Apr 1, 2024 - News

Detroit businesses eager to benefit from NFL Draft

Animated illustration of an old-timey cash register, with four tabs with footballs on them popping up.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Local businesses are clamoring to work with the NFL Draft and benefit from the burst of economic activity that comes with it.

Why it matters: Restaurants, clothing shops and other businesses all over the city are getting involved to make the April 25-27 draft an authentic Detroit experience.

  • A lot of money is on the table. Organizers expect visitors to spend hundreds of millions; the NFL's budget for the event is $25 million.

State of play: Some businesses have contracts for catering, janitorial and other services.

  • Restaurants and merchants will set up in the event's downtown footprint at food trucks and pop-ups inside empty downtown storefronts.

What they're saying: "We're just excited to show what we've been preparing for, what I've been preparing for my whole career," Nina Love, whose Detroit-based company, The Love Experience, will be catering for the draft at Hart Plaza, told the Detroit News.

The big picture: Sports tourism is an important piece of the local economy. City leaders are using the draft to fine-tune their model for including local businesses in potential future events like an NBA All-Star Game or NCAA Final Four.

Flashback: The mayor's office, the Detroit Sports Commission and local business groups including the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance began developing a business referral program for the draft last fall.

  • "In those meetings, I talked about ensuring that Black entrepreneurs not only had a shot, but they didn't just want the crumbs. We wanted real contracts," Kaiwan Bowman, the alliance's chief operating officer, told the News.

Yes, but: Some businesses have felt left out.

  • The Southwest Detroit Business Association was not approached with opportunities to get involved, CEO Laura Chavez-Wazeerud-Din told the Free Press.
  • Alexis Wiley, co-chair of the draft's local organizing committee, refuted any characterization that Southwest is being overlooked — four businesses there have draft contracts and about a dozen others will be featured on the event's OnePass app.

What's next: The NFL Draft's guide to Detroit — featuring museums, restaurants and other attractions — will be unveiled in the coming weeks on OnePass.

  • Visitors to featured businesses will be entered in a raffle to win Super Bowl tickets, Wiley tells Axios.
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