Another MTEC SmartZone Success Story GE Aviation Systems Employs Student Talent and Creates Jobs in the Keweenaw

Houghton, MI – GE Aviation Systems is a world leader in commercial and military aviation. With a major facility in Grand Rapids, GE Aviation employs a workforce of more than 1,400 in Michigan, with nearly 60 working right here in Houghton.


MTEC SmartZone’s Powerhouse facility, on Houghton’s waterfront, is home to GE Aviation’s University Development Center. Here students from Michigan Technological University provide engineering design and development services for the aerospace industry, including software development, verification and validation, mechanical and hardware design.


In spring 2005, GE Aviation’s director of test systems, Don Eenigenburg, was in India scouting low-cost engineering opportunities with the purpose of performing software design and testing for his directorate. It was during this trip that Eenigenburg noticed nearly all of the candidates were recent graduates from engineering universities. On his flight home, Eenigenburg, a Michigan Tech alum, hatched the idea of recruiting capable engineering students in the U.S. to meet GE Aviation’s growing engineering needs.


With the idea of hiring Michigan Tech students, Eenigenburg was introduced to members of MTEC SmartZone and the University. Within a few short weeks a small incubator was created, opening its doors in August 2005. Three short years later, GE was growing beyond the capacity of their location in Hancock! A $1 million grant provided by Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) helped MTEC SmartZone remodel the Powerhouse into a high-tech facility capable of supporting GE’s growing technology business. The facility provided ample room to grow then and into the site’s unforeseeable future.


The combination of MTEC SmartZone facilities and bright Michigan Tech engineering students has gained momentum as the highly successful Fortune 500 Formula. Companies who employ a local student workforce retain control of IP and innovations, increase workforce diversity, discover new talent, and maintain quality and process control. Exceptional students are often promoted within the company, gaining huge career advantages in a tough economy.


Jason Mack, site manager for GE in Houghton, comments positively about his experience working with MTEC SmartZone to establish the University Development Center. “Program Director Jonathan Leinonen was extremely helpful in getting us set up quickly. Never was there an issue with MTEC SmartZone handling our growth and needs.”


“Students love this area and want to stay here, so we don’t experience a high turnover of talent” states Mack. “In my opinion, any technology company looking for hiring solutions can’t go wrong with MTEC SmartZone’s formula. We have the need, Michigan Tech has the brain power and student base, and the Powerhouse facility provides the space for us to grow and succeed.”


For more information about MTEC SmartZone, call (906) 487-7000.