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Jer Staes: All right, Devon, what have you gotten yourself into this time? I know that you’ve been around this NeighborHub program for a little while, but there’s some news with that.
Devon O’Reilly: Yeah, this might’ve been the most exciting announcement of NeighborHub yet. The program’s been around, this’ll be its fourth year.
It’s a program I lead for the Detroit Regional Chamber. It’s a program that’s funded by General Motors. We have a really great partnership with them.
And this year, we got to announce it, uh, quite literally on the big stage, Mark Reuss of General Motors during his keynote mentioned that the NeighborHub program was coming back for a fourth year and it’s getting more money than ever. Five hundred thousand dollars in support for nonprofits and small businesses.
The small business element is new this year, so it was always a program to help nonprofits in the city of Detroit. But now we’re kind of injecting that with some focused funds for Detroit based small businesses.
Jer Staes: So in case people aren’t familiar, what is the core of the NeighborHub program?
Devon O’Reilly: The core of the NeighborHub program is that we recognize that nonprofits, uh, community leaders and small business owners know more about what they need than any organization or foundation that has the money to give it to them.
So the whole concept of NeighborHub is tell us what you need. Tell us how you can improve your neighborhood. Tell us the kind of “fill in the blank… if for this… our neighborhood could be a thriving place?”
A great community, whether that be an internet cafe, whether that be, um, you know, a bookstore, whether that be a green grocer, a pop-up market, it, it really kind of evolved from the standpoint of what do you want to see in your neighborhood?
Where’s the space, the physical space that you can make that happen and, and lower barriers to whatever it is that’s an issue in your neighborhood.
Jer Staes: So reading these materials, this is really focused on the city of Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland park. And it’s for registered 501c3’s or small businesses, right?
Devon O’Reilly: We were very intentional about that in terms of, we want to focus this money, uh, in the city of Detroit, but also, uh, Hamtramck and Highland Park.
Obviously they share their shared borders and they share much of the same positive outlooks, but also the same issues too facing each other.
So we want to include all three of those communities in this and to be part of it. You have to be a nonprofit, or now this year you can be a small business.
Jer Staes: So why is GM involved?
Devon O’Reilly: They have really been good,strong supporters of investing in the city of Detroit. Obviously there’s multiple ways that they do that. Building Factory Zero and doing a lot of upgrades to their plants and of course, with their headquarters being the tallest building in Detroit for now.
We’ll see if that changes soon, but for now…
Jer Staes: Let’s see if Dan (Gilbert) can catch up.
Devon O’Reilly: Right. Well, they have the tallest buildings, right? So they’ve obviously have had obvious investments, but they’ve also been doing more in terms of focusing dollars into the city of Detroit, the kind of outside of downtown, and this is going to be part of a much larger multi-million dollar investment that Mark Reuss talked about in the city of Detroit.
Jer Staes: Let’s dive into the details of these grants. I’m looking this over. There are 10 grants of up to $30,000 for nonprofits, 10 grants up to $15,000 for small businesses. And basically saying that the program will have awarded 44 grants totalling over a million dollars to community nonprofits and businesses.
The other thing they mentioned is, well, you mentioned, cause you’re part of this thing, uh, is that GM volunteers who have expertise in areas such as marketing engineering, law, information technology, one thing that is key with a lot of these things and as a business person, myself, like on the side, of course there has to be a business behind everything that we’re doing.
The expertise that knowing the right person to call is really critical in pushing the thing forward.
Devon O’Reilly: Yeah, Jer, and that’s another big element of this that’s outside of just the, like you mentioned million plus dollars in the last four years that GM has committed to this program.
Outside of that, GM and the Chamber as well has kind of committed to leveraging our, not only our staff, but our volunteer resources.
GM has, you know, a huge amount of potential volunteer resources. Everything from just helping to plant gardens to like you said the real, the more technical stuff, you know, everything from leveraging their engineers, leveraging some of their IT talent.
They have not only put up the money to do this, but they’ve also committed to put up some of the manpower from their employee base.
Jer Staes: So why are you excited to be part of it and really, what is your role going to be with this?
Devon O’Reilly: So for the past three years I have led all the elements of the program. I helped a colleague of mine, four years ago. The two of us kind of decided, we were going to help create this program. GM came to the Chamber and said, what should we do with this money? Do you have anybody in the Chamber who works in the community engagement side, who might know how to do that?
That’s my role. Um, and so I helped develop this program. I continue to lead the program. We’re going to be working with Michigan Community Resources as well to do some capacity building, um, to work with an alumni base. Cause not to mention now we have over 40 organizations who have now been a part of this, and we want to make sure that not only do we give them the money, but we’re not just giving them the money one year and then saying good luck with everything.
We want to make sure that those organizations who have been through this program are continuing to get the support they need and that their projects that they’ve started are sustainable. So I’m gonna be doing. A lot of fun stuff, I’ll be doing podcast interviews. I’ll be doing a series of interviews with some of the winners to help tell their story
Jer Staes: LIsteners who’ve been around a while will remember that when you first started joining us on Fridays, you would talk about your Detroiters Think Big podcast over at the Detroit Regional Chamber.
Devon O’Reilly: Yes, exactly. So we’ll be doing something very similar to that. Listening to, or talking to business owners and nonprofit leaders to kind of tell their story and amplify their message.
And it’s just really cool, Jer. You asked what I was most excited about. It’s the fact that this program really allows you to see the progress. You know what I mean? In very literal terms, aprogram, a project will start and it’ll be an empty lot. And a year later there will be a swing set. There will be a community community gathering space, a gazebo, an outdoor movie screen. You see, very literally, the impact that these projects make. And that’s what we try to do is we try and make these, these $30,000 go towards something very specific, very tangible that’s going to improve the community.
Jer Staes: I know that we have a lot of listeners involved in small business and nonprofits. How does one get ahold of this money? Cause that’s going to be key too, because I, it’s not like this is a process where people are just kind of ordained, you have to apply for it, right?
Devon O’Reilly: Yes, exactly. Jer. And I do want to mention. We understand that. And one of the goals of this program specifically is to lower the barrier of entry to organizations and small businesses that want to be a part of it. Something that we heard in talking with community members and small business owners was that there’s so much red tape. You know, you think about all the stuff with the PPP program and just how difficult it was.
Jer Staes: I mean, there’s businesses right now that are stuck with like legal limbo, limbo, because. The program rules change in the middle of the program because of legal reasons. It’s, it’s crazy. I mean, I’m thinking specifically of the Bobcat Bonnie situation.
Devon O’Reilly: Yeah. It’s and we understand that we knew that was happening. We knew that was an issue. And again, we try to listen to that. So having said that this is very simple. I think it’s a one page application, maybe a two-page application and then a budget attached. We want to make sure you can at least tell us what you’re gonna do with the money, but, we’re not going into your background checks or anything ridiculous.
It’s a very, what I would say is a simple application, given grant programs. All you got to do is go to the website, detroitchamber.com backslash NeighborHub.
You can apply right there. My contact is also there because I’m the guy to talk to about that stuff.
I’m happy to talk with any organizations about how we can make sure that they are able to access this money and at least put together a good application for this.
Jer Staes: Well, Devon, it’s good to talk about something with your day job.
Devon O’Reilly: Yes. Oh, a lot of about towning, but this is also great, Jer. Cause it’s clearly, it’s something I’m passionate about in the nine to five hours.
Learn more about NeighborHub here: https://www.detroitchamber.com/neighborhub/