Automation Alley, Michigan’s largest technology business association, announced today that the organization has received a grant from the New Economy Initiative for Southeast Michigan to partner with Wayne State University and Walsh College to bring the University of Miami’s successful Blackstone LaunchPad program to Southeast Michigan. 

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation provided a $2 million grant to bring the LaunchPad to the campuses of Wayne State and Walsh.

The program originated at the University of Miami in 2008. In the program’s first two years, Miami’s LaunchPad attracted more than 1,000 students and alumni, who received support that assisted in the creation of 45 new businesses and more than 100 new jobs.

The program is a free career choice program operated from college and university placement offices that serves both beginning and experienced entrepreneurs, assisting with opportunity recognition, feasibility assessment and strategy for starting and growing companies or non-profits. 

The Blackstone LaunchPad programs at Wayne State University and Walsh College are co-curricular and voluntary by design. Pragmatic, concrete and experiential, they provide the just-in-time knowledge entrepreneurs need to assess and develop their ideas and plans for a new enterprise. The Blackstone LaunchPad offers guidance, encouragement and, through Automation Alley, immediate access to a regional commercial network, bring entrepreneurs into the local business community as early as possible. Finally, the Blackstone LaunchPad fulfills a key education obligation: to teach learners not just how to find a job but also how to make a job. Automation Alley is working alongside both educational institutions to successfully implement the Blackstone LaunchPad program to their students.

“The LaunchPad program will be a tremendous asset for Southeast Michigan, its students and entrepreneurs,” said Automation Alley Executive Director Ken Rogers. “As Southeast Michigan continues on its path to prosperity, it’s imperative that we work collectively to create and implement programming that sustains and produces jobs in the region.”

In addition, Automation Alley has hired Mark Clevey to serve as the Blackstone LaunchPad Program Manager. His primary responsibilities include providing central coordination services, offering counseling and support to Walsh College and Wayne State University, developing a venture coaching and business support-service system and creating/fostering meaningful opportunities for both students and coaches. 

Clevey has 30 years experience in both private and public sector work, principally in the entrepreneurship area and most recently as Director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Commercialization at Saginaw Valley State University. Mark also has been an Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at both Saginaw Valley State University and Central Michigan University in their highly regarded entrepreneurship programs. He is also the primary author of the  Annual Michigan Entrepreneurship Score Card. 

For additional information on the LaunchPad program, contact the Resource Center at (800) 427-5100 or                      

(c) 2010, WWJ Newsradio 950. All rights reserved.


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