Out of Office: Regina Ann Campbell

If you’re tapped into Detroit’s Black Excellence, then you’ve most likely heard about Regina Ann Campbell. For years Campbell worked on various Detroit entrepreneurial and revitalizing projects. From 2014 to 2018, she was managing director of place-based entrepreneurship at TechTown. While at Techtown, her leadership supported entrepreneurial initiatives such as SWOT City and Retail Services. Now, she is chief program officer for Epicenter, a nonprofit entrepreneurial hub in Memphis.  BLAC had the opportunity to video chat with Campbell for our Out of Office series to discuss how, as an expat, she never forgets her Detroit roots. This is Campbell’s story:

How has Detroit helped you achieve your goals?

Everything about what I do, and who I am is straight up because of Detroit. I remember being a little girl and just loving the city. I loved going on the commercial corridor, downtown to Hudsons and shopping. The design of cities, the interaction of people and places, has always excited me. I came up at a time where there weren’t any vacant lots-there was vibrancy, there were record stores. One time, I remember at 16, while waiting for a bus to come to go down to Nicki’s, I noticed that the record store that I used to work at had closed. I looked at the commercial corridor on Woodward, and it bothered my soul. It was at that moment that I said, I’m going to help Detroit revitalize.

For me that meant going back to the vibrancy that we had experienced while going downtown to Hudsons. The Black santa. The long lines. It was the most lucrative business in the nation at the time, and I wanted that back. Whatever I could do to help bring back our Black community, I wanted to be able to do it. So, it led me to study cities across the country, particularly Black cities. It made me study all the key players: the mayors and the city council members. I wanted to know who all the important people were that were making these important decisions about city land use planning-all of those things. Over time, I began to start doing community planning and community organizing work. 

I went on to school to get degrees and worked in occupations that allowed me to work in the community from the inside out. What officially catapulted an opportunity for me to really revitalize Detroit was my fellowship with Detroit Revitalization Fellowship, which Wayne State University Launched in 2011. 


Detroit was where the seed was planted in my heart to help revitalize from an inclusive economy perspective. Seeing the disinvestment, the change in neighborhoods and community that bothered me so much growing up that I wanted to be a part of that. I have made that my career. My life goals have been wired to revitalizing.

What made you move out of Detroit?

I used to work at TechTown. Leslie Lynn Smith actually hired me there as a Detroit Revitalization Fellow to continue to do some work with entrepreneur business development in neighborhoods. I was building programs, helping to design programs to help businesses grow. It was something new, so she invited me to work with her. Lo and behold, years later, she moved to Memphis to start Epicenter, which is an entrepreneurial hub, very much like the model New Economy Initiative. She came in, put some things in place, invited me to join the team to do some work and that’s how I got here. My husband and I said we would move out of Detroit one day, but we never had Memphis on the map. 

Why did you say yes to Epicenter?

What made me say yes were a few things. First was because of the culture that she had at TechTown-it was very open. I remember I had dreadlocks, a septum and everything, and it was really accepting. Also, we had a diverse team, and she does crazy stuff. I’m one who’s wired to a changing environment. I like doing something that’s impactful with action. I came to build an entrepreneurial hub to support the community in a majority minority city-just like Detroit is. Epicenter is making sure there’s equity, inclusion and access. Me being such a lover of Detroit, being able to be here and do work, where the first Black neighborhood was established, it’s a beautiful thing. It has offered me new opportunities that challenge me in the best possible way as a professional and as a leader. 

What’s different about Memphis compared to Detroit?

For the first year and a half that I was here for the many times I would walk in a room, either the CEO or someone in the management level was always Black. A lot of them were Black men. That affirmed why Memphis was a good move because my sons were able to see so much diversity. They were able to see us in positions of leadership, which they weren’t able to see in Detroit. In Detroit, there were articles, particularly about Black women in the nonprofit sector, who were often doing the work, but weren’t, quite frankly, in leadership roles. I’m in my year three of Memphis seeing us show up in powerful positions and be the voice in the room. 

What do you miss about Detroit?

There’s a lot. The spirit of Detroit is not just something that we say, it’s something about how we show up and sort of embrace others. I’ll give you an example, I met someone here whose parents were originally from Detroit, and she grew up in Detroit. We were at the bank, and we were just talking. Her spirit and energy were just warm and welcoming. We were going back and forth, and I mentioned that I was from Detroit, and she was like, I grew up in Detroit, and I was like that’s it! 

So, yeah, I miss the people, the food, the Dequindre Cut. We have an amazing Riverfront, and I miss that. I miss even a little bit of the snow. I love hot weather, so I’m good with sunshine, but still. I miss the small businesses we used to frequent quite often. I miss the work at TechTown. So, yeah, it’s a lot that I miss. I will say, it’s a new Detroit now, so everytime I visit, I enjoy seeing what has changed. It’s different, there’s always a new place, or a development has been finished. What bothers my heart is that it’s not as inclusive for everyone to enjoy. 

If you could be anywhere in Detroit right now where would you be?

I would be on the Riverfront with my family. I would be right over near the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel, sitting and talking, looking at the water across from Canada. That’s where I would be. My brother would have to bring his kids and family down there. I would want to be outdoors with them. I would tell them to bring a Coney dog and some chilli cheese fries, too.  

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