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Russell Industrial Center adapts and grows with competition

Numerous small business incubators have been popping and filling up all over Metro Detroit in recent years. They're all taking a page, and sometimes tenants, from the Russell Industrial Center's success. That's just fine with the management of the old-factory-turned-small-business incubator.

"I know we're not the only game in town, but we're the least expensive game in town," says Eric Novack, operations manager for the Russell Industrial Center. "It (the Russell Industrial Center) exemplifies the culture for Detroit's small business and artist communities."

The Russell Industrial Center got its start in 2003 when Greektown's Dennis Kefillanos took over the floundering 2 million square feet of Rust Belt stereotype industrial space and focused renting out a smaller spaces to artists and small businesses at dirt cheap prices. Today the Russell Industrial Center and its flea-market-like Russell Bazaar are home more than 300 entrepreneurs and artists with big dreams and thin pockets.

Some of those businesses have moved on over the years. Two longtime tenants recently moved onto bigger and better places. M1/DTW took more a more comprehensive office space in the Elevator Building overlooking the Detroit River and Wound Menswear moved into its own storefront in Corktown. Novack says high profile festivals have helped keep new businesses coming
in, such as the People's Arts Festival, Detroit Business Festival and the upcoming Spring Open House on April 3-4.

A small artist collective from Ypsilanti took over Wound Menswear's space and another creatively inclined collective led by College of Creative Studies Assistant Prof Chido Johnson filled M1/DTW's space. Both signed leases before the spaces emptied. Novack equates the tenant movement to kids growing up and moving on with their lives.

"They can always come back or stop by to say, 'Hi,'" Novack says. "If they are moving onto other areas they are always welcome back."

Source: Eric Novack, operations manager for the Russell Industrial Center
Writer: Jon Zemke
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