Guard Change at SmartZone

Retiring CEO made place where startups could go

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Marilyn Clark, outgoing CEO of MTEC SmartZone, gives an update on the SmartZone’s status to a joint meeting of the Houghton and Hancock city councils at the Carnegie Museum Wednesday.

HOUGHTON — As new leadership takes over, the MTEC SmartZone is in a good place, its outgoing CEO said during a joint meeting of the Hancock and Houghton city councils Wednesday.

Marilyn Clark, who recently retired after six years in the position, gave her final presentation to the councils. Daniel Jamison became CEO effective Saturday.

One of the most successful new programs during Clark’s tenure has been SmartStart, a mentoring program in which people can have their business ideas evaluated. More than 100 people have come through the program since it launched in 2012, Clark said.

“After the second year, I’m thinking, ‘We’ve got to dry up,’ but people just keep coming,” she said. “What that tells me is there are a lot of people who have an idea for a business. They just don’t know where to go.”

Although SmartZone is largely concerned with startups, even bigger economic benefits come with companies that take root and grow, Clark said. The SmartZone is looking at serving stage II companies valued at more than $1 million.

Through programs such as SmartStart, a community has sprung up that supports entrepreneurs that create wealth, she said in suggesting the councils should promote commerce through housing, attractive downtowns and encouraging development, Clark said.

She said the assistance provided by SmartStart “created a community that not only people who want to start businesses stay here, but they are able to recruit the employees that they want, too.”

Jamison was introduced to the board. He comes from a senior director position at Synaptics Incorporated, a San Jose, California, company that develops human interface, display and biometric semiconductor products.

If the last name is familiar, he said, it may be because his sister Dorothy has been a trainer in the area for 25 years.

There’s much opportunity in the area, Jamison said, and people are willing to take risks.

“Everybody’s afraid to step outside their comfort zone and get into something that they’ve not been involved in before, and Marilyn’s set up an organization where they can get everything they need to avoid that risk, or to mitigate that risk, and to move on to the success level,” he said. “I’m very happy I was chosen to continue that.”

Council members congratulated Jamison.

“I look forward to working with you in many different ways,” Houghton Mayor Bob Backon said.