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THE UP-AND-COMERS: A DESIGN SYSTEM FOR THE NEW ENTREPRENEURS' URBAN APPROACH Open Access

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Between December 2007 and June 2009, the United States experienced its longest, and by most measures worst, economic recession since the Great Depression. Today, fifty-one years after the publication of Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities, the U.S. is marked by cities losing population; increasing the area of unproductive land; and retaining a high majority of the region's poor, unemployed, and undereducated citizens. Americans' collective desensitized reaction to Detroit's dramatic 25 percent population loss over the last decade is enough evidence to suggest that for some cities, "death" may be a more viable option than "life." While the recession resulted in many business closings and foreclosures, what effect did it have on business formation? Recessions decrease potential business income; however, they also restrict opportunities in the wage/salary sector. Subsequently, local labor market conditions are a major determinant of entrepreneurship. Higher local unemployment rates are found to increase the probability that individuals start a business. As Americans increasingly looking to reconstruct economic security from their own efforts, such an emergence of self-reliance sheds new light on startups: recessions create opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Historically, during an economic downturn, American cities have relied on new businesses to initiate recovery. Considered to be the backbone of the economy, small businesses pay nearly half of the total U.S. private pay roll and account for a majority of job growth. The list of famous companies founded during recession, including General Motors, AT&T;, Disney and MTV, is long and varied. In fact, over half of Fortune 500 companies got their start during a downturn market. Still, starting a business is always a risk--made glaringly obvious by the overwhelming number of commercial bankruptcies faced by the U.S. economy in the aftermath of the recent recession.Because small business plays a crucial role in the process of creating economic turn around, solving problems faced by entrepreneurs and business owners is key to ensuring U.S. economic stability. As designers, we must reject the idea that American cities cannot be revitalized as productive and competitive places to live, work and play. Detroit after all is still a city of 713,000 residents. This proposal provides a short-term system using temporary design solutions in urban vacant sites to promote the ease of entry into the marketplace for new ideas, new concepts and new businesses. If we begin to embrace design as not only an outcome, but also a process by which the designer and entrepreneur can engage in innovation, then we might use such a relationship to inform and alter how our cities are developed, regulated, subsidized, and effectively implemented in the future.

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