U.S. Economic Development Admin. Awards $2M in Grants To Support Tech Startups in MI

Governor Gretchen Whitmer, along with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, has announced that three SmartZones in Michigan have been awarded more than $2 million in grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support programs that “fuel innovation and tech-based economic development.”

“In Michigan, we are laser-focused on supporting small businesses and providing critical access to capital to support growth and ensure long-term economic opportunity in the state,” said Gov. Whitmer. “Today’s grants will leverage private funds to create good-paying jobs and grow emerging businesses around the state, helping us usher in a new era of prosperity for Michigan.”

The grants were awarded to Automation Alley’s Michigan Industry 4.0 Accelerator ($1.3 million), Innovation Marquette Enterprise Corporation ($305,465) and TechTown Detroit ($400,000).

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo announced the “Build to Scale” grantees Thursday. The “Build to Scale” program is administered annually by the U.S. Economic Development Administration and aims to accelerate technology entrepreneurship by increasing access to business support and startup capital.

“EDA is proud to support this year’s ‘Build to Scale’ grantees as they fuel regional innovation hubs throughout the country,” stated Castillo. “Investing in scalable startups and creating access to capital will yield more economic opportunities and support the next generation of industry-leading companies. This is the type of vital work that President Biden’s build back better agenda promises to continue to support.” 

According to Susan Corbin, Director of the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, “Michigan is excited to work with the U.S. Economic Development Association to take advantage of these tremendous grant opportunities that will allow our communities to build back better. These grants will allow us to focus on equity and grow local programs and services that not only help communities recover from the hardships brought on by the pandemic, but also prepare them to be resilient against future economic shock.”

The grants were awarded in two categories: The Venture Capital Fund and the Capital Challenge.

The Venture Capital Fund looks to leverage regional strengths to accelerate innovation and job creation through high-growth technology entrepreneurship and fostering inclusive access to proven entrepreneurship models. The Capital Challenge increases access to capital in communities where risk capital is in short supply by providing operational support for early-stage investment funds, angel capital networks, or investor training programs that focus on both traditional and hybrid equity-based models.

Automation Alley received a Venture Capital grant. They plan on using the grant to expand their Michigan Industry 4.0 (MI4.0) Accelerator, powered by Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University and Lean Rocket Lab in Jackson. The MI4.0 aims to attract best-in-class advanced manufacturing technology companies from around the world and find pathways for these firms to provide a meaningful impact to our domestic value chain, using Michigan’s existing manufacturing based as a gateway catalyst.

TechTown Detroit received a Capital Challenge grant, which they will use in partnership with Angel Capital Association, VentureWell and Ann Arbor SPARK, to recruit and train 200 high-net-worth Michiganders who are underrepresented in the angel investor community and activate their potential as investors. TechTown’s goal is to support 50 projects totaling $34.7 million in early-stage capital.

Innovate Marquette also received a Capital Challenge grant, which will be matched with $306,446 in local funds. They plan to use the resources for the Make It Marquette Start to Scale (Marquette STS) project, which will leverage educational, economic development and capital investor partnerships. With project partners, Marquette STS will educate local angel investors about scalable tech investment opportunities and connect to state, regional and national venture capital networks.

The project is also designed to be 100% sustainable after the proposed three-year project timeline.

To view the full list of recipients of the “Build to Scale” program, click here.

To learn more about the U.S. Economic Development Administration, click here.