Blog: Larry Eiler

Back in 2001 Larry Eiler, CEO of Eiler Communications and director of the Small Business Association of Michigan, wrote an essay comparing our entrepreneurial landscape with Silicon Valley. Needless to say Michigan came up lacking. Boy, what a difference 10 years makes. In this week's guest blog Larry updates his assessment and finds more than a few encouraging trends.

Post 2: How Things Turned Around

Here are just a few of the key elements of Michigan’s infrastructure that helped play a role in turning our state around:

Small Business and Technology Development Centers

Last year, 13 economic development specialists from six states - including California - visited Michigan to
view our state’s infrastructure organization firsthand. Their summary view, expressed by Clinton Tymes, director of the Delaware Small Business Technology Development Center was that Michigan’s Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) is among the finest in the nation.

“When we identified a need for a program to assist technology-based firms we looked throughout the
nation for the best," Tymes said. "And where was our first stop? Michigan. We were thrilled to have the chance to visit, explore what you have to offer and confirm that all the great things we had heard are an understatement.”

“You are very fortunate to not only have such a strong, innovative and effective program in your SBTDC but the overall infrastructure Michigan has to support entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as the excellent collaboration that exists among these resources is simply extraordinary,” Tymes added.

SBTDC provides ‘feet on the street’ to help emerging companies in all aspects,” explains Carol Lopucki, state director of SBTDC for the past 10 years. “We help business people do the things they have to do to build their businesses.”

MEDC Smart Zones

MSBTDC technology consultant Phil Tepley, in a July newsletter, credited the effort made by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and its Smart Zone Network that focuses on early stage Michigan companies with growth potential.

Launched in 2000 by the MEDC, Tepley pointed out that Michigan’s 15 Smart Zones are specifically designed to cluster the activities and assets of universities, industry, research institutions and local communities to accelerate the commercialization of technologies and foster new ventures and job creation.

“The MI-SBTDC Tech Team, a national best practice, is fully funded by the MEDC as well as our new Manufacturing Assistance Team that was launched to help small Michigan manufacturers manage their finances and access capital in support of their diversification efforts. Michigan has a very strong support infrastructure for small growing businesses, much due to the efforts of the MEDC,” Tepley noted.

In addition, “the Smart Zone program facilitated tax capture from local development finance authorities, who along with state and county governments and the private sector, fund business incubators, business accelerators, networking and educational events, and financing programs,” he said.

What else are we doing right? Stop back tomorrow and I'll let you know.