Corner kiosks for small businesses

Remote neighborhood stations offer services for local entrepreneurship

Photo by Laurium Village Board members were receptive to the establishment of an Invent@NMU kiosk in the village that would provide contact information to people who have an idea for an invention, or small business but do not have information on what types of help are available, or who to go to.

LAURIUM — Residents who have an idea for an invention might soon be able to visit and get advice and services from a kiosk down the street.

Rachel Barra and Jason Shane of Invent@NMU in Marquette gave a presentation to the Village Board at Tuesday’s meeting in which they discussed the possibility of placing a portable kiosk at various locations in the village.

“Invent@NMU is really trying to expand their outreach in the UP, and the greater area of Marquette,” said Shane, “making it easier for people to have access to the services we can offer them, promoting economic development in the UP.”

Shane said Ron Aho, a sheet metal worker from Marquette, utilized Invent@NMU for the development of his invention, the Tinknocker Tool, which is used to help make installation of drive cleats easier when performing duct work installation. The tool decreases the time involved in such work, while it decreases muscle and shoulder fatigue associated with hammering.

“We were able to help him take the correct steps from basically beginning to end of product development,” Shane said.

Barra and Shane said they have talked with Calumet Village Administrator Joe Snow and Calumet Township officials, and both the village and township welcomed the idea of the kiosk.

Barra said that Invent@NMU, which is through the Innovate Marquette SmartZone, is similar to the MTEC SmartZone in Houghton, but where the SmartZone places its focus on high-tech businesses, Invent@NMU focuses on hardware or small business.

“We’re not looking for the next high-tech business to revolutionize the industry,” Barra said. “We’re here for the little guy. If you’ve got a small bakery that you want to open, or maybe you have a small hand tool idea that you (developed from) work on in the trades, that’s what we’re focusing on.”

Shane said that the kiosk could help the program reach similar people, expand ideas and help economic development.

“We’re really trying to put these kiosks out in more remote areas of the Upper Peninsula to provide people who might not otherwise have access to our services, a portal, so to speak,” said Barra, “so they can contact us for the business ideation or the product ideation they need to progress.”

Laurium Village Board President Donald Bausano said there were limited places within the village the kiosk could be located. He suggested the Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital as one place.

Board members Amy Schneiderhan and Loralee Miller, both Laurium business owners, said they would welcome the kiosk in their establishments.

“I think it’s a wonderful idea,” said Shneiderhan.