Marquette wants to start high-tech business SmartZone

Marquette is interested in starting a state-sanctioned SmartZone to attract high-tech investment and jobs. City officials, and representatives from the MTEC SmartZone in Houghton, spoke this afternoon about setting up a satellite SmartZone in Marquette. ABC 10 senior reporter Mike Hoey was there.

SmartZones are incubators for technology-based businesses. Marquette city officials began to think last year that the city would the perfect home for a SmartZone.

“When (Michigan Tech) and Houghton/Hancock were celebrating their 10th anniversary of their SmartZone, we went up to the celebration and got a tour of the SmartZone and came down to Marquette and looked at ‘well, how can we do that down here?’,” Marquette mayor Bob Niemi said.

The state is allowing existing SmartZones to sponsor the creation of new, satellite SmartZones.

“The SmartZone is a really great way to help your young folks who have a lot of energy start a company and still live and work in the area, but more importantly, create jobs for other young people that we want to keep and stay in the U.P.,” MTEC SmartZone CEO Marilyn Clark said.

A SmartZone has to operate under the governance of a Local Development Finance Authority. Marquette has had such an agency since the late 1980s. The Local Development Finance Authority currently covers the city’s River Park area. MTI Surgical is located in the area, but much of the land is occupied by the Kaufman Sports Complex. A proposed expansion would allow the authority to include the entire city.
The Marquette satellite SmartZone could be created within the next few months.

“We’re hoping to see it a little later in the summer,” Niemi said. “By the end of June, we can approve our Local Development Finance Authority. The state can then approve (that). There has been an application submitted by the Houghton/Hancock Local Development Finance Authority, and the state will have to approve that, but once we get ours developed, they’ll be able to do that.”

“Hopefully, what we can do between our SmartZone in the Keweenaw and in Marquette is to create that synergy as well and make the U.P. a vibrant and a high-tech place,” Clark said.

There will be three additional community meetings in June about the Marquette SmartZone. All three will be held in the Marquette Commons area at the following dates and times:

Monday, June 2nd at 5:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 10th at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, June 23rd at 5:30 p.m.