03/20/2012 04:42 pm ET

Global Detroit Neighborhood Development Collaborative Gets $2.4M For Business Development

A new, $2.4 million initiative to pump up the economy looks beyond the boardroom to train an unlikely group of entrepreneurs: Small-business owners in Detroit's low-income neighborhoods.

The Global Detroit Neighborhood Development Collaborative will tap immigrants and grassroots entrepreneurs, working with its target areas' current and potential business owners to stimulate southeastern Michigan's economy.

The collaborative will focus on three communities in Detroit: the North End, Southwest and Cody-Rouge. The first two areas have high immigrant populations, Hispanic and Arab-American, respectively -- part of why they were chosen.

A $2.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will fund the initiative. The funding will support microloans up to $10,000, according to Crain's Detroit, as well as go to create training programs for small-business starters in the three neighborhoods.

Southwest Housing Solutions is in charge of administering the program, and former state Rep. Steve Tobocman will lead it.

Tobocman is the founder of the Global Detroit, a group that studies the impact of immigrants on Southeast Michigan's economy. A 2010 study from the organization showed local immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born Michiganders to start businesses, and a large number of immigrants get degrees in the economy-boosting fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Gov. Rick Snyder, who has called for immigration law reform, has also touted skilled legal immigrants as job creators and crucial to stimulating the state's economy.

According to Michigan Radio, the Global Detroit Neighborhood Development Collaborative is geared specifically to micro-entrepeneurs, who run businesses like restaurants and stores. It's based on a similar, successful initiative in Minneapolis.

"We'd like to see more opportunities for low-wage workers so they ... (can) benefit in the (development) ... happening in Detroit," Linda Jo Doctor, program office for the Kellogg Foundation, told Crain's.