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MEDC | Gov. Whitmer Announces $8.8 Million to Support Diverse Small Businesses

Michigan Business Network
May 24, 2024 6:00 PM

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LANSING, Mich. – Thursday, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced the winners of eight Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grants (IESG). The IESG program breaks down barriers for disadvantaged small businesses, entrepreneurs, and innovators in communities of color, helping them create jobs, grow Michigan’s economy, and achieve their dreams.

“The Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant program is part of our work to support every Michigan entrepreneur and innovator as they chase their next big idea in Michigan,” said Governor Gretchen Whitmer. “Together, these grants will help us unleash Michigan ingenuity, grow our economy, and build the future of sustainability, affordable housing, health sciences, and clean energy. Let’s keep working together to ensure Michigan is the best place to start a business and innovate.”

“To build a strong economy, we need to make sure that every Michigander can be part of our state’s economic momentum,” said Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II. “Our Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant program will support diverse entrepreneurs and innovators as they solve problems and make a difference for Michigan communities. Team Michigan is making it clear that here in Michigan, we welcome people of all backgrounds to launch their ideas and build their futures in our great state.”

IESG is a $10 million program to support small business development initiatives across the state. MEDC received more than 620 applications totaling $580 million in funding requested. Applications addressed key economic development issues facing Michigan, including clean energy, infrastructure, post-secondary education attainment, talent attraction and retention, healthcare innovation, childcare, and urban and rural future mobility. With $500,000 deployed to both the Lansing Economic Area Partnership and the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance and $200,000 retained for administration of the program, $8.8 million in funding will be deployed to the eight awardees.

“The Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant recipients will drive impact in some of the state’s key strategic priorities, from clean energy to affordable housing,” said MEDC CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr. “This was a very highly competitive application process, and we are proud to support the growth of these eight grantees. Still, work remains to provide future opportunities to Michiganders and businesses, and Team Michigan remains steadfast in its commitment to ensuring anyone can ‘Make It in Michigan.”

“For too long, voices from disadvantaged and marginalized communities have been ignored in the budget process,” said State Senator Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing). “As Appropriations Chair, one of my primary goals has been to ensure the ideals of equity and inclusion are woven throughout our state budget. I was proud to secure $10 million in last year's budget for the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grants through the MEDC. By enhancing access to financial assistance for small business owners of all backgrounds — in every corner of our state — we can foster transformational growth and opportunity within communities across Michigan.”

Learn more about the eight awardees of the IESG program:

Dunamis Charge, $2.5 million

Founded and headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, Dunamis Charge is a leading developer of EV charging, specializing in providing innovative charging solutions that cater to the growing needs of EV users and contribute to a sustainable and eco-friendly future. Its mission is to make EV charging accessible, reliable, and efficient for all communities.

Funds from the IESG program will be utilized to expand its operations and enhance its product offerings in five key areas: EV infrastructure development, technological innovation, community outreach and education, workforce development and training, and vendor support for Michigan-based minority and women-owned businesses.

From investing in the development and deployment of additional EV charging stations in underserved and economically disadvantaged areas to launching comprehensive outreach programs to educate communities about the benefits of EVs and the importance of sustainable transportation, Dunamis Charge will be able to make a difference through the support of the MEDC.

“Dunamis Charge is grateful for the support from the State of Michigan and is committed to using the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant to drive meaningful change in the EV industry and beyond,” said Natalie King, president and CEO of Dunamis Charge. “This funding will enable us to accelerate our mission of creating a cleaner, more sustainable future for all communities.”

CircNova, $1 million

CircNova is a high-growth biotech startup in Detroit leveraging AI-driven drug discovery to produce non-coding circular RNA contributing significantly to the field of RNA therapeutic development by advancing programmable medicine targeting previously undruggable diseases and medical needs.

“Awarded funds support the launch of CircNova’s laboratory including research director and lab technical staff. This award also enables the hiring of our full-time software developer, responsible for the design and build of our industry groundbreaking NovaEngine,” said Crystal Brown, owner and CEO of CircNova.

“I’m thrilled about the investments from the IES grants through the MEDC. The funding for both Union Heritage and for CircNova Inc. in my district allows these two companies to continue to grow and scale up,” said State Representative Tyrone Carter (D-Detroit). “Entrepreneurship and small businesses are vital to economic vitality and opportunity. With the IES funding coming back to my House district, we have two businesses that will continue to thrive.”

The Mackinac Technology Company, $1 million

The Mackinac Technology Company, based in Kentwood, develops technologies into useful products for residential, commercial, and government buildings, consumer electronics, and mobility applications to improve the health, comfort, and safety of people’s everyday lives.

The company has performed over $15 million of federally funded research to develop an ultra-lightweight and clear window cover that can reduce the electricity used in an average house each year by about the same amount as is needed to operate that family's electric vehicle. They will use IESG funds to transition out of the laboratory and into the real world of manufacturing and selling products.

“We are grateful to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation for their support during this critical time in our company's growth cycle, and we look forward to creating high quality jobs in our home state of Michigan," said President John Slagter. 

"I'm thrilled to see that an innovative small business in my district has been selected for an Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation," said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). "Here in Michigan, we are committed to propelling small businesses and our local economies forward, and by working to dismantle barriers to entrepreneurship, we are doing just that."

“It is my distinct pleasure to recognize The Mackinac Technology Company for the innovative work they have been doing here in West Michigan since 2007,” said State Senator Mark Huizenga (R-Walker). “They have developed cutting edge energy saving technologies and have become a staple in the manufacturing industry in our community. I wish them nothing but continued success.”

“I am thrilled we are investing in innovative businesses here in Kentwood,” said State Representative Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids). “The Mackinac Technology Company is a pioneer in sustainable building solutions. Supporting cutting-edge technology and manufacturing will help position our community as a center for green innovation and energy efficiency. This seed-money will blossom into continued economic prosperity in Kent County.”

NX Fuels Inc, $1 million

NX Fuels Inc, established in 2019 in Ann Arbor, is a climate tech startup making the SunH2™ system. This system produces green hydrogen (H₂) from water or seawater using renewable solar energy. In addition to H₂, this platform technology produces green fuels from carbon dioxide (CO₂) and water, all powered by renewable solar. NX Fuels’ vision is to accelerate the transition to a Net-Zero economy by decarbonizing existing processes with its solar fuel systems and supplying various green products such as green hydrogen, methanol, syngas, methane, ammonia, and other C₂+ compounds.

Its IESG award will be used to hire additional support staff, including a safety/system engineer, an application engineer, and a test engineer to design and build a H2 separation subsystem in compliance with the safety standards required for a comprehensive demonstration of the overall solar H2 system.

"Aligned with Michigan's vision for economic competitiveness and inclusive entrepreneurship, we're grateful and thrilled to receive this Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant from MEDC,” said Saemin Choi, CEO of NX Fuels Inc. “This funding enables us to expand operations, drive job creation, nurture talent, and contribute to our community's economic development in clean energy."

“NX Fuels' cutting-edge climate technology exemplifies Michigan's commitment to advancing renewable energy solutions,” said State Representative Jason Morgan (D-Ann Arbor). “This $1 million investment will help Ann Arbor drive positive environmental impacts statewide. Congratulations to NX Fuels, Inc, on this well-deserved recognition for their dedication to accelerating the transition to a Net-Zero economy."

Optimum Modular, LLC dba Ginosko Modular, $1 million

Based in Romulus, Ginosko Modular produces modules, or “livable-sized Lego blocks,” in its factory. The company then delivers, stacks, and connects those blocks to create all types of affordable housing, from apartment buildings to single family homes, primarily for low- to moderate-income families. Ginosko Modular’s more efficient process has been shown to result in a higher-quality building, delivered in a shorter time frame, with more predictable costs and fewer environmental impacts.

With the IESG award, the company will finish the build out of the main office area, the materials office, and display area within the factory.

“I am so grateful for MEDC’s IESG award,” said Amin Irving, founder of Ginosko Modular. “This initiative has shown me that MEDC is sensitive to the damage that hyper aggressive scrutiny has on socially and economically disadvantaged business owners.  These IESG funds will allow us to purchase the much-needed equipment to increase operational efficiencies, enhance safety, minimize employee turnover, and complete the factory buildout that will help tackle the affordable housing crisis head on in a more efficient way.”

"Given the ongoing housing crisis in Michigan, it's crucial that we support innovative small businesses that are working to lower production costs for residential housing,” said State Senator Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton). “Modular homes have great promise, and this support will help Ginosko create good-paying jobs while scaling their business on an accelerated timeline."

Unified Business Technologies, $1 million

Based in Troy, Unified Business Technologies (UBT) is a woman- and minority-owned enterprise with a silver veteran status, meaning 25% of its workforce are veterans. The company aims to drive substantial progress in sustainable technology and advanced manufacturing, ensuring a greener and more technologically advanced future. This mission is supported by a strong foundation in electronic manufacturing and IT services, enabling the company to deliver products that meet the highest standards of quality, efficiency, and innovation.

With the IESG funds, UBT seeks to further its mission of pioneering sustainable and innovative technological solutions while providing training, mentoring and opportunities for underserved minorities.

“With support from the MEDC, we aim to expand our operations, enhance our product offerings, and continue to make significant contributions to Michigan's economic prosperity and technology,” said Robert Pastrorelli, COO of UBT.

“The Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grants through the MEDC has made positive investments to break down barriers for small businesses,” said State Senator Michael Webber (R-Rochester Hills). “I am proud that Unified Business Technologies in Troy is a beneficiary of this grant program.”

SBE Medical, Inc., $800,000

SBE Medical, Inc. is a Veteran-owned medical device design and manufacturing company based in Grand Rapids, co-owned by Dan Byers and Nick Borgdorff. In collaboration with Spectrum Health Innovations (now Corewell Health) and the Spartan Innovations accelerator, SBE Medical has developed the Tibbe EUD, an innovative External Urine Collection Device designed as a safer alternative to traditional internal catheters.

SBE Medical is poised to use its IESG funds to enhance its production capabilities, make critical infrastructure improvements and support key functions such as engineering, regulatory compliance, marketing, and administration.

“This grant is pivotal in accelerating the Tibbe EUD’s journey to the market, ensuring rapid availability of this essential device to healthcare providers and, ultimately, to patients,” said Dan Byers, president of SBE Medical.

Union Heritage, $500,000

As a majority African American- and woman-owned firm based in Detroit, Union Heritage is a Michigan-first early-stage investor that understands the importance of providing culturally competent support and resources that extend beyond traditional investment capital. Union Heritage’s goal is to build Michigan into an inclusive entrepreneurial environment where founders feel and are supported in building their businesses.

The IESG award provides Union Heritage with essential resources to make it easier to fund and support startups in Michigan. This funding will allow its team to hire additional investment professionals and expand its entrepreneur support services. By hiring additional investment professionals, Union Heritage will be able to more quickly diligence companies, making deployment of capital more efficient. Additionally, its expanded support services will help founders achieve higher operating performance that allows them to grow faster and become more successful businesses. Ultimately, by helping founders succeed, Union Heritage can help Michigan succeed.

“This award is critical to helping Union Heritage grow its team and support founders in Michigan,” said Derek Batts, managing partner and Chief Investment Officer. “With funding, Union Heritage will help founders and their companies create a multiplier effect that will ultimately benefit Michigan via job creation and overall economic development of the startup ecosystem.”

"As the State Senator representing Senate District 1, I am thrilled for my community with the announcement of two grant recipients thanks to the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Support Grant through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,” said State Senator Erika Geiss (D-Taylor). “Congratulations to Union Heritage with a $500,000 award, and CircNova with a $1,000,000 award. The IES Grants will remove barriers for these small businesses allowing them to make a difference in our district. I applaud MEDC for recognizing the important work of both entities and I look forward to the positive impacts they will have on our community."

About Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC)
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation is the state’s marketing arm and lead advocate for business development, job awareness, and community development with the focus on growing Michigan’s economy. For more information on the MEDC and our initiatives, visit www.MichiganBusiness.org. For Pure Michigan® tourism information, your trip begins at www.michigan.org. Join the conversation on: Facebook Instagram LinkedIn, and Twitter.

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