Area entrepreneurs need an assist to link to resources for continued growth


The Grand Rapids metro area’s entrepreneurial activity, like an unseen electric current, is providing an economic stimulus and force for the future. The West Michigan business community still may be dismissive or unobservant, a pallor cast in part by the 2002 dot-com collapse (related more to excessive speculation than poorly constructed entrepreneurial effort), but the range of area activity deserves note.

Business Journal startup stories have become so numerous as to be taken for granted. In recent days, reporting described the growth of 2014 startup Packaging Compliance Labs that last year moved from an incubator space to a Kentwood location, from which the company is again expanding. Another report notes the diversification of Brothers Leather Supply Co. and Harrison Gray Search & Consulting co-founder Adam Kail branching to yet another diversification in services.

The Business Journal’s recently published list of entrepreneurial resources has grown considerably the past few years, as has funding from divergent sources, from crowdfunding to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Regional colleges and universities now are as active in entrepreneurial stimulation as state government and area chambers of commerce. Gov. Rick Snyder last week nominated the leader of the University Research Corridor, Jeff Mason, to head MEDC, further strengthening education and entrepreneurial effort.

Despite the multitude of available services and wide range of types of assistance, connecting with entrepreneurial individuals has not been easy. That was a point made clear to Zeeland-based economic development agency Lakeshore Advantage, which launched a new initiative in response, SURGE, fueled by input from the entrepreneurs who would be served. Assistance has been provided by lakeshore entrepreneurs like Fathom, the underwater drone manufacturer, which just received a Business Accelerator Fund grant from Lakeshore Advantage. The mission of the group is to eliminate confusion about how a new entrepreneur can access the vast number of resources available.

The Business Journal also reported on a new co-working group started by The Factory, Cotivation. Serving entrepreneurs and small business owners, groups meet once per week, offering connections, mentoring and problem solving from a wide range of types of businesses.

All the effort and funding of the wide range of entrepreneurial services is for naught without connections. It would be wise for area services to check their own connection efforts.

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