Marquette takes another step toward creating SmartZone

Marquette takes another step toward creating SmartZone

Marquette residents began to think about a year ago that the city would be a good location for a SmartZone to attract high-tech investment and jobs.

“It’s just setting up a program so that, as entrepreneurs have ideas, they have a resource to come to as to how to get those ideas to the next step,” Marquette Local Development Finance Authority chair Fred Taccolini said. “There’s business training, marketing training, patent education, and that’s what we’re setting up.”

The state is allowing existing SmartZones to sponsor the creation of new SmartZone satellites. Marquette wants to serve as a satellite of the MTEC SmartZone that involves Houghton, Hancock and Michigan Tech.

A SmartZone has to operate under the governance of a Local Development Finance Authority. Marquette’s authority approved a draft Wednesday afternoon of a joint agreement with Houghton and Hancock, and a draft of a SmartZone Development and Tax Increment Financing plan.

The Local Development Finance Authority originally covered only the city’s River Park area. Much of the area is covered by the soccer and softball fields of the Kaufman Sports Complex, but in late June, the City Commission expanded the LDFA boundaries to include the entire city.

“And that was important for us to even go through the process, because if we just used the existing LDFA boundary district for the (Tax Increment Financing plan), it wouldn’t work,” City of Marquette chief financial officer Gary Simpson said.

RTI Surgical is within the original boundaries, and Taccolini used to work there. He says it would be great to have other high–tech ventures join it in Marquette.

He asked, “We have so many talented people in the Marquette community; how can we keep them here? They’re coming up with great ideas, and I think the partnership with Houghton and Hancock will facilitate that also.”

The drafts have to go to a Detroit–based law firm for review. The LDFA board’s next regular meeting isn’t until October 20th, but it’ll probably hold a special meeting in the next few weeks once the drafts come back from the attorneys.