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J. E. Electric

Detroit, MI

Jonathon Ellison

How long have you been an entrepreneur?
I have been an entrepreneur for 9 years.

What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?
I went into entrepreneurship pretty much for survival in the beginning. I was laid off from a union company for lack of work. I decided that I wouldn't put myself in a position where somebody else could decide my fate anymore.
What is your view of the entrepreneurial climate in Detroit?
I believe that Detroit is ripe for entrepreneurial activities. Although it's very hard and challenging to break through the  many barriers. Contractors you see working in this city are often the same 4-5 big companies. Of which none of them are "truly" from Detroit. They may buy a bldg and call it their office, but if you did very little research it would be clear that they are not from Detroit, but the surrounding suburbs. I don't think anything is wrong with suburban contractors coming in to get work. Except for the fact that for example the Census counts Detroiters to help provide funding for better schools, jobs, training, & billions of dollars in contracting opportunities. Then when you take those funds for us & give them to people who don't live here, that to me should be wrong & misleading.

Do you see more emerging entrepreneurs in this region?
I see a lot of emerging entrepreneurs here. Detroit has always had a blue collar mentality. We would much rather work to take care of our families than to collect some type of assistance. To me what is happening is a type of dumbing down of Detroiters. Many that had good plant jobs, sent kids to college, took care of their homes, and were great hardworking citizens of a great city. After being laid off for so long, you can easily fall intO laziness from getting assistance and this city does have those type of people. Detroit also has people who are determined to be successful in a bad environment. Those people realize that the days of somebody giving you a job are numbered if not gone already. Those people are entrepreneurs.

What's the biggest challenge for you?
By far my biggest challenge has been to crack into the larger contracting opportunities that the city offers. For example 500 million dollars awarded for DPS they are renovating, rebuilding, & modernizing 18 "Detroit" public schools. How is it that the very school my daughter attends, which they make it very clear not to miss the "count day" can be redone for $30 million and me living across the street from it, cannot do the work??? Not just as an employee, but as a contractor. Who's kids will fill the school? Will it be the suburban contractors kids from Bloomfield, White Lake, or Bingham Farms? Never! Not in a million years would they even think of bringing their kids to school here. But it's ok to take the dollars for building the school out of the communities that populate them. They make it nearly impossible for a company to break through by roadblocks like bonding. Bonding plain and simple is you, and your business credit. How can you have good credit if you don't get good jobs? And you can't get those good jobs without bonding in most cases.

What should the city do to stimulate small business growth?
There should be mandatory joint ventures with local small businesses for every trade, on every DPS, City, HUD, or State project. It should be aggressively watched. You would then see less crime, less drugs, less broken homes, and more young people in the inner city getting into the very lucrative field of building trades. Our young teens hope for a very unrealistic dream of playing professional sports, being a rapper, or entertainer to become a young millionaire. The contracts given away for "in my case electrical contractors", can make anyone who is willing to work hard, be responsible, learn & master their craft a MILLIONAIRE a hundred times more likely than basketball or rapping. The problem is my mom & dad didn't tell me about the trades. I was blessed to have an opportunity to begin it in high school at Randolph Career Tech. Franklin Fuller my teacher taught me the importance of learning this trade.
We must teach our youth of the opportunities and we must make sure that doors begin to open NOW for them.

How would describe your business growth so far?
I see my business as the biggest electrical contracting company in the state of Michigan. We are growing in leaps and bounds! We are superior at customer service, knowledgeable and fast. All of the opportunities I speak of, I believe JEEC will retain them. Giving jobs to the citizens of Detroit first. I believe that if you say you love Detroit. It should be safe to think that you are talking first about the citizens of Detroit. I love the campaign "I'm a believer" of Detroit. Me too, I also live, feed, & support Detroit. Problem is Detroit does not believe in me.

Who are you clients?
My clients range from the little old lady that every time her air conditioner comes on, she blows a fuse. To the new development of housing that would hire a relatively new contractor. There are no jobs to big, and none to small for us.

What advice would you give a starting business?
The best advice I can give is for a new business is to operate with integrity. Give a great service for a fair price. Reach for the sky in whatever you do. Try use all the "no's" or "you can'ts" as motivation to do.

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