Joining the TREE Project

By Will Cooper

Being born and raised in Detroit, I take interest and pride in the city’s “comeback” story. Joining the TREE Research Team has allowed me to proactively appease some of my interests – personally and scholarly, while learning.

I have always lived in communities connected to the Woodward Corridor, relatively close to the major sectors of economic reinvestment in the city (Midtown, Downtown). This has allowed me to see the influx of various businesses and organizations establishing offices in the city. (It is almost hard for me to envision what my neighborhood looked like growing up, since it has changed so much).  Additionally, years ago, I had the opportunity to intern for a prominent non-profit organization in the area, which allowed me to learn about some of the different projects happening in the city, including those of an entrepreneurial nature. (The nonprofit organization administered some funding for start-ups and been-ups at that time).

Serving as a consultant with the TREE team will allow me to gain better insight into the Detroit Entrepreneurial Ecosystem, including learning about the different types of players (for example, I did not know that the angel investor community was so pronounced), how the various of aspects of the ecosystem relate and engage with one another, and the breadth of industries/products/services that are relevant to entrepreneurs here in the area.

Working with the team also allows me to play a part in contributing to telling Detroit’s comeback story.  From working in various states, speaking with individuals, and understanding how Metro Detroit is portrayed in both local and national media, the list of negative comments and assumptions that others hold about my city are evident. While this project is not specifically a piece about the wonderful things happening to put the city in the spotlight, it speaks to place-based entrepreneurship, which is tied to the city’s “comeback”. I feel that the scholarship that we produce will allow for others – scholars, entrepreneur’s, entrepreneurial support organizations and others who find interest in such a project to see a glimpse of how Detroit’s “comeback” is articulated on the ground, and hopefully entice people to want to learn more about the Motor City’s renaissance story on a broad level beyond the realm of entrepreneurship. 

I look forward to the new knowledge that I will gain from this project, what we can share with larger communities, and what I can personally share with others.

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