Smart (Zone) Idea: Hancock considers ‘Finn Zone’

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Patrick Visser (left) and Kevin Manninen (right) brief the Hancock City Council on Finn Zone project and plans.

HANCOCK — A conceptual plan to attract high-tech investment from Finland was outlined Wednesday to the City Council.

Patrick Visser of the MTEC SmartZone gave a presentation on the concept of a “Finn Zone.”

Similar to the objective of the SmartZone, Visser said, the idea is to encourage high-tech investment, with a special focus on small companies and startups from Finland.

“We were looking for ways to grow the startup…ecosystem here,” Visser said.

Previously, Finnish companies were exploring the West Coast and Silicon Valley, but that is changing.

“There’s a renewed interest in going into areas with a little more of a cultural connection,” said Kevin Manninen, president of the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and dean of the International School of Business at Finlandia University. “We see ourselves as being a very unique launchpad into North American markets for these companies.”

The capacity for speedy decision-making and responses is one way Visser thinks the area can stand out.

Bioproducts commerce is one area of potential investment, with a summit planned in June.

“We’re not just here to be a sales office for Finnish companies,” Visser said. “We’re really thinking about this in terms of growing and benefiting our community.”

In other topics, the council accepted the resignation of Hancock Housing Commission member Dennis Shea effective March 15.

“He’s a good citizen to have in Hancock. He was a great member of the Housing Commission, so I wish him well,” said John Haeussler.

Following the acceptance of Shea’s resignation, the council unanimously approved the appointment of Mary Stahl to serve the remainder of his term, which lasts through December 2019.

A special meeting was scheduled for April 11 at 6 p.m. to review city manager applications. Since this will involve personnel-related deliberation such as interviews, most of the meeting will held in closed session.

Retiring City Manager Glenn Anderson expressed his intent not to attend to avoid influencing the replacement process.

The council also unanimously approved a resolution applying for a Michigan Department of Natural Resources Passport Recreation Grant for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance of its campground restrooms.

The goal is to also upgrade the electrical and transformer, if funding is available.