Innovate Marquette SmartZone chosen to participate in 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative

MARQUETTE — The Innovate Marquette SmartZone was recently chosen to participate in a program to provide technical assistance to rural communities working to create digital economy jobs.

The 2020 Rural Innovation Initiative will provide the Innovate Marquette SmartZone with assistance in applying for a federal i6 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, worth up to $1.5 million. The initiative is a cooperative program between the EDA and Rural Innovation Strategies, Inc.

SmartZone Program Manager Rachel Barra says that if they do receive an EDA grant, the money could go on to promote entrepreneurship education, youth outreach programs, and other initiatives in Marquette and across the Upper Peninsula.

“This is an awesome opportunity for our community,” said Barra. “There were over 110 applicants and we were selected to be in the top 10. If we were to receive an i6 grant, we would be able to offer more entrepreneurial education programming that is on specified topics. So we might be able to offer an accelerator or a boot camp where, instead of one–off helping an entrepreneur, we’d be able to get a group of them together at one place and at one time to receive ongoing assistance and help them walk through the process of starting and growing their business and preparing it for launch.”

This technical support will also enable the Innovate Marquette SmartZone to connect with other communities across the United States who are participating in the Rural Innovation Initiative. These communities will be able to share ideas and learn from one another in order to develop stronger ecosystems for local entrepreneurs.