Innovate Marquette, partners to receive $700K rural development grant

Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 11:50 AM EST
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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a $700,000 Rural Innovation Stronger Economy (RISE) grant was awarded to Innovate Marquette SmartZone (Innovate Marquette), along with project partners Northern Michigan University (NMU), Lake Superior Community Partnership (LSCP), and Michigan Works! (MI Works).

The grant will support the creation and management of the Marquette Outdoor Venture (MOV) Innovation Center. Among other U.P. assets, the center will utilize the region’s four-season recreational resources and legacy of manufacturing, to focus on innovation, mobility, and smart connected platforms and systems in the outdoor recreation industry.

According to a press release, partners in the project are working collectively to implement four strategies:

• Provide education, outreach, and investment programming for outdoor recreation innovation entrepreneurs

• Develop a Makerspace (prototype lab) for entrepreneurs in outdoor recreation access and mobility products

• Establish a talent pipeline via education and training pathways for high-quality, outdoor recreation jobs

• Leverage the Innovate Marquette accelerator and incubator programs to promote outdoor recreation innovation and connect entrepreneurs to venture capital

“USDA Rural Development is always seeking new partners to help foster innovation and growth,” said Brandon Fewins, U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development state director for Michigan. “This represents a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs in the Marquette area.”

In Marquette County, outdoor recreation spending hit $2.9 million in 2020, while recreational vehicles and fees spending posted another $2.5 million (ESRI, 2021). Recognizing the essential role of the outdoor recreation industry, Michigan’s governor created a new Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry in 2019, even before usage of state parks and trails increased by 30% in 2020.

“We’re humbled and proud to receive the grant award,” said Joe Thiel, CEO of Innovate Marquette. “The potential for economic growth in the Outdoor Recreation Mobility & Accessibility sector, particularly for the U.P., is massive. This grant will support our efforts to create a smooth path for investment to flow right here to the incredible startups accelerating here, and the structures in place to support them.”

NMU Business Engagement and Economic Development Executive Director David Nyberg says the university’s objective is to promote student success in pursuing outdoor recreation innovation careers.

“Northern’s role is really focused on accelerating opportunities for Invent@NMU and its mobile outreach program as well as creating pathways for students that want to work in the outdoor industry that is growing at a rapid rate,” Nyberg said.

Additional information about MOV Innovation Center will be made available through Innovate Marquette SmartZone as the project moves through its various stages.