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Midland SmartZone soon will be pushing regional economy forward





Local economic development folks expect final approval in May to bring the Midland SmartZone to life--boosting the city's (as well as the Great Lakes Bay Region's) economy with new jobs and a healthy increase in high-tech growth.
With Monday's go-ahead from the Midland City Council, Midland Tomorrow has just one more hurdle to leap before the Midland SmartZone becomes a reality.

Midland City Council approved the SmartZone on Monday, and Midland SmartZone's director, Carol Miller, confidently anticipates state approval by late May. Then, it's a go for the countywide development organization, which has, in collaboration with the MidMichigan Innovation Center and the Michigan Molecular Institute, been pushing forward since the Michigan Economic Development Corporation conditionally approved Midland as a SmartZone in 2013.

Strategic planning efforts and very hard work, says Miller, have already been injected into the endeavor, with support from community members, local technology experts, and the city and state to bring it to the impending approval stage.

She is thrilled with the opportunity to move forward.

"We're really gearing up for a successful implementation that will result in economic growth for Midland and the Great Lakes Bay Region," Miller says. "We're ready to move forward."

Of course, there have been a few queries from the start from area residents and entrepreneurs. Just what is the Midland SmartZone, some have asked the agency that will manage it.

Midland Tomorrow, which will manage the SmartZone, defines it as follows:

"The Midland SmartZone is a certified technology park that facilitates the capture of certain taxes, through tax increment financing, for use by a Local Development Finance Authority to create or promote the development and attraction of high-technology companies to the designated SmartZone."

The captured funds can then be used for economic development programs like incubators, foreign investment activities, support  of existing high-tech companies, property improvements, and marketing the area to attract high-tech businesses.

"I'm very excited about the number of increased high-technology entrepreneurial business opportunities that the Midland SmartZone will make possible," Miller says.

MidMichigan Innovation Center's program director Chris Moultrup is a collaborator with high expectations for the fiscal impact that the SmartZone will have on the health of business in Midland and beyond.

The MidMichigan Innovation Center is a Midland business incubator and accelerator serving more than 50 start-ups, growing businesses, and high-growth companies in the technology sector and other areas of business. Helping entrepreneurs procure talent, funding and other resources through education is the center's focus, but they provide on-site co-working and conference space and in some cases, lab space and lab equipment. Field experts and on-site mentors lend expertise to novices and established businesses alike.  

Among his on-site and virtual clients are Advanced Battery Concepts, Covaron Advanced Materials, and RetroSense Therapeutics, which is a company working toward gene therapy solutions for macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa, both age-related eye disorders.

The Midland SmartZone is a welcome local addition to Moultrup, in his line of work--work helping high technology and other business clients reach successful potentials.

"We've been a satellite partner for the Mt. Pleasant SmartZone for a while," he says. "Midland's SmartZone will be a great step toward sustainability for all of the organizations involved."

"We look forward to continuing our work with Midland Tomorrow and the Michigan Molecular Institute," he says. "The Midland SmartZone will be a great way to bring additional resources to Midland area entrepreneurs."

Kelle Barr is a Portage, Michigan-based freelancer. You can reach her at Kellebarr@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter: @BarrKelle
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