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New Defense, Tech Biz Incubator Opens In Sterling Heights

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The Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

The Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Center in Sterling Heights.

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STERLING HEIGHTS — A new business incubator in Sterling Heights is ready for tech-based startups to move in.

The Macomb-OU INCubator at Velocity Center, 6633 18 Mile Road, is particularly targeting defense-related businesses, given its location in the Macomb County “defense corridor” up and down Van Dyke and Mound roads in Warren and Sterling Heights.

But Julie M. Gustafson, the new executive director of the incubator, said businesses in software, advanced manufacturing, robotics and renewable energy are also being sought — and several of them have already moved in.

Rents at the center start at $185 a month for an office cubicle, and range up to $1,300 a month for a 1,500-square-foot space. But most are in the $500-plus to $800 a month range for spaces of 550 to 900 square feet. All rents include common-area amenities like conference rooms, Internet access, mail service, access to copiers and phone lines, and desktop support.

More importantly, because the incubator is affiliated with Oakland University, rents also include access to Oakland U professors and labs, as well as access to student interns.

The building is a former Ford-UAW preschool that was donated to Macomb County in 2010. Construction work to transform the building into a business incubator took about a year, and the building formally opened as an incubator last fall.

The building is also home to the Michigan Center for Defense, which has moved its operations here from Lansing. And the Sterling Heights economic development office, the Macomb County economic development and planning office, and the Michigan Small Business and Technology Development Centers also have staffed offices at the incubator to help tenants with their business.

Current tenants include a company whose product is a hydrogen kit that is capable of boosting efficency for 18-wheelers, a military vehicle software developer, a paint additive developer and a wind energy developer.

Also onsite is a full-time caterer, Kosch Catering, and a couple of beautiful meeting spaces — a 1,211-square-foot “Innovation Lab” conference room that holds 35, and a 2,931-square-foot “Collaboration Center” public meeting hall that holds up to 140.

The incubator also provides its clients — whether they’re physical tenants or not — a wide variety of business support services. Included are volunteer business advisory board members who are experts in various industries, access to capital, and a variety of training events and courses.

Gustafson is a veteran of business incubator management who moved to Michigan from New England to take the helm at Velocity. Previously, she provided strategic consultation, with a focus on sustainability, to a business growth center and incubator on the 128 Corridor near Boston. For 13 years prior to that, Gustafson was the founding director and CEO of the award-winning Amoskeag Business Incubator, now known as the ABI Innovation Hub, the longest running business incubator in the state of New Hampshire.

Prior to that, Gustafson was a partner in a residential and light-commercial construction company, a senior accountant for the state’s largest mental health center, and spent several years in retail management.

She earned a B.A. in economics from the University of New Hampshire and an M.B.A. from Southern New Hampshire University.

Gustafson, assistant director Larry Herrimann, marketing manager Joan Carleton, grant compliance officer Rachel Louzon, capital investment advisor Mike Brennan, commercialization officer Wayne Blizman and office administrator Karen Pikunas, along with student interns Mike Belanger and Luke Cloutier, are all employees of Oakland University, which is ultimately responsible for the incubator’s operations.

More at www.velocitymacomb.net.

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