Gov. Rick Snyder singled out Invent@NMU in Tuesday night’s State of the State address. The program gives students real-world experience helping clients take physical products from concept to market. Under the guidance of professional mentors, students develop competitive skill sets related to design, manufacturing and marketing. Representing Invent@NMU in the gallery at the speech and asked by the governor to stand were: Dave Ollila, executive director; and Rachel Griep, student employee from Dayton, Ohio.
Snyder announced that he would appoint a commission on building the 21st century economy, with an emphasis on creating a culture of continuous innovation.
“We have a group that represents that here tonight,” he said. “I made a trip to the Upper Peninsula last year and visited Northern Michigan University, and they took me to a place that was an old bank branch,” he said, referring to Invent@NMU. “I walked in and it was about students helping inventors. The inventors were walking in with ideas; the students were talking to those inventors about the ones that could be made into real products. It’s happening in Marquette today. This is a program that should be throughout Michigan. It’s exciting.”
Ollila said the mission of Invent@NMU ties in nicely with Michigan’s overall emphasis on innovation, education, manufacturing and creating opportunities through entrepreneurship.
“It’s fantastic to receive validation from the governor that Invent@NMU is making an impact and striking the right chord,” said Ollila. “The attention also demonstrates that Upper Michigan is a viable part of Michigan's economic chain. Marquette and NMU have become the epicenter for innovation and hardware development."
Griep was selected as the student employee representative for the State of the State address. She will graduate this spring with a mechanical engineering degree. Aided by her Invent@NMU experience, Griep was heavily recruited by four downstate firms and will start her career with Yanfeng-USA Automotive Trim Systems Inc. in Holland.
"It was a huge honor to be selected by the Invent team," Griep said. "The first thing I wanted to do is make them proud, followed closely by representing Northern. It was a little nerve-wracking, but a rewarding experience to have on record."
Griep arranged a tour of the Yanfeng facility for all of the Invent@NMU student employees who accompanied her and Ollila downstate. The delegation also visited another design firm in Holland and the University of Michigan’s entrepreneurial and business incubator programs in Ann Arbor. While in Lansing, the group met with Rep. John Kivela of Marquette, Sen. Tom Casperson of Escanaba and Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education.