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Commission OKs SmartZone Updates

Thursday, November 2, 2017   (0 Comments)
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SOURCE: The Mining Journal

 

MARQUETTE — The Marquette City Commission this week approved changes to its SmartZone agreement to comply with new reporting metrics from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

The Innovate Marquette SmartZone was created in 2014 as an agreement between the city, the MEDC and the city’s Local Development Finance Authority.

The new requirements, approved unanimously Monday by the commission and by the LDFA Oct. 16, are an addendum to the SmartZone agreement and are a condition of continued tax capture by the LDFA for the SmartZone.

The addendum requires the LDFA to report revenues, expenditures, assessed property values, the number and salary of jobs created, summary of operations, amount of public and private investment, and outstanding debt and bond reserves, among other things.

The Innovate Marquette SmartZone was created to help coordinate and promote a “world-class entrepreneurial ecosystem supporting technology-based innovation, new businesses, new job creation and existing business expansion” in Marquette County and the Upper Peninsula, according to its website.

Funds for many of its initiatives are provided by the 21st Century Jobs Fund, a Michigan Strategic Fund program intended to help grow and diversify Michigan’s economy. The MEDC, a public-private partnership between the state and local communities, provides administrative support for the 21st Century Jobs Fund, according to the website.

In a presentation to the commission in September, Innovate Marquette CEO Ray Johnson said the SmartZone is now co-locating at Invent@NMU on the campus of Northern Michigan University at the corner of Presque Isle and Fair avenues in Marquette.

Invent@NMU is a program in which a team of NMU students managed by a professional staff offer local inventors advice in market, design, sales, manufacturing, investment and more to determine a product’s viability and help launch it. Johnson said nearly 300 ideas have walked through the door since it started.

“I think it’s a great location, it’s going to be a lot of traffic there, so creating this one-stop shop for inventors and entrepreneurs is really a unique thing in our community,” Johnson said.

The MSF in June awarded NMU a grant of more than $1 million over three years to continue funding the Invent@NMU operation and the Marquette SmartZone, he said.

“SmartZone is now under a sub-agreement to run the NMU program, and so we run the program, we run the facility and NMU continues to have the program within its corridors,” Johnson said.

The grant funds support the NMU staff, 10 part-time students and some operational expenses, Johnson said.

It’s notable the program was begun entirely by NMU and is now being recognized and funded by the state, with help and collaboration from the SmartZone, he added.

Johnson said they’ll be doing some marketing to help increase clientele, and they’re holding an event series highlighting inventors and start-ups who have benefited from their services.

“So our one-stop-shop concept has come to fruition,” Johnson said. “It’s taken about a year and a half from concept to final funding, and we look to supporting the community and the campus in a more robust way and allowing both tech-based and non-tech-based businesses and ideas to flourish within the community.”

On Monday the commission also said farewell to Commissioner Mike Conley, whose term expires this month and who has chosen not to run for a second term. His, and the seats of Mayor Pro Tem Tom Baldini and Commissioner Peter Frazier are open in next week’s election. Baldini and Frazier will face off against Justin Brugman, Tony Ghiringhelli, Jermey Ottaway and Fred Stonehouse in the city-wide nonpartisan election Tuesday.


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