Five Things Michigan Entrepreneurs and Innovators Are Already Doing to Invigorate the State’s Economy


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successes in each sector. For example: Peter Kim, CEO and vice chairman of LG Chem, one of the world’s largest producers of advanced chemicals and materials, recently stated, “Michigan is becoming a world capital for advanced batteries.” Eighty-five percent of all vehicle-related research happens in Michigan, approximately $1 billion in life sciences research is conducted in Michigan each year, and the U.S. Department of Defense has relocated all robotics research to Michigan.

2. Establish a local venture and/or angel fund community: While not yet the size of the equity investment communities on the East and West Coasts, the number of VC firms headquartered in Michigan (currently 16) has more than doubled over the past decade.

The funds are increasing in size, with a total of $1.1 billion under management. Since 2000, there have been 20 exits of Michigan-VC-backed companies, including such notable ones as Esperion Therapeutics, Arbortext, Aastrom Biosciences, and HandyLab.

The angel community is also growing, with six active angel groups in the state, and with the pending passage of the angel tax credit bill, their activity level should increase significantly. Nothing breeds success like success.

As more Michigan firms have successful exits, and as Michigan VCs provide meaningful returns to their LPs, we can expect accelerated growth in this community. (The data in the previous few paragraphs come from the Annual Report of the Michigan Venture Capital Association, which is leading the charge to strengthen the equity investment community in the state.)

3. Promote the University of Michigan (U-M) and Michigan State University (MSU): Let me start by saying that this statement is incomplete. While it is true that U-M, MSU, and Wayne State University (WSU) account for 95 percent of the research dollars brought to Michigan by public universities ($1.4 billion in 2008), most all of Michigan’s universities have programs focused on readying today’s students for tomorrow’s economic realities.

But focusing just on the aforementioned three universities (which have created the University Research Corridor), consider the impact they have on the state: a $14.5 billion impact on … Next Page »

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Gerry Roston serves as the CEO of Civionics, a University of Michigan startup that delivers intelligent sensor-based systems to manufacturers to help them minimize unplanned downtime; and as an Executive-in-Residence at TechTown Detroit, where he helps entrepreneurs transition their ideas into sustainable businesses. Follow @

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One response to “Five Things Michigan Entrepreneurs and Innovators Are Already Doing to Invigorate the State’s Economy”

  1. Lisa Kurek says:

    Thanks for an article that focuses on the positive momentum in Michigan but at the same time acknowledges the challenges. Having been involved in the tech-based start-up economy here in Michigan since 1990 it has always been 2 steps forward, 1 step back (or sometimes 3 steps back) but the difference is a net positive. We have to remember the progress can’t be measured in months or even a few years but must be determined over a long period of time with sustained efforts. Let’s hope that the activities you describe continue to have the longevity needed.