Tag Archives: East Lansing

Hatching Incubation in Mid-Michigan

Editor’s note: This piece comes from Michigan correspondent Ivy Hughes. -KG

Mid-Michigan doesn’t need economic indicators to validate the recent surge of entrepreneurial activity. In less than two years, four incubators have popped up giving business, technology, science and creative startups an opportunity to make money doing what they love.

Incubator is a loose term generally used to describe the capture of new talent, economic programs and business support in a physical structure. The greater Lansing area has four: The TIC, the Hatch, ITEC and the NEO Center. Between the four, approximately 45-60 jobs have been created.

Launched in 2008, East Lansing’s Technology Innovation Center (TIC) was the area’s first large scale incubation project. Leveraging an incentive allowing cities to capture local taxes for economic development projects, the City of East Lansing opened the TIC in the heart of the downtown business district across the street from Michigan State University (MSU).

“There’s not a lot of professional office space in the downtown area and we knew the university turned out a lot of intellection property within the area and we wanted them to have a space where they could test out their ideas,” said Jeff Smith, the City of East Lansing’s project manager of new economic initiatives.

The TIC (pictured above) is a 6,500 square foot loft-like space that can accommodate 16 offices an several smaller workstations. Tenants have access to common areas, conference rooms, a kitchen area and internet and phone services. TIC business owners love the low rent (the TIC charges an annual fee of $19.50 a square foot), and flexible lease schedules, but they also benefit from interacting with other entrepreneurs. It isn’t uncommon for TIC businesses to work together, exchange services or refer each other’s services to potential clients.

Of the 20 original TIC companies, 13 remain. Some of them closed and some moved back into home office space but two of them — Enliven Software and Gravity Works — outgrew the TIC, moving their businesses to larger spaces within the community.

“My guess is that between half and three quarters of the businesses will expand into additional space and the remaining portion will probably pull back on the reigns and work from home or existing office,” Smith said about future tenants.

By the beginning of 2011, the HATCH, a new 2,100 square foot student-based incubator, will open right next to the TIC, providing affordable space to undergraduate and graduate students that need a space to flush out business ideas.

The Hatch has room for 25 students that will $75 to $100 a month to use workstations and TIC conference rooms. They’ll also have Internet, a mailing address and, more importantly, access to professionals who will mentor the students and provide them with valuable services. MSU is using the Hatch as a portal for MSU ENet, an entrepreneurship certificate program designed to connect area entrepreneurs to university talent.

While the TIC tends to attract technology-based businesses, the Lansing-based NEO Center seeks to help creatives, those interested in starting marketing media, media technology and art-based businesses. The NEO Center is in its infancy. It’s located behind Art Alley, an new art gallery that could be a portal for NEO Center artists.

The actual center isn’t quite ready for tenants. When it is, it will include six to 10 studios and several workspaces for 25 to 30 “hobby artists,” individuals that don’t need a studio, but want access to equipment and a creative community. Before that happens, NEO Center founders need to raise $50,000 to $60,000 to build out the studio space, a goal NEO Center President Thomas Stewart hopes to achieve in six-to-nine months.

“The idea, in part, is to build accessibility and space for artists so they can showcase their art,” Stewart said. “The more opportunity artists have in Lansing to showcase their art, the more diverse our culture becomes.”

Funding is always a challenge for start-ups fostering start-ups. Not only do these incubators need funding, they need tenants, which means keeping rents low. Despite the tax capture, the City of East Lansing had to used a bond to help fund the TIC. All in, the TIC cost about $400,000 to launch.

“I would recommend having a virtual tenant program as well,” Smith said. “It’s added revenue for the program without necessarily losing space to standard tenants. Virtual tenants pay a flat monthly fee for a mailing address, access to the conference rooms and other things not traditionally found in an office space.”

From a fiscal standpoint the community warmed to the Hatch more quickly than the TIC, partially because the TIC’s success assuaged some concern among investing and partially because the Hatch is directly linked to MSU. The university offered $90,000 for the build out and an area economic development group, LEAP, contributed $12,000.

“There’s a couple of reasons for added investment,” said Eric Jorgenson, an MSU senior, member of the Hatch team and owner of GoBoo Clothing. “There’s an element of youth to it and there’s a lot of potential in student entrepreneurs. It’s not more innovation, but a different kind of innovation that comes out of people who are 18 to 23-years old.”

The NEO Center approached funding differently, leveraging aspects of the non-profit and for profit world by filing as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C). Designed to encourage socially beneficial enterprises, L3Cs generate moderate revenue but can receive grant funding from non-profits.

Incubators need funding to get off the ground and flexibility to survive. The City of Lansing listened to entrepreneurs and tweaked the proposed 9 to 5 operating hours for the TIC and the Hatch, opting to give tenants 24-hour access to the building. The city also changed its leaves requirements. Initially TIC, tenants were required to sign a year lease with the understanding that after three years, they would move into another space. Now tenants can lease space beyond the initial three-year threshold. Smith said the new agreement is more accommodating to TIC tenants and will hopefully help the businesses stay in the area.

Smith suggests that other cities interested in creating incubators include a provision in the lease to protect against broken commitments. Before the TIC opened, the anchor tenant backed out, sticking the city with a substantial lease agreement. If the lease had required the potential tenant to pay a year’s rent upon signing, the city wouldn’t have had to scramble for a new anchor.

Despite the challenge, the city opened the TIC and soon signed a more fitting anchor tenant — MSU Technologies.

“It turned out well,” Smith said. “The worst absolute fiasco turned out to be the best absolute fiasco for everything.”

Mid-Michigan’s incubator culture is expanding. The City of East Lansing is working on creating a restaurant incubator and several entities are trying to launch wet labs.

The existing incubators are for college students and professionals but the region certainly isn’t ignoring young talent. ITEC is a Lansing-based incubator for middle schoolers. It started as a physical space, but like other Mid-Michigan incubators, ITEC changed to accommodate its demographic.

“We found that even though we were in a neighborhood in an old school, we needed to be in the schools,” said itec Executive Director Kirk Riley. “The transportation cost for the kids was just too great.”

ITEC organizers spend roughly three days a week in Lansing schools where the enhance the students’ STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills by engaging them in fun STEM projects that include robots and video games. ITEC recently received $600,000 in program funding, a huge boost for the organization.

“We are a talent incubator for the next generation,” Riley said. “We are creating the next generation of entrepreneurs because a lot of entrepreneurs come out of the science, engineering and technology areas. What itec is really about is academic success and career success.”

-Ivy Hughes

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Education, Featured, Good Ideas

Community Events 2.0

Best wishes to anyone trying to coral a community around bake sales, bingo tournaments,
scavenger hunts and silent auctions. Urbanites don’t want sticky bingo cards and scented
gift baskets. They want innovation and entertainment, which is why cities and non-
profits all over the country are embracing new events they hope will reinvigorate the
community, support local causes and grab national attention.

This shift has communities sending people over skyscrapers (safely, of course),
festooning trash into art and shooting objects from trebuchets. Hustling through mud and
geocaching are also favorites.

East Lansing/Lansing, Mich. is one region that’s been particularly aggressive in pursing
this new generation of community involvement. As a result, new audiences and new
dollars are slowly infiltrating the region.

Before defaulting to grandma’s block sale, consider jumping down a building, playing
with trash, or building medieval artillery. These sundry events engage the community,
attract dollars and introduce long-time residents to forgotten community assets.

Go ahead, steel a little something from the Lansing region playbook and reinvigorate
your community.

Over the Edge

http://www.overtheedgeusa.com/

When a rope and belt are the only things protecting community leaders from a road kill
afterlife, people pay attention. On June 5, 2010, nearly 100 people in the greater Lansing
region participated in the Over the Edge fundraiser by voluntarily repelling down the Boji
Tower. Standing at 23-stories, the Boji Tower is the region’s tallest building.

“A lot of people saw Lansing doing something different and unique and that really
just draws attention to our community in a new way,” says Julie Pingston, senior vice
president of the Team Lansing Foundation, the organization that benefited from the
proceeds. “It’s one more great opportunity of something to do here.”

The event took about two years and $22,000 to get off the ground, but netted $38,000 for
the Team Lansing Foundation and grabbed the attention of more than 20 media outlets.
Each participant had a hand in the fundraising, raising at least $500 before taking the
plunge.

Communities lacking repelling professionals can still go Over the Edge. Over the Edge is
actually a national company that works with non-profits to make adventurous fundraisers
more accessible to smaller crowds and yes, they do train participants before they go over.

Dirty Feat

“Ball ‘n’ Chain,” “Slower Than We Look,” “Trust Us, We’re Lawyers” and “It’s Called
a Satchel,” finished the East Lansing/Lansing Dirty Feat Adventure race in less than six
hours. So did team “Where’s the Beer,” though the time sheet doesn’t indicate whether
they found what they were looking for.

http://www.dirtyfeat.org/about.html

The inaugural June 12, 2010 Dirty Feat urban adventure race included 80 two-person
teams. The teams were required to canoe, bike orienteer, and navigate their way to the
finish line while circumventing trees, stairs and mud. Yes, this is as crazy as it sounds.
Rather than following the mindless ebb and flow of traditional race routes, participants
had to find their own way, relying on their own sense of adventure and direction to get
from point a to b to c.

Dirty Feat certainly encouraged physical activity and creativity, but it also forced
participants to navigate through unfamiliar areas, introducing them to new areas of the
cities, parks and businesses.

“I saw people in and out of every place that sold food and drink in Lansing all day,”
says Tim Schmitt, City of East Lansing Community Development analyst and race
organizer. “I don’t know the specifics in terms of economic impact (of the race), but the
bigger issue for us is that we got to take these people to at least three places that most of
them didn’t know existed.”

The City of East Lansing is still crunching race numbers, but Schmitt says organizers
worked within an $8,000 budget and all proceeds will go to the Team Lansing
Foundation.

VIDEO:

Trebuchet Day
Physics from a textbook — boring. Physics from an eight-foot catapult — awesome!

In May, Michigan State University (MSU) and Impression 5 Science Center, among
others, hosted the city’s first Trebuchet Day, a public event showcasing the trajectory
efforts of area 7th-12th graders.

www.msu.edu

www.impression5.org/

Eight weeks before the launch date, the students divided into seven teams and attended
workshops about the history, math, physics and engineering behind the medieval artillery.

On May 8, 2010, they unveiled their trebuchets to the community by launching water-
filled milk jugs into a field, measuring the landing points and making small adjustments
in hopes of pushing those points back with every shot.

Trebuchet Day definitely fostered community involvement, but more importantly, it
spotlighted STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) projects. Launching
anything from an eight-foot trebuchet gets community attention, but this event elevated
local efforts to get kids interested in STEM activities.

Chalk of the Town
Chalk of the Town involves a lot of creativity and bending. For the second consecutive
year, the Lansing Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) opened its sidewalks to all
artists. Stick figure to professional.

During Chalk of the Town, the OTCA gives artists six hours and a pack of chalk to
transform a piece of sidewalk into a masterpiece. The winners receive gifts and services
from Old Town businesses, which boosts the visibility of OTCA businesses. It also
attracts residents from all over the region and beautifies OTCA streets — for free.

“We will absolutely continue doing this,” says OTCA Executive Director Brittney
Hoszkiw. “This really has a high level of visibility.”

Scrapfest
Pretty is easy but what about dirty? The OTCA does pretty with chalk, but it’s also the
first neighborhood organization (that we know of) to unite a community around trash.

http://www.iloveoldtown.org/

“Not a lot of urban boutiquey downtowns would build off the fact that they have a scrap
yard in the middle of downtown, which is why it took a while to launch Scrapfest,” says
OTCA Executive Director Brittney Hoszkiw.

http://www.oldtownscrapfest.com/Old_Town_Scrap_fest/Old_Town_Scrapfest.html

Scrapfest is a two-week competition in which artists repurpose thousands of pounds
of scrap from Friedland Industries into art. At the start of the competition, teams have
an hour to collect up to 500 pounds of scrap. When they’re done, they start designing,
welding and fabricating.

At the end of the two weeks, a judges panel awards cash prizes to the top artists. The

pieces are then auctioned at annual summer festival with proceeds going to both the
artists and the OTCA. This year, sales from the second annual Scrapfest produced more
than $4,000 for OTCA public art programs.

“The most immediate gratification we have from Chalk of the Town and Scrapfest is
having new faces coming to Old Town and realizing the aesthetics of the area,” she
says. “We’re really an art-based community and we like to reinforce that with art based
events that are pretty out of the box.

http://www.oldtownscrapfest.com/Old_Town_Scrap_fest/Old_Town_Scrapfest.html

Best wishes to anyone trying to corral a community around bake sales, bingo tournaments, scavenger hunts and silent auctions. Urbanites don’t want sticky bingo cards and scented gift baskets. They want innovation and entertainment, which is why cities and non-profits all over the country are embracing new events they hope will reinvigorate the community, support local causes and grab national attention.

This shift has communities sending people over skyscrapers (safely, of course), festooning trash into art and shooting objects from trebuchets. Hustling through mud and geocaching are also favorites.

East Lansing/Lansing, Mich. is one region that’s been particularly aggressive in pursing this new generation of community involvement. As a result, new audiences and new dollars are slowly infiltrating the region.

Before defaulting to grandma’s block sale, consider jumping down a building, playing with trash, or building medieval artillery. These sundry events engage the community, attract dollars and introduce long-time residents to forgotten community assets.

Over the Edge

When a rope and belt are the only things protecting community leaders from a road kill afterlife, people pay attention. On June 5, 2010, nearly 100 people in the greater Lansing region participated in the Over the Edge fundraiser by voluntarily rappelling down the Boji Tower. Standing at 23-stories, the Boji Tower is the region’s tallest building.

“A lot of people saw Lansing doing something different and unique and that really just draws attention to our community in a new way,” says Julie Pingston, senior vice president of the Team Lansing Foundation, the organization that benefited from the proceeds. “It’s one more great opportunity of something to do here.”

The event took about two years and $22,000 to get off the ground, but netted $38,000 for the Team Lansing Foundation and grabbed the attention of more than 20 media outlets. Each participant had a hand in the fundraising, raising at least $500 before taking the plunge.

Dirty Feat

“Ball ‘n’ Chain,” “Slower Than We Look,” “Trust Us, We’re Lawyers” and “It’s Called a Satchel,” finished the East Lansing/Lansing Dirty Feat Adventure race in less than six hours. So did team “Where’s the Beer,” though the time sheet doesn’t indicate whether they found what they were looking for.

The inaugural June 12, 2010 Dirty Feat urban adventure race included 80 two-person teams. The teams were required to canoe, bike orienteer, and navigate their way to the finish line while circumventing trees, stairs and mud. Yes, this is as crazy as it sounds. Rather than following the mindless ebb and flow of traditional race routes, participants had to find their own way, relying on their own sense of adventure and direction to get from point a to b to c.

Dirty Feat certainly encouraged physical activity and creativity, but it also forced participants to navigate through unfamiliar areas, introducing them to new areas of the cities, parks and businesses.

“I saw people in and out of every place that sold food and drink in Lansing all day,” says Tim Schmitt, City of East Lansing Community Development analyst and race organizer. “I don’t know the specifics in terms of economic impact (of the race), but the bigger issue for us is that we got to take these people to at least three places that most of them didn’t know existed.”

The City of East Lansing is still crunching race numbers, but Schmitt says organizers worked within an $8,000 budget and all proceeds will go to the Team Lansing Foundation.

Trebuchet Day

In May, Michigan State University (MSU) and Impression 5 Science Center, among others, hosted the city’s first Trebuchet Day, a public event showcasing the trajectory efforts of area 7th-12th graders.

Eight weeks before the launch date, the students divided into seven teams and attended workshops about the history, math, physics and engineering behind the medieval artillery.

On May 8, 2010, they unveiled their trebuchets to the community by launching water-filled milk jugs into a field, measuring the landing points and making small adjustments in hopes of pushing those points back with every shot.

Trebuchet Day definitely fostered community involvement, but more importantly, it spotlighted STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, math) projects. Launching anything from an eight-foot trebuchet gets community attention, but this event elevated local efforts to get kids interested in STEM activities.

Chalk of the Town

Chalk of the Town involves a lot of creativity and bending. For the second consecutive year, the Lansing Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA) opened its sidewalks to all artists. Stick figure to professional.

During Chalk of the Town, the OTCA gives artists six hours and a pack of chalk to transform a piece of sidewalk into a masterpiece. The winners receive gifts and services from Old Town businesses, which boosts the visibility of OTCA businesses. It also attracts residents from all over the region and beautifies OTCA streets — for free.

“We will absolutely continue doing this,” says OTCA Executive Director Brittney Hoszkiw. “This really has a high level of visibility.”

Scrapfest

Pretty is easy but what about dirty? The OTCA does pretty with chalk, but it’s also the first neighborhood organization (that we know of) to unite a community around trash.

“Not a lot of urban boutiquey downtowns would build off the fact that they have a scrap yard in the middle of downtown, which is why it took a while to launch Scrapfest,” says OTCA Executive Director Brittney Hoszkiw.

Scrapfest is a two-week competition in which artists repurpose thousands of pounds of scrap from Friedland Industries into art. At the start of the competition, teams have an hour to collect up to 500 pounds of scrap. When they’re done, they start designing, welding and fabricating.

At the end of the two weeks, a judges panel awards cash prizes to the top artists. The pieces are then auctioned at annual summer festival with proceeds going to both the artists and the OTCA. This year, sales from the second annual Scrapfest produced more than $4,000 for OTCA public art programs.

“The most immediate gratification we have from Chalk of the Town and Scrapfest is having new faces coming to Old Town and realizing the aesthetics of the area,” she says. “We’re really an art-based community and we like to reinforce that with art based events that are pretty out of the box.

-Ivy Hughes

Leave a comment

Filed under Brain Drain, Economic Development, Good Ideas, The Media