The cafe Hazel Perk is among the newer businesses in Hazel Park. The city was recently recognized as a top-rated community for businesses in a statewide study by iLabs at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

The cafe Hazel Perk is among the newer businesses in Hazel Park. The city was recently recognized as a top-rated community for businesses in a statewide study by iLabs at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Statewide study gives Hazel Park five stars for business culture

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published January 5, 2024


HAZEL PARK — Hazel Park capped off 2023 with the good news of a five-star rating from a report studying the business climate in cities across Michigan.

The eCities study, conducted by researchers at iLabs — part of the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Office of Engagement and Impact — analyzed publicly available data in 277 communities from 54 counties across the state.

Hazel Park, along with 89 other communities, received a top rating based on factors such as five-year changes in property values, community assets and tax rates, which researchers say can demonstrate growth, investments and the cost of doing business in a community.

“It’s great every time we get recognized for the business-friendly environment that we’re able to promote here in Hazel Park,” said Ed Klobucher, the city manager. “I’m glad that a third party recognizes we do a good job in this area. (iLabs) looked at cities across the state and used objective measures to say we’re among the best, and we’re going to continue to work hard to make sure that Hazel Park remains a great place to do business.”

The five-year period was 2018 to 2022, during which the five-star communities increased their capital assets by an average 3.42% per year with improvements to parks and other public facilities, city departments and their equipment, and infrastructure including water system enhancements.

The 277 communities in the study represent less than 20% of the state’s cities and townships, but more than 70% of the state’s population, and more than 85% of Michigan’s commercial property.

According to Brian Lucas, the digital media specialist for Hazel Park, the city has carefully courted businesses with marketing efforts that include slick city-made business profiles complete with video reels, soundbites, graphics and other elements.

Lucas noted that the city follows a basic template where they ask questions about the products and services a business provides, how the owners got into their business, their philosophy and why they chose Hazel Park. The videos are then posted to the city’s social media accounts, as well as public access channels on Wow and Comcast where they see 24/7 rotation for several months.

“We are unaware of any other city that does this. By promoting these businesses, it also helps us by promoting the city to prospective businesses as a favorable destination to locate or relocate,” Lucas said in an email. “We don’t limit videos to just new businesses, however. Businesses that have been here for decades, or that are innovative for some reason, have also been the subject of our promotional videos. We view it from the lens of every business having an interesting story to tell.”

Featured businesses include Craft Salon, Red Oaks Tattoo, Rusty Bug Studio, Superior Grounds & Gardens, Ink DET, Tony’s ACE Hardware, Bray’s Hamburgers, House of Shamrocks and more.

Klobucher said the city offers many benefits for businesses.

“We are located in the dead center of the tri-county metropolitan area, with easy access to two expressways here. In Hazel Park, you are just 20 minutes from anywhere in the metro Detroit area,” Klobucher said. “We really have a very streamlined approval process for business licenses here, and we pride ourselves on our ability to be a partner with prospective businesses coming here. We want to look for ways to help good businesses locate here.”

One of the biggest success stories — literally, in terms of scale — has been the remediation of the former Hazel Park Raceway, occupying roughly 10% of the city’s geographic footprint at the corner of 10 Mile and Dequindre roads, and its subsequent transformation into the Tri-County Commerce Center, home to businesses including LG Electronics and a shipping center for Amazon.

But many smaller businesses have also popped up over the last decade, particularly in the John R corridor, including the award-winning restaurant Mabel Gray.

Andy LeCureaux, a member of the Hazel Park City Council, said that he wants Hazel Park to be known not only as “The Friendly City,” but also the “Business-Friendly City.” He also said that initiatives such as the Hazel Park Art Fair have been critical to promoting artist entrepreneurs.

“Our business environment might just be an offshoot of the fact that the mayor (Mike Webb), (City Councilwoman) Alissa Sullivan and myself are also entrepreneurs and small business owners, so it’s just natural for us to encourage businesses,” LeCureaux said. “As a City Council, we set policy, what we want to happen, but everyone administratively implements it. It’s a real team effort.”