GR SmartZone Gets MEDC Money


    LANSING — The Michigan Economic Development Corp. awarded Grand Rapids $300,000 last week for its SmartZone business accelerator.

    The local award was part of $2.5 million the MEDC handed out last Tuesday to six SmartZones in its effort to create a statewide network of accelerators.

    “There is limitless potential for new products, companies and jobs that can be created as a result of research coming out of Michigan’s universities and SmartZones,” said MEDC President and CEO Doug Rothwell. “These accelerators will help mold that potential into profitable new Michigan businesses.”

    A SmartZone business accelerator is expected to help identify the technologies with the most commercial potential, and then help secure enough start-up monies to develop these into viable businesses.

    The Grand Rapids SmartZone accelerator will be housed in the Health Science Building at Grand Valley State University. The Van Andel Institute, The Right Place Program, the City of Grand Rapids and GVSU are supporting the local SmartZone. So far, more than $423,000 in local resources has been committed to the effort.

    Others that received MEDC funds last week were Houghton ($500,000), Mount Pleasant ($250,000), Ann Arbor ($500,000), Detroit ($400,000) and Kalamazoo ($550,000).

    Supporters of the Kalamazoo SmartZone have raised the most local resources of the six, more than $2.46 million so far, while the GR SmartZone has raised the least.

    Western Michigan University, Southwest Michigan First and the city are backing the Kalamazoo zone. The accelerator will be located in the SMF Innovation Center.

    Rothwell said he expects all six accelerators will be operating this fall, offering a host of services including business feasibility studies and planning, venture capital preparation and introductions, market analysis and product development.

    Since the inception of the SmartZones in April 2001, Rothwell said that 19 companies have located within one, and six new business incubators are either operating or are being built. As of last week, all the SmartZones had attracted more than $100 million in private investment to the state.

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