Last summer, life-long Michigander Mynti Hossain (MPP '11) won a competitive internship with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC). The Ford School's longstanding partnerships with DEGC and other Motor City nonproft and government groups allow graduate students to work in the heart of the city's revitalization efforts. Now approaching graduation from the Ford School's master's program, Hossain reflects on her experience, and on her hopes for the future.
Anyone who's visited Detroit knows how striking the city can be. A block of abandoned buildings will be punctuated by historic churches and classic Art Deco architecture. It's a startling contrast—and one of the things that makes the Motor City so compelling. On the 500-block of Griswold Street, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC) works from inside one of those drop-dead, gorgeous buildings—a Deco number that's a testament to the city's bright past and, possibly, its brighter future.
The lead agency for business retention, attraction, and economic development initiatives in Detroit, the DEGC was a great place to intern, says Mynti Hossain.
Throughout her 10-week internship, which was funded by Johanna and Mitch (MPP '78) Vernick, Hossain worked closely with DEGC's vice president of business development, Ford School alumna Olga Savic-Stella (MPP '99). One of the projects she worked on was an investigation of data sources that could be used to supplement U.S. Census figures. Hossain identified reputable organizations that were compiling figures about land use, zoning, business development, and other details that would be of interest to business investors, then studied the methodology to determine whether it was sound and usable. She also wrote detailed descriptions of the tax and fiscal incentives available to businesses that were relocating to the city, creating new jobs, or launching development projects.
A recent Washington Post article framed Detroit's challenges—population loss, a shrinking tax base, debt, and more—as "a giant testing ground for urban planners and developers." Her internship, Hossain says, allowed her to interact with some of those potential problem- solvers. "I met urban planners, people at the mayor's office, and staff at the Chamber of Commerce." And every one of the people she met, says Hossain, was passionate about the city's future. "Because of that, I think Detroit is going up—towards a good place."
Savic-Stella, who has been with the DEGC since 2007, shares that vision. "The groundwork for economic and community revival has been laid over the last ten years, and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it."
When probed about future plans, Hossain says she'll stay in Michigan. "I'm really passionate about the state: I have a lot of faith in it. Like Detroit, Michigan was hard hit by the recession, but I think there's a lot of potential and opportunity." And one way Michigan will improve, Hossain says, is via its largest city, which is at the center of business activity and growth. "If Detroit does better, Michigan will grow."
Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2011 State & Hill here.