Our story

WSU President Irvin D. Reid (1997-2008) envisioned a greater role for the university as an anchor institution and economic driver, as engaged and invested in our neighborhood and city as with our core educational mission. President Reid initiated several key projects to help strengthen Midtown, including expanding on-campus housing, which has been instrumental in transforming Wayne State from a commuter campus to a residential campus with 24/7 activity. Increased neighborhood density has created demand for new businesses and venues, made our campus safer and more walkable, and created a stronger sense of community.

President Reid also saw a need for a space to "connect the laboratory and real life." This vision became TechTown, an entrepreneurship hub housed in a historic, renovated automobile dealership at the north end of campus. While initially founded to accelerate university spinoffs, TechTown now supports hundreds of tech and neighborhood businesses each year through a range of programs and services, with a focus on supporting the sustainability of Black-owned, women-owned and businesses of color and creating an equitable, sustainable economy that includes all Detroiters.

In 2011, President Allan Gilmour (2011-2013) established the Office of Economic Development (OED), naming Ned Staebler vice president for economic development and making Wayne State one of the first universities in the U.S. to create a cabinet-level office to lead economic development strategy. President Gilmour worked with OED and others across the university to invest in key initiatives to strengthen our neighborhood, including Live Midtown, which attracted and retained more than 2,000 residents in the neighborhood, including 571 Wayne State employees, and the QLINE streetcar. President Gilmour also supported OED's efforts to bring Zipcar to campus and to lay the groundwork for the MoGo citywide bike sharing system.

Charged with elevating the university's economic impact and stimulating growth in the wake of the Great Recession, OED has grown in size and scope, overseeing numerous programs and initiatives designed to meet the needs of our community and our city in a given moment. With a focus on place, business and talent, we collaborate with an array of community partners, including numerous philanthropic and corporate donors who share our vision of a university deeply engaged in and with its community. In 2015, Ned was concurrently named president and CEO of TechTown, which now operates as a nonprofit closely aligned with the university. With a shared commitment to strengthening Detroit by sustaining and growing startups and small businesses, OED and TechTown collaborate often.

In addition to leading programs and initiatives, OED serves as a convenor and connector, ensuring the university's investments and efforts maximize impact. We are proud that Wayne State's role as an economic driver has been recognized by the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which has named us an Innovation and Economic Prosperity university—a designation honoring higher education institutions that have demonstrated a commitment to economic engagement.

Today, as we emerge from another economic crisis, the greatest of our time, we're working in close partnership with current WSU president M. Roy Wilson, along with our many partners across the university and throughout our community, to create a sustained recovery for all Detroiters. Our mission and vision remain as relevant as ever: To strengthen the Detroit region's neighborhoods, businesses and leaders, creating equitable opportunity and lasting prosperity for all.