Co-founder of Hatch Detroit eager to revitalize city

By Sheila Pursglove Legal News Nick Gorga is passionate about inspiring revitalization and change in Motor City. A partner at Honigman in Detroit, the Troy native is a co-founder--with his friend and fellow Detroit-area native Ted Balowski--of Hatch Detroit, a Michigan-based 501(c)(3) organization that champions and supports independent retail businesses through funding contests, education, exposure, and mentoring. To date, Hatch Detroit has launched two area retail businesses, and recently announced its Neighborhood Initiatives program, in partnership with the Detroit Lions. Hatch Detroit specializes in Crowd Entrepreneurship, where Detroiters--in the city, the suburbs, and around the world--band together to help launch a business and revitalize a neighborhood. The organization is most well known for running retail contests where it allows the public to vote on a new brick-and-mortar independent retail business in Detroit, with the winning business getting a $50,000 grant from Comerica and $50,000 in free services. "We collect submissions, whittle the submissions down to the top 10, and then turn it over to the public to decide," Gorga says. "We had 65,000 votes cast in the first contest and doubled that the following year." Gorga notes that this method allows Hatch Detroit to make an exponential impact by indirectly launching many more businesses and enhancing Detroit's retail image. The 2011 Hatch Detroit Contest Winner was Hugh--a men's store located in the newly constructed Auburn building on Cass Avenue in downtown Detroit. The 2012 contest brought in more than 250 business plan submissions, a 25 percent increase over the prior year. From a vegan café with a soulful twist to a business that seeks to bring kayak rentals to the riverfront, the semi-finalists represented Detroit's creative entrepreneurship at its best, Gorga says. The winner was La Feria, introducing Detroiters to a Spanish dining experience under head chef and Spanish native Pilar Baron Hidalgo. Owners Elias Khalil, Naomi Khalil and Hidalgo will bring Detroit its first Spanish tapas restaurant and bar located at 4130 Cass Ave in the heart of Detroit's Cass Corridor. The restaurant, with an interior replicating the winding streets of Seville, will seat 35 with plans for a patio that will add seating for 16 more. In addition to the $50,000 from Comerica, La Feria also will receive a number of in-kind prizes including: environmental assessment services from PM Environmental; interior design guidance from Andrea Leigh Davis; legal services from Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn; design and branding services from Team Detroit; and IT services from Strategic Staffing Solutions. While Hatch Detroit originally focused on new business, Gorga and Balowski also wanted to do their part to support existing businesses, particularly in the neighborhoods outside of the "hot" areas of Midtown and Downtown. As part of Neighborhood Initiatives, Hatch Detroit has partnered with the Detroit Lions to bring awareness to six historically important neighborhoods around the city--Southwest Detroit, The Villages, Jefferson East, Grandmont/Rosedale, the North End, and the first to be worked on, the Avenue of Fashion along Livernois, between Fenkell and 8 Mile. The hope is that while one business will benefit from getting a makeover, publicity, and new customers, all the surrounding businesses will feel the ripple effects of Hatch Detroit's efforts. The Hatch team, in conjunction with the Detroit Lions, CDCs and community leaders, will select for each of these neighborhoods one business to get a Hatch Extreme Makeover. Hatch Detroit also posts progress online and via social media channels so that other business owners can see how to do such a makeover as efficiently and effectively as possible. Not only is Gorga passionate about solving problems in Motor City, he was drawn to the practice of law by a similar problem-solving desire. "I've always had a strong competitive streak and a love of public speaking--litigation is a perfect outlet for both," he says. A commercial litigator, focusing on defense of companies and directors and officers in business disputes, Gorga currently is representing clients in various industries in connection with government investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. He and his wife Shannon, daughter Ava, 8, and son Mason, 6, live in Birmingham, where Gorga is an avid golfer and plays the guitar with his daughter. Published: Mon, May 20, 2013

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