How did you start Metro Strategies Inc.?
On March 30, 2012 I started Metro Strategies Inc. with the intent to recruit small businesses and individuals for large infrastructure projects. My first large contract was recruitment of local and small businesses for the Blake Transit Center in Ann Arbor. We worked through our equity with community contractors to meet the initial 10% goal for Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) contractors on that project. Based on Metro’s outreach we reached 13% DBEs on that contract. Before Metro Strategies, I was appointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm to serve as Director, Office of Business Development for MI Department of Transportation. For 5 years I was charged with ensuring that small DBE businesses were participating in large, federally funded road construction projects within DBE framework.
“I was around like-minded individuals that were really invested in what they wanted to see happen. The cohort had a stick-to-it-iveness that helped me stick to it too.”
How did you choose UAVs?
The only thing that limits you in the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology is your imagination. I was keeping my eyes open for emerging technologies such as unmanned vehicle technologies. Contractors will soon be legally able to use UAVs for road construction projects. I found that Michigan Tech Research Institute (MI Tech) is one the foremost leaders in UAV technology for road construction. MI Tech was looking to bring in more minorities and I’m working to recruit interns for MI Tech from underrepresented communities.
What’s next for you?
I’m developing my business plan for the final phase of Motor City Match. To this point, I’ve passed the PART 107 test with guidance from MI Tech and received my commercial pilot’s license. I’ve located a building in southwest Detroit to build a space for suites to download and edit UAV video footage for clients. My past work relationships with Ford Motor Co. Fund and MDOT created access to opportunities that I’m still enjoying today. Relationships are paramount!
What do you see 5 years from now for Metro Strategies?
I’ll have a cadre of pilots that manage accounts for each market: agricultural, utilities and energy, golf courses, and real estate. I’m shooting for the infrastructure development that will be happening in Detroit. Hospitals are eventually looking to transport plasma but liability issues have to be worked out. Once that happens I will be positioned perfectly. I’ve had a number of opportunities over my career that has put me in a position to heighten the visibility of underrepresented communities.
What was your experience in the Build class?
I was jaded on the business planning class, intitially because I’ve drafted a number of business plans in my career. I was also grounded enough to say “no matter what you think you know, you could always learn something different.” I was around like-minded individuals that were really invested in what they wanted to see happen. The cohort had a stick-to-it-iveness that helped me stick to it too. April Anderson is whip smart when it comes to accounting. Every question that we posed on accounting, break-even points and profit margins, she was able to articulate how financial forecasts should look for different for each type of business. I was very impressed with April she was perfect for that kind of class.