Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016 wraps up with record attendance, new level of community engagement

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI) is pleased to announce the successful completion of its third annual Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium (#UES2016). Held in Flint, Mich., from Oct. 19 to 21, the symposium had 495 registrants over the course of the three day event. The 2016 Symposium followed sold-out events in Detroit in 2015 and Ann Arbor in 2014 and convened entrepreneurs and thought leaders in business, academia, community organizations and government to facilitate business solutions that bring economic opportunity and quality of life improvements to Flint and other urban communities.

W. David Tarver, founder and president of the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, a Flint native and the chief event organizer, proclaimed the event an unqualified success.

“We engaged the Flint community at all levels this year, and that proved to be a key contributor to the event’s success,” Tarver said. “We were pleased to provide a forum for conversation, ideas and strategy, and to help Flint reimagine and rewrite its story to one of renewed spirit and business and entrepreneurial opportunity.”

Highlights of #UES2016 include:

• A series of pre-event “community pitches” gatherings that engaged residents where they live — at the library, churches, the bus station, downtown and many other locations — in a grass roots call for ideas that focused on making life better in Flint. Residents were encouraged to offer business ideas, community improvement suggestions, and even gripes.
• The Community Reception, an event kick-off that drew more than 100 residents, aspiring business entrepreneurs and community leaders to mingle, network and understand the importance of changing the city’s business culture to reignite sustainable growth.
• The 2016 Urban Infrastructure Challenge and the 2016 Urban Jobs Challenge, which provided young adults and college students with an opportunity to win award money and entrepreneurial guidance for business solutions to pressing jobs and infrastructure issues in Flint.
• A panel composed of local, state, and national experts, which addressed strategies for creating an “ecosystem” that supports sustainable growth by further developing existing businesses and growing startups.
• A compelling interview conducted by Tarver with Andrew R. Highsmith, author of Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis.
• The Business Matrix reception at the Flint Farmers Market, which drew approximately 80 entrepreneurs and students – and the organizations that support them.
• A day-long series of workshops at the Mott Community College Regional Technology Center focused on essential knowledge for urban entrepreneurs, including business creation methods, creative finance strategies, e-commerce opportunities and techniques, and personal and business branding.

A post-#UES2016 survey of attendees elicited the following responses:

• “Valuable information for aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those with limited resources. Great inspiration for a city that is struggling so much.”

• “I loved the 1:1 conversation with the author on day 2 and found the kick-off event to be an inspiring way to set the tone for the full event.”

• “Friday was a very good ‘nuts & bolts’ day filled with practical advice and models. Thursday was also good in highlighting opportunities in various categories.”

“Urban entrepreneurship is business innovation that produces products, services, and jobs that improve the quality of life in urban communities,” Tarver said. “#UES2016 accomplished our primary goal of highlighting the importance of urban innovation in the context of a community that is at the “ground zero” of today’s urban crisis. Now, an inspired group of attendees are ready to put the knowledge, inspiration, and connections they received into action. This will be exciting to watch!”

Leading sponsors of #UES2016 were Mott Community College, University of Michigan – Flint School of Management, University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan Innovate Blue, SkyPoint Ventures, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

A Flint native, Tarver holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and also lectures in the U-M Center for Entrepreneurship. In 1983, at age 30, he launched Telecom Analysis Systems, Inc., a telecommunications instrumentation business, and sold it in 1995 for $30 million. Working as group president for the company’s buyer, Tarver then spearheaded development of a telecommunications group with a market value of more than $2 billion. He left that business in 1999 to devote more time to family and community service, ultimately returning to Southeast Michigan in 2007.

About the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative
The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, founded by W. David Tarver, a technology entrepreneur, Michigan native and author of “Proving Ground: A Memoir,” is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit businesses that explicitly and intentionally address the needs of urban communities.

Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative announces board of directors

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI), a Mich.-based 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation established in 2015 and offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit business solutions to address the needs of urban communities, announces Reggie Barnett, Fred Hall, Karen Lopez and Maria Woodruff-Wright have been appointed to the UEI Board of Directors. The announcement was made by UEI founder and Board President, W. David Tarver.

“I am pleased to formally welcome these individuals, so accomplished in their respective fields of business and law, to the UEI board,” Tarver said. “We look forward to growing the organization through their continued guidance and appreciate the individual and collective knowledge and experience they bring to the table as we crystalize the mission of UEI.”

• Reggie Barnett, Treasurer, most recently served as president and owner of WRN Inc., a provider of business telecommunications networking solutions. He was previously a senior executive at IBM. Barnett holds a law degree and an MBA from Duke University and an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Notre Dame. He is a resident of Bloomfield Hills.
• Fred Hall, Vice-President, is concurrently president of H&P Protective Services and owner of NovaTech Computer Services, Inc. In addition to serving as UEI’s vice-president, Hall heads the board’s development committee. He is a lifelong resident of Detroit.
• Karen Lopez, Secretary, has a private law practice in Flint. She previously served as Vice President for External Affairs & Governance for Hurley Medical Center and Chief Legal Officer for the City of Flint. She holds a B.A. and M.A. from Michigan State University and received her law degree from Georgetown University Law Center. She is a Flint native and current resident.
• Maria Woodruff-Wright, Director, currently serves as CFO and Vice President of Operations for the Skillman Foundation. She holds a B.S. from Northwestern University School of Engineering and an MBA from the Ross School of Business – University of Michigan. After graduating from U-M, she founded and sold a company dedicated to providing culturally diverse products for children. Woodruff-Wright was also President of her family business, Expressway Ford, Inc. She is a native of Detroit.

W. David Tarver, a Birmingham resident, is a Flint native who holds undergraduate and graduate degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan and also lectures in U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship. In October, Tarver will receive the 2016 University of Michigan College of Engineering Distinguished Service Award.

In 1983, at age 30, Tarver launched Telecom Analysis Systems, Inc., a telecommunications instrumentation business, and sold it in 1995 for $30 million. Working as group president for the company’s buyer, he then spearheaded development of a telecommunications group with a market value of more than $2 billion. Tarver left that business in 1999 to devote more time to family and community service, including founding in 2000 the Red Bank Education and Development Initiative (RBEDI) in Red Bank, N.J., a community-based non-profit creating new opportunities and increasing academic performance for the children of Red Bank. RBEDI was credited with helping to increase Red Bank students’ proficiency rate on the N.J. eighth grade performance assessment test from 25% in 2001 to 60% in 2004. He ultimately returned to Southeast Michigan in 2007 and started the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative in 2014, which was recognized as a 501(c) (3) non-profit corporation in 2015.

Separately, under the direction of the board, UEI will hold its third annual Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium Oct. 19 to 21 in Flint, Mich. The 2016 Symposium (#UES2016) follows sold-out events in Detroit in 2015 and Ann Arbor in 2014. The Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium convenes entrepreneurs and thought leaders in business, academia, community organizations and government to facilitate business solutions that bring economic opportunity and quality of life improvements to urban communities. For information about the Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016, please contact info@urbanei.org.

About the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, founded by W. David Tarver, a technology entrepreneur, Michigan native and author of “Proving Ground: A Memoir,” is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit businesses that explicitly and intentionally address the needs of urban communities. Learn more here.

Andrew R. Highsmith, author of ground-breaking book about Flint, to speak at Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016

W. David Tarver, founder and president of The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative (UEI) and chief organizer of the third annual Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium, to be held in Flint from Oct. 19 to 21 in Flint, announced that Andrew R. Highsmith, author of Demolition Means Progress, will speak at the event on Oct. 20. The session will consist of an extended interview with Highsmith, conducted by Tarver.

Highsmith is Assistant Professor of History at the University of California, Irvine. A former Flint resident, he received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan in 2009. His doctoral dissertation won the 2009 John Reps Prize for Best Dissertation in American Planning History from the Society for American City and Regional Planning History and the Urban History Association’s Best Dissertation Award for 2009-10. He is a specialist in modern American history, urban history and public policy. Demolition Means Progress: Flint, Michigan, and the Fate of the American Metropolis, was published in July 2015 by the University of Chicago Press. The book won the 2016 American Historical Association Pacific Coast Branch Book Award. In addition to the book, Highsmith has published scholarly articles in the Journal of Urban History, the American Journal of Education, Environmental Justice, the Teachers College Record, and the Journal of Policy History. Highsmith currently resides in Irvine, California, with his wife and three children.

UEI founder Tarver first became acquainted with Highsmith earlier this year after hearing him interviewed about the Flint water crisis on WDET Public Radio in Detroit. He subsequently bought and read Demolition Means Progress and immediately felt compelled to invite Highsmith to speak at #UES2016.

“Demolition Means Progress should be required reading for anyone who aspires to do economic development work in Flint or other American cities that have experienced industrial decline,” Tarver said. “It’s an imminently readable book that conveys an understanding of how Flint became what it is today, and that history suggests the paths we might take to revitalize the city, or not.”

The Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium convenes entrepreneurs and thought leaders in business, academia, community organizations and government to facilitate business solutions that bring economic opportunity and quality of life improvements to urban communities. Sponsors for #UES2016 include Diplomat, SkyPoint Ventures, the Flint and Genesee Chamber of Commerce, Mott Community College and several units of the University of Michigan, including Innovate Blue, The Center for Entrepreneurship, the Center for Social Impact at the Ross School of Business and the University of Michigan-Flint School of Management.

New to this year’s symposium are two business challenge competitions offering monetary awards and professional guidance to the winning teams: The Urban Infrastructure Challenge and the Urban Jobs Challenge. Details to apply for the business challenge competitions are available via the UEI website.

Details on Urban Entrepreneurship Symposium 2016
 When: #UES2016 kicks off Wednesday Oct. 19 with an evening program, and runs through Friday, Oct. 21, 2016; the Thursday session will begin at 8:00 a.m. and end (following a business networking reception) at 7:30 p.m. Friday’s session will commence at 8:00 a.m. and end mid-afternoon.
 Where: work sessions, receptions and seminars will take place at several Flint venues: the Mott Community College Event Center, the Mott Community College Regional Tech Center, the University of Michigan-Flint Northbank Center and the Flint Farmers Market. Details are on the UEI website.
 Cost: The Wednesday night community reception is free (pre-registration required). Registration cost for the full Thursday work sessions is $25.00. Registration for access to all Friday seminars is $25.00.
 Registration: advance registration is required; purchase tickets online at www.urbanei.org.
 Sponsors: For sponsorship information, please call Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative at (313) 457-2050 or email info@urbanei.org.

 Event questions: for general questions about the event, please email info@urbanei.org.

About the Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative

The Urban Entrepreneurship Initiative, founded by W. David Tarver, a technology entrepreneur, Michigan native and author of “Proving Ground: A Memoir,” is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation offering programming and resources that encourage, facilitate and enable the development of for-profit businesses that explicitly and intentionally address the needs of urban communities. Learn more here.