Since its inception in 2000, the Innovation Center in Kalamazoo has been supported by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Over the years, the MEDC has provided operational funding, program funding, and entrepreneurial funding to the Innovation Center and its client companies. No other partner has contributed so much or for so long. The MEDC is a tremendous business resource that is financed with tax dollars, making it free to Michigan business owners.
Sandra Cochrane, assistant dean of the WMed Innovation Center says, “The entire Entrepreneurism and Innovation team at the MEDC is clearly devoted to fostering entrepreneurship in Michigan. They are easy to work with and continually developing new, creative ways to assist startups. I really appreciate everything they do.”
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with more than 100 economic development partners, markets Michigan as the place to do business, assists businesses in their growth strategies, and fosters the growth of vibrant communities across the state. The mission of the MEDC is to achieve long-term economic prosperity for Michiganders by investing in communities, enabling the growth of good jobs and promoting Michigan’s strong image worldwide. MEDC's strategic focus aims to position Michigan at the leading edge of economic development in the nation.
While there a too many outstanding services to mention in this brief article, a few key programs are worth highlighting. First, the MEDC is the entity responsible for designating the Innovation Center as the Kalamazoo SmartZone. SmartZones provide distinct geographical locations where technology-based firms, entrepreneurs and researchers locate in close proximity to all of the community assets that assist in their endeavors. The Innovation Center/Kalamazoo SmartZone has gratefully accepted a $100,000 grant from the MEDC each year for the past six years. This grant enables the Innovation Center to offer training, education, networking, and other support to entrepreneurs all across SW Michigan. In addition, SmartZones can access further programs to benefit clients, like the Business Accelerator Fund and the Emerging Technologies Fund. In just the past 5 years Innovation Center client companies have reported receiving $9,236,361 in MEDC funds.
The Business Accelerator Fund is a unique program that makes money available to the Innovation Center so that it can pay outside service providers to perform work on behalf of eligible clients. In this way, the Center can leverage statewide experts to assist companies as they grow. Numerous Innovation Center clients have benefited from the BAF over the past several years.
The MEDC also provides investment funds through the First Capital Fund and the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund. These two investment funds are managed by professional investment firms and are responsible for investing state dollars into private start-up firms. By receiving state money at the earliest stage, these fledgling companies are able to reach important milestones that lead to larger investments in the future. The MEDC understands that growing companies provide jobs and economic diversity for the communities in which they operate, making them worthy investments.
“We are fortunate to work with great partners, such as Sandra, in order to offer the necessary resources and funding to entrepreneurs and startups across Michigan,” said Margaret McCammon, Portfolio Manager, MEDC’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “The WMed Innovation Center / Kalamazoo SmartZone is an exceptional resource that has helped successfully launch and grow a number of companies—all thanks to the leadership that supports it.”
The MEDC also supports other programs that the Innovation Center can access, like the SBIR/STTR training and consulting from BBCetc. Without funding from the MEDC, the services of BBC would be costly instead of free. And free is good! The same is true of the Michigan Small Business Development Center (MI-SBDC) and its Technology Team. While the MI-SBDC receives a majority of its funding from the federal Small Business Administration, the specialized Technology Team is completely funded by the MEDC. And the Tech Team is one of the features that makes the MI-SBDC one of the best SBDC programs in the entire country. And SBDC services are also free.
Undoubtedly, the MEDC is an important partner of the WMed Innovation Center. Without the continued support of the MEDC, the Innovation Center would not be able to serve the numerous entrepreneurs and startup companies in SW Michigan. You can learn more about the programs the MEDC makes available to entrepreneurs at https://www.michiganbusiness.org/services/entrepreneurial-opportunity/.