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Michigan Tech Project Seeks To Build More UP Businesses

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An aerial view of the Michigan Technological University campus in Houghton. (Michigan Tech photo.)

An aerial view of the Michigan Technological University campus in Houghton. (Michigan Tech photo.)

(credit: istock) Technology Report
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HOUGHTON (WWJ) – Michigan Technological University is participating in the state’s University Center for Regional Economic Innovation, with a project designed to inform entrepreneurs of opportunities in the Upper Peninsula while identifying gaps in resources and possible ways to bridge those gaps.

Jim Baker, executive director of Innovation and Industry Engagement at Michigan Tech, will present the project at this week’s Innovate Michigan Summit in East Lansing on Wednesday, Sept. 4.

The project was selected for funding in a statewide competition. Working with Baker is Matt Matteson, a graduate student at Michigan Tech. Matteson studied mineral industry economics, earning a Bachelor of Science in Geological Engineering at Tech. He is now working toward a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering.

There is no predicting where or how opportunities arise, Matteson said. He was working as a vacation Bible School volunteer at St. Peter & Paul Lutheran Church when he ran into Jonathan Leinonen, an adjunct faculty member at Tech’s School of Business and Economics and program director of the Michigan Tech Enterprise Corporation SmartZone, a high-tech business incubator in Houghton.

Leinonen mentioned that he and Baker were looking for a student who could take on a four-week research project on business resources and prepare a well-written and presentation-ready report. Matteson, in a break between graduation and the start of his graduate studies, said: “I can do that.”

He jumped into the project, and four weeks later produced a report that maps the resources companies need at various stages including idea discovery, start-up, financing, initial market entry, growth, and sustainability. Resources categorized under the effort include; funding sources; help available, including the SmartZone, the Small Business & Technology Development Center, the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance, the Economic Development Administration planning districts and private consultants; space, training and networking opportunities; and business plan competitions.

Matteson’s work served a double purpose. Not only was the report selected for presentation at the Innovate Michigan Summit, he says some friends were kidding around about starting a business.

“I don’t know if they were serious, or if it was a joke, but if it’s serious, it’s good to know about some of these resources,” he said.

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