Dearborn DDA holds virtual town hall for city businesses, offering tips, resources, and more

The only thing certain is uncertainty. That’s the way it seems, at least, as we enter another week of coronavirus-related shutdowns.

It can be frustrating, scary, or worse.

Communities across Metro Detroit are mobilizing in response, utilizing whatever tools they can in order to make sure that their small businesses can weather the social distancing protocols and stay-at-home orders.

In Dearborn this week, the city’s Downtown Development Authority organized a virtual town hall for city business and property owners. Local business leaders and officials gathered on the Zoom app for a roughly hour-and-a-half videoconference where Dearborn stakeholders could interact with and ask questions of the experts.

Among those present were U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell, Shannon Selby, director of economic development for Wayne County, and Jackie Lovejoy, president of the Dearborn Area Chamber of Commerce.

Much of the event covered the various loans and grants available to small business owners. The websites of governments and organizations across the region have become informative hubs, built to help small business owners navigate the morass of loan and grant options available. It’s recommended that entrepreneurs visit these sites for the latest information, whether it’s the website of Downtown Dearborn or the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

There are federal programs like the CARES Act--Rep. Dingell says to expect at least two or three more federal assistance bills in the near future, covering everything from individuals to small businesses to infrastructure projects.

And there are the programs on the local level, like Downtown Dearborn’s Open Door program, which awards grants to existing businesses for building repairs and façade improvements as well as startup cash to new businesses.

An infographic on the Downtown Dearborn website provides a handy guide to the various grants and loans currently available.

On the business side, executive director of the Dearborn DDA Cristina Sheppard-Decius says that one of the most important things that a business can do is to communicate any and all changes to their customers, the city, and each other. You never know where you’ll find help.

"Let me know if landlords aren’t being responsive if they’re not helping," Sheppard-Decius says. "We can’t be a mediator but we can be a support arm. We can let them know that it’s easier to help tenants right now than fill a vacancy down the road."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.