Lakeshore Advantage breaks ground on Innovation Hub

Lakeshore Advantage is entering a new era, as work begins on an Innovation Hub for Ottawa and Allegan counties’ leading economic development organization.

The groundbreaking for the Next Center drew dozens of representatives from Michigan’s public and private sectors.
"The Next Center will add so much to this incredible community,” says Neil Boehm, chairman of the board for Lakeshore Advantage. “This development will revitalize that corner of downtown Holland, helping to attract people to the downtown area while also being a catalyst for continued economic growth.”
Lakeshore Advantage has supported product and technology startups with entrepreneurial programming since 2015. Providing support for startups is part of the economic development organization’s strategy for developing a diversified regional economy and empowering the region to thrive in a rapidly evolving global economy.
“Entrepreneurship can’t be hidden; it can’t be tucked away,” says Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage. “We need to make a visible, accessible statement that the entrepreneurial ecosystem is alive, well, and growing — and come on in and be part of it!”

State grant spurred project
Lakeshore Advantage announced its plan to build the Next Center at the end of May. The announcement came after the state awarded a business incubator grant to help Lakeshore Advantage expand its entrepreneurial efforts.

Jennifer Owens, president of Lakeshore Advantage, speaks at the groundbreaking for the Next Center. (Carl, Inc.)
“Risk-taking small businesses are the backbone of Michigan’s economy, and we’re committed to doing all we can to provide the support, resources, and opportunities required for growth and success,” says Quentin Messer Jr., Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO and Michigan Strategic Fund president and chair. “Lakeshore Advantage’s Next Center is a shining example of how Team Michigan invests in the state’s small businesses and entrepreneurs.” 
The Next Center will consist of a three-story, 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility on the corner of College Avenue and 7th Street in downtown Holland. EV Construction is the construction partner.  The project is expected to be complete in November 2024.

The Center will provide a collaborative space for startups, established businesses, and research institutions on the first floor. The second and third floors will be home to the headquarters of Lakeshore Advantage and an established business tenant, respectively.
“At MillerKnoll, we deeply understand and appreciate the value that collaborative, multidimensional environments have,” says Andi Owen, MillerKnoll’s chief executive officer. “The Next Center is going to be a tremendous asset to the Holland community, providing a place to spark innovation, create partnerships and cultivate new economic development. I am delighted to see this project break ground.”

Fostering collaboration
The center will be owned and operated by Lakeshore Advantage and is part of the Holland SmartZone, a satellite district of the Grand Rapids SmartZone, which directs tax increment financing dollars toward economic development in the technology sector. The SmartZone provides technology companies, entrepreneurs and researchers a place to collaborate and share resources.
“Successful communities and businesses must be creative and innovative to thrive long term,” says Richard G. Haworth, chairman emeritus of Haworth Inc. “The addition of The Next Center expands and opens new ways for that to happen. The Next Center will help us continue to foster West Michigan’s entrepreneurial spirit.”
Since Lakeshore Advantage announced the project, more than a dozen community businesses have committed gifts to the effort. Donors include:
  • MillerKnoll 
  • The Brooks Family
  • Gentex Corp.
  • Haworth Inc. 
  • Trans-Matic Mfg. Co.
  • JR Automation Technologies
  • Bayside Capital 
  • EV Construction
  • fairlife
  • Fifth Third Bank 
  • Koops Automation Systems
  • Shape Corp.
  • Lakewood Construction
  • Michigan West Coast Chamber of Commerce
Lakeshore Advantage is a non-profit economic development organization started in 2003 by business and community leaders. It assists primary employers, from startups to established global corporations, in Allegan and Ottawa counties.
In 2022, Lakeshore Advantage supported 33 business growth projects consisting of $2.38 billion invested by local companies and $436.3 million in support funds leveraged in the two counties. Business growth projects resulted in 3,352 new and retained jobs to the area. 

In addition, Lakeshore Advantage provided economic support to 302 primary employers and 63 startup companies.
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.