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Friday, 02 March 2012 16:44

Right Place, GVSU outline visions for GR SmartZone

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GRAND RAPIDS — The Right Place Inc. and Grand Valley State University each envision bringing more partners into the Grand Rapids SmartZone’s operations to better spur new business and job creation, according to responses each submitted to the Local Development Finance Authority’s request for qualifications.

The two were the only organizations responding to the authority’s RFQ by the Feb. 27 deadline. The authority will begin reviewing the RFQs when it next meets on March 16.

The Right Place and GVSU, both of which are partners in the SmartZone and the LDFA, each cited their involvement in supporting startup businesses and entrepreneurs.

“Our vision for the success of the SmartZone involves new private investment, job creation and business ventures that advance life science research and the commercialization of intellectual property,” Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs wrote in a cover letter accompanying the economic development organization’s response.

Klohs said the RFQ response seeks to leverage existing capabilities of Right Place and other organizations in the area. The Right Place envisions enlisting GSVU in its potential administration of the SmartZone, as well as creating new roles for Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine and The Charter Group in Grand Rapids, which operates the venture capital fund Michigan Accelerator Fund I.

On MSU, “The Right Place envisions a more robust relationship with the college involving cell and molecular biology research and clinical laboratory science application for new business start-ups and incubation. The recently announced acquisition of the Grand Rapids Press properties by MSU represents an incredible opportunity that will significantly influence the value of research and development of new business opportunities within the SmartZone,” states the organization’s response.

The Right Place would also form a partnership with The Charter Group’s venture fund to provide capital for startup companies at the SmartZone’s business incubator. GVSU would support the SmartZone through its Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation (CEI) and the Michigan Small Business Development and Technology Center (MI-SBDTC) and by continuing to house the business incubator in the Cook-Devos Center for Health Sciences, according to the RFQ response from The Right Place.

“Economic development is a team sport,” she told MiBiz. “I’m a passionate believer in collaboration and making it work, and a disbeliever is duplication.”

Klohs, also the chair of the LDFA, said she plans to recuse herself from LDFA discussion on the RFQs to avoid any conflicts of interest.

In its RFQ response, GVSU pitched the CEI as the manager for the SmartZone, citing the organization’s work to foster an “entrepreneurial eco-system” in Grand Rapids.

“An entrepreneurial eco-system that systematically develops a balanced environment of components will successfully generate more and stronger new enterprises. As part of the Grand Rapids SmartZone, GVSU/CEI will work to assure that the ecosystem components are strong and in balance so that Grand Rapids has a vibrant entrepreneur economy,” states GVSU’s RFQ response.

GVSU would back the CEI’s management of the SmartZone with the Seidman College of Business and the Padnos College of Engineering & Computing, plus other university services and programs. They include the West Michigan Science & Technology Initiative, the MI-SBDTC, a technology transfer office and the Padnos College’s Design, Optimization, Evaluation and Redesign Center prototyping and design lab.

The CEI is already doing much of what the LDFA wants and brings “a lot to the table,” said Executive Director Kevin McCurren.

“It sort of makes a natural fit for us in working with the city and working with the ecosystem that we have,” McCurren said. “It’s built into our DNA. We’re already there.”

GVSU also has experience in running a business incubator through WMSTI and the Michigan Alternative & Renewable Energy Center in Muskegon, McCurren said.

Read more: Grand Rapids SmartZone may get new administrator

Read 1861 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 August 2012 11:59

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