SmartZone gets funding

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Marilyn Clark, Chief Executive Officer of the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation SmartZone, who began working on funding extension during the summer of 2012.

HOUGHTON — The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has approved a 15-year extension in funding for the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation’s SmartZone, a non-profit business and technology incubator comprising the cities of Houghton and Hancock. The new authorization extends the support of the MTEC SmartZone to 2032.

Marilyn Clark, SmartZone Chief Executive Officer, said work on extending the funding of the SmartZone began in during the summer of 2012. One of the requirements for the funding extension was to create a satellite, which was accomplished in Marquette. The satellite became active in September, 2015, Clark said.

“Then there were some changes at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and so our application, as did everybody else’s, stalled, but we finally got approval,” Clark said. She received notice of the extension on Friday, Feb. 24, she said, which will allow long-term planning to begin.

“Usually, creating an entrepreneurial eco-system takes 20 to 30 years,” Clark said. “Our first level of funding got us 15 years in and I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress.” The extension in funding, she said, will help complete the SmartZone started.

When the SmartZone was first started in 2002, Houghton did not have a single marketing company, Clark said.

“Now we have two. One is regional and expanding into Wisconsin, and the other is very highly successful in the area and rebranding and moving into product development. “So, we’ve also brought in human relations sourcing here, we have a CFO for hire, we have lawyers who will help entrepreneurs.”

Houghton’s is one of 17 SmartZones throughout the state of Michigan. They were designed to facilitate the development of high-tech companies to create family sustaining jobs, and to ween the state’s economy off the automotive industry, Clark said.

“So, I feel like we’re just starting, and the next 15 years will create even more accelerated results than we have seen in the past.”