Traverse City tech hub to launch 3-year growth plan, expand coverage to include all of NW Michigan

What’s happening: Traverse City tech startup incubator and coworking space 20Fathoms has secured funding to implement a 3-year strategic growth plan, this thanks to two recently announced grants that total $7.3 million. The organization plans a significant expansion of its startup and small business support services, growing its footprint to include all of Northwest Michigan.

What’s planned: The 20Fathoms 3-year strategic growth plan will include efforts to expand its reach from the Grand Traverse region to the entirety of Northwest Michigan, including the cities of Cadillac, Charlevoix, Manistee, and Petoskey. All 10 counties of Northwest Michigan will have access to 20Fathoms as it establishes itself as the central Small Business Support Hub in the region. The funding will support new programming, events, and resources for tech startups and entrepreneurs, while also supporting 20Fathoms in growing its own team.

How they’re doing it: The first grant comes from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation by way of their Small Business Support Hubs (SBSH) program, awarding $3.3 million to 20Fathoms and more than $73 million to entrepreneurial hubs throughout the state. The SBSH program is funded by the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA 2021).

20Fathoms has also been awarded $4 million in grants and matching funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and its Build to Scale Venture Challenge grant. The Center on Rural Innovation helped 20Fathoms apply for the grant as part of the former’s 2023 Rural Innovation Initiative.

Why it’s important: “These two grants are a huge win for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and communities in Northwest Michigan,” says Eric Roberts, executive director of 20Fathoms. “There are a lot of people who have been working hard to make this region a place where you can establish and scale a business. The investment we’re receiving from both the state and federal level not only validates the work we’ve done, but also shows their trust in our ability to scale the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our part of the state. The entire region will benefit from this funding. Startups are the lifeblood of economic development – they create good jobs and vibrant, innovative communities.”

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