- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - More than 60 local business owners graduated Thursday from Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program and were cheered on by some high-profile people - former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.

The investment banking firm committed $20 million to Detroit and southeast Michigan to help small businesses create jobs and economic growth by providing entrepreneurs with a practical business education, access to capital and business support services. It spent $500 million nationally on the program.

The graduates from the program’s first two classes in the Detroit area followed a band to the stage at Wayne State University’s Community Arts Theater to the Motown hit “Get Ready.”

Graduates of the program are poised to grow their businesses and create jobs that will contribute to the revival of Detroit’s economy, according to Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein.

“We find the best people who are already on the verge of great success because of their own passion, own drive,” Blankfein said. “We give the slightest nudge.”

Applicants to the program must be committed to growing their companies and creating jobs. Thursday’s graduates include, among others, the owners of McClure’s Pickles, Sweet Potato Sensations, Aesthetic Dental Clinique and tech operations.

The program’s success mirrors optimism across Detroit as the city is attempting to shed $7 billion in debt during the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. “Everybody’s pulling for Detroit,” Blankfein said.

Detroit’s downtown and Midtown neighborhoods are growing as people move in and small businesses set up shop. Larger businesses are moving in, too. Whole Foods, which opened a market in Midtown last year, has announced it is seeking a second location. Midwest retailer Meijer Inc. opened its first Detroit store in the north part of the city in 2013.

Construction has started on a light rail project and there are plans for a new hockey arena and 45-block entertainment district just north of downtown.

“You can see how the average person in Detroit says, ‘This is good, but where do I fit in?’” Duggan said. “To me, this is the most powerful thing about what the 10,000 Small Businesses Advisory Council is doing.”

A third class for the Goldman Sachs program is getting started. Bloomberg and Buffett are co-chairs of the program’s advisory council.

“You’re in the right country. You’re in the right city,” Buffett, chairman and chief executive of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway, told the graduates. “You’ve taken the right course to prepare you for the business … and it’s just going to be a lot of fun for me to watch it all happen.”

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