Partnerships Pave the Way for First of Its Kind Tech Entrepreneurship Investment in Lansing Region
EAST LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 28, 2022) — After more than a decade of intentional efforts and partnership to grow tech entrepreneurship in the Lansing region, the Lansing Regional SmartZone (LRSZ), managed by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is looking to accelerate the momentum. The LRSZ, has recently awarded over $265,000 to local organizations to support the growth of the Lansing region’s high-tech economy. Additional funds are expected to be awarded to community organizations in the coming months. The funds will support programs in the Lansing region focused on regional high-growth, high-tech startups and entrepreneurs. This historic funding allocation is the first of its kind by the LRSZ since its establishment in 2005.
“The SmartZone has faced a lot of headwinds in the past, but now we have a real opportunity to make significant investments in our community that have historically not been possible at this magnitude,” said Ben Bakken, chair of the Local Finance Authority Board (LDFA), which oversees the LRSZ.
The LRSZ acts as a convener for all things tech entrepreneurship in the Lansing region to foster investment in and growth of the Lansing region’s high-tech economy. The SmartZone generates support dollars through tax increment financing in the cities of Lansing and East Lansing. The funding has greatly increased due to developments coming online in East Lansing, which allows for significant investment into our community through programming and grants to support local companies and attract new companies to the region.
“The concepts of ‘tech for good’ or ‘tech for all’ are often thrown around with little grounding in what they mean,” said Harrison Leffel-Jones, LRSZ development director. “At the Lansing Regional SmartZone, we are making these concepts a reality by investing in crucial community programs to support entrepreneurs who make our region a more vibrant and equitable place to live and work.”
Funds from the SmartZone cannot be granted directly to companies but can be used to support companies with support services for incorporation, patent protection, marketing plans, website development, office space and much more through the new Local Accelerator Fund alongside other statewide programs offered through the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC). Along with this initial investment, the SmartZone will support tech startups and entrepreneurs with additional funding in the future.
Some of the programs supported in this initial round of funding include:
- Teen Entrepreneurs and Mentors Program: Supporting the Fledge in Lansing and their Youth Entrepreneurship initiative to match youth interested in high-tech and high growth industries with local mentors. The SmartZone is also funding a community-focused youth entrepreneurship summer camp that is a partnership with the Broad College of Business at Michigan State University (MSU).
- Community MIR (Mentor in Residence) Program: An expanded Mentor in Residence program partnering with Spartan Innovations which works to accelerate the growth of regional startups by matching them with qualified mentors to guide their growth journey;
- Conquer Accelerator: Expanding the existing East Lansing Conquer Accelerator program run by Spartan Innovations and supported by Red Cedar Ventures to help provide more opportunities to local companies seeking support with their tech growth journey;
“The Lansing Region has come a long way over the last 16 years in building a network of opportunities for tech companies and talent to locate, expand and excel. This investment from the SmartZone is another example of how years of regional coordination and partnerships focused on building a robust Lansing regional high-tech and entrepreneurial ecosystem are paying off,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP.
Additional programs currently funded by the SmartZone include:
- Supporting growth of the Insurtech ecosystem
- Conquer Accelerator Diversity in Entrepreneurship Intern Program Sponsorship
- Local Business Accelerator Funds
- 99 Problems but a Pitch Aint One Sponsorship
- Support for Tech Company Formations from The Hatching and Technology Innovation Center Incubator Clients in East Lansing
“This funding from the Lansing Regional SmartZone means that we can continue to expand our services to a wider range of community members and build capacity to support more high-tech businesses. Our team has a deep understanding of how technology innovation operates, and we are excited to deploy that further in our own backyard,” said Jeff Wesley, executive director of Spartan Innovations, Red Cedar Ventures and Michigan Rise.
Visit the Lansing Regional SmartZone webpage for additional information on how to get involved in programming as well as apply for grants for your organization.
The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) is a coalition of area leaders partnering to build a stronger community for all — working every day to grow, retain and attract business to the Lansing, Michigan, region.
About the Lansing Regional SmartZone (LRSZ)
The Lansing Regional SmartZone (LRSZ) is a cooperative effort with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) to stimulate the growth of technology-based businesses in the Lansing Region through engagement with K-12 schools, startups, and corporates seeking innovative partnerships. The LRSZ is a partnership between the City of East Lansing, City of Lansing, Ingham County, East Lansing Public Schools, Lansing Public Schools, Lansing Community College, Michigan State University Research Foundation, and Michigan State University.