White House-sponsored forum at Cobo draws hundreds of Detroit entrepreneurs, business experts

Posted on May 17, 2012

Hundreds of entrepreneurs and business experts gathered at Cobo Center this morning for a White House-sponsored forum on urban economic development.

The event includes one-on-one mentoring for business start-up entrepreneurs, information tables staffed by a variety of organizations, and panel discussions throughout the morning and early afternoon.

Sponsors include the White House Business Council, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce and the City of Detroit.

“I’m very pleased that Washington had decided that Detroit is worth saving,” Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told reporters prior to the start of the first session.

“We look forward to the transformation of our city utilizing the federal resources as best we can,” Bing added.

But in response to a question about the lack of capital available to start-up firms, Bing criticized banks for being unwilling to loan to urban entrepreneurs.

“I don’t think banks are doing what we need them to do. They’ve got to come to the table,” he said.

Among the many speakers scheduled to appear at the forum are Cecilia Munoz, assistant to President Barack Obama and director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, and Josh Linkner,CEO and managing partner of Detroit Venture Partners, the venture capital fund costarted by Quicken Loans founder and chairman Dan Gilbert.

David Carroll, vice president of Quicken Loans, said the conference was a good idea. “Anything we can do, anything the White House can do to help Detroit, is always welcome, and it’s great to help entrepreneurs,” he said.

On the morning’s first panel, Linkner called entrepreneurial activity “an opportunity to diversify our economy. Imagine the impact that a large successful tech win would have in the city.”

John Gallagher, Detroit Free Press