilbert relocated 1,700 employees from Southfield into the Compuware building in 2010, he moved 1,500 Quicken employees into the renovated 14-story Chase Tower building on Woodward in October.

The transformation of the area is changing the kinds of talent the city is drawing too: once considered a haven of engineers for its auto-industry connections, Detroit's scrappy vibe is tech-savvy drawing in college graduates who are looking for something fresher than in Chicago or New York.

"A bunch of people that we have talked to are specifically interested in Detroit," says Reid Tatoris, one of the founders of Are You A Human, a game-based authentication system—like a CAPTCHA, but ostensibly fun—also based in the M@dison. "I'm really surprised by it. They've got a reason to try and take a risk and be here. It's really cool to see people from outside who have no ties say 'I want to be in Detroit.'"

Maybe you've heard the joke about being able to buy a house in Detroit for the price of a VCR, but that's not the case around downtown: The residential occupancy rate is higher than 90 percent. Tatoris says he was stuck on seven different waiting lists for apartment complexes before he finally found a place to live.

Brand New Identity on Webward

A few weekends ago, Glomski took his wife and 2-year-old to see Sesame Street Live at the Fox Theater. To get there, he parked in his office's parking lot, passed by Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers, through Grand Circus Park, and through a corridor of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, including old prohibition style speakeasies, live jazz clubs, and a coffee shop with music venue tucked away in the back.

The area is starting to see the benchmarks of activity that define a creative hub, all which fight the notion that Detroit is economically hopeless.

"People have shifted in their minds," Chesnutt says. "They love spending time—and more importantly, spending money—downtown."

Pedestrian traffic has increased, and more hopeful signs emerge almost every day.

"You are seeing buildings that are vacant and unoccupied for an awful long time that you know just got sold," Smith says.

Entrepreneurs use words like "discoverable," "unlocking," and "scavenger hunt" when describing the best parts of Detroit, which is to say a casual visitor is not as likely to just stumble across something amazing or eye-catching the same way one might while walking down a busy street in New York City.

"There is a lot down here, but it's not as visible," says Nathan Hughes, co-founder of Detroit Labs.

But the things that are happening give Detroiters with the feeling that the city is discovering a brand new identity.

"We Felt a Renewed Energy."

Clumping together in the start-up zone of Webward Avenue means two things to Detroit's entrepreneurs: For one, business is easier to do when you can just pop a few doors over to talk to your graphic designer or engineer.

"There's a lot going on, but it's distributed through miles and miles of suburbs. There's an energy you can't take advantage of when every one of your clients is separated by 20 or 30 miles of driving," Hughes says. "One of the founding principles was to get everyone together. That's not something that necessarily exists normally in Detroit."

But perhaps more crucially, it also means when you're circling the wagons around the center of what is supposed to be a dying American city, you find yourself with a lot more ammo to fight your way out.

"Emotionally, I think there was an uptick in our own personal pride being part of a creative resurgence," Smith says of relocating onto the Avenue. "Everyone upped their game a little bit. We felt a renewed energy. The work we were doing six months ago that was great got better. The days of hanging our head and being ashamed of where we live are over. We're not going to be the punch line any more. We're going to lead that charge back."

Chesnutt says Detroit is catching up to other cities, where start-up energy feeds off itself in bars and social events, on and off the clock.

"Entrepreneurial density and getting everyone in the same spot, that's what leads to success," he says.

You can already see that sense of combatants-in-arms in the popularity of events such as Startup Weekend and tours of the M@dison building, which have drawn capacity crowds. The attendees may be competitors in the business world, but they say their uniting goal is to pick the city up, dust it off and push it back into the ring.

Josh Linkner, a serial entrepreneur who works with Gilbert on Detroit Venture Partners, was born in Detroit in 1970, when the popular conception about the city was already that it was becoming a "wasteland." His parents moved the family to the suburbs shortly after.

"I'm going to be telling my grandkids about this five-year stretch when Detroit got back its mojo," Linkner says. "I don't think social transformation and profit are mutually exclusive. Our philosophy is that you can do well and do good simultaneously."

Click HERE to read the rest of this article by Tim Donnelly on Inc.!
The U.S. auto industry, led by Chrysler Group LLC, reported a second consecutive month of robust sales, suggesting the U.S. economy is continuing to pick up steam. 

Auto makers predicted the annualized new-vehicle sales pace for February will once again surpass 14 million cars and light trucks as it did in January. It would be the first time the industry has seen back-to-back months at that level since April and May of 2008.

Chrysler, which is majority-owned by Fiat SpA of Italy, reported its sales rose 40% in February to 133,521 vehicles. Its truck sales rose 21% from a year earlier, while car sales more than doubled. Ford Motor Co. weighed in with a 14% rise, to 178,644 cars and light trucks, with its Ford brand recording a 14% jump and its Lincoln luxury brand a 16% increase. Sales of the Ford Focus compact doubled.

Sales at General Motors Co. increased 1%, to 209,306 vehicles. Sales of its Chevrolet brand rose 5.8%, helped by its Sonic and Cruze small cars. But GM also saw declines by its Buick and Cadillac divisions. GM said its inventory at U.S. dealers at month’s end stood at 667,096 units, up 7.7% from January.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article on The Wall Street Journal!
Philip Shea
Multi-Housing News

Vacancy is set to decline in Detroit Rock City as the United Auto Workers recently struck a deal with the Big Three that will create 14,000 new jobs through 2014. The deal includes $13 million worth of investments in products and infrastructure and will increase the rate of pay for most assembly-line workers, this according to the Detroit Free Press.

In addition, Detroit-based General Motors is once again the world’s largest automaker. According to the Center for Automotive Research, there are over 1.45 million people working as a direct result of the $80 billion government bailout of the company in 2009. As such, the city is set to see its third straight year of positive job growth in 2012, and rents are expected to increase by 3 percent.

The automaking sector, however, will not be the only driver of increased multifamily residence in the recession-worn city. Various companies and corporations are now offering relocation incentives for professionals to return to the Midtown/West and Downtown submarkets. Marcus & Millichap expects an influx of white-collar workers to reduce vacancy for Class A apartments to 8 percent.

Urban Science, an automotive research firm, recently launched its “Live Detroit” program, which will give employees up to $2,400 allowance toward the first year of renting a Detroit apartment, according to the Detroit Free Press. “As a business owner in the city for the last 34 years, I’m encouraged and excited about the current revitalization I see throughout Detroit,” said Jim Anderson, founder and CEO of Urban Science, in an interview with the city’s newspaper. “It’s critical for companies of all sizes to get behind the momentum and play an active role in generating growth, whether it’s business or residential.”

Tax incentives are also being offered by the local and state governments to revitalize Michigan’s most populous city. A 6 percent state business tax was recently thrown out the window by Gov. Rick Synder, a move that was widely applauded by the Michigan business community. The Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank devoted to analyzing tax policies’ effect of business, recently revised its ranking of Michigan’s corporate tax climate from 49th in 2011 to 7th in 2012.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article!
Lou Peeples Inside Outside project, Detroit
Lou Peeples/Getty
INSIDE/OUTSIDE: A project by The Detroit Institute of Arts that takes its collection to the streets as part of a celebration of its 125th anniversary.

"Detroit is a blank canvas."

I cringe every time I hear this phrase, even though it's used by people who mean well.

To say something that references "emptiness" regarding a city founded in 1701 is both unfair and inaccurate, as it implies that there's nothing here—or worse—that there's nothing worth talking about here.

By suggesting this, the speaker disregards momentum building around the Detroit 2.0 movement, which is in full swing. Dan Gilbert, my partner in Detroit Venture Partners, has purchased nearly three million square feet of commercial real estate, setting off a trigger reaction for private investment downtown, where sports, business, technology, and the arts converge. Over the next few years, we'll witness the positive effects of our city's revitalization from within, as fallout from this tipping point of innovation.

Rather than refer to Detroit as a blank canvas, perhaps it makes more sense to call it an unfinished one. There are already splatters of paint on the board demonstrating promise, as well as blunders that need to be fixed. However, there is still enough white space left for someone to come in and make a mark, which will leave a lasting impression on the painting. People innovating and using creativity to win are making some of the most impactful brush strokes; the end result is a more beautiful painting for us all to enjoy.

Entrepreneurship requires you to get in the trenches. It's true that Detroit's trenches are more war-torn than others you might find. That being said, there's a strong case to be made for starting a business here, stemming precisely from these long-standing challenges and problems. The following elements are like buckets of paint, a toolkit of brushes, or even a paint-by-number guide: they make it easier for someone to add to the canvas.

Talent: This area is chock full of people who are hungry for an opportunity. New graduates make up the first camp—those born and bred in the region are educated in a local network of world-class universities, leaving ready to enter the business world. The current market has forced many of these graduates to launch their careers elsewhere, causing a "brain drain," but this trend can be stopped by providing jobs locally. Unfortunately for the economy, there's a large group of professionals who are out of work. Engineers, laborers, techies, sales associates, managers, consultants and a whole host of others now need jobs, many of whom have years of business experience under their belt. For a savvy business owner, this second group provides a capable workforce. Why pay more to fight over average talent when you could have your choice of hirable, less expensive A-listers?

Space: With more than 130 square miles and too many vacancies to count within its borders, Detroit boasts land. Lots of it. No other major city would have empty skyscrapers available for purchase, let alone for pennies on the square foot. Similarly, no other major city would have vacant lots, begging for parks, gardens and public art pieces, let alone with herds of new downtown residents awaiting them. Just as a brush needs a painter to bring it into action, so too does this land require someone to make use of it.

"Small" Town: Although Detroit is one of the largest American cities, it retains an attitude of a "big city, small town." When someone starts a business in New York or Los Angeles, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. Here, new businesses stand out and we take notice, welcoming newbies with open arms and celebrating their entrepreneurial fire. Because of this, it's often easier to get face time with head honchos here than it would be elsewhere, which makes your business's goals more quickly attainable.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article by Josh Linkner on Inc.! 

Slate: How Did Detroit Become Motor City?

A General Motors factory in Flint, Michigan.
A General Motors plant
                                            Photograph by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Mitt Romney eked out a win in Michigan’s Republican presidential primary Tuesday, overcoming criticism of his opposition to the automotive industry bailout. Why are all major auto manufacturers headquartered in or near Detroit?

Because Henry Ford lived there. Detroit and its environs had a lot to offer the nascent auto industry around the turn of the 20th century. Iron ore was available from the Mesabi Range in Minnesota, and there was ample timber in Michigan itself. (Early car frames were made of wood.) Rail and water routes made it easy to ship cars to Chicago and New York. And Detroit already hosted heavy industry like machine shops and stove works. Toledo, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Buffalo could have made similar claims, yet none of them became Motown. Detroit’s eventual dominance probably had more to do with a couple of historical accidents than any geographic advantage. First, innovators like Henry Ford and Ransom Olds happened to live in Michigan. Second, automotive executives in early-20th-century Detroit behaved a lot like Silicon Valley executives today: They regularly switched companies and launched spinoffs and startups. This culture of cross-pollination spread innovative manufacturing and design ideas among the Detroit manufacturers. Distant competitors couldn’t keep up with Motown’s research and development operations and eventually failed or sold themselves to Detroit.

There was no indication that Detroit would come to dominate car making in the industry’s early years. According to economist Steven Klepper of Carnegie Mellon University, none of the 69 companies that entered the auto industry (PDF) between 1895 and 1900 was located in Detroit. Olds Motor Works became the city’s first major carmaker when it relocated from Lansing in 1900. Ransom Olds then made a decision that would shape the course of the industry—rather than creating hundreds of small components in-house for his Curved Dash Runabout, he subcontracted much of the work to companies in Detroit’s flourishing manufacturing sector. The people who built the car’s parts eventually learned so much about automotive manufacturing that they went on to launch their own brands. Olds’ subcontractors included the Briscoe brothers, who helped build Buick, and machinist Henry Leland, who created Cadillac and Lincoln. The Dodge brothers also cut their teeth making parts for both Olds and Henry Ford. Ransom Olds, himself, eventually left Olds Motor Works to found the REO car company. A few other executives from Olds founded Chalmers and Hudson. William Durant, the man behind General Motors, was twice forced out of the company, forming Chevrolet and later Durant Motors while he was away. All of these ventures were based in or near Detroit.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article by Brian Palmer on Slate! 
TechTown, a local incubator

It's been called a start-up renaissance.

Detroit is increasingly flush with young companies, including a few gaining national notoriety, such as year-old Detroit Labs, of Super Bowl fame, and HiredMyWay, a two-year-old online recruiting service that's now expanding nationwide. What's more: Venture capital—once virtually nonexistent in Motor City—has set up shop, too. There are well-known firms, such as Detroit Venture Partners, which counts entrepreneurial celebrities Josh Linker and Dan Gilbert on its team, to smaller seed-stage firms, such as 313 Ventures. A patent office is even on its way in. In other words, it's a buzzing entrepreneurial ecosystem.

"What's really prompting a lot of this growth is our huge pool of talent here," says Jake Cohen, vice president of Detroit Venture Partners.

But where exactly is this talent coming from?

Detroit is far from being celebrated for its traditional education (a recent report found that nearly half of the adults in the city are functionally illiterate), but people knee-deep in this new economy will tell you that the foundation of Detroit's comeback is its growing entrepreneurial education system—a tapestry of universities, incubators, and competitions that foster growth and produce new talent in several industries.

"Over the past decade or so, we've built an incredibly efficient ecosystem to help entrepreneurs get off their feet. There's education and support for nearly every stage of a company," says Tina Bissell, business manager at the Michigan Initiative for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, which aims to foster entrepreneurship in public universities. "If we want this boom to continue, it boils down to making education a priority."

Click HERE to read the rest of this article by Nicole Carter on Inc.! 

Veronika Scott is 22 years old and the Founder of The Empowerment Plan, a nonprofit that hires Detroit’s homeless women to make coats for the homeless.

I met Veronika in August 2011 when she spoke at the event my company powered at the United Nations – The International Year of Youth Culmination Celebration. Veronika wowed hundreds of girls and women who were joining together at the UN to create a global force of positive change. She stood at the UN podium and began telling her story: I started off with a college assignment in early 2010 to design and fulfill a need… I live in Detroit… there are 36,000 homeless individuals and 64,000 abandoned buildings… I didn’t need to look very far to find others with greater needs than my own. 

Veronika graduated from the College of Creative Studies in Detroit and the next day she flew from Detroit to New York to join me at the Forbes Gallery to share her intimate and passionate story about how she started her company, what motivates her, her mistakes and successes. She’s an amazing young woman who is truly changing the world.

Click HERE to read the rest of this story by Denise Restauri on Forbes! 

Hostel Detroit Helps Highlight City's Bright Spots

Ally Levise
The Varsity News

Now that graduation is just around the corner and I've been applying for out-of-state jobs, I'm starting to realize how much I'm actually going to miss Detroit. So, lately I've been trying to get my fill of the city.

This past weekend, I decided to stay at Hostel Detroit, which I've been curious about since it opened almost one year ago.

Hostel Detroit was started by UDM graduate Emily Doerr as a place for travelers seeking an affordable, alternative place to stay in the city. While hostels are a tourist staple in many cities across the world, this is the first of its kind in Detroit.

It's located near Rosa Parks and I-75, and the surrounding neighborhood doesn't look like much. My traveling companion commented that the building directly behind the hostel looked like something "straight out of New Jack City." Several burnt-out buildings contrast sharply with a meticulously cared-for area filled with freshly planted trees and the hostel's brick façade painted with cheerful colors.

The inside is even more inviting.

We were greeted by the hostel's manager, Michel. He gave us a tour, apologizing for the mess he had made in the community kitchen: There were stems strewn about from the fresh flowers he had been arranging for our room.

The interior is charming. Chalkboards line the entrance, advertising upcoming bike tours of Detroit and other events. There are eclectic knick-knacks in the rooms and Michel's freshly cut flowers brightened up the space.

The guest book had enthusiastic and positive entries made by travelers from far-off places like Nepal and the Netherlands, proof that tourism is alive and well in Detroit.

Michel gave us a map of Detroit and kindly told us to call his cell phone if we needed directions or any tips on where to go.

We left our bags in our rooms and went out to explore the lesser-known gems of the city. It seems that people who are not familiar with Detroit always go to the same handful of known, big name places – the casinos, Pizza Papalis and Hockeytown Café – and largely overlook the places with real character.

We started at Atwater Brewery. For lovers of microbrews, this place is a dream. It features a small bar tucked in the corner of the brewery itself. Huge vats tower over the bar, and boxes are stacked to the ceiling. You get to have a glimpse of the process while you sip the final product.

Just a jaunt down the road is Motor City Wine, a casual wine bar that frequently hosts jazz bands and wine tasting events. The space was packed with people of all ages sampling wines and picking from little plates of cheeses and olives. The best part is that most of their bottles fall in the $15-25 range.

Just downstairs and next door to Motor City Wine is Foran's Grand Trunk Pub. The bar, an old train station depot with high ceilings and beautiful exposed brick walls, was bursting with people on a Friday night. I delighted in the vegetarian options in the menu and the selection of Michigan-made beers on tap.

For our last stop.....Click HERE to read the rest of this article on The Varsity News!

Data through December 2011, released today by S&P Indices for its S&P/Case-Shiller[1] Home Price Indices, the leading measure of U.S. home prices, showed that all three headline composites ended 2011 at new index lows. The national composite fell by 3.8% during the fourth quarter of 2011 and was down 4.0% versus the fourth quarter of 2010. Both the 10- and 20-City Composites fell by 1.1% in December over November, and posted annual returns of -3.9% and -4.0% versus December 2010, respectively. These are worse than the -3.8% respective annual rates both reported for November. With these latest data, all three composites are at their lowest levels since the housing crisis began in mid-2006.

In addition to both Composites, 18 of the 20 MSAs saw monthly declines in December over November. Miami and Phoenix were up 0.2% and 0.8%, respectively. At -12.8% Atlanta continued to post the lowest annual return. Detroit was the only city to post a positive annual return, +0.5% in December versus the same month in 2010. In addition to the three composites, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Seattle and Tampa each saw average home prices hit new lows.

The S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index, which covers all nine U.S. census divisions, recorded a 4.0% decline in the fourth quarter of 2011 over the fourth quarter of 2010. In December, the 10- and 20-City Composites posted annual rates of decline of 3.9% and 4.0%, respectively.

Sean Rinehart
The Bleacher Report

As the reigning Cy Young award winner and AL Most Valuable Player, Justin Verlander is going to have a difficult time improving on his season from a year ago.

However, if there is any player in the major league that could do just that, it is Verlander. With an unparalleled work ethic and drive, Verlander is on a mission for one thing: a World Series championship. If along the way he is able to improve upon his 2011 as he accomplishes that mission, Verlander and the Tigers, as well as every Tigers fan across the nation, will be ecstatic.

Verlander is not your everyday baseball player. He has freakish athletic ability and drive, which are two important characteristics that are necessary to improve upon such a stellar and impressive 2011 campaign.

CLICK HERE for the five reasons why Verlander will be even better during the 2012 season

Operation Kid Equip always has great success in rallying our community to help kids in need.

The most recent Kids Count report shows that we could be reaching out to more kids in need. Half of our state can’t cover their basic needs without assistance. More than one in every 10 kids in Michigan is living in extremely desperate circumstances.

To help meet the often overlooked, but essential school day needs of children in poverty we need to meet this increased demand locally, and we need to do more work with kids living in extreme poverty.

OKE has a new special project and they are asking for your help in this very important campaign.

There are more than 6,400 identified homeless students in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

Many people don’t realize that a majority of homeless students still attend school, but they show up empty-handed, and aren’t able to complete their assignments. Completing homework assignments is an issue. They don’t have their own reading books. Proper hygiene can also be an issue. They’re showing up to school hungry.

This is quite a huge burden for a homeless student to bear, on top of the stresses outside of school.

We need to do something about this today.

You can help provide a backpack to each homeless student in the tri-county area. Each backpack will be filled with school supplies, books, hygiene items, clothing or food items.

We have a special purchase offer if we can meet our goal by March 15, 2012.

We need your help!

For each $10 raised, one more homeless student can receive a backpack.

We’re asking you to do two easy things right now:

Make a $10 donation to Operation: Kid Equip AND Tell 10 friends about your commitment to homeless children, and ask each of them to donate $10, too.

Invite just 10 people, or invite everyone you know. Everyone you invite to join in this campaign represents another homeless child who will receive a backpack.

The beauty is that this campaign will be fully-funded through the efforts of our volunteers and supporters.

Having the right school day supplies enable students to soar beyond just basic expectations. New possibilities are created with each student we reach.

This change starts with you, $10 and 10 people you know.

Please join in on this important campaign today.

Click HERE to Donate!



The Pure Michigan Dream Vacation for 2 adults includes:

  • 5 nights / 1 week
  • Coach class air transportation courtesy of Delta to Detroit, Michigan
  • Rental car pick-up provided by Buick
  • Travel from I-75 to US-23 , then drive along Michigan’s Sunrise Coast along the Lake Huron Shoreline on US-23
ContSubmit your entry to win HERE!

As “National Spay/Neuter Awareness Month” continues and with “World SpayDay” set for Tuesday, February 28, Warren-based All About Animals Rescue, the largest nonprofit, low-cost, spay and neuter clinic in Michigan, is preparing to bring their surgeons directly into area communities with a brand-new, soon-to-be unveiled mobile surgical unit – the very first of its kind in southeast Michigan.

The new, $300,000 37-foot state-of-the-art, fully-equipped mobile surgical unitwill allow veterinarians to spay and neuter dogs and cats on-site throughout the City of Detroit, set to officially debut this spring. “Our ultimate mission is to promote responsible pet owner behavior and ensure every dog and cat has a home,” said Catherine Garrett, All About Animals Rescue’s Director of Development & Marketing. “Eliminating the worsening problem of stray and abandoned animals, overcrowded shelters and, staggeringly high euthanasia rates begins with basic spaying and neutering. This can be done when an animal is at least 8 weeks old and weighs more than 2 lbs.” The new vehicle will augment All About Animals Rescue’s two transport units operating in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, as well as Flint and Marine City. The current mobile units pick up pets from a predetermined location and then drop them back off after sterilization procedures have been conducted at the Warren center.

Each year, more than 100,000 animals are put to death in Michigan animal shelters, while nationally 6 out of 10 dogs and 7 out of 10 cats that temporarily reside in shelters are killed. Moreover, with an unseasonably warm winter and a proliferation of abandoned and foreclosed homes, birth rates of strays are on the rise.

A grant from PetSmart Charities is helping to fund further discounted $20 spay procedures for female cats with the “Beat the Heat” program throughout February. All About Animals Rescue is also subsidizing neuter procedures for male cats throughout the month.

Added Garrett: “It is vital that we fight these birth and euthanasia trends, which are often fueled by a range of socioeconomic challenges. Our new mobile capabilities and low-cost options are a step in the right direction. They will provide area communities from across southeast Michigan with new, tangible resources and options.”
Eastern Market
Andrew Zimmern
Bizarre Foods

A lot of what has defined our country was born in Detroit. The auto industry, assembly lines, The Temptations, Aretha, Kid Rock and Eminem (even if he’s not your bag, he is one of the most influential musicians in the last 15 years). These days, the news out of Detroit isn’t about new wheels and music. It’s about destruction, ruin and the mass exodus from a city once dubbed “the Paris of the Midwest.” Much of the mainstream news out of Detroit reeks of failure.

Here’s the thing: yes, the Motor City has taken a beating in recent years. Yes, it has a lot to do with the fall of the auto industry. Yes, much of the city is desolate and abandoned. And yes, all in all, things have been looking bad for D-Town for quite some time. When we decided to bring Bizarre Foods America there last summer, I expected some squalor. What I found amazed me.

Detroit is one of the most culturally diverse cities I’ve visited in a long time. In between those great urban expanses of bleakness, there are inspirational pockets of urban vitality. It’s home to the largest Arab-American population in the country, not to mention its thriving Polish, Mexican and Bengali communities. What’s more, people from all over the United States have relocated to Detroit. I’ve eaten some of the best soul food in the country here. Oh, and did you know that Detroit is home to the largest farmer’s market in the US? Eastern Market is simply amazing, and peppered mostly with entrepreneurs who are bringing this city back in a big way.

Click HERE to read the rest of this story on the Travel Channel!
Photo by @JoeFoodie

The Paczki Bomb:

Origin: Small's, 2011
Location: Hamtramck

Mini paczki (2-3 bites worth) stuffed with flavored vodkas.
House favorite: custard paczki with Hard Luck root beer barrel vodka

Click HERE for more information on Small's Packzi Day Festivities!

No major city in America has been hit harder by the recession than Detroit. Even before the recent near-total collapse in auto demand, the city had been decaying for decades. In the 1950s, its population was around 2 million; today it is less than 750,000.

A few weeks ago, I participated in a study tour (with the Emerging Leaders in Energy and Environmental Policy program) to discover how Detroit's businesses, non-profit foundations, and residents are working to bring the city back. I saw the vacant neighborhoods, the urban prairie where houses once were, and marveled that the average price for a four-bedroom home was only $48,000.

Superficially, it seems a stretch to look at Detroit as a model. But the long downturn that burned through the city's industry has made room for new green shoots that could grow the city back. My optimism about Detroit comes from the partnerships between universities, non-profit foundations, and entrepreneurs that incubating new companies and new industries. I saw three particular examples that of these burgeoning partnerships that can provide lessons for the rest of the country.

Tech Town is a small-business incubator based in Detroit's Midtown area. It connects scientific research being done at nearby Wayne State University with entrepreneurs who can monetize the new technologies. It also provides office space, business services, mentoring, and guidance to over 200 companies in industries ranging from human tissue sampling to web-design to hairdressing. Its success is founded on its location and its ties to the nearby research institution.

Next Energy, based across the street from Tech Town, is a non-profit company that provides support to alternative energy companies by linking them with potential funders and markets. One of its success stories was a cooperative venture between Titan Energy and the Defense Logistics Agency (of the U.S. Department of Defense) to develop an easily transportable solar power generator that is now being deployed with our troops in Afghanistan. Renewable energy is one of the fastest growing new industries in the country, but it is heavily dependent upon scientific research as it develops. Non-profits like Next Energy can provide crucial support to companies trying to commercialize the emerging discoveries.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article on The Atlantic!

The Travel Channel


Original Air Date: Monday, February 20, 2012 9pm EST

Andrew finds out if it is food that keeps Detroit’s motor running. Andrew visits Motown and gets revved up about tasting some of the city’s food, including iconic soul food and lamb brain sandwiches, in the heart of Arab America.

Click HERE to watch clips of tonight's episode!

Click HERE for information on all the places in Detroit Andrew visited!

Detroit Narrowing the Car Quality Gap with Imports

CNN Money

The dependability of cars is continuing to improve, according to a new survey by J.D. Power and Associates and domestic brands, in particular, are narrowing the gap in quality compared to the Japanese automakers.

Overall scores in the survey were the best they've ever been since the survey's inception in 1990. The top three brands with the fewest problems were Lexus (Toyota's (TM) luxury brand), Porsche and General Motors' (GM, Fortune 500) luxury brand, Cadillac. The most problem-free car captured in the survey was the 2009 Lexus LS. But while car owners are reporting fewer problems, car shoppers still don't seem to be getting the message, especially in regard to domestic vehicles, the market research company said.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article on CNN Money!

Chef Al Pronko may be best known for his Mexican-Asian fusion creations at Maria’s Comida, especially for the tres leches cake, black rice pudding and fried ice cream on his menu.

Marie Pronko, who runs the front of the house, has picked up a lot from her dad when it comes to creating and making desserts – and she’s ready to take him on.

The dueling family members are prepared to bring out their best dessert creations at the Daddy-Daughter Bake-Off, a fundraiser dessert sampling event to benefit Orchards Children’s Services on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

The duo will each prepare a surprise dessert for guests, who will vote for a People’s Choice Award through donations for Orchard’s Children’s Services, and celebrity judges – Chef Joseph Decker , pastry instructor at Schoolcraft College; Chef Tom Keshishian of Street Eatzz, and Erin Rose, Founder of and

The evening will also feature a sampling of desserts prepared by local Detroit bakeries and foodies, appetizers from Maria’s Comida, and a raffle.

Marie Pronko has a soft spot in her heart for Orchards Children’s Services where she was a social worker for five years before joining the family business.

“We’re a family business and they’re an agency we believe in,” Marie Pronko says. “Orchards is always looking for clothing for their kids and teens.”

Orchards Children’s Services provides adoption, foster care and family preservation services for at-risk families and children.

The Daddy-Daughter Bake-Off will run from 6-9 p.m. at Maria’s Comida, located at 11411 Jos. Campau in Hamtramck. The event is open to the public for a charity donation of $20.

For more information, contact Maria’s Comida at 313-733-8406., a new website aimed at providing a resource for Detroiters to find fresh affordable food in the city, has launched this week. The site was created by the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce to highlight the more than 80 significant grocery options available in the City of Detroit.

The website features an interactive map to show city residents how close they are to a high-quality, independently owned grocery store. also offers grocery store photos and video, grocer profiles and customer testimonials.

“All our grocer members are dedicated to providing quality, fresh food options for their customers as they have for decades,” said Martin Manna, President of the Chaldean American Chamber of Commerce. “From produce to meat and dairy, our DIG stores take great pride in their stores and food offerings and in their longstanding tradition of serving the respective communities in which they each reside.

To be considered for DIG membership, all stores must:

- Provide a clean and safe shopping environment that adheres to the finest sanitation standards - Supply a variety of high quality, fresh and healthy foods - Support and give back to the communities they serve - Offer fair and competitive pricing - Continue the legacy of serving Detroit for more than 70 years

“There is perception and then there is reality,” added Manna. “Over the years, our grocers have spent millions building or renovating existing properties in response to community feedback and need. These grocers know their customers, carry what their customers want and run successful stores, day in and day out, in Detroit.”

The vast majority of Detroit’s independent grocers operate their stores with little or no government incentives, while continuing to serve and meet the needs of their customers.

Join celebrity emcee Chuck Edwards of 99.5 WYCD, national country music sensation Eli Young Band and special guests Canaan Smith and Detroit’s own Annabelle Road as they come together with Team Joseph to put an end to Duchenne muscular dystrophy. With the most requested song (“Crazy Girl”) on country radio for 2011, the members of the Eli Young Band return to lend their support for the cause.

Team Joseph
Thursday, March 1, 2012, Doors @ 5:30 p.m., Show @ 7 p.m.
 The Fillmore Detroit
 2115 Woodward Avenue‬‬‬‬
 Detroit, MI 48201-3469‬‬‬‬
(313) 961-5450‬

 Tickets on sale now at
All ages welcome.
$21.75 general admission (standing), $31.75 main floor reserved (seating), $76.75 VIP mezzanine (seating), VIP includes champagne reception and strolling dinner

Join the fight against Duchenne muscular dystrophy and help Team Joseph raise awareness and funds toward aggressive research for a cure. Duchenne is a rapidly progressing degenerative genetic muscle disorder, primarily affecting young boys, which causes loss of muscle mobility and function. In fact, 99 percent of the almost 20,000 new cases each year are boys; meaning 1 boy out of every 3,500 will be diagnosed.

Team Joseph is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to aggressively fund cutting-edge research to find a treatment or cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Formed around the fight of Joseph Penrod, Team Joseph began with a mom who wouldn’t let her son be defined by his diagnosis, and with the support of family, friends and an army of volunteers, has evolved into the movement it is today. For more information about Team Joseph, visit
Detroit, city of extremesClaire Brownell
The Windsor Star

Saturday in Detroit was full of examples of the contradictions and extremes of the city.

My partner and I went on a Valentine’s Day outing that aimed for maximum fancy schmanciness: The Detroit Institute of Art followed by dinner at the Whitney, the 52-room historic mansion just a couple of blocks down Woodward. The DIA, the Whitney and the Detroit Opera House are all examples of stunning Detroit decadence: the chandeliers, the marble, the elaborate frescoes. You can argue they’re relics of a past era, but hey, they’re still standing and they’re still open, aren’t they?

The DIA in particular was hopping, with hours extended to 10 p.m. and long lines to get in to see the Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibit. Sadly, we failed to reserve tickets in advance and were shut down when we tried to get in. But the rest of the museum and the people watching were worth it, with some dressing to the nines in fur coats.

Click HERE to read the full article on The Windsor Star!

Inspired by the backdrop of the civil rights movement, Duke Ellington created his first sacred concert in 1965. While many of Ellington’s pieces have dealt with this spirituality, this aspect of his life was not specifically addressed until he was commissioned to create such a concert, only a year after the Civil Rights Act was signed and weeks before affirmative action had been passed. The Detroit Jazz Festival brings these historic memories and significant works back to Detroit with the first concert of the new Community Series on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 4:00 p.m. in Orchestra Hall, Detroit.

“This concert will feature a diverse collection of instrumentalists and vocalists from the jazz, blues, gospel and classical communities. The result is sure to be a powerful Detroit rendition of these historic Duke Ellington works,” said Chris Collins, artistic director, Detroit Jazz Festival. “I can think of no better way to celebrate Black History Month than by uniting artists and music lovers to experience the genius, creativity and spirituality of one of the definitive American composers, Duke Ellington.”

The performance will feature world-renowned conductor David Berger, Ed Love from WDET FM as narrator, a Detroit-based big band, distinguished tap dancer Jared Grimes, a variety of Detroit jazz artists and a more than one hundred-voice choir led by Dr. Norah Duncan IV. In addition, Berger will host a pre-concert presentation for select ticket holders on the Ellington pieces to be performed at the event. This event marks the inaugural program under new artistic director and native Detroiter, Chris Collins. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Wayne State University also have provided support for the event.

Featured Detroit artists performing at the event include vocal soloists Alice Tillman, Theodore Jones, Thornetta Davis and Ursula Walker; as well as Alvin Waddles on piano, Marion Hayden on bass and Johnny Trudell, Dwight Adams and Walter White on trumpets. Berger also will lead a Detroit all-star big band. The voice choir brings together singers from throughout the city with the Wayne State University Symphonic Choir and the Detroit Choral Society.

Berger is recognized as the leading authority on Duke Ellington and the swing era. He has taught for 35 years at various institutions, including the Manhattan School of Music in N.Y. Many of his students are among today’s finest jazz musicians. Berger has arranged and conducted for such well-known orchestras as Lincoln Center Orchestra in N.Y. and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. He also arranged music for celebrated artists such as Natalie Cole and Denzal Sinclaire.

“The goal of the Detroit Jazz Festival has always been to enrich our communities through exposure to meaningful and important players in jazz music, with events such as this concert dedicated to Duke Ellington’s work,” said Gretchen Valade, chair of foundation board of directors, Detroit Jazz Festival. “The festival gives back to the community throughout the year, not just on Labor Day weekend. We are continually looking for opportunities to educate our community on the jazz culture and its history.”

Under Valade’s direction and focus on music and education enrichment, the Detroit Jazz Festival puts on a variety of educational and community events throughout the year as part of its Community Series. With the support of various donors, grants and awards, the festival is able to provide programs such as the Jazz Infusion Program, Jazz Week @ Wayne and the Jazz Guardian Award.

Tickets to the Sacred Music of Duke Ellington range in price from $10 to $35. A limited number of box seats are available for $99 and include the pre-concert presentation and a VIP reception with David Berger. Tickets may be purchased at the Max M. Fisher Music Center box office (3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit); by calling (313) 576-5111; or online at
The Delicious Day

Jeff Klein moved to Detroit 15 years ago. He moved there for music. He quickly found himself immersed in Detroit’s agriculture and landscape scene. A decade and a half later he is a voice and leader within this community. In April, he will be opening Detroit’s first and only farm, garden and landscape supply facility to support the urban agricultural movement and reshaping of Detroit — that the country and world are watching.

Here is a bit of his story.

Why did you move to Detroit?

I was just out of college and I played music. All my friends played music. Detroit was a great place to be for this. My intention was to live in Detroit, play in a band and become a rock star or something. Detroit also excited me because of my suburban upbringing. The suburbs to me were pretty stale. They did not inspire me. The suburbs I was familiar with were predominately white, suburban and predictable. Detroit offered me different experiences and opportunities.

In what ways has Detroit given you a different experience?

For me it started when I first moved here. My route home from work was through some rough neighborhoods. I remember being kind of uneasy in them. These neighborhoods were not my norm. They were not what I was used to. I felt fear but I could not identify the source of this fear.

I felt as a new Detroiter I did not want to passively contribute to an economic and racial divide by heading directly to my ‘safe spots’. I started making a point to stop somewhere along the way and patronize stores, knowing I would be in the minority and interacting with people that were different from me. It was uncomfortable, but I also quickly recognized that no matter how different I seemed to feel from the person I was next to, below the surface we are really not that different.

What do you attribute to the massive swell in the agriculture movement in Detroit in recent years?

I think it is a lot of things. I think people have been disconnected from the earth, from fresh food and from knowing where their food comes from. I think it is a response to a broken food system which is inhibiting people’s access to fresh healthy food. In Detroit if you don’t have a car, good bus access or stable finances, finding healthy, nutritious food on a daily basis can be a burdensome task leaving many with no options but food from the corner store or the gas station — where pop, chips and processed foods are the norm.

What grows in Detroit?

It seems like everything. Add passive solar green houses and other season extension techniques and it is amazing how much variety can be grown in the city.

Jeff Klein, Detroiter, Owner of Detroit Farm & Garden, Owner of Classic Landscape
Jeff Klein in His Garden, Detroiter,
Founder of Detroit Farm & Garden,
Founder of Classic Landscape Ltd.
How does the food in Detroit get into the mouths of people who live there?

Detroiter’s are demonstrating a lot of creativity and determination in addressing this issue. From the Food Policy Council and Eastern Market to so many emerging farm stands, community gardens and programs such as Grown in Detroit and youth farm stands. There is a local neighborhood market almost every day of the week somewhere in Detroit. There is a developing cottage industry in Detroit where many are creating packaged products from the food that is being grown here, like pickles, sauerkraut, chow chow and honey. I’m known for my radish relish.

I have read about people wanting to build huge farms in Detroit.

The type of farming you are reading about is typically called commercial or industrial agriculture. A few of the questions the urban farming community is asking about these types of farms are, ‘How will they interact with existing residents and communities? Will they be farming organically? What are they going to do about pesticides? Will they be using GMO seeds? What kind of return in jobs and training will the city residents get in return for what some view as an intensive land grab?’ There have not been many good answers to these questions.

Isn’t there anything to protect the people regarding the City of Detroit and Industrial Farming?

It is a complicated issue. Currently, there are very few codes and guidelines for this type of land use. The State of Michigan also has a Right to Farm Act that essentially could over ride the city’s power to regulate industrial agriculture. There are great people in city government and community organizations working on resolving these types of agriculture issues in an equitable way. I’m encouraged.

What about toxicity of the soil from prior industry on or around the land? Is there any concern with that?

Yes, there are concerns. Areas of heavy industry in Detroit are going to be worse off than the vast residential areas. However, with the heightened popularity and extended networks in the urban agriculture community people are becoming more and more aware. Programs such as the Garden Resource Program will test the soil at no charge and provide feedback, clarification and alternative options. Generally speaking though, if you find that you have bad soil you can usually build raised beds.

How has gardening helped breakdown social and racial barriers?

The broad example is it brings people together on something we all have in common which is food.

Are these conversations occurring in community gardens or over the fence?

It happens over the fence. It happens in community gardens. It happens in schools, at workshops and on the block. It really happens all over the place as the community continues to grow and connect over issues. I met a lot of my neighbors working in my garden. I named my garden Streetside because it is right up against the street. Our gardens are an important piece of the social fabric and I love the interaction I get with my neighborhood because of its location. I believe gardens should be brought out of the backyard. One day I was working outside and a neighbor came over to tell me, ‘I hope it is ok, but I brought my son over the other day and we picked some of your strawberries. My son had no idea how they grew.’ This was exactly my gardens intent.

How do people get involved in this movement in Detroit?

Currently, it is pretty easy to find yourself in a garden, farming, making food or having meaningful discussions like undoing racism in the food system if you are looking for it in Detroit. There are a lot of opportunities for young idealist and entrepreneur’s looking to create work or volunteer their time. I am opening a retail store Detroit Farm and Garden this spring. The reason I am opening it has a lot to do with what we are talking about. We will provide landscape and agriculture resources to support and assist on-going efforts in food sovereignty and in rebuilding local economies. There are so many people and programs in this movement that essentially I hope Detroit Farm and Garden can serve as a hub helping connect the many different communities of agriculture, land use and learning in the city.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article on The Delicious Day!


Volunteers of America Michigan in Detroit has been selected as a finalist for Aprons in Action, The Home Depot Foundation’s unique Facebook voting program, and now has the opportunity to win a $25,000 gift card from The Home Depot.

Voting begins Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 23 at The organization with the most votes will win the $25,000 prize and be in the running for the grand prize of $250,000 at the end of the year-long program. The runner-up organizations from each month will receive $5,000 in The Home Depot gift cards.

During the Aprons in Action contest, which began in April 2011, 11 monthly winners are being selected. This March, Facebook fans will have the chance to help one of those 11 winners win the $250,000 grand prize. The organization that receives the second and third most votes will receive $150,000 and $100,000 from The Home Depot, respectively.

In the February round of the competition, Volunteers of America Michigan is competing against three other nonprofit organizations from across the country, including Hands on Greater Phoenix, Veterans Guest House in Reno, Nev., and United Methodist Children’s Home of the North Georgia Conference.

“Being selected for the Aprons in Action program is an honor, and we are so thankful for the recognition,” said Alex Brodrick, President/CEO of Volunteers of America Michigan. “If we actually win the $25,000 The Home Depot gift card, we will be able to create a green space and community garden for veterans right in the city of Detroit. It will be a beautiful opportunity to serve those who have served our country. So we encourage everyone to go to Facebook and vote for us!”

Working together, Volunteers of America Michigan and Team Depot volunteers have already installed a Veterans Memorial Park across the street from the Volunteers of America Michigan Veterans Housing Program in Detroit.

Across the country, The Home Depot Associates give back to their communities by volunteering their time and talents with local nonprofit organizations, like Volunteers of America Michigan. The Aprons in Action Program recognizes these successful partnerships and gives each of the featured nonprofits the opportunity to do additional work with Team Depot volunteers to better their communities.

“Aprons in Action is our $1 million effort to support the most active and engaged nonprofit organizations across the country,” said Kelly Caffarelli, president of The Home Depot Foundation. “Over the course of this program, we’ll distribute $1 million to 48 deserving organizations from across the nationwide Team Depot network, allowing them to continue their great work serving our communities.”

How To Vote

Voting runs from Feb. 1 at 9:00 a.m. ET through Feb. 23 at 12 p.m. ET. Aprons in Action is on Facebook at or

The final percentages of votes for each nonprofit will be posted on The Home Depot and The Home Depot Foundation’s Facebook pages on Feb. 24 at 9:00 a.m. ET.

For more information and to view the program rules, visit The Home Depot on Facebook or go to
Detroit’s Start Gallery hosts “Beyond the Machine” – a fine art exhibition from some of the nation’s most revered tattoo artists. The show opens on Friday, February 24 and runs through Saturday, March 3.

“Beyond the Machine “ will showcase tattooists’ work outside the human canvas. Picking up paintbrushes and other artistic mediums instead of their tattoo machines, the show features creations by top tattoo artists not limited by the constraints of flesh.

“The goal of the exhibit is to expose the fine artwork by tattoo artists in a gallery setting to a new crowd, while also appealing to tattoo enthusiasts who seek to further explore the depths of tattoo culture,” explains Start Gallery owner and director Jason Reed.

“Beyond the Machine” will include work by a myriad of tattooists, from nationally recognized names like Detroit’s Bob Tyrell and Mark Heggie, to just under the radar artists David Hale (Athens, Georgia) Zach Hewitt (Farmington Hills, MI) and David Poole (Ft. Lauderdale, FL). Excitement abounds with artwork flying in from all corners of the country. “This will be a very rare chance to see fine art by legendary artists and newcomers alike,” adds Reed.

Exhibit highlights include an opening night meet and greet with many of the tattoo artists on Friday, February 24 from 6 pm – 11 pm with Ghettoblaster Beer on tap and other refreshments. Ages 18 and over are welcome and admission is free.

On Saturday, February 25, “Beyond the Machine” is the setting for a full-throttle Autorama Afterparty with live music by honky tonk rockers The Orbitsuns plus rockabilly trio the Hifi Hellfires! Motorbilly Radio’s DJ Del Villareal will also be spinning. Doors are at 8 pm and admission is $8. Ages 21 and over are welcome to attend.

Secure parking is available at the Opera House parking garage directly across from the gallery.

Following the opening weekend - Ages 18 and over are invited to the Start Gallery for additional “Beyond the Machine” dates including:

Monday Feb 27 - March 2: Daytime hours 2pm-6pm Friday March 2: 8pm-Midnight Saturday March 3: Special Closing Event 8pm-1am

If you can’t make it down to the show in person the artwork will be available for the world to seeing during the online opening, which can be found at

For more information about “Beyond the Machine” including an updated participating artist list please or call 313-909-2845. Call for art ends February 13.

Start Gallery is located in Detroit’s Harmonie Park at 206 E. Grand River (at Broadway).

Art Road Nonprofit, the organization bringing art class back to schools that lack art in their curriculum throughout Southeastern Michigan, is pleased to announce they will be awarded with a donation of $7,500 from the Junior League of Detroit (JLD). The money was raised through the JLD’s annual Fall fundraiser, the Festival of Wreaths, held on November 19 in Grosse Pointe, MI. Ann Turnbull, JLD President and Ann Baxter, JLD Festival of Wreaths Committee Co-Chair will present the check to Art Road at the organization’s “Have a Heart for Art” mixer on February 15th at Mitchell’s Fish Market in Livonia.

“We are deeply grateful to Ann Baxter, her committee and the volunteers that created the spectacular Festival of Wreaths Event that benefited Art Road Nonprofit,” said Carol Hofgartner, president and founder of Art Road. “The $7500 donation to Art Road from the Festival of Wreaths provides art class to a classroom of 25 students for an entire school year. Students that otherwise would not have art class, will have art class because of the Junior League of Detroit. We look forward to the Junior League of Detroit members volunteering in the art rooms to see firsthand their donation at work.”

“The Junior League of Detroit is committed to broadening the opportunities available for children and their families in the City of Detroit,” said Turnbull. “Arts education has been proven to be an important part of a student’s curriculum and we are so pleased to be able to provide this funding to Art Road Nonprofit, bringing the joy of art to an entire classroom of students.

Tickets to the “Have a Heart for Art” event are $20 per person.
RSVP online at and click on the donate button or call Carol Hofgartner, Art Road at 313.407.9805.

The event will include a silent auction. Drinks, appetizers and desserts will be served in the private dining room. Donations to Art Road are also being accepted online or by calling the organization directly.

About Art Road
Art Road’s mission is that children throughout Southeastern Michigan have access to art instruction. Currently, Art Road is providing art class to 800 students that lack art in their curriculum. The organization’s goal is to raise $186,000 by August 1, 2012 to provide art class to 1200 students for the 2012/2013 school year. To be inspired and get involved with Art Road, visit

Date: Feb 10th – Feb 12th
Hours: Fri to Sat – 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sun – 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Price: Bring a donation item to any gate (canned food, children’s book, $1) some events may have additional charges.

The cold weather will be no match for the awesome energy outside, as people will be bundling up and making their way to the Motown Winter Blast, which returns to Campus Martius Park. The Ambassador Bridge will join festivities in 2012 as presenting sponsor of Detroit’s perennial outdoor event. Originally created in January 2005 as a promotional event for Super Bowl XL, the festival was tipped to attract more than 75,000 people last year and organizers are betting on a great turnout for this year’s festivities.

Here are some of the top events and exhibitions at this year’s Winter Blast:

  • Free ice skating at Campus Martius skating rink 800 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48226 Price: Free to skate, $3 skate rental. Lace up your skates or rent a pair for $3 and get out onto the ice at the Campus Martius skating rink. Bring your children or a date and take advantage of the only time of year that offers free ice skating in the park.

  • Greektown Casino Ice Garden Cadillac Square Detroit, MI 48226 Price: Free
Cadillac Square will be transformed into a winter-wonderland complete with illuminated ice sculptures during Winter Blast. Take a stroll through the ice garden while snapping photographs, sit on ice benches and other ice structures and even watch live ice carving demonstrations on Friday, Feb. 11.

  • Taste of Detroit 800 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48226

Let your taste buds join in on all the fun at this all new addition to the Motown Winter Blast. The Taste of Detroit showcases restaurants from across the metro area. Find the Taste located at the GM tent next to the Michigan Lottery Stage.

  • Kid Zone 800 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48226

Parents and children will enjoy an exciting, fun-filled, energy-exhausting day in the park at Motown Winter Blast. Have your kids strap on some snowshoes and run wild on the snowshoe course provided by the Winter Blast’s “Get Fit” campaign. They can rush down the much anticipated, Ambassador Bridge Snow Slide or enjoy lots of fun and games at the various Winter Carnival locations around Campus Martius.

Be sure to take a break from all the physical exhaustion and visit the Campus Martius skating rink for demonstrations by professional and amateur ice skaters. Or grab a cup of hot cocoa and watch the Snomad Racing Sled Dogs, led by Amanda Vogel, dash across the park.

If you are feeling a little frosty during all of this fun, don’t miss any one of the warming tents set up around the park. According to festival organizers, Comfort Zone warming tents are erected every 150 feet.

Finish off an event-filled day with a little comfort food. Visit the marshmallow roasting stations located next to the ice skating rink and purchase yourself and your kids all of the great fixings for a fabulous s’more.

  • Breaking the ICE on the cycle of Poverty program 800 Woodward Ave. Detroit, MI 48226

For the 3rd consecutive year, Winter Blast has partnered with Matrix Human Services and the Grosse Pointe Rotary to organize this charitable event. Volunteers from each organization will help collect nonperishable food items and children’s books at the festival gates as part of a special Motown Winter Blast “admission fee.” All donated items will be used to support a major service project that will fight hunger and promote literacy in metro Detroit. Donations will be accepted at all Winter Blast entrances.

There are several preferred areas for parking during the Motown Winter Blast.
 Click here for rates, hours and directions.
QuikklySara Schmid

A few weeks ago, Dan Gilbert and the Detroit Venture Partners (DVP) crew welcomed reporters for a tour of the newly renovated Madison Building in downtown Detroit. Gilbert had recently spent $12 million to turn the former theater into a sort of fantasy workspace for budding entrepreneurs, and the results of his makeover didn’t disappoint.

 The building features plenty of walls that function as whiteboards, a 150-seat auditorium that seems the perfect place to host an investor pitch meeting, and a stunning rooftop kitchen and deck that overlook Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. Little flourishes, like the exposed brick and the fact that some of the graffiti found in the building during renovations has been preserved, give the space a young, slightly edgy feel. All of it is meant to transform the Madison Building into a destination for startups across the nation—and if the story of Quickkly‘s Shawn Geller is any indication, it’s working.

Geller, a native of Pennsylvania, graduated from Temple University in 2009. While in school, he was bothered by what he saw as a disconnect between the small mom and pop stores surrounding the campus and the students they sought as customers.

“It wasn’t just local stores, but even the national brands would only come on campus one day a year with student ambassadors,” Geller says, noting the cost and inefficiency of that strategy. “It wasn’t a good model whatsoever.”

Geller worked with local merchants in need of promotion to create a simple landing page where students could find coupons and send them to their phones via text message. They would then claim the coupon by showing the text message at the store offering the discount.

Word of mouth quickly spread, and Geller built up a database of about 3,000 Temple students. He then went around to different restaurants and stores and asked them what their slowest times and days were. Armed with that information, he created his first “flash deal,” where he sent a text out to his database offering the first 150 people who responded within a certain amount of time a large pizza for $5. When close to 100 students went in to the pizzeria to claim their coupons, Geller knew he was onto something.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article on Xcomony! 

Monica Covey
The New York Times

Over most of the past decade, budget deliberations in Michigan have taken on a glum and familiar monotony: What do we cut now?

But the state that experienced an economic downturn earlier, deeper and longer than most of the rest of the country has made an unlikely discovery as its officials closed out its latest financial books: Michigan has a $457 million surplus.

Even more surprising: Revenues, which had sunk or had been mostly flat for all but one year since 2000, have grown. Not a lot, but grown.

Michigan is the most unlikely example of a phenomenon that was unimaginable in most states in recent years. Though nearly all states are required by law to balance their budgets, most have been able to do so only through rounds of painful spending cuts to make up for deep shortfalls in revenue.

Now, however, as a majority of states have begun collecting tax revenues that are on par with or even above expectations, they face some measure of Michigan’s situation — trying to sort out whether the worst is really over, whether it is safe to start spending again, or whether a rainy day fund may be the prudent course.

“Revenues are definitely improving, but it’s just unsure where it’s going to head from here,” said Todd Haggerty, an analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures, who noted that although revenues in many states have not returned to pre-recession levels, 17 states exceeded their expected personal income tax collections in the first quarter of the current budget year, and 18 states got more in sales tax than they had anticipated.

Even the federal government has seen an encouraging boost in revenues. After declining sharply (17 percent) in the 2009 fiscal year and rising only 3 percent in 2010, federal revenues rose 6 percent in 2011, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Click HERE to read the rest of this article from The New York Times!
Larry Abramson

Ask Detroit teachers about their biggest challenge, and many will say, "You can't teach kids who don't come to class." Last year, the average Detroit public high school student missed at least 28 days of school.

Now, as part of its effort to get parents more involved, the district has launched a major initiative to improve attendance. The effort includes parent workshops and attendance agents charged with pushing parents to send their kids to school every day.

George Eason is one of Detroit's 51 attendance agents. He's staring at a printout that says a lot about the city's attendance problems. He flips the pages, counting the absences that one student has racked up only midway through the school year.

"To date, this student has 23 absences," he says, "and a couple of suspensions."

As an attendance agent for Detroit Public Schools, Eason covers the city's border with Dearborn, Mich. He says most parents want their kids in school — they just need a little help. Others need a good strong shove.

"We do take parents to court, depending on the dynamics of the case," he says. "If we see that the parent is willfully keeping the child out for things such as babysitting or whatever, and not sending the child to school, then we will take every means necessary to enforce the law."

A Landscape Of Closed Schools

The city hopes to convert more than 40 schools into charters to cut costs and improve enrollment.

Eason gathers up his attendance records and climbs into his trusty Honda. On the way to his first stop, he points out school after school that was forced to close as the city's population contracted. He says that when he started this job 18 years ago, Detroit Public Schools had more than twice as many students as it has today.

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