Northern’s plan to create a one-stop service center for new business ventures is one of 20 university projects selected for the first wave of grants designed to diversify and revitalize the state’s struggling economy.

            The Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, a new consortium of the 15 public universities, launched an effort Wednesday to raise and distribute $75 million over the next seven years. The money will support student internships and entrepreneurial academic programs, speed the commercialization of university research and promote a culture of “entrepreneurial risk-taking.” The goal is to create 200 start-up companies over the next decade.

            Of the first $1.3 million awarded this week through initial funding from the C.S. Mott Foundation, NMU received $65,000 to establish a Business and Industry Center. It will be located in the Jacobetti Center to take advantage of available space and manufacturing-type equipment. Student interns will assist new business ventures with financial and marketing plans, Web site creation, e-commerce and information technology software. They will also provide design and prototype development services.

            NMU will complete the package by tapping into the expertise and resources of two local entities: Northern Initiatives and the Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP).

            “Northern Initiatives is a non-profit community development corporation located in the University Center that provides small-business consulting services such as market research and financial planning in addition to loans,” said Raj Sanyal, dean of the College of Business and principal investigator for the grant. “The LSCP is similar to a regional chamber of commerce that has cultivated valuable contacts for economic development. Both of their contributions will be essential to the success of this center and both are committed to working with the university on this project.

            “The grant will help to create a business incubator for contestants in the college’s new business venture competition, which is the primary reason I’m involved. The students have innovative ideas, but can’t easily translate them into a real business because they don’t have the money to rent space or purchase equipment and services. We would like to provide them with essential support services to establish their businesses to the point they are ready to move out on their own.”

            Fred Joyal, special assistant to the president for regional economic development, wrote the successful grant proposal.

            “This project demonstrates that Northern is making a serious contribution to the economic recovery of the state and the region,” Joyal said. “And the consortium’s effort on a wider scale reinforces the importance of strengthening the connection between academia and industry. Universities will play a key role in creating diversified, knowledge-based businesses that will enhance Michigan’s economy.”

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director