“Yoopers” who live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) have built a legacy around Lake Superior; their culture rich in mining, great fishing, pasties and even flannel. The tough, “can-do” spirit that it takes to bear the U.P.’s long winters is what now drives innovation throughout the region. Through the start and growth of high-tech companies, the U.P. is quickly transforming into “innovation shore.”
What drives this change? The work and collaboration between MTEC SmartZone and the U.P.’s three State Universities – Michigan Technological University, Northern Michigan University and Lake Superior State University.
MTEC SmartZone is a business incubator located in Michigan’s remote Keweenaw Peninsula, near Michigan Tech’s campus. Since its creation in 2002, MTEC SmartZone’s mission has been to create high-tech jobs throughout the region. MTEC SmartZone has exceeded its own expectations and the goals of the state. Programs and projects have brought in $24 for every state dollar invested. Last year, this infused more than $19 million new dollars into a community of just 10,000 people.
When Marilyn Clark became CEO of MTEC SmartZone in 2013, she made it a priority to further develop intense training programs for entrepreneurs, improve community access to business counseling, and support the ecosystem through special projects that create jobs.
SmartStart was one of the programs created through a Michigan Economic Development Corporation grant. These hands-on classes have been attended by more than 70 people from the community and Michigan Tech who had ideas to start companies. Approximately 30 of those people formed successful companies that today, continue to grow and create new jobs.
As a result of MTEC SmartZone’s programs, 83 high-tech jobs were created during their last fiscal year. These 83 jobs contribute to the local economy, providing substantial opportunities for many people, for years to come. Since 2003, more than 500 technology jobs have emerged from businesses that access services from MTEC SmartZone.
One great community success story comes from a recent MTEC SmartZone “graduate,” Lasalletech. Lasalletech is a software company that services the international electronic trading industry. Lasalletech was founded in 2007 by Jacob Northey, who had a passion to create quality, high-tech jobs, while raising the integrity of the industry. MTEC SmartZone contributed significantly to Lasalletech’s growth, providing affordable office space and helping to form a partnership with Michigan Tech. In addition, Lasalletech received individualized business training and funding from MTEC SmartZone to address sales and marketing challenges, which immediately resulted in new markets and customers.
Lasalletech quickly created seven new local family-sustaining jobs. With the recent sale to a Swedish company, Lasalletech also gained international attention. As part of the sale agreement, Northey remains committed to his community promise. The seven current staff members continue to work in the Hancock office, raising their families in the community and contributing to the local economy. All of the global IT work is being done out of the Hancock branch. “Lasalletech is a perfect example of MTEC SmartZone’s mission to accelerate business growth and support companies from start-up to graduation,” said Marilyn Clark, MTEC SmartZone CEO. “While we support these businesses with programs, funding and grants, it’s really the daily commitment by entrepreneurs that continues to build and grow successful companies.”
Another unique business model that has created hundreds of jobs in the community is MTEC SmartZone’s attraction strategy. This program encourages larger companies to open satellite offices locally to hire Michigan Tech student talent who work on real-world engineering projects. These companies have experienced significant cost savings and growth while achieving quality work. The students make valuable connections and explore opportunities for future employment.
Systems Control, another growing U.P. company headquartered in nearby Iron Mountain, recently opened a satellite office at MTEC SmartZone’s Lakeshore Center. Systems Control currently employs nearly 500 people and projects that number to reach 1,000 in the next five years. Attracting engineering talent is a critical priority for Systems Control. Their presence at MTEC SmartZone has allowed them to expand upon its partnership with Michigan Tech. In addition to that immediate success, the company has secured a local site manager with years of experience growing companies.
MTEC SmartZone continues to achieve successes and redefine the region’s economy in Michigan’s remote U.P. For more information about MTEC SmartZone, visit www.mtecsz.com