NEI transforming region, embracing diverse communities
| Thursday, 01.17.2013, 09:31 PM

Since its inception in 2008, The New Economy Initiative (NEI) has sought to leverage $100 million pooled from 10 leading philanthropic organizations and businesses to reshape and redefine the economic landscape of Detroit and Southeast Michigan. This unique collaboration, aligning the expertise and resources of The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, The Max & Marjorie Fisher Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Hudson-Webber Foundation, The  W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The John S. & James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, McGregor Fund, The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and The Skillman Foundation, has been propelling a transformation of the area’s economy – with emphasis on reclaiming its entrepreneurial and innovation-driven roots – while also tackling its top-down, heavy-industry/automotive culture.
In its heyday, Detroit was the Silicon Valley of America; a place where creativity, innovation and calculated risk-taking were as much a part of the environment as busy factories belching smoke while churning out automobile parts. Detroit symbolized the opportunity inherent in “the American Dream” and attracted inventors and raw muscle from around the country and the world. Entrepreneurial  minorities and immigrants turned slag captured from blast furnaces into paving material for road beds; scrap metal from factories into global recycling enterprises; oil-soaked rags into linen supply companies; pushcarts selling sandwiches into restaurant chains.
But over the years, the region failed at incubating new businesses as established ones aged, educating its workforce for the jobs of tomorrow, and keeping a welcome mat out for enterprising and hard-working newcomers. Launched just as the region’s auto-centric economy and flagship city were hurtling toward contraction and bankruptcy, the NEI could have become a “too little, too late” attempt to salvage the status quo.
Instead, the NEI has been able to leverage its investments in ways that are jump-starting sectors of the region’s economy while embracing and engaging often-overlooked minority, ethnic and immigrant communities. One of the beneficiaries of the NEI’s vision has been New Michigan Media (NMM).
Conceived in 2008 by Wayne State University Professor Hayg Oshagan as a way to harness the individual voices of ethnic and minority media into a strong collective, New Michigan Media’s founding members – The Michigan Chronicle, The Arab American News, The Latino Press, The Jewish News and Michigan Korean Weekly – have established common ground on an array of domestic issues, many relating to entrepreneurship, immigration and small business development. Embracing the important role immigrant, minority and ethnic communities play in driving the region’s economy, the NEI has supported New Michigan Media with a grant that enables business entrepreneurs from each community – almost 150 in total - to be identified, featured and celebrated. Posting their stories via the NEI-funded Southeast Michigan Start-Up website exposes their hard work and success to the entire region.
While NEI’s vision is delivering obvious benefits to Detroit and Southeast Michigan, some of these benefits are less apparent but no less important. Through its investment in New Michigan Media, NEI is also addressing one of the region’s most nagging obstacles -- a diverse-but-segregated culture. And that investment in New Michigan Media has created a special dividend. New Michigan Media members are now working together as colleagues and friends, bringing our communities together with each other and the region and creating a model for collaboration unique in America.  
Bankole Thompson
Senior Editor, The Michigan Chronicle
Osama Siblani
Publisher, The Arab American News
Elias Gutierrez
Publisher The Latino Press
Arthur Horwitz
Publisher/Executive Editor
The Jewish News
Tack-Yong Kim
Publisher, Michigan Korean Weekly
Dr. Hayg Oshagan
Executive Director
New Michigan Media

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